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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