Numerous writers have drawn on Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. A quote, edited for length, from Wikipedia notes that, among many others, the following written works have been influenced by Alice:

Finnegans Wake (1939) by James Joyce is famously influenced by Alice. The novel is about a dream, and includes such lines as: "Alicious, twinstreams twinestraines, through alluring glass or alas in jumboland?"

The first novel in the Echo Falls series by Peter Abrahams, called Down the Rabbit Hole (2006), features main character Ingrid Levin-Hill starring in a stage production of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Robert Doucette's "Why a Raven is like a Writing Desk: A Wonderland Mystery" (2006) is a short fable that attempts to answer the riddle from the Mad Tea-Party.

Night of the Jabberwock by Fredric Brown includes a character who is a member of a society that believes Lewis Carroll's books to be visions of an actual world.

The Wonderland Gambit is a trilogy by Jack Chalker. While set in a science-esque setting, the trilogy plays heavily on both characters and themes from the Lewis Carroll books.

Little Mimzy Wells by Markiv Inias is influenced heavily by Carroll's works, and draws liberally from the themes present in said novels.

But what or who influenced Carroll? Leaving ancient myth and fables aside, did a single modern work or primary author serve as a source of inspiration for him, or was his creation largely de novo?

  • @amarillo - Where are the hats? There ought to be hats. Send in the hats. Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 18:05
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    Mordant's need doesn't draw from Alice at all and any similarity in regard to mirrors is incidental at best. Mordant's Need is more of a fictional or literary refutation of donaldsons own earlier works about Thomas Covenant, in which the opposite seems to be real. I.e. The world behind the mirror is the real, and the one where the protagonist started is not the real world at all.
    – Escoce
    Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 18:10
  • @Escoce - I could easily take it out. It's not primary to my point. Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 18:12
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    It's cool just did think you'd want that dangling out there
    – Escoce
    Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 18:15
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    Have you read The Annotated Alice? It's been a number of years for me, but if I recall correctly, they have lists of the references.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 19:13

4 Answers 4


Carroll's whole narrative was ostensibly made up on the spot to entertain the Liddell sisters, but was formally written up later.

His influences included scraps from here and there - befitting someone with his classical education, mathematical knowledge and his Anglican background. He uses a lot of puns, jokes and references throughout - some which are difficult for contemporary readers to understand. The illustrator Tenniel compounded this by using political caricatures in the illustrations - Gladstone and Disraeli for example.

Carroll was apparently very fond of Pilgrim's Progress as a child - an allegory of a good Christian's triumph over sloth, gluttony and other worldly sins, but this was very much a didactic moral-lesson story which is opposite of the Alice series with its dreamlike theme.

His friendship with George MacDonald (who wrote fairy stories) might be another influence, but he was also friends with Rossetti, Ruskin and interacted socially with Tennyson and the only similarity there is a similar Victorian romantic/sentimental streak.

I think his chief influences for Alice etc were his own private in-jokes and those which would be familiar to his child audience - the rewriting of nursery rhymes, the literalisation of phrases (Mad as a Hatter, Mad as a March Hare) the parody of Victorian nursery literature - little improving vignettes on manners etc, and the toys and games of children - like card, chess and number or word games, of which Carroll was fond. He could make mention of how easy it is to turn a cat into a dog, and then amuse the child with a word ladder (where you change a letter each step to change CAT into DOG etc)

The Annotated Alice by Gardner is probably still the best reference for all the little jokes and references hidden away in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.

There isn't really a single influential book of nonsense or fantastical journeys before Alice which isn't just fairy stories, myth or collected folk tales (like the Arabian Nights.)

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    I see you mention his friendship with author George MacDonald in your answer, but there are a few points that make this especially interesting. #1, as I said here, MacDonald's Phantastes seems to have been the first example of a fantasy story using the idea of a doorway leading to another world. And #2, the footnote on this page mentions that MacDonald was the first person he showed his earliest "Alice" manuscript to, and the enthusiasm of MacDonald's daughters helped convince him to publish.
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 19:45
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    And nobody has yet mentioned the Hero with a Thousand Faces... Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 20:09

There was inspiration, and it is in books, but you wouldn't call it 'literary' per se.

According to This Article (and many more since 2009), Alice in Wonderland was a story that is a satire... of math. Charles Dodgson, writing under the name of Lewis Carroll, was a mathematician and logician and thought that the invention of what was then referred to as "abstract math" in the 1860s was absolute rubbish... and had just the idea on how anyone could see just how ridiculous it was. This isn't even that uncommon, especially considering the original intent of the Wizard of Oz. In retrospect, the correlations are obvious. Imaginary cats, magic mushrooms, babies who turn into pigs, reality warping being commonplace, et cetera.


It's commonly held that Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll was his pen name) based most of the Alice in Wonderland concepts on mathematics, and as such is an mathematical allegory.

See The Hidden Math Behind Alice in Wonderland

  • That bit is well known, but does it really count as literary inspiration? It doesn't exactly effect writing style. Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 19:01
  • @matcauthon why does there have to be literary inspiration? Dodgson drew from his background and dressed it up, why cant it be original? The amount of dressed up mathematical allegory he includes in the work strongly points it to being wholly original.
    – Moo
    Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 19:07
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    Because it's in the title. That's why I didn't post this answer anyway. Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 19:12
  • Interesting - I'm not sure I agree with the article entirely (but I'm not a mathematician!) I wonder if Abbot read any of Carroll's work (Rather than Dodgson's - which I assume he'd be very familiar with!) before writing Flatland. Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 19:18
  • Alice Through the Looking Glass considers many perplexing ideas in contemporary ( Victorian ) mathematics and philosophy , which must have been frequently discussed at Oxford Colleges of that era. Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 3:07

Through my research, I find that Carroll used a great many sources when he wrote Wonderland. Here are a few examples:

  • the idea of Alice’s “fall” and her attempts to reach the “garden” are linked to the biblical story of Adam and Eve,
  • the scene with the caterpillar is linked to Blake’s For the Sexes: The Gates of Paradise (for starters, compare Carroll’s Underground and Tenniel’s Wonderland pictures to Blake’s frontispiece),
  • the scene with a giant Alice stuck in the rabbit’s house (Chapter 4) is modelled on MacDonald’s Phantastes’ Chapter 4 (compare the botanical use of the same words in both narratives - “arm/arrum/arum,” “Jack-in-the-box,” “rocket” and Skyrocket),
  • the stuff on self-identity including a talking and vanishing cat and a human turning into a pig in Chapter 6, is based on Locke’s Essay, Chapter 27, where we also find a talking and disappearing feline and the possibility of a person transforming into a pig,
  • ‘The Mouse’s Tale’ is based on a compressed version of Aeschylus’s The Furies (See this paper online - ‘The Mouse’s Long and Sad Tale: Lewis Carroll’s Tricky Use of Aeschylus and Other Greek Sources).

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