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Total votes: 53

Before Harry there was Alice


Did you know that Harry Potter is the fifth best-selling book worldwide, with over 107 million copies sold and that it is now the best-selling children's novel? But did you also know that before Harry Potter, the best-selling children's novel of all time was Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland? It may seem hard to believe for those of you who know the topsy-turvy world of Wonderland, with its endearing Mad Hatter and its frightening Queen of Hearts who is so fond of yelling for people to be beheaded. Yet it's not just children that these two novels appeal to. Adult readers love both stories too. But why?

As a child, I loved both books equally and have fond memories of my brothers, and even my mum, all fighting over each newly released Harry Potter book, so that in the end Mum decided to read us a chapter every night, like she used to when we were little children! However, it is not until I read the books for a second time, as an adult studying literature, that I realise the depth of the language hidden in both. Did you realise that, in Harry Potter, 'Diagon Alley' is actually 'Diagonally'? And that 'Knockturn Alley' is 'Nocturnally' (at night)? Each, of course, have their own connotation within the magic world.

Both authors tell their stories by using poems too. Have a read of the nonsense poem 'Jabberwocky' in Alice and Wonderland and 'The Sorting Hat Song' in Harry Potter. Both authors loved playing with language and J. K. Rowling uses Latin and obsolete words (words which are old-fashioned and no longer used). Here are a few examples:

  • 'Dumbledore' is old English for 'bumblebee', because she pictured Dumbledore humming to himself.
  • Apparate and disapparate combine the words 'appear', 'disappear' and 'evaporate'.
  • Protego Totalum means 'total protection'.
  • Grimmauld Place is a grim (depressing or serious) old place.

Have you ever read Alice in Wonderland or a Harry Potter book? What did you think?


catastrophe's picture
catastrophe 24 February, 2017 - 16:27

Well, I can't say. AIW was one of my favorite childhood books, one I used to reread so many times. I can still remember so many details... like Mad Hatter's party, the court of the Queen, Alice's falling, etc.... and for HP, I just read it recently. It has a unique feel of magic... and it was quite humorous too... so I'm neutral.

8 users have voted.
EllenBlogger's picture
EllenBlogger 16 January, 2017 - 11:28

Hi all,

Thank you for your comments. 

It's interesting that you didn't like Alice in Wonderland as much as Harry Potter. I think Harry Potter is modern and much easier to understand and easier to relate to, as it contains normal people, but I like Alice in Wonderland because the story is a dream and therefore not confined to the usual boundaries of life. 

Obrien, it is interesting that you think Alice in Wonderland is creepy- it really is. Elsa, I also don't like 'slow' book (books which contain a lot of description and take a long time to read!) I read a lot of classics and although I love them, sometimes there is too much description and not enough action. 

 I'm glad you all love Harry Potter! It's wonderful and it was such a big part of my childhood! 


16 users have voted.
Elsa007's picture
Elsa007 22 December, 2016 - 14:46

Hi Ellen, I like this part: "However, it is not until I read the books for a second time, as an adult studying literature, that I realise the depth of the language hidden in both."
The delight of discovery makes us feel sure that we are growing!
In this light, I like both stories✨
I don't like books which bring about the sense of stagnation......

17 users have voted.
Elsa007's picture
Elsa007 26 January, 2017 - 01:39

Hi fay,
I think Alice is not a real girl, she's a representational model.
That's why she becomes bigger and smaller in a wonderland. What do you think she represents??

14 users have voted.