Right City, Wrong World


One interesting aspect to Philip Jose Farmer’s A Barnstormer in Oz is his indication that the human inhabitants of Oz are descended from people who arrived there from our world, mostly Goths but also Celts and Native Americans. This sort of follows from L. Frank Baum revealing that the Wizard who built the Emerald City was from Omaha. He never really did anything like that with entire populations, however, aside from a brief suggestion that the Mifkets might be related to Arabs due to a common language. Names like Munchkin and Gillikin do look pretty German, though. Ruth Plumly Thompson did introduce cultures in Oz and nearby lands based on existing ones, often including offensive stereotypes, as with the East Asian Silver Islanders (whom the Grand Chew Chew claims are “a much older race than our Chinese cousins”), gypsies, and various desert countries with Middle Eastern influence.

Less offensive counterpart cultures are the medieval English Corumbians, the Scottish kilted Uplanders, and the Alpine yodelers of Peakenspire and Mount Mern (although the Alps don’t have that many people with seven arms).

Thompson gave the impression in a few books that Sir Hokus of Pokes was from Arthurian England before eventually revealing him to be a native Ozite.

There’s a very English flavor to several of the McGraws’ Oz countries, and Kiltoon in Gina Wickwar’s Toto of Oz is Scottish-themed.

None of these peoples are specifically said to be descended from similar nations in the Great Outside World, but it’s a possible explanation. Joe Bongiorno uses this idea in Lost Histories from the Royal Librarian of Oz. It’s sort of like how Narnia’s original human population descended from an English couple, and the Telmarines from pirates in our world.

There are other fantastic worlds that don’t interact with our own, so similarities in culture are more likely due to some sort of parallel development, or possibly just coincidence. Anyway, this relates to something else I’d been thinking about recently, which is the place of the so-called Real World in the Super Mario series. The original concept was that Mario and Luigi were from Brooklyn, and the games before they came to the Mushroom Kingdom were set in New York. This wasn’t actually mentioned in the games themselves, mind you; I think the only exception is Mario’s Time Machine, which wasn’t published by Nintendo.

It was used in pretty much all other media, however. Nintendo seems to have gradually gotten away from this idea, first by implying that the brothers were born (well, delivered by the stork) in the Mushroom Kingdom in the first place. More recently, Super Mario Odyssey introduced New Donk City as the place where the original Donkey Kong, and most likely other games originally said to be set in New York, took place.

New Donk even has its own equivalents of the Empire State Building (there it’s the city hall) and Brooklyn Bridge.

The weird thing is that the part of the city you visit, which has several skyscrapers, appears to be on top of another, much larger building.

Most of the kingdoms in the game are constructed with empty space around them, presumably to form a more natural boundary than just not letting you past a certain point, but it might be the most striking here. Streets and parks are presumably just on top of a giant roof. There’s some concept art that indicates the Mario Brothers’ plumbing shop was once intended to be part of the city, although it’s not there in the finished version.

The implication seems to be that New York is no longer part of the picture, and while I did like the idea of Mario and Luigi being from our world, it would certainly simplify things quite a bit. I grew up with the cartoons where the brothers were constantly talking about Brooklyn, yet for some reason a lot of people in this other world had New York accents. Is this like how, in the movie version of The Wiz, Diana Ross goes from New York to an Oz that’s based on New York?

There was also an episode that played on the American Revolution, but the two Americans who were present didn’t seem to notice the similarities.

The thing is, 2019 saw the release of the mobile game Mario Kart Tour, which includes both classic courses from earlier Mario Kart games and new ones based on real-world cities, one of which is New York.

So is that part of the Mario universe or not? And does anybody comment on the similarity to New Donk? This isn’t even the first time the two worlds have crossed over in a Mario game, as I’ve written about before. In NES Open Tournament Golf, Mario and Luigi play on courses in the United States, and the former wears an outfit based on the American flag.

And this outfit reappears as something you can buy at a Crazy Cap store in Odyssey.

As such, it might be LESS complicated to say New Donk was intentionally based on the American city by immigrants from there, even if that doesn’t include the Mario Brothers themselves. Or it could even be the other way around. The live-action Mario movie, however, goes with the parallel world explanation.

It would have been amusing for Dinohattan to have been a borough in New Donk, but that’s not how Nintendo does things.

This entry was posted in Authors, C.S. Lewis, Cartoons, Characters, Chronicles of Narnia, Donkey Kong, L. Frank Baum, Language, Mario, Oz, Oz Authors, Places, Prejudice, Ruth Plumly Thompson, Super Mario Bros. Super Show, Television, Video Games and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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