Welcome to my blog, featuring various pieces from my collection of Oz books, artwork and memorabilia!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Some Reading

I've just finished reading a copy of The Tapestry Room, written by the British author Mrs. Molesworth in 1879, and ran across an interesting passage. The child protagonists are traveling down a river in an enchanted land, and they come to a narrow passage that they are unable to get through. After whistling 3 times, an army of frogs appears, each with a length of thread that they tie to the boat and then use to pull the boat through the passage.

I couldn't help comparing this to the rescue of the Cowardly Lion by the field mice in the poppy field, in The Wondeful Wizard of Oz - in fact, with apologies to W. W. Denslow, I conjured up an image showing this as an alternative rescue force!
Back over Christmas, I read A. S. Byatt's most recent novel, called The Children's Book. There was an interesting, if fleeting, reference to The Wizard of Oz in this story. The overall book is a sprawling story, difficult to summarize - but the point I'm referring to occurs in 1904. One of the main characters is a prominent British children's author, who is writing a play for a summer arts camp. In discussions with a German puppeteer, we have the following:

"There is something in my mind. A search for a real house in a magic world. A search for a magic house in a real world. Two worlds, inside each other."
"The Wizard of Oz," said Steyning.
"Humphry says that is an allegory about Bimetallism and the Gold Standard, with its road of gold ingots and its silver shoes."
"It has a little wizard in a huge machine," said Stern. "Which is good for marionettes or other puppets."

In the end, the play does include three adversaries - a strawman, a metal man and a beast.

I found all this interesting because the British edition of The Wizard of Oz wasn't published until 1906 - 2 years after this conversation is supposed to take place. It struck me as odd that the story would apparently be so well known among a handful of characters of various nationalities - and then of course, the theory of political allegory is thrown in for good measure. It felt out of place in the general story, but it does show how Oz can pop up anywhere - even the most unlikely places!


Bell-Snickle said...

So did you like "The Tapestry Room"? Sounds interesting.

And at first I couldn't tell if "The Children's Book" was a new or old book. The aging on the cover is quite artfully done!

Bill Campbell said...

"The Tapestry Room" was an interesting read, as I haven't tried Mrs. Molesworth before and didn't quite know what to expect. On the whole, I thought it was a bit on the dull side and rather disjointed - but it does have fun ideas running through it.