Day #15: Little Nemo in the Valley of Silence

"Little Nemo in Slumberland" dated January 21, 1906:


Transcript of Tweets by @LittleNemo1905 (June 11, 2020):


This strip is another animal-centric one that pits #LittleNemo against a celebration of napping Polar Bears (yes, that is indeed the collective noun for a group of polar bears! Who knew?). - 1/29

One of the most fascinating things about this strip is that it is not often that polar bears actually congregate; they prefer to be solitary and usually only come together for breeding or, occasionally, feeding. - 2/29

That these bears have decided to nap together in the quiet of the Valley of Silence speaks much to the affect of the valley itself: serene and peaceful covered in a blanket of crisp white snow. - 3/29

I find this a nice addition to the atmosphere that McCay creates for his setting. The colours (predominantly white and green) also seem to promote this almost physicalized tranquility that the valley possesses. - 4/29

That Nemo must dig into this place says something about the isolation of the setting. Unlike with the glass caves, an entryway didn't just appear for Nemo; he found it by happenstance while trying to dig to his parents room. - 5/29

The fact that he does not even know how he arrived in the valley creates this feeling that he has entered a private (sacred) space. Like in a church, cathedral, mosque, or temple the hallowed ground of the valley demands from him, and the reader, a particular reverence. - 6/29

By the time we reach panel 11 (captioned 8), the mood and atmosphere have been so well-established that Nemo's blasphemy in panel 12 (captioned 9) is easily viewed as a grave sin. - 7/29

I was not shocked to see the bears wake to threaten Nemo... I remember all too well the judgmental "shhh" of disapproving parishioners during Sunday service when I, or my siblings, spoke a bit too loudly. - 8/29

The polar bears, according to the captions only napping because of the intense silence the valley offers, become, in essence, a force of protection for the sanctity of the magical landscape. - 9/29

Ultimately, I can't help but bring to this strip a quasi-religious reading because the atmosphere created by McCay seems to demand it of me. I'm interested to hear how the readings of others compare. - 10/29

Some other observations worth noting: This strip is the first mention of Jack Frost, a character that we will not actually meet for over a year on February 24, 1907. - 11/29

His palace is another of the more recognizable of McCay's architectural designs from the #LittleNemo strips and so associating the Valley of Silence with that majestic building adds to it's allure for me. - 12/29

The two polar bears that flank Snowball and the other Slumberlandian on the top tier remind me of the two polar bears laughing and giggling back on Day #11 (Christmas Eve, 1905). - 13/29 [INSERT IMAGE]

At that time, we drew a connection between the gestural posture of the bears and the similarities displayed by Chiceeko and Pokoko on Day #3 (October 29, 1905). - 14/29 [INSERT IMAGE]

If these "prying" bears are to be read as Chiceeko and Pokoko transformed then we can only assume that they are present at the behest of King Morpheus wishing to keep a close eye on Nemo's progress towards Slumberland. - 15/29

The implications of this are that even when King Morpheus is not physically in a strip, his presence is undeniable and far-reaching. - 16/29

Whether McCay intended this connection or not is, personally, of little consequence to me. I have bought into the idea that agents of Slumberland are hiding throughout Nemo's adventures keeping tabs on the proceedings. - 17/29

I must admit that I am intrigued by McCay's placement of the 8th caption box… Rather than position it in the usual, customary location, he places it awkwardly between the vertical gutter. - 18/29

Clearly, this is to inform the reader to move from panel 10 (captioned 7) to panel 11 (captioned 8) before reading panel 12 (captioned 9). - 19/29

It's likely that McCay felt it necessary to position the caption here, where eyes couldn't miss it and accidentally read out of order, because the layout as he has organized it creates a #blockage (as proposed by @visual_linguist). - 20/29

Generally speaking, blockages are read down then across (see red arrows), but McCay wants the panels to be read across then down (see green arrows) - 21/29 [INSERT IMAGE]

That McCay recognized the potential confusion that his chosen spatial design might cause speaks to the fact that this type of experimental layout was not yet common practice. Readers may not have known which panel to send their eyes to next without it. - 22/29

I find it most fascinating (particularly from the position of a modern-day reader) as a moment of authorial micromanaging that, while certainly serving it's purpose, sticks out prominently within the mise en page. - 23/29

My final thought is just about the snow in his bedroom; the external (snow) being filtered through the internal (room). I find this an interesting visualization of what the #LittleNemo strips (and DotRF for that matter) is accomplishing with it's conceit. - 24/29

Freud's (1990) #TheInterpretationOfDreams suggested a theorization of dream analysis that focused on two things: First, the material of the dream, and second, how those materials interacted. - 25/29

For Freud, the material that dreams were built upon included remixed external stimuli from waking life and real world experiences. - 26/29

Much of what we have experienced thus far with Nemo has included a blending of reality with surreality; a point we've mentioned many times. As a result, I enjoy McCay's pictorial acknowledgement of the influence that the real has on the dreamscape. - 27/29

This is, admittedly, a surface level use of Freudian dream analysis, and I could get into deeper layers through reference to Baudrillard's postmodern theories of #SimulacraAndSimulation, but I think that's enough for now. - 28/29

This is my reading of "Little Nemo in Slumberland" #15. What's yours? - 29/29