Alice in Wonderland Characters: Top 7
Most fantasy fiction stories contain characters that are either primarily good or primarily evil, with varying shades of gray. The characters in Lewis Carroll’s classic tale rarely fall into either category. Most of them are neither especially good or evil. They’re just plain mad!
Here’s a countdown of the seven most memorable characters in Alice in Wonderland:
7. The King of Hearts
The Alice in Wonderland King is typically irrational and talks a whole lot of nonsense. At the Knave of Hearts’s trial, at which the knave is accused of stealing the queen’s tarts, he presides as a judge and proves to be unreasonable in the extreme. He threatens to execute witnesses who appear nervous, asks irrelevant questions, and draws illogical conclusions.
Here’s an excerpt from the trial in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the first of two books about Alice by the wonderful Lewis Carroll:
The jury all wrote down on their slates, “She doesn't believe there's an atom of meaning in it,” but none of them attempted to explain the paper.
“If there's no meaning in it,” said the King, “that saves a world of trouble, you know, as we needn't try to find any.”
Despite his apparent madness, the king is somewhat of a counterbalance to the merciless queen. He often secretly pardons those she has sentenced to death by beheading. And he tries to save Alice from the same fate, by reminding the queen that she is just a child.
6. The Caterpillar
Many of the characters that Lewis invented are rude and frustrating, and the Caterpillar is no exception. When Alice first meets him, he’s sitting on a mushroom smoking a hookah. He demands to know who she is, and then contradicts whatever she says, causing poor Alice to lose her temper.
Here’s the opening to their conversation:
“Who are you?” said the Caterpillar.
This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, “I--I hardly know, sir, just at present-- at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”
“What do you mean by that?” said the Caterpillar sternly. “Explain yourself!”
And so it goes…
The Caterpillar is blue and three inches high, which he insists is a “very good height indeed”. He is also known in the book as the Hookah-Smoking Caterpillar, and so is commonly depicted as such.
5. Tweedledum and Tweedledee
Tweedledum and Tweedledee and Tweedledum… well however you like to say it. These two small, fat brothers are endlessly entertaining and speak in the most amusing way.
In a scene from Lewis’s second book, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, Alice finds them standing under a tree. They’re so still that she mistakes them for waxworks, and is startled when they speak. Here is an excerpt from that scene:
“I know what you're thinking about,” said Tweedledum; “but it isn't so, nohow.”
“Contrariwise,” continued Tweedledee, “if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ain't. That's logic.”
The pair recite one lengthy nursery rhyme, called The Walrus and the Carpenter, and act out another before running away from a monstrous crow. Since Lewis created the characters, the term Tweedledum and Tweedledee has made its way into common usage, to mean a pair of people or things that are virtually indistinguishable.
4. The Mad Hatter
Most people know the Hatter as the Mad Hatter even though Lewis never calls him this. However, The Cheshire Cat does tell Alice that the Hatter is mad, and he often behaves in an irrational way.
At the famous Mad Tea Party (in Lewis’s first book), the Hatter tells Alice that when he tried to sing for the queen, she accused him of murdering time. Ever since then he has been behaving as though the clock were permanently stopped at teatime, and that therefore it’s teatime all the time.
This explains at least some of his madness though not his appalling manners. He makes several rude remarks to Alice, and asks a riddle that has no answer.
“Your hair wants cutting,” said the Hatter. He had been looking at Alice for some time with great curiosity, and this was his first speech.
“You should learn not to make personal remarks,” Alice said with some severity; “it's very rude.”
The Hatter opened his eyes very wide on hearing this; but all he said was, “Why is a raven like a writing-desk?”
The Hatter is usually depicted wearing a large top hat with a tag on it that says 10/6, which is believed to be a price tag for ten shillings and six pence of old English money. Lewis is said to have based the character on a furniture dealer in England called Theophilus Carter, who was known as the Mad Hatter and often stood at the door of his shop wearing a top hat.
Many believe The Hatter from Alice's Adventures and The Hatta from Through the Looking-Glass are one and the same.
3. The Queen of Hearts
The Alice in Wonderland queen is the darkest of all the Wonderland characters. She is a ruthless tyrant who orders decapitations for the slightest offence, or none at all. She has an altogether backward view of justice, preferring to punish first and seek a verdict later. Fortunately most of those she sentences to death escape unharmed because the king pardons them behind the Queen's back.
Croquet is one of the Queen’s favorite hobbies. However, she plays it a little differently to most. She uses flamingoes in place of mallets, hedgehogs for balls and soldiers as arches. And she bends the rules to her advantage so that she wins every time. Here’s an excerpt, again from Lewis’s first book:
“Now, I give you fair warning,” shouted the Queen, stamping on the ground as she spoke; “either you or your head must be off, and that in about half no time! Take your choice!”
In popular culture, the Queen is often portrayed as Lewis describes her, a walking, talking playing card who goes about shouting her catchphrase, “Off with their heads!”
Lewis is thought to have based his most famous character, Alice, on a real-life little girl called Alice Liddell. In the first book, Alice is seven years old, and in the second book, she is seven and a half – an important age difference as she likes to point out. But she acts more mature than her tender years might suggest. She is highly intelligent and imaginative and enjoys showing off her knowledge to others.
Both Alice's mind and manners are in sharp contrast with those of her fellow characters. Despite a vivid imagination, she is a logical girl who relies on reason to understand the world around her. So she's often puzzled by the behavior of the characters she meets down the rabbit hole, many of whom say and do things that don't make any sense (at least not to her). She's also offended by their ill manners, most famously those of The Hatter, who directs several rude remarks her way at the Mad Tea Party.
In Disney’s Alice in Wonderland movie, Alice is depicted as a blonde, slender girl wearing a blue knee-length dress with a white pinafore, a pair of stripy tights, and a wide hairband. This image of her, as well as that of the other Disney characters featured in the 1951 film, has been popularized and embraced by the public. However in Tim’s Burton’s movie, released in 2010, Alice (played by Mia Wasikowska) is a young adult who finds it hard to believe that Wonderland, or Underland as it’s named in the movie, is anything but a dark demented dream.
Who's missing from this list? The clever and curious Alice in Wonderland cat of course. Follow the link to read all about him.
1. The White Rabbit
The White Rabbit offers Alice her first glimpse of Wonderland and thus represents the link between reality and fantasy. And this makes him in many ways the most important Alice in Wonderland character.
Alice is sitting on a bank with her sister when she sees the Rabbit running past her wearing a waistcoat and saying to himself, “Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!” He pulls out a pocket watch, glances at it, and then disappears down the rabbit hole. Alice takes off after him, and so falls down, down, down to Wonderland.
Some time later Alice comes across the home of the Rabbit, who mistakes her for his housemaid, Mary Ann, and asks her to go into her house and fetch his gloves. Here’s an excerpt from that scene:
Very soon the Rabbit noticed Alice, as she went hunting about, and called out to her in an angry tone, “Why, Mary Ann, what are you doing out here? Run home this moment, and fetch me a pair of gloves and a fan! Quick, now!”
The Rabbit later appears as a servant to the king and queen, to whom he grovels unashamedly. While he treats those he sees as inferior with contempt, he shows cowardly obedience to his superiors. This is in direct contrast to Alice, who treats everyone the same way.
The Alice in Wonderland characters are unique, colorful and just the right kind of crazy. Want more of them? Check out the Top 13 Alice in Wonderland quotes, the Top 13 Lewis Carroll quotes, and the most memorable Cheshire Cat Quotes.
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