Peter Baker translates "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" into Old English

September 3, 2015

Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is turning 150 this year, and Professor Peter Baker, a scholar of medieval literature, has contributed to the celebration with a translation of the book into Old English. In honor of the sesquicentennial, Jon Lindseth, head of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America, recruited translators including Baker to contribute to his three-volume Alice in a World of Wonderlands: The Translations of Lewis Carroll’s Masterpiece. The collection includes a bibliography of translations and essays about many of them. Baker's translation required a few alterations, though, as UVA Today explains:

Baker, who’s been on the U.Va. faculty since 1992, set his translation in medieval England, so Alice and the other characters in the illustrations are dressed in medieval clothing. The “Mad Tea-Party” becomes a “Mad Beer-Party,” because there was no tea in England at the time; everyone drank beer, even children. Likewise, there were no watches at the time, so the White Rabbit’s watch has become an astrolabe.

Even the name “Alice” didn’t exist in Old English, nor did the word “adventure.” Baker came up with the closest equivalent, Æthelgyth, for the heroine’s name, and for “adventure” he chose “brave deeds,” so the title would be translated as “The Brave Deeds of Æthelgyth in Wonderland.”