By Amy Hood
As Once Upon A Time ventures into Wonderland, we thought it would be great to give some background to the fans and provide some information on the original characters in this tale. Many fans are familiar with the animated Disney version and Tim Burton’s most recent movie. Neither introduced the full range of characters Lewis Carroll created in his two books Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. The stories were originally written for the daughter of one of Carroll’s colleagues. The little girl’s name was Alice. There are so many characters in the books that it would take a small novel to catalog them all. This is just a snippet of some that might become major players in the new Once Upon A Time in Wonderland.
Alice is a young, creative dreamer with a strong curious streak. She originally finds Wonderland after falling down a rabbit hole. In the second of Lewis Carroll’s tales, she is on a quest to make it to the final square of the chess board, where she will become a queen. In the beginning of her story, Alice wishes for a world of nonsense, but finds it is not the carefree place she imagined.
Cheshire is probably the cleverest character in the books. He is, indeed, Mad, but he is also aware that he is mad. At one point Alice tells him she does not wish to be around mad people to which he replies “We are all mad here.” He is the character who truly knows Wonderland and all its inhabitants. He appears to be a nuisance to Alice, but in reality guides her along her journey. He has the ability to vanish and reappear at will, and often appears as only an enigmatic smile.
The White Rabbit
The White Rabbit is the first inhabitant of Wonderland that Alice sees. She is so curious to find out who and what he is that she follows him blindly until she falls down the rabbit hole. The Rabbit is always late, and later we find that it is the trial of the Knave of Hearts for which he is late.
The Mad Hatter
The Hatter is one of the most recognizable characters, having been featured heavily in the theatrical telling as well as on Once Upon A Time. Alice meets the Hatter at his insanely random tea party. The Tea Party is also attended by the March Hare and the Dormouse. The phrase “Mad as a Hatter” was the inspiration behind the character. In the early days of hat making, the mercury that hatters were exposed to often led to decomposed mental states and outright madness. The Hatter frustrates Alice, but is also a companion to her. One of his most famous lines is “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” There is no answer to the question. It is just mad ramblings.
It is the caterpillar who educates Alice on how to change size by eating different parts of the mushroom. She is at first annoyed with him, but his advice proves valuable to her. In the Once Upon A Time episode “Hat Trick,” the Caterpillar was voiced by singer Rodger Daultry of The Who. The band’s most famous song is “Who Are You?” which also happens to be the most famous line the caterpillar says in the story. In an homage to the song, the Caterpillar in the ONCE episode repeats the chorus of the song (“Who are you? Who, Who?”) instead of just saying his line from the book (“Whoooo are you?”).
The creature called Jabberwock is a mythical being that appears in a poem in Lewis Carroll’s book. The poem is “Jabberwocky” while the creature is called the Jabberwock. It is a common misconception that Alice battles the Jabberwock, but she does not. The poem, which contains many nonsensical words made up by Carroll, is about a young boy’s quest. He is able to slay the beast, and by his one act of bravery changes the world for the better. It is meant to be an allusion to Alice in that she can overcome her fears and use her wits to save herself and, in doing so, would become a better person. In the Disney animated movie, the Cheshire Cat actually sings the intro of the poem, but most people don’t recognize the words because of their nonsense meanings.
Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum
The twin boys from the story are mischievous and playful. They recite poems to Alice and argue amongst themselves until they are separated by a crow. The Tweedles are an annoyance to Alice, clamoring for her attention and wasting her time.
The Red Queen
The Red Queen is not the Queen of Hearts. She is an entirely separate character. Many of the movies and media that retell the Alice story do not mention her, which has led to the mass misconception that she and the Queen of Hearts are the same. The Red Queen is a very condescending woman. She chides Alice about proper etiquette and manners. She often spouts nonsense but as Queen, refuses to acknowledge it as anything but absolute fact. It is she who introduces Alice to the chess game and explains that she can become a queen when she reaches the end. Lewis Carroll has described the Red Queen as “Calm, formal, and strict.
The White Queen
The White Queen is an opposite reflection of the Red Queen. She is flighty, a bit wacky, and flamboyant. It is the White Queen who explains to Alice the need to believe in the impossible. She is a friend to Alice on her journey to make it to the final square on the chess board.
Lewis Carroll described the Queen of Hearts as the “embodiment of ungovernable passion--a blind and aimless fury.” The Queen of Hearts is fond of shouting “Off with his head” to solve any issue in which she does not get her way. In the Once Upon A Time version, we find that Cora employs the tactic of ripping out hearts rather than removing heads. She is arrogant and wields the power she holds with great enjoyment. It has long been thought that Lewis Carroll based the Queen of Hearts on an exaggerated version of Queen Victoria.
The Knave Of Hearts
The Knave of Hearts is one of the characters who gains Alice’s help and sympathy in the book. He is on trial for stealing tarts from the Queen of Hearts. Alice saves him from his ordered execution by beheading.
The White Knight
It is speculated that Lewis Carroll based the White Knight on himself. He is a kind, raggedy, older man. He saves Alice from the Red Knight and helps her complete her journey to the final square on the chessboard. Lewis Carroll was, in real life, acquainted with a child named Alice around whom he created his stories. These were originally made up and told to Alice who then asked Carroll to write them down. This led to the creation of his books. In real life, Alice led him to his “final square” of publishing his books. In the story, he leads her to the final square of the chess board allowing her to become a queen.
Explore the Arthurian legend surrounding Lancelot, take a trip into the woods to discover the mythology behind Red Riding Hood or learn more about a modern day hero called Snow White. Origins provides unique insights and perspectives from talented writers into the characters we know and love, going far beyond the boundaries of Storybrooke.