CS Lewis and Lewis Carroll's Magical Worlds

C. S. Lewis, his worlds, and his faith.

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CS Lewis and Lewis Carroll's Magical Worlds

Postby Mull Auna » May 03, 2013 1:20 am

Was CS Lewis influenced by Alice in Wonderland?

I was struck by the parallel between falling down the rabbit hole and stumbling through the wardrobe.

MODERATOR NOTE: The topic of this thread has been altered from the original title "Was Lewis influenced by Alice in Wonderland?" to allow a broader discussion about both C.S. Lewis and Lewis Carroll.
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Re: Quest.: Was Lewis influenced by Alice in Wonderland?

Postby Rilian The Disenchanted » May 03, 2013 11:41 am

It is definitely part of the same kind of Fantasy subgenre, namely Portal Fantasy (one enters the magical land through a portal, also the Oz Book from L. Frank Baum belong in this genre). Alice In Wonderland was a Classic British tale so it is very likely C.S. Lewis read it when he was young.
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Re: Quest.: Was Lewis influenced by Alice in Wonderland?

Postby Meltintalle » Jul 08, 2013 8:32 am

As Rillian says, Narnia and Alice in Wonderland fall in the same genre, and Alice's adventures could have inspired the trip through the wardrobe and Lucy's response.

Where Alice's sanity is questioned and both her adventures were a dream, Lewis makes a point that Narnia was not a dream and Lucy was quite sane.
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Re: Quest.: Was Lewis influenced by Alice in Wonderland?

Postby De_De » Jul 09, 2013 7:43 am

I don't think he was influenced by Alice in Wonderland. I mean the only parallels is that both Alice and Lucy stumble upon their portals. I never read the book, and only saw clips of the cartoon, but they just seem so different. In Alice in Wonderland everything is weird and out of norm, and as Meltintalle said, makes you question Alice's sanity. Where as in Narnia everything has a reason and a purpose.
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Re: Quest.: Was Lewis influenced by Alice in Wonderland?

Postby Lady Arwen » Jul 09, 2013 4:03 pm

De_De, the cartoon is ever so much different from the book. ;)

It is interesting to note that both Lewis and Carroll both published their books "for children" and utilized a lot of symbolism in their books. True, Lewis talked about the Christian faith, but he also had a few not-so-veiled political and social comments. All of Carroll's Alice stories were steeped in political and social commentary (the books make so much more sense once you are familiar with the political goings-on of the time!). Each time Alice went to Underland/Wonderland, she came back having learned something, just like each time the Pevensies return home, they come away with a lesson to apply to their everyday life. And nearly every time, someone commented that they were probably not quite sane, so in the end, they quit telling other people about their adventures.

I also find it interesting that both authors used mirrors to show their characters what could be--Lucy seeing pictures of herself when she thinks about using the beautiful spell, as well as the mirror "just the size and shape of her own face, with hair on the top of it and a beard hanging down from it, so that when you looked in the mirror your own face fitted into the hair and beard and it looked as if they belonged to you." At the same time, Alice runs into mirrors that show her what/where she could be when she enters the garden, and she supposes that there must be two of her that could go different ways; she also travels through a mirror to see what could be. Obviously, there are parallels between the uses of mirrors, but I wouldn't go so far as to say that Lewis must have drawn this from Carroll's work.

Overall, I would say that there are, definitely, some very strong similarities between the Alice books and the Chronicles of Narnia, but I don't think that the one sprang from the other. Though it would be interesting to see if Lewis ever commented on anything Carroll wrote.
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Re: Quest.: Was Lewis influenced by Alice in Wonderland?

Postby waggawerewolf27 » Jul 09, 2013 11:07 pm

De_De wrote:I don't think he was influenced by Alice in Wonderland. I mean the only parallels is that both Alice and Lucy stumble upon their portals. I never read the book, and only saw clips of the cartoon, but they just seem so different. In Alice in Wonderland everything is weird and out of norm, and as Meltintalle said, makes you question Alice's sanity. Where as in Narnia everything has a reason and a purpose.


