Alice thought she had never seen such a curious croquet ground in her life: it was all ridges and furrows: the croquet balls were live hedgehogs, and the mallets live flamingoes, and the soldiers had to double themselves up and stand on their hands and feet, to make the arches. . .
The players all played at once, without waiting for turns, quarreling all the while, and fighting for the hedgehogs, and in a very short time the Queen was in a furious passion, and went stamping about, and shouting 'Off with his head ! ' or 'Off with her head!', about once a minute. (p. 67)
This passage from Alice in Wonderland perfectly illustrates why Alice's adventures are true Fantasy. The relationship between the mad croquet game in the world of the Red Queen and a normal croquet game in Alice's world in many ways parallels the relationship between Fantasy and Reality. According to Eric Rabkin, "Fantasies may be generally distinguished from other narratives by this: the very nature of the ground rules, of how we know things . . . the problem of knowing infects Fantasies on all levels, in their settings, in their methods, in their characters" (quoted by George P. Landow in the web). The very nature of the ground rules at the Queen's croquet party is strange indeed, totally unlike anything Alice or any other dweller in the world of Reality has ever seen. In fact, Alice cannot "know" the rules of the game, or of the country at all, no matter how she tries, for to her they appear to be utterly arbitrary and inconstant. The characters also keep Alice firmly planted in the fantastic. The people she encounters are talking animals, mythical beasts, and playing cards who follow a code of conduct unique to their homeland and totally foreign to Alice. The Queen is fond of sentencing her subjects to death for no particular reason, and (although not at the croquet party) babies turn into pigs, cats disappear but leave their smiles behind.
The Queen's party is a perfect summary of the way in which unusual settings, methods, and characters in this strange kingdom are what set Alice in Wonderland so sharply apart from realistic modes, and what make it the epitome of fantasy.
Last modified December 1993