‘We’re all mad here, you know,’ said the Cheshire Cat. ‘I’m mad. You’re mad.’
‘How do you know that I’m mad?’ said Alice.
‘Of course you’re mad,’ said the Cheshire Cat. ‘Only mad people come here.’
This is the story of Alice’s dream, one hot summer day long ago. A dream of Wonderland, where the White Rabbit wears gloves and the Caterpillar smokes a pipe … where the Mad Hatter is always having tea with the March Hare, and where the Queen of Hearts wants to cut off everyone’s head …
It’s all very strange, but then, anything can happen in a dream world.
Alice was beginning to get very bored.
‘And what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice, ‘without pictures or conversations?’
She tried to think of something to do, but it was a hot day and she felt very sleepy and stupid. She was still sitting and thinking when suddenly a White Rabbit with pink eyes ran past her.
There was nothing really strange about seeing a rabbit. And Alice was not very surprised when the Rabbit said, ‘Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be late!’ (Perhaps it was a little strange, Alice thought later, but at the time she was not surprised.)
But then the Rabbit took a watch out of its pocket, looked at it, and hurried on. At once Alice jumped to her feet.
‘I’ve never before seen a rabbit with either a pocket, or a watch to take out of it,’ she thought. And she ran quickly across the field after the Rabbit. She did not stop to think, and when the Rabbit ran down a large rabbit-hole, Alice followed it immediately.
After a little way the rabbit-hole suddenly went down, deep into the ground. Alice could not stop herself falling, and down she went, too.
It was a very strange hole. Alice was falling very slowly, and she had time to think and to look around her. She could see nothing below her because it was so dark. But when she looked at the sides of the hole, she could see cupboards and books and pictures on the walls. She had time to take things out of a cupboard, look at them, and then put them back in a cupboard lower down.
‘Well!’ thought Alice. ‘After a fall like this, I can fall anywhere! I can fall downstairs at home, and I won’t cry or say a word about it!’
Down, down, down. ‘How far have I fallen now?’ Alice said aloud to herself. ‘Perhaps I’m near the centre of the earth. Let me think … That’s four thousand miles down.’ (Alice was very good at her school lessons and could remember a lot of things like this.)
Down, down, down. Would she ever stop falling? Alice was very nearly asleep when, suddenly, she was sitting on the ground. Quickly, she jumped to her feet and looked around. She could see the White Rabbit, who was hurrying away and still talking to himself. ‘Oh my ears and whiskers!’ he was saying. ‘How late it’s getting!’
Alice ran after him like the wind. She was getting very near him when he suddenly turned a corner. Alice ran round the corner too, and then stopped. She was now in a long, dark room with doors all round the walls, and she could not see the White Rabbit anywhere.
She tried to open the doors, but they were all locked. ‘How will I ever get out again?’ she thought sadly. Then she saw a little glass table with three legs, and on the top of it was a very small gold key. Alice quickly took the key and tried it in all the doors, but oh dear! Either the locks were too big, or the key was too small, but she could not open any of the doors.
Then she saw another door, a door that was only forty centimetres high. The little gold key unlocked this door easily, but of course Alice could not get through it – she was much too big. So she lay on the floor and looked through the open door, into a beautiful garden with green trees and bright flowers.
Poor Alice was very unhappy. ‘What a wonderful garden!’ she said to herself. ‘I’d like to be out there – not in this dark room. Why can’t I get smaller?’ It was already a very strange day, and Alice was beginning to think that anything was possible.
After a while she locked the door again, got up and went back to the glass table. She put the key down and then she saw a little bottle on the table (‘I’m sure it wasn’t here before,’ said Alice). Round the neck of the bottle was a piece of paper with the words DRINK ME in large letters.
But Alice was a careful girl. ‘It can be dangerous to drink out of strange bottles,’ she said. ‘What will it do to me?’ She drank a little bit very slowly. The taste was very nice, like chocolate and oranges and hot sweet coffee, and very soon Alice finished the bottle.
‘What a strange feeling!’ said Alice. ‘I think I’m getting smaller and smaller every second.’
And she was. A few minutes later she was only twenty-five centimetres high. ‘And now,’ she said happily, ‘I can get through the little door into that beautiful garden.’
