‘Tis Terribly Odd in the Land of Nod

As a follow-up to my post on the Kingdom of Dreams near Oz, I feel I should mention some other examples of dream countries in other series. These places are often surreal and disturbing, and things are subject to change without notice. There are a lot of stories where an adventure is eventually revealed to be a dream, which usually comes across as a cop-out to me. The MGM Wizard of Oz, as great as the movie is in other respects, falls into this trap.

“And you, and you, and you, and YOU were there! But the spirit of L. Frank Baum’s original book wasn’t!”

When there’s an actual land containing dream beings, however, the trope is a lot more effective. Just look at Lewis Carroll’s Alice books. Wonderland isn’t always geographically consistent, but it contains some intriguing characters. Many of them are openly mean and argumentative, but none of them can really harm Alice, which reflects the nature of dreams pretty well.

In later life, Alice found she MUCH preferred the dream about the attacking playing cards to the one where she had an exam for a class she’d never attended.

The continuing plotline of Windsor McKay’s Little Nemo comic strip was that King Morpheus of Slumberland wanted Nemo to be his daughter’s playmate.

Other tales that don’t focus on the dream theme still manage to incorporate it in different ways, like the Lord Rhoop’s prison where nightmares come true in C.S. Lewis’ Voyage of the Dawn Treader, or the gourd world where dreams are manufactured in Piers Anthony’s Xanth books.

Video games have also been known to contain dream-based settings. Super Mario Bros. 2 took place in Subcon, the Land of Dreams, and the instruction booklet made several references to this concept. Cobrats, for instance, were said to “appear in the dreams of Toad,” while Mouser was “a bomber of bad dreams.”

Link’s Awakening was set within the dream of the Wind Fish.

Kirby‘s home is known as Dream Land, although I’m not quite sure whether it’s literally a land of dreams in the traditional sense. I do know, however, that it’s located on the planet Pop Star.

Little Nemo was also a video game, and apparently a pretty good one, but I don’t recall ever playing it.

I know Nintendo Power covered it pretty significantly back when I was subscribed to the magazine. It was actually intended as a tie-in to the Little Nemo movie that wouldn’t see an American release until a few years AFTER the game. Actually, come to think of it, I should add that movie to my Netflix queue, if it’s available. (In case you care, it isn’t, but I saved it for such time as they might get a copy.) I believe both the sixth and seventh Final Fantasy games have characters going inside someone’s subconscious in order to help him battle his demons. Hell, even the Simpsons Arcade Game had a Dreamland stage, in which the family had to fight flying doughnuts, evil saxophones, and a giant bowling ball.

And yes, you could die and have to pump in more quarters even while dreaming, even though this was years before the Simpsons did a Nightmare on Elm Street parody.

“I don’t get it. They should be here by now.”

The scary thing is that this stage actually made MORE sense than most of the others. I liked the game back in the day, but looking back on it now that the show has twenty-one seasons to its credit (okay, a few of those might have been mostly to its DIScredit), it only barely relates to its source material. Still a hell of a lot better than when Bart fought the Space Mutants by spray painting purple objects, though.

I think this game’s plot is an indication that Bart was actually huffing that spray paint.

Getting back to the main subject of the post (yes, there totally WAS one), one popular name for a dream country is the Land of Nod, which is also the place east of Eden where Cain relocated after murdering his brother. From what I’ve been able to gather, it’s basically a pun on “nodding off” combined with the biblical reference, and not an indication that Cain escaped into the world of dreams. You never know, though. Maybe that would explain how Cain found his mysterious wife; she was literally his dream woman.

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4 Responses to ‘Tis Terribly Odd in the Land of Nod

  1. vilajunkie says:

    In the animated movie (yes, I believe Wikipedia lists a live-action movie from the 80’s) of Little Nemo, the Princess looked an awful lot like Ozma. I wonder if Baum had an influence on either Windsor McKay’s version or the movie version. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the movie, though, so maybe I’m misremembering her. Ozma reminds me a lot of the Childlike Empress in The Never-Ending Story, too.

    Maybe the Wind Fish is sad because someone painted him/her/it like a carousel horse?

    I played the Simpsons arcade game a lot. I never had enough quarters to finish the game, though. I wish I knew how it ended…

    • Nathan says:

      There is a certain similarity there, I would say, but there’s probably somewhat of a similarity between most young princesses. I don’t know that the princess in the actual comic was all that Ozma-ish, though.

      As for the Childlike Empress, I don’t think she looked that close to Neill’s drawings of Ozma, but she was portrayed similarly to Ozma in Return to Oz.

      I know Baum suggested McCay as a replacement for Neill, but I have to suspect that Reilly & Britton wouldn’t have been able to afford him.

      There’s a video of the arcade game’s ending here.

  2. Pingback: That Was Just a Dream | VoVatia

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