I came across a review of this book on Yellow, Green and Read All Over. I love retellings and this one instantly caught my attention. This is not only a retelling of Alice in Wonderland but a retelling that integrates a number of stories from Snow White and Robin Hood to Peter Pan and Pinocchio. While it had some small story-telling issues I really enjoyed the story and the way all the stories worked together with each other.
Alice makes it out of Wonderland and back home. She tries hard to hold onto the memories she had from Wonderland. She is put in a mental hospital and diagnosed with Schizophrenia. She is given medication and all her time in Wonderland become nothing but imagination. She constantly has to remind herself that what she saw and did was not real that it as all in her mind and that she had to live in reality. This becomes the main theme of the book. The White Rabbit comes back to retrieve Alice in order for her to help save Wonderland. The Ace of Spades has taken over and is removing the wonder from everyone in Wonderland. He is trying to make Wonderland match Alice’s real world, devoid of imagination and wonder.
Alice returned home and her family forced her to forget the wonder she found inside Wonderland. She is forced to grow up and grow up quickly. This theme intrigued me. This idea of removing wonder from the world hit close to home for me. We have this way of seeing the world. We believe that at a certain age imagination and wonder are no longer appropriate. We have to grow up they say and we have to put “childish,” things behind us. But we then lose the ability to see the world with new eyes. We become focused on seeing the world with certain rigidity and reality. The wonder gets lost somewhere because we believe we are not supposed to look at the world that way anymore.
There is a quote in the book that really seems to sum up the theme and thought of the story well.
“You lose your wonder by learning things? That doesn’t make sense,” I said [Alice].
“You lose your wonder, because when this information is so forcefully imparted, it creates its own rigidity. There is only the information provided. The ability to question, the mere thought that there exists knowledge outside of what is imparted, the ability to wonder, is destroyed. The mind cannot handle such force-fully-imposed data, and it has no choice but to surrender or be destroyed. Doubt, curiosity, questioning, these are lost in the wave of unbreakable logic.” (Hammons, 162).
When Alice returns to her own world after her first trip to Wonderland she is forced to see the wold in one manner. She is told that what the doctors and her parents say is what is right and true and anything else is nothing but imagination and not real. She is no longer allowed to wonder.
She returns to Wonderland and she sees what happens when you take all the wonder out of a world. It becomes dull and monochrome. Alice quickly learns that she has to wonder again. She has to see that the things that she believed impossible are happening in front of her. She has to trust her eyes and her heart.
Alice begins to fight for Wonderland and many keep asking her why she is fighting for this world that is not her own. She can leave and go back to her old life but she refuses. These people do not deserve to have to live this way.
She begins to remember what is means to imagine and wonder about the world around you and she refuses to walk away from it. It is important to see the world with fresh eyes and a new way of looking at things. She will not let Wonderland fall into the way her life was at one point. She knows being forced into one way of seeing the world takes something out of life. You can’t grow and the world around you can’t move forward if everyone only sees things one way. Alice brings back Wonderland and she brings back the ability to wonder to herself as well.
The story was fun with a few story issues. There was some clunky dialogue that I felt was out of place and had no real point to the story. And the story very much follows a systematic formula. Encountering one person, solving their problem they join the party and move on until the final battle. It was a little formulaic but the characters and the storyline kept my interest. I loved the way the characters were integrated into the story. All the fairytales characters had distinct personalities that were fresh and interesting.
There are two reasons I decided to watch Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, the first being because it is a spin off of Once Upon a Time. The writing of the original show, the way it wraps all the stories together and has such intriguing characters made me want to see where they would go with an idea like Wonderland.
I also decided to watch the show because it is Wonderland. Alice in Wonderland is a very eccentric, outlandish, trippy kind of story. The numerous movies show just how crazy this story can get. So many different characters from some of the farthest reaching areas of the imagination. You really have to let the rational side of your mind turn off and let your full imagination take over to really appreciate the story. If you question too much you ruin the best parts of the story.
Alice in Wonderland is wild and fun but it is also much more than a kids story. It isn’t as innocent as it seems. It can be much darker and more twisted than other fairytales (though more like the modern versions than the original versions). I think this show is really going to dive into the darker sides of this story.
When the show opened we had Alice returning home, as a child, from her first trip to Wonderland. She has been gone for a good long while and no one believes a word she says about where she had been. Her father is very reluctant to consider her actually crazy, he wants to see his daughter as just a child who let her imagination run away with her. He tries to hold onto her as long as he can but finally he gives up and commits her.
A lice is an intriguing character. She persists in her belief of this land she found by accident. She continues to hunt for proof of Wonderland. She goes there multiple times, constantly trying to return home with something to show she isn’t insane. She does not give up easily, that is until she lose Cyrus, the love of her life. Just as in many fairytales, she loses all hope when she loses love. She is committed and left to wallow in her sorrow and despair. A scenario that would dampen anyones life and imagination.