She ran at once to the door. When she got there, she remembered that the little gold key was back on the glass table. She ran back to the table for it, but of course, she was now much too small! There was the key, high above her, on top of the table. She tried very hard to climb up the table leg, but she could not do it.
At last, tired and unhappy, Alice sat down on the floor and cried. But after a while she spoke to herself angrily.
‘Come now,’ she said. ‘Stop crying at once. What’s the use of crying?’ She was a strange child, and often talked to herself like this.
Soon she saw a little glass box near her on the floor. She opened it, and found a very small cake with the words EAT ME on it.
Nothing could surprise Alice now. ‘Well, I’ll eat it,’ she said. ‘If I get taller, I can take the key off the table. And if I get smaller, I can get under the door. One way or another, I’ll get into the garden. So it doesn’t matter what happens!’
She ate a bit of the cake, and then put her hand on top of her head. ‘Which way? Which way?’ she asked herself, a little afraid. Nothing happened. This was not really surprising. People don’t usually get taller or shorter when they eat cake. But a lot of strange things were happening to Alice today. ‘It will be very boring,’ she said, ‘if nothing happens.’
So she went on eating, and very soon the cake was finished.
‘Curiouser and curiouser!’ said Alice. (She was very surprised, and for a minute she forgot how to speak good English.)
‘I shall be as tall as a house in a minute,’ she said. She tried to look down at her feet, and could only just see them. ‘Goodbye, feet!’ she called. ‘Who will put on your shoes now? Oh dear! What nonsense I’m talking!’
Just then her head hit the ceiling of the room. She was now about three metres high. Quickly, she took the little gold key from the table and hurried to the garden door.
Poor Alice! She lay on the floor and looked into the garden with one eye. She could not even put her head through the door.
She began to cry again, and went on crying and crying. The tears ran down her face, and soon there was a large pool of water all around her on the floor. Suddenly she heard a voice, and she stopped crying to listen.
‘Oh, the Duchess, the Duchess! She’ll be so angry! I’m late, and she’s waiting for me. Oh dear, oh dear!’
It was the White Rabbit again. He was hurrying down the long room, with some white gloves in one hand and a large fan in the other hand.
Alice was afraid, but she needed help. She spoke in a quiet voice. ‘Oh, please, sir – ’
The Rabbit jumped wildly, dropped the gloves and the fan, and hurried away as fast as he could.
Alice picked up the fan and the gloves. The room was very hot, so she began to fan herself while she talked. ‘Oh dear! How strange everything is today! Did I change in the night? Am I a different person today? But if I’m a different person, then the next question is – who am I? Ah, that’s the mystery.’
She began to feel very unhappy again, but then she looked down at her hand. She was wearing one of the Rabbit’s white gloves. ‘How did I get it on my hand?’ she thought. ‘Oh, I’m getting smaller again!’ She looked round the room. ‘I’m already less than a metre high. And getting smaller every second! How can I stop it?’ She saw the fan in her other hand, and quickly dropped it.
She was now very, very small – and the little garden door was locked again, and the little gold key was lying on the glass table.
‘Things are worse than ever,’ thought poor Alice. She turned away from the door, and fell into salt water, right up to her neck. At first she thought it was the sea, but then she saw it was the pool of tears. Her tears. Crying makes a lot of tears when you are three metres tall.
‘Oh, why did I cry so much?’ said Alice. She swam around and looked for a way out, but the pool was very big. Just then she saw an animal in the water near her. It looked like a large animal to Alice, but it was only a mouse.
‘Shall I speak to it?’ thought Alice. ‘Everything’s very strange down here, so perhaps a mouse can talk.’
So she began: ‘Oh Mouse, do you know the way out of this pool? I am very tired of swimming, oh Mouse!’ (Alice did not know if this was the right way to speak to a mouse. But she wanted to be polite.)
The mouse looked at her with its little eyes, but it said nothing.
‘Perhaps it doesn’t understand English,’ thought Alice. ‘Perhaps it’s a French mouse.’ So she began again, and said in French: ‘Where is my cat?’ (This was the first sentence in her French lesson-book.)
The mouse jumped half out of the water and looked at her angrily.
