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The Caterpillar (also known as the Hookah-Smoking Caterpillar) is a fictional character appearing in Lewis Carroll's book, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Introduced in Chapter IV ("Rabbit Sends in a Little Bill") and the main centre of interest of Chapter V ("Advice from a Caterpillar"), the Caterpillar is a hookah-smoking caterpillar exactly three inches high which, according to him, "is a very good height indeed" (though Alice believes it to be a wretched height).

Alice does not like the Caterpillar when they first meet, because he does not immediately talk to her and when he does, it is usually in short, rather rude sentences, or difficult questions. He asks Alice to repeat the poem You Are Old, Father William, which comes out rather strange like many of the nursery rhymes Alice attempts in Wonderland. The Caterpillar tells Alice how to grow and shrink using the mushroom upon which he is sitting.

The original illustration by John Tenniel at right, is something of a visual paradox; the caterpillar's human face appears to be formed from the head and legs of a more realistic caterpillar.[1] In another illusion, the flowers on the right of the illustration appear to be a form of tobacco, while the caterpillar is smoking heavily.

The caterpillar makes an appearance in a few other places outside Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, such as American McGee's Alice and the novel The Looking-Glass Wars; in both of these spin-offs he plays the role of an oracle. In the SyFy TV Miniseries Alice, the Caterpillar is the leader of the underground resistance to the Queen of Hearts. The caterpillar also makes an appearance in "Curiouser and Curiouser," an episode of the television show Forever Knight, in the form of a child's toy. In popular music, the Caterpillar is mentioned in Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" (1967), a song containing many references to the book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Interpretations

Disney film

His memorable phrase is a breathy "Whooo ... are ... you?". In the Disney animated movie, this line is visualised as exhalations of smoke in the shapes "O", "R" and "U". Alice remarks in the original story that the Caterpillar will one day turn into a butterfly, and in both the 1999 television film and Disney's 1951 version he does just that (albeit while angry from Alice's comment about being only three inches high). He is voiced by Richard Haydn.

Tim Burton film

Alan Rickman voices the Caterpillar, who in this adaptation is named "Absolem"[2]. Rickman was filmed while recording his voice in a studio, but his face was not composited onto the character's face as originally planned.[3] He appears five times in the movie. The first time is outside Wonderland, when a young man is about to propose to Alice and she notices a blue caterpillar on his shoulder. The second time is when the white rabbit, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, dormouse and the blue dodo try to decide whether Alice is really the one from the Oraculum. They take her to Absolem, who concludes that she is "not hardly Alice." He appears after Alice arrives at the White Queen's Castle, on this particular meeting, she becomes rather annoyed with him blowing his smoke in her face. He appears again before the war and reminds Alice of her previous trip to Wonderland, and proclaims that she is Alice at last. At the end of the movie, the caterpillar, in his transformed form as a butterfly, appears on Alice's shoulder as she sets off for China.


Interestingly, as suggested by Alice to her father's business partner, the English did go to mainland China and quickly began importing opium from India for sale in China in contravention of the Emperor of China's edict that the Chinese not smoke opium. English traders made fortunes. The Opium Wars ensued ending in a British Victory and the Treaty of Nanking. So the presence of the hookah smoking caterpillar at the end in his form as blue butterfly just might reasonably be interpreted as an ironic symbol of the coming opium trade.

Wizards of Waverly Place

In Wizards of Waverly Place, Alex finds the Caterpiller nicknamed Cal (Jerry Russo) who tells Alex how she can stop being small.

Reference in Freddy vs. Jason

In the 2003 Horror/crossover film Freddy vs. Jason, Freddy transforms into a Hookah-smoking caterpillar that has his face to possess a teenager named Freeburg. This is making fun of the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 "And do you see its long nose and chin? At least, they look exactly like a nose and chin, don't they? But they really are two of its legs. You know a Caterpillar has got quantities of legs: you can see more of them, further down." Carroll, Lewis. The Nursery "Alice". Dover Publications (1966), p27.
  2. Script error
  3. Topel, Fred (December 19, 2008). "Alan Rickman talks about Alice in Wonderland". Crushable.com. Retrieved February 21, 2010.  External link in |work= (help)
eu:Beldarra

it:Bruco (Alice nel Paese delle Meraviglie) he:הזחל (אליס בארץ הפלאות)ru:Гусеница (Алиса в Стране чудес)

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