Off with its head: why Alice wig tale was chopped

27th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

A chapter of famous fantasy tale Alice in Wonderland's sequel was chopped because the illustrator refused to draw a "wasp in a wig," one of English writer Lewis Carroll's wildly imaginary characters.

The 1865 story of Alice's adventures after falling down a rabbit hole has entertained generations of children and grown-ups, and was recently turned into a blockbuster movie by US director Tim Burton.

After tumbling into the underground Wonderland, the young girl has adventures with a cast of characters including the White Rabbit, Cheshire Cat, the Queen of Hearts, the March Hare and the Mad Hatter.

But a letter up for auction in London Thursday sheds light on why another character, the "Wasp in a Wig," failed to make it to the sequel, "Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There," published in 1871.

Specifically illustrator Sir John Tenniel -- who was much more famous than the relatively unknown Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll -- said he couldn't imagine how to draw the bewigged flying insect.

"Don't think me brutal, but I am bound to say that the 'wasp' chapter does not interest me in the least, and... I can't see my way to a picture," he wrote to the writer, in a letter dated June 1, 1870.

"If you want to shorten the book, I can't help thinking -- with all submission -- that there is your opportunity," he added.

The author took the advice and the episode was scrapped from the book, which features the Red and the White Queen, Tweedledum and Tweedledee and the Walrus and the Carpenter.

The letter from Tenniel to Carroll was on sale at Bloomsbury Auctions on Thursday, with an estimate of 15-20,000 pounds (22-29,000 dollars, 18-24,000 euros).

Burton's "Alice in Wonderland," a live-action, CGI (computer-generated imagery), 3D movie starring Johnny Depp and Mia Wasikowska, netted the highest-grossing US debut for a film which is not a sequel when it launched in March.

© 2010 AFP

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