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Wonderland Revisited and the Games Alice Played There

Wonderland Revisited

By Keith Sheppard

First edition, 2009. Illustrations by Cynthia Brownell. Cathair na Mart: Evertype. ISBN 978-1-904808-34-3 (paperback), price: €9.95, £8.95, $12.95.

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“Excuse me,” said Alice to a small white Mouse in red shorts. “What precisely is a custard race?”

Did Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass leave you yearning for more? Join Alice on her new journey and meet the extraordinary inhabitants of Wonderland, both familiar and new.

If your bed turned into a boat and you found yourself “drifting off” in an entirely unexpected manner how would you find your way home? The Jack of Diamonds says it’s Alice’s own fault for being fast asleep—had she slept more slowly she wouldn’t be so far from home.

The Red Queen, the Mah-jong Dragons, even the Red King’s Gamekeeper, all seem helpful enough at first—but things never quite turn out the way Alice hopes!

Brimming with wordplay, nonsense verse, and a cast of eccentric characters each with their own peculiar logic, this adventure is faithful to the style of the originals, picking up the pen where Lewis Carroll put it down. Be swept away on a torrent of humour and madness. Alice is back!

Table of Contents

  • In Bed Afloat
  • Croquet with the Red Queen
  • Bridge to the Anagrams
  • Draughts and Dishwashing
  • Classroom and Cricket Pitch
  • A Caddy for the King
  • At Home Underground
  • Fox and Geese
  • Cow and Cable-Car
  • The Mah-jong Dragons
  • Rules and Races
  • Snakes and Ladders
  • From Boa to Bedroom


Why do some books come equipped with an intro­duction? Would it be poor etiquette to read a story without first being formally introduced? One may suppose that an introduction might provide background information to enhance the reader’s understanding or enjoyment, or it could explain how the tale came to be written in the first place. This introduction will attempt both.

The astute reader may be surprised to note that the events in the second chapter follow the rules of Contract Bridge, a game not invented until the original Alice Liddell was well into her eighties. For those who like to have a logical explanation for everything, there are several to choose from. If you prefer to think of Alice’s adventures as a dream, it might be that the eighty-year-old Alice is dreaming once more of her childhood. Or perhaps our heroine is a different Alice altogether. Another possibility is that the game is not Contract Bridge at all, but something remarkably like it, implying that Alice is endowed with uncanny powers of foresight. One might, however, recommend that the reader ignore the anachronism entirely, and remember that, indeed, this is a work of fiction.

Bridge is just one of many games featured in this adventure, and the narrative assumes the reader has at least a passing acquaintance with their basic method of play. It might be useful to provide a brief account of the rules of each game insofar as they are relevant to the story.

Each game of Bridge starts with an auction in which the players attempt to predict how many tricks they will make. The player making the most exaggerated claim wins the auction—a bit like many situations in real life. You bid by naming a number of tricks and the suit you intend to use as trumps.

Another card game, Euchre, is mentioned in passing in Chapter III. Euchre is unusual in that the Jack of trumps is supremely powerful and ranks above the Queen, King, and Ace.

Croquet, as most people know, is a matter of striking balls through hoops—but just as there is more to cricket than “bowling a ball at three sticks, and defending the same with a fourth”, there is more to croquet than meets the eye. If you succeed in sending the ball through the required hoop you take another turn. You also win extra turns by striking other balls. This is called a roquet. After a roquet you have an extra turn in which you strike two balls at once. If your ball knocks another through its hoop, this is called peeling the ball through the hoop.

Most readers will be familiar with the game of Draughts (called Checkers in America) but it is well to recall the rules to those readers who have not played in many years. The pieces may only move diagonally. Only half the squares on the board are used, every other square being out of bounds. If you are in a position to take (which you do by jumping over another piece) and decline to do so, you are liable to be punished for this crime by being huffed. This means that your opponent is entitled to remove your piece before taking his turn—although contrary to popular belief, he is not obliged to do so.

French Cricket is a children’s variation of the game in which the batsman’s legs act as the wicket. Use of a standard hard cricket ball is not recommended!

The game of Fox and Geese is a very old traditional English game, played on a draughts board. One player operates a single black piece (the fox), while the other operates four white pieces (the geese). It is the aim of the fox to break through the line of steadily advancing geese and find freedom on the other side. The mission of the geese is to pin the fox down (usually against the edge of the board) so that it may not move. To the novice, the fox’s task may appear straight­forward but the truth is that a skilled player operating the geese is assured of victory.

Mah-jong is an ancient Chinese game played with small tiles decorated with various designs. Like our western playing cards, the tiles are divided into suits, with numbers one to nine in each of three suits: Characters, Bamboos, and Circles. In addition there are tiles representing Winds, Dragons, Flowers, and Seasons. The Dragons come in three colours: red, green, and white. Prior to play the tiles are assembled into a wall. (This is a time-consuming and laborious process not always adequately rewarded by the pleasure of the subsequent play.) In play, the players (known as East, South, West, and North winds, depending upon where they sit) attempt to collect sets of identical tiles (pungs) or runs of consecutive tiles (chows). If another player discards a tile you need to complete a set, you must shout out the appropriate word to take the discarded tile.

On the subject of Snakes and Ladders, little needs to be said. The game consists of advancing along a squared board according to the throw of a die, ascending ladders and descending via the head of a snake to its tail.

There will always be those who insist on reading a book like this with a critical eye, saying things like “Lewis Carroll would not have said it that way.” If you are one of those who find entertainment in making such criticism, I can only wish you well. It was hardly my intention to imitate the originals in the same way that an art forger attempts to pass off his own work as that of a famous painter. But as Carroll’s style is such an integral part of the essence of Wonderland—Alice simply wouldn’t be Alice without it—I have of course endeavoured to model my style on his. For me, it has been a joyous homage. For you, well, you will read and decide for yourself.

Why this book? Nothing more but that my own daughter, having read the Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There several times, vociferously bemoaned the author’s failure to produce any further adventures for his heroine.

This complaint struck a chord. I remembered the same feelings of regret from my own childhood. Hoping that The Hunting of the Snark would satisfy her until I had finished, I set to work. She was right: it was about time Alice was allowed another outing. I trust that Alice’s latest excursion will amuse you, as it did my daughter.

To my wife Jenny, my thanks for putting up with the many hours, days, weeks, and months it took me to write this book, and for her encouragement in converting this mere twinkle in my eye into a real publication. To my children, Eve and Paul, my thanks for inspiring me to turn my hand to children’s fiction.

Keith Sheppard

HTML Michael Everson, Evertype, Cnoc Sceichín, Leac an Anfa, Cathair na Mart, Co. Mhaigh Eo, Éire, 2009-10-05

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