When Alice finds that she can’t fit through the little door to get into the beautiful garden because she is too big, she notices a glass bottle with a paper label which reads Drink Me.
A Drink Me potion is a magical liquid in Wonderland – it has the effect of making the drinker shrink in size
This potion bottle has magically appeared on the table. Alice wonders if it is safe to drink, and she thinks to herself ‘If one drinks much from a bottle marked Poison it is certain to disagree with one, sooner or later’. However, the bottle did not have the word Poison written on it, so Alice drinks every last drop of the bottle’s liquid and finds that it tastes delicious. It had a flavour of cherry tart, custard, pineapple, roast turkey, toffee and hot buttered toast, all mixed up. She then shrinks down to only ten inches tall (approx 25cm) after drinking from this bottle.
Personally I did not like this part of Alice in Wonderland as a child and it has haunted me ever since. What writer puts that into a children’s story? Believing labels, swigging from bottles, shrinking in size. The stuff of horrors akin to storing cleaning fluid in soft drink bottles. Okay, I realise it is a fantasy story which has stood the test of time and been reproduced in many formats, still… I guess for me, reading this tale in childhood, there was the thought of ‘No, Alice, don’t drink it!’ without knowing she has to propel the story forward in the most unlikely way. Yes, it is a unique and radical plotline but I still see it as experimental drug-taking.
Apologies to staunch fans with no hang-ups, and those who embrace Lewis Carroll’s Todd’s syndrome or Dysmetropsia, a neuropsychological condition which causes strange hallucinations and affects the size of visual objects. It can make the sufferer feel bigger or smaller than they are – a theme of the book – write what you know. Then, and now, I have never seen Alice’s adventures in Wonderland as entertaining. I view this book as akin to a fitful, nightmarish fever dream. The characters are irredeemably scary, even Johnny Depp couldn’t save it for me.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward