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Alice in Wonderland: immerse yourself in this classic of children's literature

It's a monument of children's literature, a masterpiece of creativity and fantasy, an inexhaustible source of inspiration. It's a novel that has stood the test of time and never aged: it's Alice in Wonderland. And while all credit must go to the English author Lewis Carroll, let's not forget our beloved Walt Disney either, who managed to make a lasting success of the dreamy, non-conformist heroine, turning her into an animated icon in the minds of a whole generation of children. Even today, the fantastic world of Alice in Wonderland continues to distil its mysteries and stir the imagination...

Lewis Caroll's novel is a profound questioning of normality, of what society considers "normal". And who is more rational, children or adults? How do social conventions overturn our identities and destroy the incandescent innocence of youth? The author himself, at odds with the world of the 'grown-ups', fails to answer a question that is omnipresent in the story, one that still drives many a psychoanalyst today: but when does one pass from childhood to adulthood? And what if it's all a state of mind?

The roots of the masterpiece

The story begins in 1865, when Lewis Carroll, then better known as Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, took a trip down the Thames with the three daughters of the headmaster of Christ Church College, the school where he taught. One of them, 10-year-old Alice, was a little bored and asked the novelist to tell her a story. And so Les aventures souterraines d'Alice was born. Madly in love with his words, the characters and their adventures, the settings and the atmosphere of the tale, the young girl convinced him to bring the story to life on paper. When Alice turned 16, Lewis couldn't stand it any longer and went to ask her parents for her hand in marriage. Faced with his father's implacable refusal, the novelist fell into a deep depression... But his fairy tales comforted him and brought him back into the light.

The story and its reflection

Alice, a young girl with a lively, pensive gaze, who is solitary and dreamy, falls down the rabbit hole of a strange White Rabbit, whom she decides to follow. In this new world, she meets a host of mysterious and zany creatures, talking animals, a cat with a huge smile who serves her tea, a mad Hatter, a Queen of Hearts with a powerful desire to cut off everyone's head... Alice has entered Wonderland, a universe where she can change size at any moment, vacillating between immensity and smallness (the child becomes an adult who becomes a child again, and so on). Between humour and magic, time bends, unravels and loses its meaning - anything is now possible.

In 1865, if the plot was consciously based on nonsense, a reflection of an absurd society where adults make laws and indulge in sometimes ridiculous rituals, many decades later, in the 20th century, it would become serious material to be put under the lamp of psychology. Alice becomes a sexualised heroine, as much an object of desire as a breeding ground for nostalgia. Refusing to grow up, she is nevertheless confronted with change, with a body that transforms and animals that tell her about the adult world she does not know or does not want to know. Psychoanalysts see her adventure in Wonderland as a preamble to the onset of puberty, the inevitable passage to adulthood. While the surrealism of the settings reinforces Alice's sense of anxiety, it also delights the eye and poetises the world. It's a bittersweet mix that has served as a muse for many artists.

A source of inspiration that doesn't gather dust

After its publication over 150 years ago, Alice in Wonderland continues to fuel the imagination and inspire the creative impulses of many artists, particularly illustrators. Because words alone are not enough, the text is carried, coloured and brought to life by John Tenniel's illustrations. French illustrator Benjamin Lacombe, published by Editions du Soleil, will be offering a first marvellous edition of the 1865 tale. More recently, in 2020, Aurelie Castex offered readers a splendid pop-up book, faithful to the original story, published by Le Chêne. While illustrators are excited by the sheer volume of material and subjects to be drawn, the movement is also catching on with directors nostalgic for a bygone era. Without Uncle Walt Disney, Alice would certainly not have been such a success. An undying success, a powerful hymn to childhood. The 13th feature film from the Disney studios, Alice in Wonderland is without doubt the giant's most atypical animated film.

And, after a successful screen adaptation, it's now up to the Disney franchise to launch its range of merchandising products, bags, kits, figurines... all the more reason to marvel at Alice's incomparable universe and remain attached to it as time goes by. You can find all these goodies in our online geek shop. Don't delay in discovering them!