Alice's Adventures Under Ground is a children's fantasy novel of four chapters. It was written between 1862 and 1864 by the British author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, who wrote under the pseudonym of Lewis Carroll. It is the earliest surviving written version of the novel which Carroll later revised and expanded and had published as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in 1865.
Carroll first told the story that would later become Alice's Adventures Under Ground, and eventually Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, to ten-year old Alice Liddell and her sisters Lorina and Edith on a boat trip from Oxford on July 4, 1862. Alice Liddell urged Carroll to turn the story into a book. He began writing it the following day. That manuscript no longer exists. On another boat trip in August 1862, Carroll told the story again. He began writing the manuscript of Alice's Adventures Under Ground in November of that year.
On November 26, 1864, Lewis Carroll presented Alice Liddell with a handwritten copy of Alice's Adventures Under Ground. Carroll illustrated and bound the book himself. The book's dedication states that it is, "A Christmas Gift to a Dear Child in Memory of a Summer Day". Before giving the book to Alice Liddell, Carroll had shown it to other children, who provided positive feedback. The manuscript which Carroll gave to Alice Liddell is now in the British Library.
Before giving Alice Liddell her copy of Alice's Adventures Under Ground, Carroll had already begun revising and expanding the story for publication and had asked artist John Tenniel to provide illustrations for the published version.
The title character and protagonist of Alice's Adventures Under Ground is a young girl who, on a hot summer afternoon, follows a talking white rabbit down its hole. She finds herself in a strange subterranean world where she encounters more talking animals, imaginary creatures and a deck of living playing cards. She also grows and shrinks several times, usually as a result of eating or drinking something unusual.
There are several minor differences between Alice's Adventures Under Ground and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The character of the Cheshire Cat is notably absent, as is the chapter about the Mad Tea Party and all of the characters introduced in it.
On a hot summer afternoon, Alice is sitting next to her older sister on a river bank. She glances at the book which her sister is reading but finds it boring. A white rabbit runs past Alice. The girl is not very surprised when she hears the rabbit say, "dear, dear! I shall be too late", but she is surprised when she sees it take a watch out of a waistcoat pocket. She runs after the rabbit and follows it down a hole. For some time, the girl goes along a tunnel. She then finds herself falling down a deep well. During her fall, Alice worries about what will happen to her cat Dinah in her absence.
Eventually, Alice stops falling and finds herself in a hallway lined with doors. She tries to open the doors but finds them all locked. On a three-legged glass table, Alice finds a small golden key. The key is too small for the locks of any of the doors. The girl then, however, finds another tiny door hidden behind a curtain. Alice uses the key to open the door and sees a beautiful garden. Alice very much wants to go into the garden but is much too large to do so. Returning to the glass table, Alice finds a bottle labeled "DRINK ME". After drinking from the bottle, Alice shrinks until she is only ten inches tall. Alice is small enough to go through the door. Unfortunately, she has left the key to it on the top of the glass table. Under the table, Alice finds an ebony box which contains a cake and a card with "EAT ME" printed on it. Alice eats the cake and grows to be nine feet tall. She is able to pick up the key but is much too large to go through the door. Alice begins to cry.
Alice sees the white rabbit with a pair of gloves in one hand and a nosegay in the other. She calls out to the rabbit for help but it runs off in fright, leaving behind the gloves and the nosegay which Alice picks up. Alice contemplates the many strange things that have happened to her that day. She thinks that she may have become somebody else. She tries to remember what she learned in her mathematics and geography lessons but is unable to do so. She tries to recite the poem "How Doth the Little Busy Bee?" but finds herself talking about a crocodile instead. Alice then sees that she has one of the rabbit's tiny gloves on her hand. She realizes that the nosegay has made her shrink and she is now only three inches tall. Alice goes back to the door to the garden but finds that it is locked again and that the key is on top of the glass table once more.
Having slipped, Alice finds herself in a pool of salt water. She realizes that the pool was made by the tears that she cried when she was nine feet tall. A mouse is also in the pool of tears. Alice tries to speak to the mouse but offends it by talking about her cat Dinah and a farmer's dog which is good at catching rats. The mouse says that it will tell Alice why it does not like cats or dogs when they reach the shore.
Several birds and animals which had fallen in the pool gather on the shore. The mouse attempts to dry the wet birds and animals by reciting the "driest thing" it knows, a passage from a history book about William the Conqueror. When this fails to dry anybody, a dodo suggests that they go to a nearby cottage where they can wrap themselves in blankets and sit by the fire. At the cottage, the mouse begins to explain why it does not like cats or dogs. It says, "Mine is a long and sad tale." Alice believes that the mouse is referring to its tail and imagines the words that the mouse says in tail shape. When the mouse accuses Alice of not paying attention, she says that she thinks he has reached the fifth bend. When the mouse says that is not the case, Alice thinks that there must be a knot in the mouse's tail which she offers to untie. The offended mouse leaves, ignoring Alice's calls for it to stay. Alice comments that Dinah would quickly fetch it back. When she explains that Dinah is her cat who is good at catching mice and birds, all of the birds in the cottage make their excuses and go, leaving Alice alone.