Though the two men wrote for wildly differing reasons, there can be no doubt that C.S.Lewis would have been influenced by Lewis Carroll, whether by reading Alice in Wonderland as a child or by working and studying at Oxford University. Lewis Carroll was the pen name of Charles Dodgson, a mathematician who graduated from, and worked at the Christchurch College in Oxford, England, which remains intensely proud of him. There is even a stained-glass picture of the White Rabbit in Christchurch Chapel within the college, and you've no idea of the souvenirs in nearby shops across the road from this college.

Lewis Carroll (the name was a Latin play on Charles Lutwidge Dodgson's first two names) died in 1898, the same year that C.S.Lewis was born. Lewis, who was awarded a scholarship to University College, where in 1924, he held a position as a philosophy teacher, as well as other positions at Merton and Magdalen Colleges at Oxford, where he served as a tutor of English literature for 29 years, until 1954. By that time, Alice in Wonderland was already a famous children's classic. Furthermore, Roger Lancelyn Green, who studied under C.S.Lewis at Merton College, was a member of C.S.Lewis' Inklings group and his close friend, also wrote about Lewis Carroll, in whom he was particularly interested.

There were a few similarities between Lewis Carroll and C.S.Lewis, such as membership of the High Anglican Church and an Irish connection, and I wouldn't be surprised if C.S.Lewis made it his business to make a clear, contrasting distinction beween similar themes used by both authors, such as mirrors, sanity and portals to a strange world. I'd need to think about other possible similarities and distinctions, Eustace's dragoning for example, and Alice's experiences with growing up and down.

You might be interested to learn that Lewis Carroll was honoured by a memorial in Westminster Abbey's Poets' Corner, as one of UK's greats. There are currently moves to get such a memorial put in for 22nd November, 2013, the 50th anniversary of C.S.Lewis' death.
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Re: Quest.: Was Lewis influenced by Alice in Wonderland?

Postby Lady Arwen » Jul 10, 2013 11:19 am

wagga wrote:I'd need to think about other possible similarities and distinctions, Eustace's dragoning for example, and Alice's experiences with growing up and down.


Or when Alice gets that amazingly long neck and looks like a snake, and gets attacked by a tiny little bird. Remind anyone of Reepicheep confronting Eustace the Dragon? ;))
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Re: Quest.: Was Lewis influenced by Alice in Wonderland?

Postby Meltintalle » Jul 10, 2013 2:03 pm

Or perhaps the scene where Alice grows out of the house--do the gardeners remind you of the Dufflepuds? Or even the cards who were painting the roses? They were afraid of 'her'.
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Re: Quest.: Was Lewis influenced by Alice in Wonderland?

Postby Varnafinde » Jul 11, 2013 2:14 pm

Lady Arwen wrote:All of Carroll's Alice stories were steeped in political and social commentary (the books make so much more sense once you are familiar with the political goings-on of the time!).


To me, it was very interesting to read a version of Alice called The Annotated Alice with lots of comments and footnotes explaining much of that political and social commentary, as well as giving lots of the literary texts (mostly verses and poems) that there are parodies of.

Alice is surrealism more than fantasy, I'd say. Surrealism in the way your dreams are surrealistic - things don't make sense, and it doesn't bother you much, and the scenes change without a logical connection.

C.S. Lewis doesn't write his stories that way at all. If he's influenced at all, it would only be in the details. As far as I can see, he never refers to Lewis Carroll's works at all - the only direct mention of other authors' works occur at the beginning of MN, where he sets the time for his story by saying that it happened in the days when
Mr Sherlock Holmes was still living in Baker Street and the Bastables were looking for treasure in the Lewisham Road.


Edith Nesbit, who wrote about the Bastables children in The Story of the Treasure Seekers, The Wouldbegoods and The New Treasure Seekers, is the only one who writes about children, and she influenced C.S. Lewis more than Lewis Carrol would have done. Some of the mannerisms of the Pevensies, and especially some of their exclamations, are very much in the style of Edith Nesbit.
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Re: Quest.: Was Lewis influenced by Alice in Wonderland?

Postby waggawerewolf27 » Jul 11, 2013 3:09 pm

Meltintalle wrote:Or perhaps the scene where Alice grows out of the house--do the gardeners remind you of the Dufflepuds? Or even the cards who were painting the roses? They were afraid of 'her'.


Well, yes, 'her' being the Queen of Jam Tarts (oops, Hearts), I presume. The White Witch does sound as if she might have enjoyed the company of such bad-tempered royalty, even if she didn't scream "Off with her/his head" all the time. And I am mindful of a baby turned into a squealing piglet in Alice, just as a bunch of nasty schoolboys became a whole herd of pigs in Prince Caspian.

