In Lewis Carroll's 1865 novel Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, what's the first creature that Alice sees?
And the answer: the rabbit.
The White Rabbit appears in the first chapter of the book. While sitting on the riverbank with her sister, Alice notices a White Rabbit running past with a pocket watch, muttering "Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!" Alice then decides to follow it down a rabbit hole.
This timeless children's story began as exactly that – a children's tale of fantasy and wonder to appease young Lorina, Edith and Alice Liddell, who were family friends of the author. Lewis Carroll began his planning for what was soon to become one of the most well-known books of all time on one unassuming boat ride, later referred to as the "golden afternoon" in the preface of the novel. Carroll created the story as he went along, entertaining the girls using Alice's namesake and packing the short trip full to the brim with Alice's adventures. At the end of the 5-mile journey, the girls were infatuated, and asked Carroll to write it down.
At the time of its publication in 1865, Alice in Wonderland was far from a success. Reviewers lauded John Tenniel's illustrations, and little else. However, upon the release of the sequel, Through the Looking-Glass, in 1871, the stories began to gain more traction. Soon, Sir Walter Besant called the novel "a book of that extremely rare kind which will belong to all the generations to come until the language becomes obsolete."
Since then, Alice has made her way into popular culture in nearly every form, from a film adaptations (including Disney) to theme-park rides to costumes to spin-off series and more. Carroll's fantasy world transformed the path of the fantasy genre and inserted itself at the heart of American literary culture. Today, Alice in Wonderland has never been out of print, translated into more than 97 languages and remains well-loved by children and adults alike.