Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Dot and Tot of Merryland - too sweet for words

Dot and Tot of Merryland is easily my least favorite fantasy novel by L. Frank Baum. Let me get that out of the way at the start. I don't dislike it as much as The Queer Visitors From Oz and the Woggle-Bug Book, which were written to drum up interest in the second Oz musical. With the extreme racial stereotypes, those works were downright offensive. Dot and a Tot of Merryland was just cloyingly twee

Webster tell us that twee means affectedly or excessively dainty, delicate, cute, or quaint. That pretty much sums up this novel perfectly.

Let me summarize the book for you. Spoilers ahead. In a nutshell, two small children float through seven fantastic valleys and then float home.

Dot, who is a wealthy girl of privilege although never actually described as such, is taken to the countryside for her health. There she meets and befriends the gardener's son, Tot, who is the youngest protagonist in all of Baum's books.

One day, they wander onto a boat and float down the river. After passing through a stone arch over the river, Dot and Tot find themselves in Merryland, which consists of seven valleys, each one with its own special inhabitants.

Ready for this? They are the valley of clowns, the valley of candy people, the valley of babies and storks, the valley of living dolls, the valley of pussycats, the valley of windup animals and the valley of lost things.

Honestly, for almost all intents and purposes, this is a tour guide of Merryland. Everyone is nice to Dot and Tot, they're never in any danger and there's virtually no conflict. In fact, the queen of Merryland, who is a living wax doll in the middle valley, makes them a princess and prince of Merryland.

There are some low notes in the book. The chocolate people in the valley of candy are straight out of a minstrel show. There are some high notes, like the genuinely neat Mr. Split who can divide himself in half to wind the clock work animals twice as fast and each half only speaks in half words. But, on a whole, the novel just strolls along in extreme sweetness.

I have asked myself how I could like the earlier Magical Monarch of Mo so much more than Dot and Tot of Merryland. It's also super light and silly beyond words. However, silly is not the same as twee and every chapter in the Magical Monarch of Mo is full of conflict. Nothing really happens in Dot and Tot.

All the same, I might try reading it to my son in a year or so. Maybe a child the age of Tot might get more out of the book than me.

No comments:

Post a Comment