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Misattributed Alice in Wonderland / Lewis Carroll quotes

Pretty images and merchandise with quotes attributed to Lewis Carroll or the Alice in Wonderland books are popping up everywhere nowadays. Unfortunately, many of these quotes are misattributed: they are not from the ‘Alice’ books, nor from their author. Please don’t spread the misconception!

The internet is a blessing, but it also has a downside: funny, entertaining, motivational or spiritual quotes are shared with the speed of light, without anyone checking the reliability of the source.

People with commercial goals in mind, profit from this. They create merchandise with these quotes in the hopes that you buy them. Or they create nice looking images with quotes and post them on their social media page, hoping to get a lot of likes and shares, so their page becomes more valuable to advertisers.

There’s nothing wrong with the quote in itself – the problem is that it is being misattributed. Which causes many people to have a wrong idea about Lewis Carroll and his books.

Combining quotes with Alice in Wonderland illustrations

A very common practice is combining a random quote with an illustration from “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” or “Through the Looking Glass and what Alice found there”. This leads people to assume that the lines can be found in the original story, while they are in fact not from the ‘Alice’ books at all.

Sellers of this kind of merchandise call this ‘artistic licence’. And there indeed is no law that prohibits them from combining quotes and images from different sources. That is, as long as they are not copyright protected.

As imagery from Disney’s live action “Alice in Wonderland” movie (2010) or “Through the Looking Glass” (2016) is under copyright, while Tenniel’s illustrations aren’t, I can imagine why Tenniel’s illustrations are often combined with movie quotes: so the sellers can piggyback on the success of the movies and make money in a legal way. Please don’t support this!

Unfortunately, already several quotes from Disney’s Alice in Wonderland / Through the Looking Glass movies are being thought to originate from Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’ books. Movie quotes that are commonly confused for book quotes are amongst others:

 “Have I gone mad?” “I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”
(Burton’s 2010 ‘Alice in Wonderland’)

“You used to be much more…muchier. You’ve lost your muchness.”
(Burton’s 2010 ‘Alice in Wonderland’)

“Do you suppose she’s a wildflower?”
(Disney’s 1951 ‘Alice in Wonderland’ cartoon)

I have no idea where this quote comes from (do you?), but I assume it is also from one of Disney’s live action ‘Alice’ movies:

“The secret, Alice, is to surround yourself with people who make your heart smile. It’s then, only then, that you’ll find Wonderland”

There are also quotes from the computer game ‘American McGee’s Alice’ that are well-known, but not from the original story, like:

“Every adventure requires a first step.”
(The Cheshire Cat in American McGee’s Alice)

Or from a TV series with a Wonderland character:

“You know what the issue is with this world? Everyone wants a magical solution for their problem, and everyone refuses to believe in magic.”
(Jefferson/’Hatter’ in the TV series “Once Upon A Time”)

Confusing the author of the quote

Besides merely suggesting a relation between a quote and a book, I’ve also seen many beautiful quotes specifically being attributed to Lewis Carroll. However, most of these quotes are merely in the style of his ‘Alice’ books, but were never actually uttered or written down by him. These quotes are from someone else; sometimes from another famous person, but more often from an anonymous author.

Below are some examples of quotes wrongfully attributed to Lewis Carroll:

Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.
(Jules de Gaultier)

In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take, relationships we were afraid to have, and the decisions we waited too long to make.
(from unknown)

Actually, the best gift you could have given her was a lifetime of adventures…
(from unknown)

“You,” he said, “are a terribly real thing in a terribly false world, and that, I believe, is why you are in so much pain.”
(Emilie Autumn’s novel “The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls”)

“But, said Alice, if the world has absolutely no sense, who’s stopping us from inventing one?”
(from unknown)

“One of the secrets of life is that all that is really worth the doing is what we do for others.”
(also attributed to Levi Strauss on the web, but I don’t know if that’s true)

 

Also, there are quotes that are being wrongfully attributed to a character he created, while it never said this – not in a book, nor in a movie:

I’m not crazy. My reality is just different than yours.
(misattributed to the Cheshire Cat; source unknown)

“How long is forever?”
“Sometimes, just one second.”
(misattributed to the White Rabbit; source unknown)

When you can’t look on the bright side, I will sit with you in the dark.
(misattributed to Alice; source unknown)

The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.
(misattributed to the White Rabbit; source unknown)

I am under no obligation to make sense to you.
(Misattributed to the Mad Hatter or other characters. It may be derived from the line “The universe is under no obligation to make sense to you” from Neil deGrasse Tyson’s book “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry”.)

