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Charles Lutwidge Dogson, a.k.a. Lewis Carrol (1832-l898), was very shy, probably also because of his stammer. That’s the reason why he felt at his ease only with children, as, for instance, Alice, who is a real character.

Lewis Carrol was a professor of pure mathematics at Oxford University and loved logic games, puns and nonsense. For this reasons, and for the story’s complicated symbolism, many adults like “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” more than children do.


Alice is sitting on the bank by her sister, who’s reading a book without pictures and conversations. Alice is getting really bored, when suddenly a White Rabbit with a watch in its pawn runs close to her saying “Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!”.

Alice decides to follow him, and then all her adventures start: through the rabbit-hole, a deep well with cupboards and pictures on the sides, she gets in a wonderful underworld where she often finds herself too big or small. For instance, to get through a little door, she drinks something which makes her smaller, but she becomes so small that she isn’t able anymore to achieve the key of the door, which is on a table. So, she eats a small cake which makes her so big that she can’t see her own feet. She starts crying and briefly she becomes small again, so small that she has to swim in her tears not to drawn.

In the pool of tears Alice finds a Mouse, a Duck, a Dodo, a Lory and an Eaglet, with whom she swims to the shore. To get dry, the animals decide to do a Caucus Race: they start running when they like and leave off when they like. When they’re dry again they start talking. Alice, telling how her cat is good at chasing mice and birds, makes all the animals leave her alone.

Then the White Rabbit arrives, desperately looking for his fan and gloves. He mistakes Alice for Mary Ann (probably his housemaid), and sends her home to look for them. At the Rabbit’s, Alice finds another bottle and drinks it to see what happens: she becomes so big that she has to put one arm out of the window and one foot up to the chimney. When the Rabbit arrives, he’s scared by that horrible vision and asks some friends to help him. Together, they decide to burn down the house. But Alice finds a small cake, eats it and becomes small again, just in time to get out and run away fast.

In the wood near the house, she meets a blue caterpillar smoking a big hookah on the edge of a mushroom. The caterpillar puts Alice in difficulties with puns, logic games, strange questions that she cannot answer. Before disappearing, he tells her to eat one side of the mushroom to grow, and the other one to become smaller. So, she breaks off a little bit of the two sides of the edge and eats one of them: her neck starts growing so much that a Pigeon mistakes her for a Snake and beats her violently with its wings.

The next curious character she meets is a duchess, who sits in her kitchen nursing a baby while her cook makes a very peppered soup making everyone sneeze incessantly. Then the duchess goes to the Queen’s to play croquet and gives Alice the baby, but he suddenly turns out to be a little pig, so Alice lets it trot in the wood.

Then a Cheshire cat who always grins shows her the street that leads to the house of the March Hare. When she arrives, she finds it having tea with the Mad Hatter and a Dormouse. They don’t want her to sit, but in the end they have a tea together and tell her that for them it’s always tea-time, since they tried to kill time and were condemned by the Queen to live forever at six o’clock. Afterwards, the March Hare and the Mad Hatter ask the Dormouse to tell them a story. Alice finds this story crazy and senseless and so goes off.

Then she meets three gardeners painting some white roses red. That’s the Queen of Hearts’ garden, and the gardeners, that are three playing cards, are afraid of having their heads cut off because she wanted a red rose-tree. The Queen of Hearts invites Alice to play croquet. She accepts, but finds many difficulties, since the playground is all ridges and furrows, the balls are live hedgehogs and the mallets live flamingos. Indeed, all players play without waiting for their turns, quarrelling and hting for the hedgehogs, and the queen of Hearts is in a furious passion and always shouts “off with his head!”. Here, Alice meets the Cheshire cat again, but it’s going to have its head off so slowly disappears. Alice meets also the Duchess, who says a lot of strange proverbs and queer words and finds in everything a senseless moral. Then the Queen introduces Alice the Gryphon and the Mock Turtle, which talk with her about the school they attend ( with subjects like seaography, drawling, Laughing and Grief) and about the lobster quadrille.

Then a cry of “The trial’s beginning!” is heard in the distance, so they go together to the trial. The knave of Hearts is accused of having eaten the Queen’s tarts. The herald is the White Rabbit, and most of the animals she’s met in Wonderland are called as witnesses: the March Hare, the Mad Hatter, the Dormouse, the Duchess’ cook. Alice is called as a witness, too: in the courtroom she had grown again, so she finally has the nerve to criticize the senseless things they all say and to answer back to the Queen. Suddenly the pack of cards rises in the air and comes flying down upon her.

Alice wakes up on the bank, and tell her sister about her dream. Then Alice goes to have tea, and her sister, sitting alone, has a dream too: it’s about Alice and all the creatures of her dream, and she wonder if Alice will still be so nice and pure when she’ll be an adult.