Varnafinde wrote:Alice is surrealism more than fantasy, I'd say. Surrealism in the way your dreams are surrealistic - things don't make sense, and it doesn't bother you much, and the scenes change without a logical connection.

C.S. Lewis doesn't write his stories that way at all. If he's influenced at all, it would only be in the details. As far as I can see, he never refers to Lewis Carroll's works at all - the only direct mention of other authors' works occur at the beginning of MN


Fair points, Varnafinde. But the books C.S.Lewis mentioned in MN refer to an era and a style of living in London when he was, himself, a small baby, when Lewis Carroll had died only recently, and they were also books that he, himself, said he had enjoyed reading, well, E.Nesbit, at any rate. I never said that C.S.Lewis would have enjoyed Alice in Wonderland as a child, and it does tend to be the sort of book that girls would be more likely to have access to. However, C.S.Lewis, as an adult, a teacher of English literature, and as the friend and tutor of Roger Lancelyn Green, is quite a different kettle of fish altogether. It all depends on what you mean by "influence". If you dislike a particular work of fiction, want to portray a differing perspective of the world from a particular author or need to distance your own fantasy creation from someone else's surrealistic creation, aren't you just as influenced as you would be if you had enjoyed the work as a child?

And yes, I do agree that Alice in Wonderland is surrealistic and without much of a goal or unifying story. Like a nightmare, one thing after another, and most unlike the Chronicles of Narnia.
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Re: Quest.: Was Lewis influenced by Alice in Wonderland?

Postby Lady Arwen » Jul 11, 2013 5:52 pm

wagga wrote:Well, yes, 'her' being the Queen of Jam Tarts (oops, Hearts), I presume. The White Witch does sound as if she might have enjoyed the company of such bad-tempered royalty, even if she didn't scream "Off with her/his head" all the time.


True, however she was rather fond of zapping people into stone if they displeased her in the slightest bit. ;)) Perhaps they were cousins of a sort. Now I begin to wonder if there are any parallel's between Carroll's White Queen and the White Witch....

wagga wrote:I never said that C.S.Lewis would have enjoyed Alice in Wonderland as a child, and it does tend to be the sort of book that girls would be more likely to have access to.


Contrariwise, I think it would be considered a children's book for both girls and boys. Unlike such books as Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms, which are very much girls books and deal with "homey" topics, the Alice books deal with topics that are anything but homey. Really, while Alice may be the main character, the majority of events in the book take place surrounding male characters pursuing masculine activities (knights fighting, men serving on a jury, rulers ruling, hatters hatting and delivering postage). The only truly matronly activities that take place have a bad light cast upon them (the disorderly housekeeping, the awful cook, and the flowers that object to Alice's existence).

Then again, I'm pretty sure that Carroll's books were not for children, but were rather "for children"--they were commentaries that I don't think one could quite understand unless they were very fond of the news or an adult. Perhaps it would have been more likely for Lewis to be aware of them as he grew older, not as a young boy.
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Re: Quest.: Was Lewis influenced by Alice in Wonderland?

Postby Varnafinde » Jul 12, 2013 7:47 pm

Lady Arwen wrote:Then again, I'm pretty sure that Carroll's books were not for children, but were rather "for children"--they were commentaries that I don't think one could quite understand unless they were very fond of the news or an adult. Perhaps it would have been more likely for Lewis to be aware of them as he grew older, not as a young boy.


Someone said somewhere that they were not for children, but about children.

But wasn't the beginning of the story, at least, told orally to children? I think it's possible to write for children and at the same time sneak in a few things that at the moment only the adult reader would get. If he reads aloud for children, it might make that task more interesting if there are some details in the book that will make himself chuckle a little, even when the child he's reading to, doesn't pick up that point.
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Re: Quest.: Was Lewis influenced by Alice in Wonderland?

Postby coracle » Jul 12, 2013 10:55 pm

I think that Lewis Carroll's writings, although apparently for children at the time, were not really for children at all, yet have BECOME children's classics since then. I remember productions of Alice In Wonderland from my youth, and it has again become a popular stage play/show. It was clearly popular before World War 2 in England, as can be seen in Noel Streatfeild's book "Ballet Shoes" where one of her main characters plays Alice in a West End show.