‘Oh, I’m so sorry!’ cried Alice quickly. ‘Of course, you don’t like cats, do you?’
‘Like cats?’ cried the mouse in a high, angry voice. ‘Does any mouse like cats?’
‘Well, perhaps not,’ Alice began kindly.
But the mouse was now swimming quickly away, and soon Alice was alone again. At last she found her way out of the pool and sat down on the ground. She felt very lonely and unhappy. But after a while the White Rabbit came past again, looking for his white gloves and his fan.
‘The Duchess! The Duchess! Oh my ears and whiskers! She’ll cut my head off, I know she will! Oh, where did I drop my gloves?’ Then he saw Alice. ‘Why, Mary Ann, what are you doing here? Run home at once, and bring me some gloves and a fan. Quick, now!’
Alice hurried away. ‘But where is his house?’ she thought while she ran. Strangely, she was no longer in the long room with the little door, but outside in a wood. She ran and ran but could not see a house anywhere, so she sat down under a flower to rest.
‘Now,’ Alice said to herself. ‘First, I must get a little bigger, and second, I must find my way into that beautiful garden. I think that will be the best plan. But oh dear! How shall I get bigger? Perhaps I must eat or drink something, but the question is, what?’
Alice looked all around her at the flowers and the trees, but she could not see anything to eat. Then she saw a large mushroom near her. It was as tall as she was. She walked across to look at it, and there, on top of the mushroom, was a large caterpillar, smoking a pipe. After a while, the Caterpillar took the pipe out of its mouth and said to Alice in a slow, sleepy voice, ‘Who are you?’
‘I don’t really know, sir,’ said Alice. ‘I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I have changed so often since then. I think I am a different person now.’
‘What do you mean by that?’ said the Caterpillar. ‘Explain yourself!’
‘I can’t explain myself, sir,’ said Alice, ‘because I’m not myself, you know.’
‘I don’t know,’ said the Caterpillar.
‘It’s difficult to describe,’ Alice replied politely. One minute I’m very small, the next minute I’m as tall as a house, then I’m small again. Usually, I stay the same all day, and changing so often feels very strange to me.’
‘You!’ said the Caterpillar, in a very unfriendly voice. ‘Who are you?’
They were now back at the beginning of their conversation, which was not very helpful. Alice felt a little cross and decided to walk away.
‘Come back!’ the Caterpillar called after her. ‘I’ve something important to say.’
This sounded better, so Alice turned back.
‘Never get angry,’ said the Caterpillar.
‘Is that all?’ said Alice, trying not to be angry.
‘No,’ said the Caterpillar. For some minutes it smoked its pipe and did not speak, but at last it took the pipe out of its mouth, and said, ‘So you’ve changed, have you? How tall do you want to be?’
‘I would like to be a little larger, sir, please,’ said Alice. ‘Eight centimetres is really very small.’
For a while the Caterpillar smoked its pipe. Then it shook itself, got down off the mushroom, and moved slowly away into the grass. It did not look back at Alice, but said, ‘One side will make you taller, and the other side will make you shorter.’
‘One side of what?’ thought Alice to herself.
She did not say this aloud, but the Caterpillar said, ‘Of the mushroom.’ Then it moved away into the wood.
Alice looked at the mushroom carefully, but it was round, and did not have sides. At last she broke off a piece in each hand from opposite sides of the mushroom. She ate some of the piece in her left hand, and waited to see what would happen.
A minute later her head was as high as the tallest tree in the wood, and she was looking at a sea of green leaves. Then a bird appeared and began to fly around her head, screaming, ‘Egg thief! Egg thief! Go away!’
‘I’m not an egg thief,’ said Alice.
‘Oh no?’ said the bird angrily. ‘But you eat eggs, don’t you?’
‘Well, yes, I do, but I don’t steal them,’ explained Alice quickly. ‘We have them for breakfast, you know.’
‘Then how do you get them, if you don’t steal them?’ screamed the bird.
This was a difficult question to answer, so Alice brought up her right hand through the leaves and ate a little from the other piece of mushroom. She began to get smaller at once and, very carefully, she ate first from one hand, then from the other, until she was about twenty-five centimetres high.