Alice is a pure, innocent little girl. Even if in Wonderland she often says things like “I should not be surprised if”, actually she’s not completely used to the logic of Wonderland. That’s why she asks many questions, just like all children do, but Wonderland inhabitants treat her like an adult, wondering why she asks such “elementary” things and maltreating her if she doesn’t understand their logic.

The White Rabbit is always hurrying and worried about the Queen’s judgement, like an adult towards his superior.

The Blue Caterpillar makes Alice feel uneasy and angry more than all the other creatures of Wonderland, because he wants to know who Alice is, and she’s very confused about it, after having grown and got smaller so fast, and after having been mistaken several times (for a serpent, for Mary Ann).

The Duchess is cantankerous and angry, and is very similar to the Queen of Hearts. In her kitchen there’s too much pepper, and for Alice that’s the reason why she’s so rough.

The Cheshire cat always grins, and this surprises Alice very much. When Alice says she doesn’t want to meet the Hatter and the March Hare because they’re both mad, the cat says a key-sentence for the story: “We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad. [] You must be, or you wouldn’t have come here.”

The Mad Hatter and the March Hare have to live forever at tea-time, since they tried to kill time mangling the song “Twinkle twinkle little star”. There’s an analogy with what the author himself does in this book: he mangles all the songs and rhymes.

The Gryphon seems the most detached and disenchanted character. When the Queen mentions the executions she has ordered, it says: “What fun! [] It’s all her fancy, that: they never executes nobody”; when Alice asks why the Mock Turtle sighs, it says: “It’s all his fancy, that: he hasn’t got no sorrow”.


“Would it be of any use, now,” thought Alice, “to speak to this mouse? Everything is so out-of-the-way down here, that I should think very likely it can talk: at any rate, there’s no harm in trying.” So she began: “O Mouse, do you know the way out of this pool? I am very tired of swimming about here about here, o Mouse!” (Alice thought this must be the right way to speak to a mouse: she had never done such a thing before, but she remembered having seen in her brother’s Latin Grammar, “A mouse – of a mouse – to a mouse – a mouse – o mouse!”) The mouse looked at her inquisitively, and seemed to her to wink with one of its little eyes, but it said nothing.

“Perhaps he doesn’t understand English,” thought Alice: “I daresay it’s a French mouse, come over with William the Conqueror.” (For, with all her knowledge of history, Alice had no very clear notion how long ago anything had happened.) So she began again: “Où est ma chatte?” which was her first sentence on her French lesson-book. The Mouse gave a sudden leap out of the water and seemed to quiver all over with fright. “Oh, I beg your pardon!” cried Alice hastily afraid that she had hurt the poor animal’s feelings. “I quite forgot you didn’t like cats.”

“Not like cats!” cried the Mouse, in a shrill, passionate voice. “Would you like cats if you were me?”

“Well, perhaps not,” said Alice in a soothing tone: “don’t be angry about it. And yet I wish I could show our cat Dinah: I think you’d take a fancy to cats if you could only see her. She is such a dear quiet thing”. Alice went on, half to herself, as she swam lazily about in the pool, “and she sits purring so nicely by the fire licking her pawns and washing her face – and she is such a nice soft thing to nurse   and she’s such a capital one for catching mice – oh I beg your pardon!” cried Alice again, for this time the Mouse was bristling all over, and she felt certain it must be really offended. “We won’t talk about her any more if you’d rather not.”

“We, indeed!” cried the Mouse, who was trembling down to the end of his tail. “as if I would talk on such a subject! Our family always hated cats: nasty, low, vulgar things! Don’t let me hear the name again!”

“I won’t indeed!” said Alice, in a great hurry to change the subject of conversation. “Are you – are you fond – of – of dogs?” The Mouse did not answer, so Alice went on eagerly: “There is such a nice little dog near our house I should like to show you! A little bright-eyed terrier, you know, with oh, such long curly brown hair! And it’ll fetch things when you throe them, and it’ll sit up and beg for its dinner, and all sorts of things – I can’t remember half of them – and it belongs to a farmer, you know, and he says it’s so useful, it’s worth a hundred pounds! He says it kills all the rats and – oh dear!” cried Alice in a sorrowful tone, “I’m afraid I’ve offended it again!” For the Mouse was swimming away from her as hard as it could go , and making quite a commotion in the pool as it went.

I chose this passage because I find it very nice for many reasons: because Alice calls the Mouse declining its name as she saw in her brother’s Latin Grammar, because she thinks it’s a French Mouse arrived in England with William the Conqueror, and because she feels awkward since she doesn’t know what to talk about and always forgets that mice don’t like cats and dogs.