At first I thought the time period of the story was much further in the past then the present day. (Though from the costumes and look I still think it is, but not sure how to connect that to Will being in present day Storybrook). The asylum is so dark and barbaric, the methods ancient and cold. The doctors are cold and could careless about Alice or her recovery. They just want to break her and destroy her. No one in that place wanted to actually hep her. I don’t know much about mental health facilities but I am pretty sure most are not like this. They want to help or in some way assist their patients live better lives.
I think it is an interesting choice to place Alice in a place like this. This is what her life is like if she gives into how she is supposed to live. This is what life will be like if she walks away from her love and a life full of imagination. Without Wonderland and without all the adventures that comes with it, she will live in a cruel, hard and cold world. This is the world without stories, imagination and fun. This is the world when you give up and don’t keep believing and living.
We see Alice break but she is not broken. It only takes a few words to bring back her fighting side. WIll, the Knave of Hearts, tells her Cyrus is alive and she is once again a strong woman on a mission. She fights well and with vigor, defeating the orderlies/guards with little effort. She isn’t a broken child or a dead hearted woman. She just needs that small flame of hope to keep herself alive and moving. I like this aspect of her, she just needs something to hold onto, no matter how small it may seem. I feel like this is going to be a theme in this show, fighting even when everything seems to be against you.
She is rescued by the Knave of Hearts, a character we know very little about right now. He is sarcastic and obviously some type of rebel/criminal. We first meet him in Storybrooke, after the curse is broken. (I am making that assumption because he knows who he is and can go in and out of the town.) He wants to live here to build a life here. He knows what this place is and knows he can move forward here.
In the cafe he did something that really intrigued me. He poured a cup of coffee, put some money on the counter, looked around and took the money back. What was that? Why did he “pay” then quickly retract the action?
To me this is a telling aspect of his character. He is the Knave of Hearts, at one time he worked with Queen of Hearts. He was on the wrong side, which I am sure caused him to do somethings he now regrets. To me this pretend paying was a way for him to hold onto the responsible side of himself. There was no one there to see him taking the coffee without paying but he did the action for his own conscious. He is striving not to live the life he lived in his past. Something we know is always very difficult to do.
He rescues Alice and multiple times says how much he does not want to have anything to do with Wonderland. He is a wanted man there, life is not good for him. Yet he still follows her, still decides to join her on this hunt. I know he says he wants the wish, the ability to erase everything but I think there is more to it than that.
There has to be a deeper connection between these two. Alice mentions helping him get his heart back, so he does owe her some type of debt. How deep does this debt and his feelings of payment go? He hesitates only slightly when he decides to go on this journey to find Cyrus. He just wants a new life, he wants out of whatever trouble he is in. This adventure is only going to complicate that issue, he won’t get out of this place without encountering his past and his past actions. I know he wants the wish but I think he feels a deeper connection to Alice than that. He wants to help her, he feels like he has to help her for some reason.
The villain of this story is of course the Red Queen. We instantly know she is evil when she “kills,” Cyrus. She has no emotion when she does it, acting like it was just some accident. She appears heartless. But she does feel something and that is fear.
I love that Jafar is the real villain of the show. Yet again the creators of the show are going to intertwine stories, pull from different worlds and interact a variety of characters. I love that Jafar scares the Queen. She knows she has leverage, Jafar doesn’t know the land like she does, but she is still terrified by him. She isn’t a flawless evil ruler, she is just as much a pawn as the White Rabbit. She is not in control and it will be interesting to watch her struggle to come to terms with that.
When Alice is almost eaten by the Cheshire Cat, he says something very interesting to her. “I’m strange, you’re strange, together we ware strangers.” I think this is a telling line for what this land is like now. It isn’t the Wonderland Alice once knew. This place is a dark now, everyone is more twisted and strange. It isn’t the vibrant colorful land like the Disney movies. Something or someone is twisting and turning this land. This place is breaking and I believe it is going to come down to Alice to fix it.
Alice going to have to come terms with this new world. It is not the place she once left behind, because of a broken heart. She is going to have to hold onto that fighter side of herself if she is going to get out of this place alive and whole.
I am excited to see where this series is going to go. At the heart it is a love story but it is a love story set in one of the most imaginative unstable worlds ever created. There are so many places to go and so many characters to meet and work with and around. I hope they use this story and related stories to their full potential.
“Strangers in a most strange land,”- Cyrus- another time this idea of strangers being part of a strange land comes up. A theme I am sure will be explored more.
“Nothing is impossible in Wonderland,”- guard guy- the rules of this world are that there are no rules
“Power can be fleeting”- Jafar- a lesson the queen is going to have to learn
“When you really love someone you don’t need proof you can feel it”- Alice- her motto and a theme that will be the center of this show or at least this season
How many times did Alice visit Wonderland?
How did she help Will, the Knave of Hearts?
What are the implications of the doctor seeing the White Rabbit?
What is the time period/time line?
Will there be any real world effects from that moment?
What is Will’s story? What has he done?
What does the Red Queen want with Alice?
What is her end game?
Why does Jafar want Cyrus?
What has happened to Wonderland?