Day #16: Little Nemo, the Lion Tamer!

"Little Nemo in Slumberland" dated January 28, 1906:


Transcript of Tweets by @LittleNemo1905 (June 12, 2020):


The conclusion of our mini-animal trilogy ends with the king of the jungle himself, Leo the Lion! At least, reader's may presume that the crowned lion in the top tier is the same lion we see under Nemo's bed… 1/24

There really isn't pictorial evidence to support this conclusion though. In fact, if anything, that "Leo" is uncrowned would suggest that the Lion King (hehehe) had sent a lackey to secure Nemo for Slumberland. - 2/24

For me, this is continued evidence of the separated-ness of Slumberland (one kingdom) and the dreamscape as a spatial landscape. It's certainly possible that this crowned lion in panel one rules over the animal kingdom as Morpheus rules over Slumberland. - 3/24

The fact that the Lion King is spoken to by the Slumberlandians in such a demanding tone (Comic Strip Library names them "The Clown" and "The Lion Tamer", though they are unnamed in the strip) suggests to me a hierarchal order to the kingdoms in the dreamworld. - 4/24

According to Medieval Christianity, the "Great Chain of Being" outlined a hierarchal structure for all life on earth as set forth by God: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_chain_of_being - 5/24

In it, the Lion is set above all other animals as the kingly figure within the animal subdivision, but even he (as a beast) is subservient to the will of those in the chain above him (including both humans and, of course, God himself). - 6/24

Associated with the "Great Chain of Being" was the "Divine Right of Kings" which, though primarily applied to the human subdivision, cemented the dominance of God's chosen representative for each category within the Chain. - 7/24

For humans, this representative was the King. For animals, it was the Lion. For plants and flora, it was the Oak and the Rose. Even minerals had a representative "king", Gold. - 8/24 [INSERT IMAGE]

So, when the GCoB and the DRoK's are applied for the purposes of reading this strip, it would suggest that the Lion King simply had no recourse but to obey the Slumberlandians, both as humans and as messengers of God's representative human (the King). - 9/24

Now, the question becomes less about the lion, and more about King Morpheus. Where exactly can we position him within the "Great Chain of Being" in the dreamscape? - 10/24

If he is the "King" of the human subdivision within the dreamscape, then that would suggest a "higher power" (actually many higher powers) that can influence or have sway on the dreamworld and even the King himself. - 11/24

Yet, I'm not sure that this reading holds up… because, if we return to the GCoB, celestial bodies had dominance over humans. This, of course, includes the moon whom we've seen submitting to the will of King Morpheus before. - 12/24 [MOON IMAGE]

So, this would suggest King Morpheus not as "a king" but rather "The King". This is continually supported by the fact that "Morpheus" was also the name of a Greco-Roman god associated with sleep and dreams. - 13/24

In Ovid's "Metamorphoses", for instance, Morpheus is one of the three "Somnia" (or dreams shapes); sons of the God, Somnus. According to the poem, Morpheus' role was to appear in dreams in a human guise: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morpheus - 14/24

Obviously, we have seen Morpheus' human form in previous strips and have marvelled at his powerful and dominating presence. Could the otherworldly powers that we've accepted as being natural gifts of this monarch be less about the dreamworld and more about his godhood? - 15/24

If we accept this potential position for Morpheus, then the Lion King seen in this strip could easily be read as his brother, Icelos, who was said to appear in dreams as the shape of beasts and other animals. - 16/24

Certainly, this link to antiquity is not an impossibility. McCay's artistic and stylistic flourishes are heavily influenced by Beaux Arts architecture and Art Nouveau styles, both of which have associations with neoclassicism. - 17/24

I find this reading appealing because, if accepted, it does a fantastic job of building the storyworld of #LittleNemo without being overt or in-your-face about doing so. - 18/24

While certainly not the only reading, and probably not even the one intended by McCay himself, I find that it helps me to more fully flesh out where exactly we are and what this (so far) 16-strip journey has been about. - 19/24

Admittedly though, it has less to do with any narrative or formal presentation of the strip, and is more a tangential aside that I've crafted. - 20/24

Beyond the potentially heavy implications on worldbuilding, this strip is just a lot of fun to read. The Clown and The Lion Tamer are humourous, Nemo astride a lion is a sight to behold, and the final panel of the strip is just adorable. - 21/24

The only thing that I found odd was that the Pride of lions is entirely made up of males. According to @NatGeo, while prides may consist of up to 40 lions, it's rare to have more than three or four males: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/a/african-lion/ - 22/24

Of course this is a dreamworld and the rules of reality only vaguely apply, but I wonder what commentary McCay might have been making with this design choice? - 23/24

This is my reading of "Little Nemo in Slumberland" #16. What's yours? - 24/24