Friday, November 23, 2007

The Political Allegory of Children's Stories

The Wizard of Oz, which was a political allegory about the economic and political conditions of late 19th Century America and Babar the Elephant, which was an allegory promoting French colonialism to Francophone Africa were both popular children's stories with some very heavy political and cultural overtones.

This post will briefly analyze the two allegories from a city planning perspective.

The Wizard of Oz

There several political historical interpretations of the story, for more information about this allegory check the wiki link:

The Characters of Interest from a city planning perspective:

The Tin Woodsman: Represents Industrial workers. The worker becomes like a machine, incapable of love. (Recall the Tin-man singing: "If I only had a heart.")

The Wicked Witch of the East: Symbolizes the large industrial corporations and eastern finance.

The Munchkins: Citizens of the east.

The Cyclone: The cyclone was used in the 1890s as a metaphor for a political revolution that would transform the drab country into a land of color and unlimited prosperity.

Now how would these characters and events hold up today? Would the Tin-man of today's eastern cities be rusted out to the core...or would the Tin-man have a southern accent after he moved down south in the 70's...or even perhaps a tan as the Tin-man eventually landed in the west coast giving rise to new major cities.?

Or maybe the Tin-man never left the East Coast at all...could he possibly be in cohoots with the Cowardly Lion and The Wizard in Emerald City to quench his ever lasting quench for oil?

Would the Wicked Witch of the East be alive today? Or did she just leave the eastern cities to crush the Wicked Witch of the West... And if she left the east, does that mean the munchkins of the east are free? ...or do they have a new witch that controls them now?

The cyclone of the 1890's has surely changed the the point where the countryside has been over developed and can no longer be a viable income for many farmers. If there were to be a cyclone today would it work in reverse brining political upheavel to drab and blighted cities of the rustbelt?

Babar the Elephant

Babar was a popular children's book novel in France which first appeared in 1931. Leter, the books were turned into an animated series.

A Summary of Babar

After Babar witnesses the slaughter of his beloved mother, he flees from the jungle and finds his way to Paros where he is befriended by the Old Lady. Babar eventually returns to the Elephant realm following the death of the previous King. Babar is crowned king, marries his 3rd cousin twice removed Celeste, and founds the city of Celesteville. Babar, who tends to wear a bright green suit, introduces a very French form of western culture to the elephants, and causes them to dress in western attire.

Did the story of Babar help influence children's idea that western culture is civilized and all other ways of living are primitive? From a city planning prespective did the creation of a colonial city such as Celesteville benefit the elephant realm or did it just whitewash their existing culture? This may sound like a silly question but from what we know of colonilism, maintaining one's previous culture was often met with ridicule, segregation, dictatorship and violence.

What do you think?


Carls said...

I have to say I never thought of Babar like that. I'm gonna have to think about it for a bit.

First time I heard of the Wizard of Oz allegory was from Wicked. Which presents it from a different perspective. It's says much about this country and shows me there is much to be desired and makes it seem like there is very little middle ground.

Anonymous said...

Dont forget the scarecrow was based off of the studidity of the agricultural community at the time. And the Ruby slippers were not ruby at all, they made them ruby for the thecnocolor movie. The original slippers were silver for the power of silver during the time.