There are actually complete conversations made up by anonymous people, probably as fan fiction, that are being presented as fragments from Carroll’s books – but aren’t. Like this one:

“Do you love me?” Alice asked.
“No, I don’t love you!” replied the White Rabbit.
Alice frowned and clasped her hands together as she did whenever she felt hurt.
“See?” replied the White Rabbit. “Now you’re going to start asking yourself what makes you so imperfect and what did you do wrong so that I can’t love you at least a little. You know, that’s why I can’t love you. You will not always be loved Alice, there will be days when others will be tired and bored with life, will have their heads in the clouds, and will hurt you. Because people are like that, they somehow always end up hurting each other’s feelings, whether through carelessness, misunderstanding, or conflicts with themselves. If you don’t love yourself, at least a little, if you don’t create an armor of self-love and happiness around your heart, the feeble annoyances caused by others will become lethal and will destroy you. The first time I saw you I made a pact with myself: ‘I will avoid loving you until you learn to love yourself.'”

Almost, but not quite

Finaly, there are quotes that are quite similar to lines from the ‘Alice’ books, but are not exact quotes. It is understandable that they are easily confused. A very well-known example is:

If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.

This resembles the conversation Alice has with the Cheshire Cat (“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” / “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat. / “I don’t much care where–” said Alice. / “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat. / “–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation. / “Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”), but is actually a line from George Harrison’s song “Any Road”.

Another example is:

The Mad Hatter: “Would you like some wine?”
Alice: “Yes…”
The Mad Hatter: “We haven’t any and you’re too young.”

The actual conversation in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is: “Have some wine,” the March Hare said in an encouraging tone. / Alice looked all round the table, but there was nothing on it but tea. “I don’t see any wine,” she remarked. / “There isn’t any,” said the March Hare. / “Then it wasn’t very civil of you to offer it,” said Alice angrily. / “It wasn’t very civil of you to sit down without being invited,” said the March Hare.

It is a shame that this is happening, because the Alice books are full of other great quotes! You can find some actual Alice in Wonderland quotes on my site.

If you are unsure whether a quote is from Lewis Carroll, you can use this search to locate it in my online version of his ‘Alice’ books. It may also be in one of his other works, like The Hunting of the Snark, or Sylvie and Bruno, or one of his letters. If you suspect the quote may be from a Disney movie, you can search the script of the Alice in Wonderland 1951 cartoon movie, the script of the Alice in Wonderland 2010 live action movie, or the script of the Through the Looking Glass 2016 live action movie.

Do you have any idea who the real author of one or more of the quotes listed here is? Or do you know of more quotes that are often misattributed to the Alice books or Lewis Carroll? Post them in the comments and help spread awareness!

31 Comments

  1. ‘Every adventure requires a first step’ is a paraphrase of the famous, ‘the longest journey starts with the first step, supposed to be first said by Confusious,

  2. People should first read the book:
    Isn’t that Lewis Carroll compiled by Charles A. Miller from 1984,
    before quotating mimsy words and frabjous quotions!

    Beware the Jabberwock!!!

  3. I believe the “every adventure requires a first step” might be attributed to the Cheshire Cat from the Alice in Wonderland video game reimagining “Alice: the Madness Returns”, as that game’s Cheshire Cat makes a similar statement in the beginning Wonderland level of the game.

  4. THANK YOU!! OMG I thought I was going crazy! I was looking up memorable quotes from the book and every site I went one had all these quotes I didn’t recognize. I kept wondering if maybe I just wasn’t remembering them or something because there were also quotes I did recognize on every page and SO MANY sites insisted they were direct quotes from the book.

  5. Where are the quotes

    “When you can’t look on the bright side, I will sit with you in the dark.”

    And

    “I’m not crazy. My reality is just different than yours.”

    Originally from? Does anyone know? I would really appreciate this info, please and thank you.

