We need a dose of nonsense now and then

Literary nonsense.

I’ll admit, I’d never even heard of such a thing until I started digging for some background on Alice in Wonderland. It’s a whole style of writing which Wikipedia describes like this: “In the exhibition of literary nonsense, formal diction and tone may be balanced with elements of absurdity.”

There was nothing so very remarkable in that; nor did Alice think it so very much out of the ordinary to hear the Rabbit say to itself ‘Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!’ …but when the Rabbit actually took a watch out its waistcoat pocket, and looked at it, and then hurried on, Alice startled to her feet.

The writings of Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein are considered authors of literary nonsense, as are Carl Sandburg and John Lennon. 

Lewis Carroll published Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865. The book has never gone out of print, remaining a favorite of children and adults for generations. The first silent film version was created in 1903. Two more silent films and a series of “talkies” followed.


Disney’s fully animated version, with its memorable images, reached the screen in 1951.


Multiple spin-offs, made-for-TV versions, children’s books and comics have been produced since. 

Carroll, whose real name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, has been accused of everything from drug addiction to pedophilia over the years. A mathematics professor at Christ Church university in England, Dodgson was also a deacon in the Anglican church and a friend and contemporary of the Reverend George MacDonald. MacDonald, a Christian minister, poet, and novelist, is said to have influenced C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Madeline L’Engle with his fantasy stories.

 Lewis was also an accomplished photographer  

After writing the story of Alice and her adventures underground, Dodgson/Carroll shared the story with MacDonald, who read the tale to his brood of children. The story was so well-received by them, MacDonald strongly encouraged his friend to seek publication.

As with all classic literature, Alice and her imaginary world have been the subject of much speculation. Mathematicians have searched for mathematical equations and expressions hidden within the text. History buffs have searched for pictures of the children to whom the tale was first told, and combed Lewis’ haunts for sites that may have inspired the rabbit hole.

So many out-of-the-way things had happened lately, that Alice had begun to think that very few things indeed were really impossible.

Tim Burton’s movie version of the Lewis Carroll classic Alice in Wonderland opens in theaters Friday. It couldn’t come at a better time. We all need a little nonsense in our lives… 


“Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”

An illustration from the original by John Tenniel

For references, click the associated links within the text.

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3 thoughts on “We need a dose of nonsense now and then

  1. patti says:

    You know, I never really "got" this story! Perhaps that's my problem!!! Maybe the movie will get through my thick skull!

    Great post!


  2. Niki Turner says:

    Georgiana, I don't think I ever made it completely through the original story. :* I'm reading it now, and I'm surprised how entertaining it actually is!
    Which segues into Patti's comment… Obviously I had the same problem! I didn't even like the Disney version that much. Maybe I'm getting quirkier as I get older!

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