Alice in Wonderland Ending Explained: Explaining the Ship and the Butterfly
Alice in Wonderland is an American fantasy film directed by Tim Burton and produced and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. It was inspired by the books Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, both by Lewis Carroll, as well as the 1951 Disney animated film Alice in Wonderland. It features performances by Mia Wasikowska as Alice, Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, and others. In November 2013, Johnny Depp and Mia Wasikowska confirmed their participation in the second part of the film, which began shooting in July 2014 and premiered on May 27, 2016, under the name of Alice Through the Looking Glass.
The ending of Alice in Wonderland might be a bit confusing for people, which is why we decided to explain what actually happened in the end of the movie. We are going to analyze the narrative elements of the story, as well as the meaning of the final scene, and how it all connects to the sequel that came out six years after the first title.
What happens in Alice in Wonderland?
Nineteen-year-old Alice Kingsleigh, troubled by a strange recurring dream and mourning the loss of her father, goes to a garden party at Lord Ascot’s estate with her mother. There, she faces a forced engagement with Lord Ascot’s son, Hamish, and the expectations of the society in which she lives. Uncertain, she chases a rabbit wearing a blue vest and accidentally falls into a large burrow under a tree.
She lands in a forest where she is greeted by the White Rabbit, the Dormouse, the Dodo, the Talking Flowers, and Tweedledum and Tweedledee. They argue over whether Alice is “the real Alice” who will defeat the Red Queen’s Jabberwocky and restore power to the White Queen, as Absolem the Caterpillar predicted in his prophetic scroll.
The group is then attacked by the Bandersnatch and a group of playing-card soldiers led by the Page of Hearts. Alice, Tweedledum and Tweedledee flee into the woods. The Jack steals the Caterpillar’s scroll. The Dormouse leaves the others behind with one of the Bandersnatch’s eyes in his possession. Tweedledum and Tweedledee are then captured by the Red Queen’s Jobbard Bird.
The Jack informs the Red Queen that Alice is threatening her rule, and the soldiers, accompanied by the dog Bayard, are ordered to find Alice. Meanwhile, the Cheshire Cat guides Alice to the March Hare and the Mad Hatter. The Hatter helps Alice escape the guards by getting himself captured. Later, Bayard finds Alice, but the latter wants to help the Hatter.
Alice then arrives in the Red Queen’s castle and the latter, unaware of Alice’s true identity, welcomes her as a guest. Alice learns that the Vorpal Sword, the only weapon capable of defeating the Jabberwocky, is kept in the Bandersnatch’s lair. The Jack tries to seduce Alice, but is rejected by the latter, and the Red Queen orders that Alice be beheaded.
Alice finds the sword and becomes friends with the Bandersnatch by returning its eye. She flees on her back and brings the sword to the White Queen. The Cheshire Cat saves the Hatter from execution, and the Hatter calls for rebellion against the Red Queen. The rebellion is quickly put down by the Jobbard Bird, but the resisters flee to the White Queen’s castle, and both sides begin to prepare armies for battle.
Absolem tells Alice that she must defeat the Jabberwocky just before she becomes a chrysalis. On “Frabious Day”, the White Queen and the Red Queen assemble their armies on a chessboard-like battlefield, and send Alice and the Jabberwocky to fight in single combat. Encouraged by her late father’s advice, Alice defeats the Jabberwocky in the ruins around the battlefield in a final leap, decapitating the monster. During the battle, a catapult kills the Jobbard Bird.
All of the Red Queen’s soldiers resign to escape beheading. As punishment for their crimes against Wonderland, the Red Queen and Knave of Hearts are exiled for life. The Jack tries to kill the Red Queen, but she is saved by the Hatter. After a performance by the Hatter, the White Queen gives Alice a vial of the Jabberwocky’s blood, allowing her to create anything she desires. She decides to join her world after saying goodbye to her friends.
How does Alice in Wonderland end?
After the final battle and Alice’s ultimate victory, the girl is transported back to her world, appearing again in the hole and in the Ascot’s garden, where the celebration continues, as if not so long had passed. Alice returns to the party, where everyone is surprised to see her with her clothes in tatters and a scratch on her arm.
She apologizes to Hamish for rejecting his marriage proposal, tells her sister that she loves her, but that she has to decide what to do with her life, threatens her sister’s husband by telling her about his infidelity, tells her Aunt Imogene about her hallucinations, reproaches Lady Ascot for her distaste for animals and assures her mother that there will be something good she can do with her life.
Meanwhile, Lord Ascot tells her they need to discuss business in his study. There, Lord Ascot, seeing Alice’s revolutionary ideas that are the same as her father’s, offers her to become an apprentice in the company that belonged to her father but that he acquired after her death. Something that Alice accepts. Sometime later, the girl begins a boat trip to start her new life, she says goodbye to her family and looks at the horizon. A blue butterfly prostrates itself on her shoulder, which Alicia recognizes as Absolem; the little animal takes flight again, moving away from the young woman.
What happens to Alice at the end of the movie?
The ending of the movie is highly symbolic and, as a true fairytale should, shows that the main heroine has grasped the meaning of the ordeal and that she has, indeed, evolved since the beginning of the tale. She has understood the meaning of her revolutionary thinking and she has, indeed, understood the value of being – Alice. Alice, as a symbol, was discussed throughout the movie and Alice has, in the end, proven that she is the “real Alice”.
The ship we see her board signifies a new beginning and a new adventure for her. She is off to something new, where her out-of-the-box worldview will be of some use even in the real world, where the magic is far less emphasized, as it was in Wonderland. Still, the ending did not completely cut ties with Wonderland, as we see an evolved Absolem visit Alice.
This was the ultimate piece of evidence that all of Alice’s adventures were true and that they had real implications. Absolem is a dual symbol here – for one, he symbolizes the evolution Alice had gone through, as he himself appeared not as a caterpillar like in the beginning, but as a butterfly; on the other hand, he is a symbol of the realism of Alice’s surreal adventures and proof that there is magic in the real world.
Was all of this confirmed in the sequel? At the beginning of the sequel, Alice Kingsleigh has been following in her father’s footsteps and sailing the high seas for three years. Returning to London from a trip to China, she learns that Hamish Ascot, her ex-fiancé, has taken over her father’s company and wants Alice to sell her father’s boat in exchange for her family home.
Alice follows a butterfly she recognizes as Absolem and, passing through a mirror, returns to Wonderland. Alice is welcomed there by the White Queen, the White Rabbit, the Tweedles, the Dormouse, the March Hare, Bayard and the Cheshire Cat. They tell him that the Mad Hatter, whose real name is Tarrant Hightopp, is even crazier than usual because he misses his family. Alice tries to console him, but the Mad Hatter is sure his family survived the attack on the Jabberwocky.
The White Queen, thinking that finding the Hatter’s family is the only way to restore him to health, sends Alice to visit Time to convince him to save the Hatter’s family in the past. The Queen however informs Alice that the story will be soured if anyone sees their past or future self. Upon entering the Palace of Time, Alice finds the Chronosphere, an object that controls all of time in Wonderland. It turns out that the Chronosphere will be the main point of discussion in the sequel.