Lewis Carroll’s classic tale is 150 today. Stay curious people, says Siân Bevan.
There are some books which you should read at certain times in your life. Read The Catcher in the Rye as a teenager and you have a heart-stopping hero who questions everything as much as you do. Read it as an adult and you’re reading a good book about an annoying brat. Read Wuthering Heights too early and you could be left baffled by the dreary persistence of a couple of people who probably just need to get laid, instead of a tale where the wind rips your heart in two.
I love Alice in Wonderland because it means the same to me now as it did when I was wee. If you are one of the three people who hasn’t had a chance to read it in the 150 years it’s been around, I’ll try to summarise. It’s the story of a girl who follows her curiosity down a rabbit hole, where she encounters an array of creatures and characters who pose problems and riddles and present her with a kaleidoscope of experiences.
The ending (spoiler alert!) sees Alice waking up and telling her sister all about her wonderful dream. Her big sis then has a bit of a ponder about drifting into her own wonderland, about how easily you can switch between the real world and adapting things around you to make your own imaginary adventure. It’s usually a bit of a cop out when books end with ‘it was all a dream’, but I love Alice because the reality of it isn’t the point.
It doesn’t matter whether Alice really saw the rabbit, literally went to a tea party with a mad hatter or actually met a Cheshire Cat with a terrifyingly big grin. Each surreal encounter is a beautiful short story, an exploration of what it is to be a confused, daydreaming kid with a brain for adventure trying to get to grips with the world around them. Alice makes her world a technicolour brain melt. The characters are exaggerated and wonderful and her curiosity is always rewarded with more stories.
I have a theory that you can live your life according to the rules of Alice in Wonderland. It’s not a perfect theory and you probably shouldn’t base your career on it, but I think it’s a good a guide as any. If you follow your curiosity and tumble down a few rabbit holes, you’re likely to live a life that’s a break away from the snoozy, respectable one you might be expected to have. Start a conversation with anyone and find out what they have to tell you. Ask for help, but don’t be afraid to stand on your own two feet and fight when you have to. Be kind, be fierce and be intrigued.
Just maybe lay off the potions.1793 Views
Siân is a writer, performer, creator of joyful things and sometimes she tries to explain things to young people. She’s a mainly vegan feminist who loves elephants, is scared of the dark and likes stories most of all.