There’s no place like home! Except most of them.

My Oz-related ruminations on the Fairyland review brought an old irritation to mind. Not a pet peeve, perhaps, but perhaps one I’ll go over to feed and play with when its proper owners aren’t home. In short, wanting to go home at the end of the adventure is a lame, lame cliche. Please stop doing it.

I don’t know if The Wonderful Wizard of Oz originated this now-hackneyed idea. TV tropes was unhelpful, and that’s about all the research I’m feeling up to at the moment. Either way, it’s the most famous, and one of the more justified. If you’re not familiar with the real, book-version Oz, Dorothy wants to go home because she has responsibilities. Her impoverished family relies in part on her labor for survival. And it’s also worth noting that Dorothy goes back. A few books later she goes to live in Oz permanently. Oz is way better than Kansas. (Sure, Oz is actually a pretty dark and terrifying place at times, but in addition to wonder and adventure it provides things like reliable sustenance and eternal health. Also your dog can talk. And I accept no allegations of spoilers, by the way. The Emerald City of Oz is past its centennial, and it’s your fault if you don’t know that Toto talks at the end. So there.)

And, as Valente points out so ably in The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, children are heartless. Allow me to offer an example. A favorite movie of mine as a very small child was All Dogs Go to Heaven. Laugh if you must. That movie was awesome. My mother, perhaps peeved at having to watch that strange amalgamation of terrifying hellfire, big-lipped alligators, and annoying little girls every time the Li’l Ginger Waif got a shot at the Video Store, asked me a question one day. “What would you rather have, a Mommy and Daddy who love you, or a junkyard dog?” I… I don’t really know what she expected. I’m not sure she’s quite forgiven me to this day. But I think anyone who knows little kids knows what the answer was. They want the adventure. They want the exciting new world.

And I was so annoyed at the kids in lazily-written books and movies who just wanted to go home. I raged. When I got older (usually past the target age for this particular sort of story, though given my tastes I definitely still indulged), I got to the point where I understood the responsibility angle, the part where you missed your family or what have you. But I still hated that tearful goodbye. “Stay! You found someplace better! Stay! You don’t appreciate what you’ve got! Stay! Or come home and I’ll go!”

It’s possible I was just jealous. But the fact remains. And that’s one thing I really loved about The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. (I will use any excuse for that title, won’t I?) Another great example is China Mieville’s Un Lun Dun. Forget saying goodbye to the magical land of wonder. It’s not like you’ll really be able to go home anyway. Travel changes you even in the regular old world. Nobody’s coming back from Dimension X or Fantasia and getting right back to homework and chores.

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One response to “There’s no place like home! Except most of them.

  1. Hm. Has anyone ever written a serious story about return-from-fairyland re-entry? I know I read a short story about a bunch of Magical Kids several years later (Jo Walton? Sherwood Smith? I got to it from somebody’s blog), but I can only think of the one, and it would be interesting to explore.

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