Indeed, this passage is in polemic with the Victorian school, that made children study without caring too much for the content. For instance, Alice thinks the mouse came over with William the Conqueror, since, with all her knowledge of history, Alice had no very clear notion how long ago anything had happened, and she decline the name “mouse” as if she associated the Latin language with strange, unknown things (Alex R. Falzon, notes for “Alice nel Paese delle Meraviglie”, BUR, 1994).


I chose this book because it’s my favourite since I was a child. I find it charming, involving, curious, different from all the tales I was told. Its characters are stranger, and they’ve got personality, they’re not flat and stereotyped as they usually are in children tales. My favourite character was, and is, the blue caterpillar, because when I was a child I found it very wise and intelligent, and dignified, sitting on its mushroom and smoking a hookah.

Reading this book in its original language has been marvellous, because it’s even more charming and witty.

Adjourn = rimandare

Alas! = ahimè!

Anon = presto: ever and anon = di tanto in tanto

Anxious = ansioso

Avail = profitto: to be of no avail = essere inutile

Back-somersault = capriola all’indietro

Beheaded = decapitato

Bristle = arruffarsi il pelo

Caper = capriola; birichinata; stram-beria

Choke = soffocare

Chuckle = ridere di soppiatto

Clasp = stringere

Claw = artiglio

Coaxing = moine

Coils = spira (di serpente)

Collar = acciuffare

Comfit = confetto

Conger-eel = anguilla di mare

Creep, crept, crept  = strisciare

Crimson = color cremisi

Cucumber-frame = serra

Curtsey = inchino

Custard = crema

Dainty = ghiottoneria

Dodge = schivare

Draggle = infangare

Drawling = strascicare le parole

Dreadful = terribile

Drop = cadere; lasciar cadere

Dull = ottuso, duro di comprendonio; uggioso (di tempo)

Dunce = tonto

Eagerly = ansiosamente; diligente-mente; appassionatamente

Entangled = impigliato

Eyelids = palpebra

Fainting = svenimento

Faintly =  debolmente, timidamente

Feebly = debolmente

Fender = parafuoco

Fidget = agitarsi

Flapper = pinna; coda

Fling, flung, flung = lanciare

Flurry = folata (di vento); scroscio (di pioggia)

Flutter = starnazzare, svolazzare

Footman = lacchè

Fumble = armeggiare, frugare

Furrow = solco

Glide =scivolata; passo strisciato

Growl = ringhiare

Grumble = brontolare

Guinea-pig = porcellino d’India

Harm = male: there’s no harm in trying = tentar non nuoce

Hastily = frettolosamente

Hatch = portello

Heap = mucchio, cumulo

Hearthrug = tappeto davanti al focolare

Hedgehog = riccio; porcospino; istrice

Hint = accenno

Howl = ululato; grido; individuo ridicolo

Hush! = silenzio!

Inkstand = calamaio

Jelly-fish = medusa

Kid gloves = guanti di pelle di capretto

Leave off = rinunciare; smettere

Limbs = membra

Lodging = alloggio, sistemazione

Mallet = mazza

Merely = solamente

Mutter = mormorare

Nibble = boccone

Oars = remo

Ointment = unguento

Out-of-the-way = fuori dal comune

Overcome = scongere

Pant = ansimare; sbuffare (del treno)

Peep out = apparire poco a poco

Pinch = pizzicare

Pop down = venir giù; buttar giù

Prosecute = proseguire; perseguire

Rave = delirare

Red-hot poker = attizzatoio arroventato

Reed = canneto

Remarkable = notevole

Riddle = indovinello

Ridge = rialzamento del terreno

Ringlets = boccoli

Ripple = mormorio

Rush = fretta

Rustle = fruscio

Scaly = squamoso

Shepherd = pastore

Shriek = grido

Shrill = parlare o urlare con voce stridula

Simpleton = sempliciotto

Slate = lavagna

Slate-pencil = gessetto

Sluggard = fannullone

Snail = lumaca

Snort = sbuffare

Snout = muso

Sole = suola; sogliola

Spade = spade, picche

Sprawl = stravaccarsi; scarabocchiare

Squeak = squittire

Stalk = andatura altezzosa

Startle = sussulto

Stir = mescolare; agitare; eccitare

Stool = sgabello

Strive, strove, striven = sforzarsi; litigare

Subdued = soggiogato, represso

Sulkily = con aria imbronciata

Suppress = sopprimere; abolire, nascondere; tacitare

Thimble = ditale

Thus = così

Tiptoe = punta di piedi

Toffee = dolce (in generale); croccante

Tougher = duro; tenace; difficile

Treacle = melassa

Tread = andatura, passo

Trot = trottare, trotterellare

Tuck away = mettere via, al sicuro

Tumble = ruzzolare

Tureen = zuppiera

Twinkle = brillare

Unwillingly = di malavoglia

Wag = muovere, scuotere; scodinzolare

Weary = stufo

Whiskers = baffi

Whiting = pesce simile al nasello

Wig = parrucca


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