Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Dorothy in Wonderland; Alice and the Wizard

When The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was released, it was one of a very few examples of fantasy literature of the time. While yes, there had been stories about fantasy worlds before (the earliest examples being in mythology, and one must remember E.T.A. Hoffman's Land of Sweets in The Nutcracker and the King of Mice), the story of Oz was inevitably compared to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Even today, the comparisons continue.

Martin Gardner's The Annotated Alice (we've both read the Definitive Edition) points out that Lewis Carroll put much social and cultural satire into the Alice books. He managed to weave this into a fantasy story for children, and the work has largely been regarded nonsense literature, as the subjects that Carroll was satirizing have been largely forgotten.

On the other hand, we may maintain that L. Frank Baum wrote his first Oz story (and likely the many sequels) with the thought of only pleasing children. Yes, he often threw in some commentary about his day, but he did not go on the same level as Carroll.

Despite the major differences, there are some similarities between the two works. Alice's fall down the rabbit hole was echoed by Dorothy, Zeb, Jim, and Eureka falling through the earth in Dorothy & the Wizard in Oz and later the Hollow Tube that goes straight through the earth in Tik-Tok of Oz.

Alice's eating or drinking-induced growing or shrinking was echoed by Baum in his Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz story "Eliza and the Magic Lozenges," as well as the berries that Trot and Cap'n Bill eat so that the Ork can carry them easily in The Scarecrow of Oz.

A friend pointed out to me that Baum practically responds to Carroll in The Marvelous Land of Oz. In the first Alice story, this little bit is read:
'Really, now you ask me,' said Alice, very much confused, 'I don't think--'
'Then you shouldn't talk,' said the Hatter.
Then in The Marvelous Land of Oz...
"This should be a warning to you never to think," returned the Scarecrow, severely. "For unless one can think wisely it is better to remain a dummy -- which you most certainly are."

One notable change and difference between the two lies in how the girls explore the lands. When Dorothy visits a strange country, she is actually told which land it is, be it Oz, Ev, the Mangaboos . . . whereas with Alice, no one actually says "Wonderland" or "the World of the Looking Glass / Looking-Glass Land", so everyone (the readers and audience of adaptations) therefore take on the title of the worlds from the books, even go far as to believe they are one and the same. And when the girls are in these worlds, their interaction has them meeting royalty and a Lion character and strange creatures that are a combination of more than one.

However, whereas Dorothy comes to know and love the people of Oz, sadly bidding them good-bye and eagerly awaiting a return, Alice does not entirely get along well with the inhabitants of Wonderland or Looking-Glass Land, nor does she have fond memories of them (except for the White Knight). Nor does Alice actually put an end to any tyranny or rude habits of the people.

Most significantly, both girls do have similar beginnings with their adventures: nodding off. Dorothy falls asleep during her ride in the Cyclone as well as riding the coop in the stormy sea and even fainted when falling through an earthquake; Alice gets bored and tired from the summer sun with her sister's pictureless book, and later inside on a comfy armchair while it snows outside.

However, it is actually mentioned that Dorothy falls asleep, while Alice's talking and thinking out loud becomes the dream without even told that she is asleep.

There are also some minor comparisons in the illustrations: both girls commonly wear blue gowns with aprons - though it is Dorothy who is specifically described as wearing blue, Alice's clothing was originally drawn in black-and-white then coloured much later by Peter Newell (When Tenniel's illustrations were first colored, Alice's dress was yellow). And there have been adaptations and other illustrations where they DON'T have blue.

Recently, it came to attention that some accuse Baum of plagiarizing Carroll. It must be remembered that when Baum was growing up, the Alice books were published, so the possibilities that he read them is very high. However, there is a clear cut between plagiarism and inspiration, and basic reading of the Oz books should prove that while Baum may have borrowed a few ideas from Carroll (fairylands that are accessible through various means, talking animals, young female protagonist, quirky characters, mainly matriarchal government, etc.), he made his own complete world.

Comparisons (and this blog) by Jared Davis and Sam Milazzo

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for highlighting these Oz-Wonderland connections, Jared and Sam.

L. Frank Baum wrote about Alice in Wonderland in his essay “Modern Fairy Tales” (The Advance, August 19, 1909; reprinted in Hearn's 1983 Wizard of Oz Critical Heritage Edition):

Singularly enough, we have no recognized author of fairy literature between Andersen's day and that of Lewis Carroll, the quaint and clever old clergyman who recorded Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Carroll's method of handling fairies was as whimsical as Andersen's was reverential, yet it is but fair to state that the children loved Alice better than any prince or princess that Andersen ever created. The secret of Alice's success lay in the fact that she was a real child, and any normal child could sympathize with her all through her adventures. The story may often bewilder the little one--for it is bound to bewilder us, having neither plot nor motive in its relation--but Alice is doing something every moment, and doing something strange and marvelous, too; so the child follows her with rapturous delight. It is said that Dr. Dodgson, the author, was so ashamed of having written a child's book that he would only allow it to be published under the pen name of Lewis Carroll; but it made him famous, even then, and "Alice in Wonderland," rambling and incoherent as it is, is one of the best and perhaps the most famous of all modern fairy tales.