Alice hears the white rabbit say, "the Marchioness! ... She'll have me executed!" She realizes that it is looking for the gloves and nosegay which it dropped. She goes out to look for them too. The rabbit mistakes her for its servant Mary-Ann and sends her to its house to fetch some gloves. Alice finds a house with "W. RABBIT, ESQ." on a brass plate on the door. In an upstairs room, she finds another pair of gloves. She sees a bottle. Although it is not labeled "drink me", Alice drinks from it anyway. She grows to be a thousand times larger than she had been before. She puts one arm out of a window and one foot up the chimney. The rabbit returns to see why Mary-Ann has not yet fetched the gloves. Finding that it cannot open the door to the upstairs room, the rabbit says that it will go in through the window. When the rabbit tries to do that, Alice grabs it and throws it into a cucumber frame. The rabbit asks its Irish gardener Pat to remove the enormous arm. Alice grabs both Pat and the rabbit and throws them into another cucumber frame. A lizard named Bill is sent down the house's chimney. Alice kicks it and makes it go flying out of the chimney again. Alice hears the animals say that they will have to burn the house down. Fortunately for Alice, at that moment she shrinks down to be only three inches tall. She walks out of the house. The angry animals chase after her but she gets away and goes into a forest.
Having decided that she wants to return to her normal size, Alice looks around for something to eat. She notices a mushroom which is the same height as she is. On the top of the mushroom is a blue caterpillar which is smoking a hookah. The caterpillar asks Alice, "Who are you?" Alice replies that she does not know because she has been through many changes that day. She tells the caterpillar how she tried to recite "How Doth the Little Busy Bee?" but it came out incorrectly. The caterpillar asks her to recite "You Are Old, Father William". When Alice finishes, the caterpillar says that Alice got the poem, "wrong from beginning to end".
Before leaving, the caterpillar says, "the top will make you grow taller, and the stalk will make you grow shorter." Alice breaks the mushroom in two. Having first accidentally eaten some of the stalk, Alice eats some of the top of the mushroom. She grows to an enormous size and her neck becomes very long and flexible. She is attacked by a pigeon which mistakes her for a snake that wants to eat its eggs. After eating some more of the stalk, Alice returns to her normal size. She sees a door in a tree. When she goes through the door, she finds herself back in the hallway. She uses the key from the glass table to open the tiny door. She then eats some of the mushroom stalk, shrinks down to a height of fifteen inches and goes through the door into the garden.
On entering the garden, Alice sees three playing card gardeners, the Two, Five and Seven of Spades, painting the white roses on a rose tree red. They explain that they planted a white rose tree by mistake and that the Queen will execute them if they find out what they have done. A procession of playing cards enetrs, made up of soldiers (Clubs), courtiers (Diamonds) and the royal children (Hearts). At the end of the procession are the Knave, King and Queen of Hearts. There also guests, including the white rabbit. When the Queen of Hearts realizes what the gardeners have done, she orders a soldier to execute them. Alice protects the three playing cards by putting them in her pocket. When the Queen asks the soldier if the gardeners have been beheaded, he replies, "their heads are gone."
The Queen of Hearts asks Alice to play croquet with her. On the way to the croquet field, the white rabbit tells Alice that the Queen of Hearts is also the Marchioness of Mock Turtles but does not explain what a mock turtle is. The croquet field is very uneven, the playing card soldiers double as hoops, the balls are live hedgehogs and the mallets are live ostriches. Apart from Alice, all of the players try to play at the same time without waiting their turns. The Queen becomes angry with each of them in turn and orders that they be put to death. The playing card soldiers have to take them to prison, meaning that all of the hoops are removed from the field. Eventually, the only players who remain are the King, the Queen and Alice. At the end of the game, the King quietly tells all the players who were condemned to death that they are pardoned.
The Queen tells Alice to go to see the Mock Turtle and hear its story. A gryphon is told to take Alice to see the creature. The Mock Turtle sadly explains that it was once a real turtle who lived beneath the sea and danced the Lobster Quadrille. The Mock Turtle begins to sing a song in praise of mock turtle soup but is interrupted by a cry of, "the trial is beginning". The gryphon takes Alice off to the trial.
At the trial, the Knave of Hearts is the prisoner in the dock. The white rabbit, acting as herald, explains that the Knave is accused of stealing the Queen of Hearts' tarts. The King of Hearts says that they will hear the evidence and then pass the sentence. The Queen of Hearts says that the sentence should be passed first. When Alice points out that is wrong, the Queen orders her to be quiet. Alice tells the Queen she is not afraid of her because she is just a playing card. All of the cards in the deck rise up and fall on top of Alice.
Alice wakes up to find her older sister brushing fallen leaves off her. Alice tells her sister about the dream that she had about underground adventures. Alice goes home for tea but her sister stays outside longer. She thinks about the story which Alice told her and begins to dream herself. She sees an "ancient city" and a group of people in a boat, including another girl named Alice who is eagerly listening to a story.
- In Alice's Adventures Under Ground, "white rabbit" is never capitalized.
- In both Alice's Adventures Under Ground and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the text of the mouse's tale appears in the shape of a mouse's tail. The text that appears in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is , however, different.
- The poem "The Lobster Quadrille" from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland does not appear in Alice's Adventures Under Ground. A shorter poem in praise of salmon appears instead.