In Adelaide’s Rymill Park/Murlawirrapurka stands a life-size cast bronze statue of Alice, the timeless literary heroine of Lewis Carroll’s fantasy novels. Upon a closer look, visitors may find many characters from the story carved into its base of Waikerie stone, including the Cheshire Cat, the Dodo, the Duchess, and the Sheep, right out of the John Tenniel illustrations.
The sculpture was created in 1962 by local artist John Dowie AM, commissioned by the city that was redeveloping the area with a primary focus on families and children. Originally planned as a statue of Peter Pan just like the one in Hyde Park, London, it was eventually proposed by Dowie that the adventurous character of Alice would be better suited for the site.
His suggestion proved to have had a good point, as, quite coincidentally, there is a close etymological connection between Alice and Adelaide. The city was named after Queen Adelaide of England, whose name ultimately comes from Old High German Adalheidis, meaning “noble-natured.” In medieval France, this became Adelais and shortened into Alis, which was then anglicized as Alice.
In addition to this, Australia is mentioned in the first chapter of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, only nine paragraphs into the classic novel. As the curious girl falls down the rabbit-hole, she wonders if she may end up on the other side of the earth: “Please, Ma’am,” she asks an imaginary “Antipathy” (or antipodean, to be precise), “is this New Zealand or Australia?”
And Australia it was. Now she stands in perpetual wonder in a city that almost shares the name with her, as though she symbolizes it—unbeknownst to everyone, maybe even to herself.