It is important to remember, as well, that C.S.Lewis was writing in a tradition of children's literature, and although he used some conventions he was also an innovater, using things a different way. Lewis Carroll was writing satire for adults, writing non fiction in a form of fiction.
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Re: Quest.: Was Lewis influenced by Alice in Wonderland?

Postby waggawerewolf27 » Jul 13, 2013 3:18 am

Lady Arwen wrote:Really, while Alice may be the main character, the majority of events in the book take place surrounding male characters pursuing masculine activities (knights fighting, men serving on a jury, rulers ruling, hatters hatting and delivering postage). The only truly matronly activities that take place have a bad light cast upon them (the disorderly housekeeping, the awful cook, and the flowers that object to Alice's existence).


Hmm! I can see what you mean about dissing traditional feminine occupations like cooking and housekeeping. I really don't know why people kept pushing me to read this book as a child, as I never enjoyed it anywhere near as much as I enjoyed LWW and the rest, to tell the truth. I'm not sure what you mean by "hatters hatting" as a masculine activity - women wore hats those days a good deal more so than today, especially in England and especially in polite society. Hats were often made with the use of mercury, apparently, so that might send hatters mad, so I know about that bit, especially as one of my grandmother's sisters worked at a millinery before getting married.

I'd have liked to see now how the satire fits. The trouble I have with your rulers bit - apart from the politicians and Prime Ministers in power at the time in Parliament - is that it was Queen Victoria who was the monarch, from when Lewis Carroll was a five year old until three years after his death - 1837 to 1901.

coracle wrote:It is important to remember, as well, that C.S.Lewis was writing in a tradition of children's literature, and although he used some conventions he was also an innovater, using things a different way. Lewis Carroll was writing satire for adults, writing non fiction in a form of fiction.


That is why I just saw the book as a series of random incidents, no more exciting than a musical where the cast drop everything to sing a song or something for no reason I could see. I'd have needed to know what sorts of people were being satirised, not only the historical background, to understand its true brilliance. Perhaps Lewis Carroll might have thought that the rulers of his time might actually be behaving like children?

Lady Arwen wrote:Perhaps it would have been more likely for Lewis to be aware of them as he grew older, not as a young boy..


I'd believe you. Roger Lancelyn Green, Lewis' friend, had edited Lewis Carroll's diary, or so I have learned, and it is very likely Tolkien, Lewis and friends had discussed Alice in Wonderland at Inkling meetings.
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Re: Quest.: Was Lewis influenced by Alice in Wonderland?

Postby Lady Arwen » Jul 13, 2013 5:21 pm

Varna wrote:But wasn't the beginning of the story, at least, told orally to children? I think it's possible to write for children and at the same time sneak in a few things that at the moment only the adult reader would get.


The books, if I remember correctly, both begin with a short poem that is, I think, directed at children exclusively. After that, it is, I suppose, important to keep in mind that the Alice stories were actually commentaries on Victorian culture and politics.

If he reads aloud for children, it might make that task more interesting if there are some details in the book that will make himself chuckle a little, even when the child he's reading to, doesn't pick up that point.


Unlike J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan, which seems particularly designed for children, with a few jokes thrown in for the parents--for example, Barrie writes

"Of course the Neverlands vary a good deal. John's, for instance, had a lagoon with flamingoes flying over it...while Michael, who was very small, had a flamingo with lagoons flying over it."


This would summon a chuckle from a mother or father and be completely ignored by a child (in fact, if the child was like me, it would make perfect sense)--Alice's stories were much more marinated in subtext; the reader knew exactly who the White Queen was, and anyone who followed the politics of the time would know immediately know what the author meant when he wrote

The Lion and the Unicorn were fighting for the crown:
The Lion beat the Unicorn all round the town....

"Does the one that wins get the crown? she asked, as well as she could, for the run was putting her quite out of breath.
"Dear me, no!" said the King. "What an idea!"


