Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan

A comparison of English and Scottish Fantasy Literature

Bachelor Thesis, 2009

44 Pages, Grade: 2,0



I. Introduction

II. Fantasy Literature
A. Definition of Fantasy
B. Victorian Fantasy
C. Children’s Fantasy

III. English Fantasy Literature

IV. Scottish Fantasy Literature

V. Alice in Wonderland
A. Lewis Carroll - Biography
B. Story
C. Characteristics that mark the story as English Fantasy

VI. Peter Pan
A. James Matthew Barrie - Biography
B. Story
C. Characteristics that mark the story as Scottish Fantasy

VII. Comparison

VIII. Conclusion

VIII. Bibliography

I. Introduction

Fantasy as a literary genre has gained popularity within the last few decades. Some of the most famous authors of fantasy literature are of English or Scottish origin. Despite them being neighbours and sharing a common language, English and Scottish fantasists have always had very different and unique ways of dealing with the subject. This dissertation is an attempt to point out their similarities as well as their differences in order to clarify what it is exactly that characterises Scottish and English fantasy literature. However, statements on the respective characteristics of these subgenres can only be made by means of examples. As there are a great many different pieces of literature which provide material for an analysis and characterisation of Scottish and English fantasy, it is advisable to choose examples which do not differ too much in their contents and the time frame in which they were written in order for them to be more easily comparable. A very famous English novel belonging to the fantasy genre is Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland written in 1987 by Lewis Carroll. It is often categorised as children's story. One of the most famous pieces of Scottish fantasy literature, which is also categorised as children’s story, written in 1911, is James Matthew Barrie’s Peter Pan. These two books will serve as the basis for a comparison of English and Scottish fantasy literature. At the beginning of this dissertation there will be a general definition of the term fantasy literature and a short characterisation of fantasy in the historical context of the Victorian era, as well as a definition of the subcategory “Children’s Fantasy” to which the two books, which are to be analysed, can be counted. This chapter is followed by a general characterisation of Scottish and then of English fantasy, which include their respective histories and their importance today. After that, the two novels will be introduced, beginning with short biographies of their authors, followed by a summary of the plot and then an examination of the respective characteristics that mark them as either Scottish or English as well as an examination of the books’ respective contributions of English and Scottish fantasy literature and to the fantasy genre as such.. The dissertation concludes with a comparison of the books and, based on the results of their analysis, of English and Scottish fantasy in general, by pointing out parallels between English and Scottish fantasy as well as their differences.

II. Fantasy Literature

A. Definition of Fantasy

What exactly is fantasy literature? One definition that can be used for the purpose of explaining the term could be that of Colin Manlove: “Fantasy is fiction involving the supernatural.” But is it only that? Does everything that involves the supernatural also belong to the fantasy genre? Very doubtfully so. Stephen Prickett in his book “Victorian Fantasy”

At the beginning of the nineteenth century the word fantasy changed its meaning radically in the course of a single generation. The word had been used in the English language since the Middle Ages, and its roots go back even further to the Greek word pha/»f; js /a—which meant, literally, "a mak­ing visible." Longinus, in his highly influential treatise On the Sublime, tells us that phantasia "has in our time come to be applied specially to those cases where, moved by enthusiasm and passion, you seem to see the things ol which you speak, and place them under the eyes ol your hearers." From its earliest usages in English the word has been associated with two other related ones, imagination and fancy—which share the same Greek root as fantasy. Chaucer uses both imagination and fantasy to mean "a mental image"; in particular, "an image of something that docs not exist." The tone of these early uses of the word is olten semi-contemptuous, imply­ing delusion, hallucination, or simply wishlul thinking. Fantasy might be horrible, it might be delightful, but it was definitely unreal, and therefore ol little more than clinical interest to sane ami practical citizens.

Fantasy has become very present in people’s minds nowadays. Most of the popular associations tied to the term originate from fantasy stories that were predominantly written by English authors. This can be largely attributed to the success of the film industry in the adoption of certain fantasy books.

The field of fantasy is a very broad one. What is, today, seen as typical of the genre are stories that involve elves and fairies, dragons, witches, magicians and many other fantastic creatures. The associations with the term fantasy, however, are not congruent with what it really implies. In order to examine the term fantasy more closely it is advisable to look at its history. The coinage of the term is likely to have happened around the years _______________ . However, literature belonging to the fantasy genre existed long ago.

B. Victorian Fantasy

C. Children’s Fantasy

III. English Fantasy Literature

IV. Scottish Fantasy Literature

Scottish fantasy literature as we know it today came into being in the late 18th century. Its roots, however, go further back in time, to the beginning of superstition and the traditional folk tale. Victorian Age. Englightenment and later Romanticism. „Manlove remarks „ The contrast with English fantasy is striking.” (p.)

V. Alice in Wonderland


In the Alice books there are more animals that can speak than in Peter Pan (Nana and the Neverbird do not really speak) –

With respect to language Peter Pan does not differ a great deal from Alice in Wonderland, though Barrie was, as is known from other books he wrote, capable of writing in Scottish dialect.

A. Lewis Carroll - Biography

B. Story

On a summer day, Alice an her sister are in the garden, doing nothing in particular. Suddenly a white rabbit with a watch passes Alice in haste, shouting in panic (frightfully?) that it/he is going to be late. Her curiosity being awakened by this strange sight, Alice runs after the rabbit and follows it/him into a rabbit hole. Her entry into the hole is only the beginning of a series of strange events that are about to happen. Alice keeps falling past furniture which, strangely enough, lingers in mid-air. In her fall she is able take a look at the furniture in Ruhe. She begins marvelling/ thinking/ contemplating/ reasoning about ths curious incident and suddenly she realizes that she is not able to think the way she used to, for she cannot remember certain poems/rhymes/limericks. Her entire personality seems strange/altered/to have changed. Nevertheless, she is perfectly sure that she has not yet lost her cleverness/sharp -----, which she values very much. Her fall seems to have no end, but suddenly she softly hits the ground and finds herself in a small room with a table. Besides the table there is also a small door which leads to a beautiful garden which she would dearly like to visit, but she cannot fit through the *doorway*, because she is too big. Looking around, she finds that on the table stands a glass on which the words “Drink me” are printed/written. Alice being a smart girl, she thinks, before drinking it, since it might be poison. She then decides that it is safe to drink it and as an immediate result she shrinks. But when she is small enough to fit through the door, it is locked and the key to the door is on the table. _______ She eats them and grows tall again. So tall in fact that ____ and she starts crying. Her tears


Together they swim to the shore whey they find an assembly of strange creatures.

Dance to get dry.


Excerpt out of 44 pages


Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan
A comparison of English and Scottish Fantasy Literature
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz  (FTSK Germersheim)
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ISBN (Book)
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Kommentar des Dozenten: "I liked some of the points you made and there is some very good analysis in the dissertation. There is also, however, a little too much in the way of retelling of plot and the coherency of the analysis is effected by the tendency of the various sections to be rather self contained and to make a more comparative analysis difficult. It is a good and interesting piece of work, though, and has a grade of 2,0."
Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Lewis Carroll, J. M. Barrie, fantasy literature, fantasy, Victorian era, English fantasy, Scottish fantasy, children's literature, Victorian literature
Quote paper
Amina Belabbes (Author), 2009, Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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