Alice In Openland

This year, Tim Burton’s production of Alice In Wonderland was welcomed by a flurry of media buzz and a rather polarized public response debating whether the iconic director had butchered or reinvented the even more iconic children’s classic. But discussion of the film’s creative merits aside, one thing it did do brilliantly was rekindle the public’s interest in what’s easily the most beloved work of children’s literature of the past two centuries.

So beloved, in fact, that Lewis Carroll’s 1865 novel has generated hundreds of reprints, film adaptations and various derivative works over the years. Many of these works are now available in the public domain — even a simple search in the Internet Archive sends you down a rabbit hole of adaptations and remakes, spanning from landmark early cinema treasures to offbeat products of contemporary digital culture.

Today, we’ve curated a selection of the most interesting and culturally significant — the “curiouser and curiouser,” if you will — free versions of, tributes to, and derivatives of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland.

  • The fundamentals: A Project Gutenberg free digital copy of Carroll’s original Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland text
  • A 1916 abridged version intended for younger children, digitized by the Library of Congress, is available from the International Children’s Digital Library and features some wonderful illustration — though, regrettably, it lacks the Cheshire Cat
  • For a classic with a spin, try this audio version read by blogger extraordinaire, BoingBoing co-editor, Popular Science columnist and vocal free content advocate Cory Doctorow
  • The earliest cinematic adaptation of the book, directed by Cecil Hepworth in 1903, is a silent film gem, clocking in at just 8 minutes and 19 seconds. Watch above.
  • In 1915, W. W. Young directed the second American adaptation of Alice — a massive six-reel production that showcased the rapid evolution of filmmaking in just a decade since the first production. Though much of the film is now lost, 42 minutes of it can be seen at the Internet Archive for free
  • A 1966 British adaptation by director Jonathan Miller for the BBC features an ambitious cast — including Peter Sellers as the King of Hearts, Sir John Gielguld as Mock Turtle, Michael Redgrave as The Caterpillar and Peter Cook as the Mad Hatter — and its soundtrack, scored by the legendary Ravi Shankar, exudes the borderline folk-psychedelia sound of the Woodstock era. The film, divided into seven parts, is available for free on YouTube.
  • This 2-minute version of Alice In Wonderland shot in the virtual world Second Life is an eerie testament to just how widely Carroll’s classic resonates.
  • Perhaps the biggest treasure of all, Lewis Carroll’s original manuscript, available from the British Library — 91 pages of precious literary history, with original illustrations from artist John Tenniel. The online gallery also features a preface telling the fascinating story of the Oxford mathematician’s real-life inspiration for the book and the fate of the real Alice

Maria Popova is the founder and editor in chief of Brain Pickings, a curated inventory of eclectic interestingness and indiscriminate curiosity. She writes for Wired UK, GOOD Magazine and Huffington Post, and spends a disturbing amount of time curating interestingness on Twitter.


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