‘That’s better,’ she said to herself. ‘And now I must find that garden.’ She began to walk through the wood, and after a while she came to a little house.
There was a boy outside the door, with a large letter in his hand. (He was dressed like a boy, but his face was very like a fish, Alice thought.) The Fish-Boy knocked at the door, and a second later a large plate came flying out of an open window.
‘A letter for the Duchess,’ the Fish-Boy shouted. He pushed the letter under the door and went away.
Alice went up to the door and knocked, but there was a lot of noise inside and nobody answered. So she opened the door and walked in.
She found herself in a kitchen, which was full of smoke. There was a very angry cook by the fire, and in the middle of the room sat the Duchess, holding a screaming baby. Every few minutes a plate crashed to the floor. There was also a large cat, which was sitting on a chair and grinning from ear to ear.
‘Please,’ Alice said politely to the Duchess, ‘why does your cat grin like that?’
‘It’s a Cheshire Cat,’ said the Duchess. ‘That’s why.’
‘I didn’t know that cats could grin,’ said Alice.
‘Well, you don’t know much,’ said the Duchess. Another plate crashed to the floor and Alice jumped. ‘Here!’ the Duchess went on. ‘You can hold the baby for a bit, if you like. The Queen has invited me to play croquet, and I must go and get ready.’ She pushed the baby into Alice’s arms and hurried out of the room.
‘Oh, the poor little thing!’ said Alice, looking at the baby, which had a very strange face. She took it outside into the wood and walked around under the trees. Then the baby began to make strange noises, and Alice looked into its face again. Its eyes were really very small for a baby, and its nose now looked very like the nose of a pig.
‘Don’t make noises like that, my dear,’ said Alice. ‘It’s not polite. You’re beginning to sound like a pig.’
But a few minutes later, there was no mistake. It was a pig. Alice put it carefully on the ground, and it ran quietly away on its four legs into the wood.
‘I’m pleased about that,’ Alice said to herself. ‘It will be a good-looking pig, but it would be terrible to be a child with a face like that.’
She was thinking about pigs and children when she suddenly saw the Cheshire Cat in a tree. The Cat grinned at her, and she went nearer to it.
‘Please,’ she said, ‘can you tell me which way to go from here?’
‘But where do you want to get to?’ said the Cat.
‘It doesn’t really matter – ’ began Alice.
‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.
‘But I would like to get somewhere,’ Alice explained.
‘If you just go on walking,’ said the Cat, ‘in the end you’ll arrive somewhere.’
That was true, thought Alice, but not very helpful, so she tried another question. ‘What kind of people live near here?’
‘To the left,’ the Cat said, ‘lives a Hatter. And to the right, lives a March Hare. You can visit either of them. They’re both mad.’
‘But I don’t want to visit mad people,’ said Alice.
‘We’re all mad here, you know,’ said the Cat. ‘I’m mad. You’re mad.’
‘How do you know that I’m mad?’ said Alice.
‘Of course you’re mad,’ said the Cat. ‘Only mad people come here.’
Alice was thinking about this, but the Cat went on, ‘Are you playing croquet with the Queen today?’
‘I would like to very much,’ said Alice, ‘but nobody has invited me yet.’
‘You’ll see me there,’ said the Cat, and vanished.
Alice was not really surprised at this, because so many strange things were happening today. She was still looking at the tree when, suddenly, the Cat appeared again.
‘I forgot to ask,’ said the Cat. ‘What happened to the baby?’
‘It turned into a pig,’ Alice said.
‘I’m not surprised,’ said the Cat, and vanished again.
Alice began to walk on, and decided to visit the March Hare. ‘It’s the month of May now,’ she said to herself, ‘so perhaps the Hare won’t be as mad as he was in March.’
Suddenly, there was the Cheshire Cat again, sitting in another tree. Alice jumped in surprise.
‘Do you think,’ she said politely, ‘that you could come and go more slowly?’
‘All right,’ said the Cat. And this time it vanished very slowly. First its tail went, then its body, then its head, and last, the grin.
‘Well! I’ve often seen a cat without a grin,’ thought Alice, ‘but never a grin without a cat!’
Soon she saw the house of the March Hare in front of her. It was a large house, so she ate a little piece of mushroom to get bigger, and walked on.