Hero's Journey: Archetypes in 'Alice in Wonderland'

Fig. 1 Alice in Wonderland Banner

From all film and theatre interpretations of the novel 'Alice in Wonderland' by Lewis Carrol, Tim Burton's sequel version from 2010 is probably the one capturing the world of Wonderland best. It has a little added twist, which changes the whole idea of Alice as a character and her adventure. Every creature of the fantasy is given it's originally intended creepy look by the writer of the novel. In Burton's movie they fit with their strange and even a little bit scary appearance, because none of them have to be softened so they could fit a children's story.
Fig. 2 Original Illustration by John Tenniel

In Burton's adaptation Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is a grown-up lady attending her arranged marriage party. She is skinny and pale, with huge dark circles under her eyes due to lack of sleep, which is actually caused by her memories of Wonderland. The first archetype we see at the very beginning of the film is the Father, Charlez Kingsleigh (Marton Csokas) who may not have long on-screen physical role, but appears as a figure of importance to Alice as he seems to be the only one understanding her. He is the one who tells her that it's alright to be mad, because "All the best people are" (Charlez Kingleigh, 'Alice in Wonderland'). He thinks that the only way to achieve the impossible is by believing it is possible. A man who dares to imagine the impossible, allowing Alice to be her strange, imaginative, and curious self. However she grows into a rebel who constantly disagrees with her mother, the archetype of the Mother, a woman who never truly understood Alice, and tries so hard to make her fit in. Later on during the gathering, the dance with Hamish, the walk in the garden with his mom, and the proposal seem rather uncomfortable to watch because Alice herself responds so awkward to everything. She is also trying to fit in and finds it so difficult, but she cannot limit herself to a simple and boring life chosen for her, not by her. It almost feels as she is getting attacked by reality she does not like and the moment she glimpse the White Rabbit who is also she sees it as opportunity to run away from all the expectations and pressure she is experiencing. This is the moment we can also call phase one of her Hero's Journey, The call.

The Herald is usually the character or a thing in the Hero's Journey who brings a change into the Hero's life and calls for adventure. In Alice's case that would be the White Rabbit, Page who also tries to catch her attention the whole time so she could follow him to the next step of her journey - The Threshold Guardian. This is the moment when the Hero must pass a test in order to prove he is worthy, which is the Rabbit Hole itself. While Alice is solving the riddle with the potions, she is being stalked by the creatures of Wonderland who want to make sure it's the correct Alice. After she manages to pass the test she finds herself amidst dark and creepy looking world with creatures who look and do impossible things, 'Burton shows us Wonderland as a perturbing place where the inhabitants exist for little apparent reason other than to be peculiar and obnoxious.' (Egbert, 03.03.10). They greet her in disbelief accusing her of being the wrong Alice, while she thinks it's a dream therefore how could she be the wrong version of herself?

Later on we meet 'The ringleader is the Mad Hatter, played by Johnny Depp, that rare actor who can treat the most bizarre characters with perfect gravity' (Egbert, 03.03.2010). His role in Alice's journey is as her mentor and friend. He is the main reason for her to toughen up and find her way to the Red Queen's (Helena Bonham Carter) castle in order to save him. Here she first meets the White Rabbit again who gives her growing potion. Now that she is ten times her original size she is actually welcomed at the Queen's court where she accepts anyone who has abnormal body shape so she could feel normal. She is the villain in this story and the archetype of the Shadow. Her character is typical example of how bad childhood and jealousy can affect a person into wanting attention so bad that treats everyone like objects. In her eyes the only way to matter and be better than her sister is if she rules Wonderland while being feared from everyone.

Fig. 3 Film Still

The Red Queen's lover Ilosovic Stayne (Crispin Glover) as the archetype of the Shapeshifter, who seems to be attracted to women who have rather bid body parts and upon witnessing Alice's gigantic size he immediately changes his allegiance to her, but as she rejects him he rolls back to the Queen full with anger feeding her lies so he can avenge his wounded ego.

