Exeposé Arts & Lit online (28 May 2015)
Asked to come up with my favourite character from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, one immediately sprang to mind. Was it the formidable Queen of Hearts? The woefully disorganised White Rabbit? Or even the blue-frocked heroine herself?
Nope, my favourite character is one who doesn’t actually get too much airtime in the 1865 novel or the 1951 Disney cartoon. It’s the Dormouse.
He’s a fairly downtrodden guy, is Dormouse. But perhaps that’s why I’m drawn to him.
As a six-year-old, I’d grow terrified every time I watched Alice stumble through that dark, bewildering forest on her own. And just when she (and I) thought she’d made it back into civilisation… she’d be faced with the Mad Hatter, the March Hare and the least sophisticated tea party in cartoon history.
It’s hardly a warm welcome in Carroll’s original story, either. From being told there’s no room at the table, to being offered wine when there is no wine (what kind of sick, sadistic people are they?!) and being bamboozled with nonsense riddles, Alice would be forgiven for telling the pair to sod off.
But she doesn’t. And why? Well, she’s got the perfect model of blissful tolerance right there in front of her.
They say shared suffering brings you closer to people. But Dormouse offers Alice more than companionship in misery. He’s been putting up with this shit for some time now, and he’s here to teach her (and us) a few fool-proof ways of getting by when others are getting you down.
1. Tea can fix almost anything
I mean, come on. In the Disney cartoon he lives in a teapot. A cuppa brings people together, we often hear – and if it makes Dormouse want to put up with his barmy companions, it must be pretty good stuff.
2. If tea can’t fix it, sugar probably can
Dormouse tells a story of three girls who live in a well. They live off treacle. Because it’s a treacle well. This sounds like someone with sugar on the brain. But if drifting off into fantasies of sweet treats is what it takes to get through another day in Dormouse’s life, so be it.
3. It’s not the end of the world if you fall asleep at inappropriate moments
As long as, like Dormouse, you’re able to spring into action upon being awoken, and launch back into conversation / storytelling / singing, there’s no harm in having the odd nap here and there. Quite frankly, it’s an enviable skill if your company is less than stimulating.
4. It’s alright to be a bit grumpy sometimes
The moment Dormouse utters his sulky: “If you can’t be civil, you’d better finish the story for yourself,” he goes from downtrodden court jester to an entertainer who has his audience eating out of the palm of his paw. Which just goes to show: it scares people when you get pissed off. It makes them want to do things for you. So be a diva.
So there you have it. He may be an underdog, but Dormouse has it all worked out. He’s chill, man. And I don’t think he’s even on drugs. Just tea, sugar, plenty of sleep and a whole lot of sass.
Image: Wikimedia Commons