Friday, 12 August 2016

Yellow Brick Roads And Rainbows

Poul Anderson, "The Visitor" IN Anderson, All One Universe (New York, 1997), pp. 221-234.

When my daughter and I saw a triple rainbow outside her school, we agreed that its three strands led to Asgard, Oz and a crock of gold. The Rainbow Road To Oz was an unmade film and I think was also a Frank L Baum book title although I can find reference only to The Road To Oz. Of course there is a rainbow in the song in the famous film that was made.

The narrator of Poul Anderson's "The Visitor" - who I suppose is the Visitor - asks:

"...don't yellow brick roads lead to Oz?" (p. 230)

Well, no. In Oz, a yellow brick road leads to the Emerald City. A yellow brick road is in a song in the film and in a song by Elton John. The Visitor tells us:

"They still have that kind [of road], here and there in our part of the country." (p. 234)

When the Visitor sets out to walk along the yellow brick road in Judy's dream, she calls him back in horror, explaining that it leads to Grandmother's but:

"'We can't ever go there..." (p. 230)

Nineteen years ago, when the family drove along a yellow brick road to visit Judy's grandmother, their car was hit by a drunk driver. Judy's mother was killed, her father was badly scarred and she herself has been in a coma ever since. When the tall woman tells the Visitor that he has "...looked beyond the Edge..." (p. 233), she probably just means that, by entering Judy's dream, he has looked into the hereafter. I had taken her to mean something slightly more complicated:

that there are three realms - waking consciousness, dreams and death;
that the yellow brick road along which he had started to walk led to death...

Sometimes the creative use of a word or phrase changes its significance, e.g.:

"neighbor" and "Samaritan" in the Parable of the Good Samaritan;
"Big Brother" in 1984;
"Big Brother" on British television;
"Room 101" from 1984 has also been used on television;
"Yellow Brick Road" in Oz.

Potentially, Anderson gives "yellow brick road" another new meaning.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

The "Emerald City" has a FAINT resemblance to the "Eternal City" of Rome. And it's said all roads lead to Rome, the Eternal City.

Little Judy called the Visitor back from her grandmother's house, the "house of sorrow," because unknown to her Grandmother was grieving for her daughter and grand daughter.

I am, of course, familiar with the Biblical use of "neighbor" and "Samaritan" and Orwell's ominous "Big Brother." But I had forgotten about Room 101. I'm not familiar with how UK television used "Big Brother."


Paul Shackley said...

You are very fortunate not to be familiar with UK TV "Big Brother." A bunch of people stayed in a house with 24 hours TV surveillance. They interacted, millions watched them and regularly voted for which one should leave the house. The last one left was the winner and became a celebrity.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

THAT seems rather gruesome and sadistic! Even Alice Hong might have enjoyed it!


David Birr said...

"The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world." It breaks thought-criminals by confronting them with their greatest fear, whatever that may be.

Humorist Alan Coren wrote a short story parodying *1984*, based on the notion that Britain had become so inefficient that it COULDN'T maintain a totalitarian society. When Winston Smith is dragged into Room 101, the torturers there know that his greatest fear is rats -- but they're OUT OF rats, and Smith isn't troubled by anything they DO have. It gets to the point that he's trying to HELP them find something they can torment him with.
"If it's any help, I can't stand moths."
"MOTHS?!" Esmond screamed. "What do you think we are, ruddy Harrods? We can't get moths for love or money."
"Comes in here, asking for moths," muttered Esmond's assistant.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, David!

I certainly do remember how Winston Smith was broken, thru his fear of rats. And the idea that a totalitarian Britain would be so incompetent and inefficient that it somehow ran out of rats is amusing!

I only wish real tyrannies were that bungling! Alas, most of them aren't.