While Alice is desperately looking for the Hatter around the castle so she could save him all creatures were secretly forming uprising and planing the escape of the hatter without including her. After she finaly finds him, he ask her to let him go for a greater cause and go look for the sword that can slay the Jabberwocky instead. On the day of Mad Hatter's beheading ceremony, when the reaper chops his head off it suddenly flies off into the air when the head suddenly starts to look like the Chesire Cat, The archetype for Trickster, seems to have picked a side now. Suddenly the Hatter appears and shows the Red Queen that her entire court is a fraud and takes his leave. In the meantime Alice is on her way to the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) with her new friend the Bandersnatch. 

Fig. 4 Film Still

The Whit Queen, the archetype for the Maiden, is unlike her sister kind and caring. Although she looks perfect on the outside, she not so fairytale-princess-like perfect which is an interesting little detail in her personality. As the battle for Wonderland is only a day away everyone are worried that the Red Queen will win and in desperation everyone volunteer to fight for the White Queen. In this moment Alice remembers who she really is and how she was here before ten years ago. She remembers he friends and what she is fighting for, which is the moment when she finally accepts her fate as the hero everyone looks up to.

The final battle between Alice as the White Queen's champion and the Jabberwocky, fighting for the Red Queen looks like a Magical flight, one of the final stages of Alice's Hero's Journey. Amidst the fight Alice tries to imagine 6 impossible things, like her dad told her to. As she counted, she was giving herself reason to believe she can win, because after all 'In order to achieve the impossible you need to believe it is possible' and as she says the sixth impossible thing, she makes it true - she slays down the dragon and watches it's head tumble down the stairs of the broken tower she was standing on.

After Alice saves Wonderland she chooses to go back to the real world where she had to face her own demons the way she faced the Jabberwocky. She declined Hamish's engagement proposal and in pursuit of her own happiness and life she chooses herself, she becomes a partner for the father of Hamish who previously bought her family's company and become a captain of a trading ship just like her father.


  • Fig. 1 Banner URL:  https://100filmsinayear.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/alice-in-wonderland-banner.jpg, accessed on 19/11/2016
  • Fig. 2 Movie Still URL:  https://media.licdn.com/mpr/mpr/shrinknp_800_800/AAEAAQAAAAAAAAQhAAAAJDY4ZGMyNmE0LTI4NGEtNDllMy1iMjc0LWExMjFkMTY1MWZlNA.jpg accessed on 19/11/2016
  • Fig. 3 Movie Still URL: https://www.wired.com/images_blogs/underwire/2010/02/alice-red-queencourt-660.jpg accessed on 19/11/2016
  • Fig. 4 Movie Still URL: http://cinefantastiqueonline.com/wp-content/uploads/alice-in-wonderland-via-disney.jpg accessed on 19/11/2016


  • Alice In Wonderland - Clip: Alice Falls Into a Rabbit Hole (2010) | HD URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNXpnufLVkc


  • 'sulivangirl13', 2011,  'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll, Storify.com, URL:  https://storify.com/sullivangurl13/alice-s-adventures-in-wonderland-lewis-carroll accessed on 19/11/2016
  • 'alliedemasi', 2011, 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Archetypes' , Storify.com URL:   https://storify.com/alliedemasi/alice-s-adventures-in-wonderland-archetypes accessed on 19/11/2016
  • S. Jenna, 2015, 'Alice in Wonderland - Archetypal', Prezi.com, URL: https://prezi.com/gtijplmsv5_a/alice-in-wonderland-archetypal/ accessed on 19/11/2016
  • Unknown, 'The Hero's Journey Outline; The Heroine's Journey/Archetypes; 'The Memo That Started It All' by Christopher Vogler; "A Practical Guide to Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces" by Christopher Vogler", TheWrittersJourney.com URL: 
  • http://www.thewritersjourney.com/hero's_journey.htm accessed on 19/11/2016
  • IMDB http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1014759/ accessed on 19/11/2016
  • Ebert, Roger, 2010, 'Alice in Wonderland' , RogerEbert.com URL: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/alice-in-wonderland-2010 accessed on 19/11/2016

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