Monday, 24 January 2011
A few notes on the books for the next meeting:
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in Wikipedia
"Another influence lay in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland books. Although Baum found their plots incoherent, he identified their source of popularity as Alice herself, a child with whom the child readers could identify; this influenced his choice of a protagonist. Baum was also influenced by Carroll's belief that children's books should have many pictures and be pleasurable reads. Carroll rejected the Victorian-era ideology that children's books should be saturated with morals, instead believing that children should be allowed to be children. Building on Carroll's style of numerous images accompanying the text, Baum amalgamated the conventional features of a fairy tale (witches and wizards) with the well-known things in his readers' lives (scarecrows and cornfields)."
Plus - quite a strange site for everything Oz
Gulliver's Travels in Wikipedia
"Published seven years after Daniel Defoe's wildly successful Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver's Travels may be read as a systematic rebuttal of Defoe's optimistic account of human capability. In The Unthinkable Swift: The Spontaneous Philosophy of a Church of England Man Warren Montag argues that Swift was concerned to refute the notion that the individual precedes society, as Defoe's novel seems to suggest. Swift regarded such thought as a dangerous endorsement of Thomas Hobbes' radical political philosophy and for this reason Gulliver repeatedly encounters established societies rather than desolate islands. The captain who invites Gulliver to serve as a surgeon aboard his ship on the disastrous third voyage is named Robinson.
Possibly one of the reasons for the book's classic status is that it can be seen as many things to many different people. Broadly, the book has three themes:
- a satirical view of the state of European government, and of petty differences between religions.
- an inquiry into whether men are inherently corrupt or whether they become corrupted.
- a restatement of the older "ancients versus moderns" controversy previously addressed by Swift in The Battle of the Books."
Watership Down in Wikipedia
Comparisons with Greek mythology
"The book explores the themes of exile, survival, heroism, political responsibility, and the "making of a hero and a community". Joan Bridgman's analysis of Adams's works in The Contemporary Review identifies the community and hero motifs: "[T]he hero's journey into a realm of terrors to bring back some boon to save himself and his people" is a powerful element in Adams's tale. This theme derives from the author's exposure to the works of mythologist Joseph Campbell, especially his study of comparative mythology, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), and in particular, Campbell's "monomyth" theory, also based on Carl Jung's view of the unconscious mind, that "all the stories in the world are really one story.".
The concept of the hero has invited comparisons between Watership Down's characters and those in Homer's Odyssey and Virgil's Aeneid. Hazel's courage, Bigwig's strength, Blackberry's ingenuity and craftiness, and Dandelion's and Bluebell's poetry and storytelling all have parallels in the epic poem Odyssey. Kenneth Kitchell declared, "Hazel stands in the tradition of Odysseus, Aeneas, and others". Tolkien scholar John Rateliff calls Adams's novel an Aeneid "what-if" book: what if the seer Cassandra (Fiver) had been believed and she and a company had fled Troy (Sandleford Warren) before its destruction? What if Hazel and his companions, like Aeneas, encounter a seductive home at Cowslip's Warren (Land of the Lotus Eaters)? Rateliff goes on to compare the rabbits' battle with Woundwort's Efrafans to Aeneas's fight with Turnus's Latins. "By basing his story on one of the most popular books of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Adams taps into a very old myth: the flight from disaster, the heroic refugee in search of a new home, a story that was already over a thousand years old when Vergil told it in 19 BC.""
A very old Watership Down site, explaining the significance of the different warrens:
"The religion of this warren was the Lapine religion. According to the Lapine religion, Lord Frith, the Sun God, created the Earth and all the stars from his droppings. El-ahrairah was the prince of rabbits. The stories of El-ahrairah teach the rabbits why certain things in the world are the way they are, such as why rabbits have strong hind legs and cottony tail"
Found on the net - an interview with Roald Dahl from 1988, when RD was 71.
"HOW DO YOU GET THE IDEAS FOR YOUR STORIES?
It starts always with a tiny little seed of an idea, a little germ, and that even doesn’t come very easily. You can be mooching around for a year or so before you get a good one. When I do get a good one, mind you, I quickly write it down so that I won’t forget it, because it disappears otherwise rather like a dream. But when I get it, I don’t dash up here and start to write it. I’m very careful. I walk around it and look at it and sniff it and then see if I think it will go. Because once you start, you’re embarked on a year’s work and so it’s a big decision."