  6. Thank you! I thought I really HAD gone bonkers. It’s annoying to hear so many misquotes applied to an author who a wealth of his own perfectly stellar ones.

  7. Dawn’s close – the quote in question comes from “American McGee’s Alice”, and is indeed the Cheshire Cat’s. So it is incorrect to attribute it to Carroll, but valid to attribute it to the Cat.

  8. I’m very happy that someone recognized that that, “Actually, the best gift you could have given her was a lifetime of adventures “ is not a Lewis Carroll quote.
    My daughter wrote that on a Alice in Wonderland postcard that I had bought her. People saw it and ran with it. Through the years I’ve tried to contact people, but it’s so hard to keep up with everybody.

  9. In which movie is the quote “when you can’t look on the bright side, I will sit with you in the dark” ?

  10. imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality – where did that come from then?

  11. Have you spread this knowledge to the tattoo parlor industry.?

  12. “The secret, Alice, is to surround yourself with people who make your heart smile. It’s then, only then, that you’ll find Wonderland”
    Can anyone tell me if this was from Alice in Wonderland? Who said it?

  13. @Isa: I don’t know where it is from, but it is not from Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’ books.

  14. Interesting blog – it’s a real problem! It’s very hard to find merchandise for sale without at least some misquotes. Some stores have lots of different quotes, all of which are wrong in some way!

    I bought some prints for my wall and resorted to manually searching the Kindle versions of the books for the quotes to check they were correctly quoted, as it’s very hard to tell (though your website is a useful resource I’ve just found!)

  15. Imagination is the one weapon in the war against reality.

    —Jules de Gaultier

  16. A friend asked me to reproduce the “The secret, Alice” as an image so we could get it printed onto canvas for her daughter, thus bypassing the extortionate prices the artists are peddling (incorrectly as it turns out) as Alice-related.

    In searching for it I found this blog and very interesting it is too. I might encourage her to seek out true quotes that we can produce as legit artwork.

  17. Oh, my goodness. I am SO glad to see this. I find myself saying “DAMMIT, THAT’S NOT FROM THE BOOKS!!!” so often…usually to myself because it seems that nobody else really cares!

  18. I remember a plaque that used to hang in my Grandmother’s kitchen when I was a little girl that had “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get” on it. She passed away in 1969 and the plaque has long since disappeared, so even though I don’t know the saying came from, I know it wasn’t from Alice in Wonderland!!!! Because it is so grammatically wrong and it is such a silly saying, it has always stuck with me. I would love to have that plaque now.

  19. “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get” sounds like a quote from one of the plaques that are sold in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania gift shops engraved with sayings that are attributed to Amish people.

  20. I was simply getting really really crazy! I was expecting to find the “how long is forever” quote in the book, and I had to read it twice. Then I downloaded the ebook to do the search again.
    Finally you gave me the answer. Internet can be good or not good!
    Thank you!

  21. Hey, do you know of any quotes that show how darkness symbolises a loss in Alice’s identity? Or any darkness quotes at all?

  22. The quote “”Alice: “This is impossible” – Mad Hatter: “Only if you believe it is” “” is by Lewis Caroll? Anybody knows?

  23. @Elena: No, it isn’t.

    The references to impossible things in Carroll’s books are these:

    “[…] Oh, how I wish I could shut up like a telescope! I think I could, if I only knew how to begin.” For, you see, so many out-of-the-way things had happened lately, that Alice had begun to think that very few things indeed were really impossible.”

    “‘I can’t believe that!’ said Alice.
    ‘Can’t you?’ the Queen said in a pitying tone. ‘Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.’
    Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said: ‘one can’t believe impossible things.’
    ‘I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

    There is also this conversation in Disney’s cartoon movie:

    Doorknob: Sorry, you’re much too big. Simply impassible.
    Alice: You mean impossible?
    Doorknob: No, impassible. Nothing’s impossible!

  24. Hey!
    The quote “How do you run from what’s inside your head” is attributed to the Cheshire Cat but I can’t find it anywhere.
    Anyone know where this quote came from? 🙂

  25. This who blog makes me happy. It’s nice to see people that care about where quotes come from. Thank you for this!

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