The first decade of the twentieth century witnessed the creation of two of the most beloved works of children’s literature ever produced. L. Frank Baum’s 1900 novel The Wizard of Oz and Maurice Maeterlinck’s 1908 play each gave rise to many adaptations, including, well beloved film versions, and both have become a deeply ingrained part of the cultural memory and construction of childhood in both Europe and the United States. And while these works are deeply original in content and detail, the structure of these works harkens back to the form of the journey play (traceable, on some level, back to the medieval morality play Everyman), a form that had undergone a considerable revival in the second half of the nineteenth century in the work of writers such as Henrik Ibsen and August Strindberg. This article explores the structural and conceptual links between Baum and Maeterlinck’s children’s classics, Ibsen’s Norwegian folk play Peer Gynt, and August Strindberg’s Lucky Per’s Journey and The Road to Damascus, Part I. In these works, the protagonists, disenchanted with their homes or current situations, set out on an epic journey in which they come upon characters and situations that act as commentary upon their situations before the journey. Ultimately, the characters return to where they started, with the journey seeming to have been a dream or merely a pointless excursion. But in these journeys of self-discovery, the protagonist that emerges at the end has undergone a significant transformation, a process at the heart of all of these works.
- Fairy tale