The unicorn was a popular sign for Prime Minister Benjamin Disreali, who was constantly fighting (and rarely winning) battles on behalf of the crown, and Parliament did quite often seem to run just to stay in the same spot (which was why Alice was out of breath). To a child, this was just an oddity of adults being strange. To an adult, well, you could get quite a chuckle over the unproductive state in Parliament, where the King was not a King, and the Queen nearly went into hiding when he passed.

coracle wrote:It was clearly popular before World War 2 in England, as can be seen in Noel Streatfeild's book "Ballet Shoes" where one of her main characters plays Alice in a West End show.


Oh, it has been years since I've run across that book! I had fairly forgotten the title and the author, I just remember bits of the story from when I read it as a girl. Now you have me in mind to go order it....

In the book, if I remember correctly, it was a children's play that they were performing, correct? I think the Alice books might have become classics because of their commentaries, but have remained classics due to the charming oddness of the stories.

wagga wrote:I really don't know why people kept pushing me to read this book as a child, as I never enjoyed it anywhere near as much as I enjoyed LWW and the rest, to tell the truth.


I don't know why they would have, either. I first read Alice in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass when I was confined to bed with strep throat as a child. Of course, with a raging fever, both of the books made perfect sense. :P Later on, I attempted to re-read them, and found them not quite as enjoyable as other works of fiction. However, they are still huge favorites of mine (just in case you can't tell).

I'm not sure what you mean by "hatters hatting" as a masculine activity - women wore hats those days a good deal more so than today, especially in England and especially in polite society.


If I remember correctly, there is a distinction between hatters and milliners. Hatters made men's hats, while milliners made women's hats. During Queen Victoria's reign, most women who worked worked part time to supplement the family income, and my understanding is that the majority of the work they did was often of the domestic type, or would do short sprints at factories, such as the millinery you mentioned. A hatter, again, if I remember correctly, was more of a shop owner where he did most if not all his own work, and was not factory driven, like women's millinery. (Any other history buffs care to weigh in on this? I'm forgetting all the things that made hatters special. ;)) )

I'd have liked to see now how the satire fits. The trouble I have with your rulers bit - apart from the politicians and Prime Ministers in power at the time in Parliament - is that it was Queen Victoria who was the monarch, from when Lewis Carroll was a five year old until three years after his death - 1837 to 1901.


I have, personally, seen much more of a political commentary in Through the Looking Glass, and more of a social commentary in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Also, I've always noticed a marked resemblance between the original drawings of the White Queen and photographs of a middle-aged to older Queen Victoria. I didn't realize there were quite as many connections until I settled in with a history about Queen Victoria, and nearly broke windows when I realized the connections.

Also, in the first book, the Queen plays a much smaller part. This might be because it appears to have been written (and was definitely published) after Albert's death, when the Queen chose to go into seclusion, leaving her son and parliament to make do on their own. Again, however, the first book to me seems to talk much more about social issues than political ones.

Perhaps Lewis Carroll might have thought that the rulers of his time might actually be behaving like children?


I believe Queen Victoria actually made a comment to this effect at one time, when she got frustrated with having to have so many women involved in getting dressed in the morning. I can't seem to locate the quote, but I remember her expressing annoyance at the idea that so many women had to come in, for the mere importance of handing her one piece of clothing that she might as well have picked up for herself. ;))

Roger Lancelyn Green, Lewis' friend, had edited Lewis Carroll's diary, or so I have learned, and it is very likely Tolkien, Lewis and friends had discussed Alice in Wonderland at Inkling meetings.


Especially as he was an Inkling also, was he not? Perhaps I shall have to do some research about Mr. Green, now. I know so very little of him, despite loving the Arthur books. Oh dear! Now I feel like I'm falling down on the rights to keep my geek card. ;)) Wouldn't you have loved to be able to listen in to their meetings? * sighs dreamily *

EDIT: Oh goodness, that is one whopper of a post! So sorry!
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Re: Quest.: Was Lewis influenced by Alice in Wonderland?

Postby 7chronicles » Jul 14, 2013 4:34 pm

I'm not sure whether or not Alice in Wonderland had a direct influence on Lewis when writing Narnia, but I do think that if he did read Alice in Wonderland I'm sure it and other books he had read during his childhood instilled some of the wonder and fantasy that went into Narnia.
It would not surprise me if he read Alice in Wonderland at one time at least, because I once read that George MacDonald whom Lewis' saw as a great influence, had given advice and encouragement to Lewis Carroll when he was decided whether of not he would publish Alice in Wonderland.
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