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Subject: A guide to the literary allusions & inside jokes of Fantastiqa rss

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I love it when game designers include inside jokes or other references in their games. As most of us know, Fantastiqa's designer Alf Seegert has a PhD in literature, and by his own admission he wanted Fantastiqa "to inform and be informed by my academic research." From his article "Why I Design Games", we already know that the most formative book of his childhood was The Phantom Tollbooth, and unsurprisingly its influence is apparent in the game. But there are many other apparent influences and allusions to classic works of the fantastic, including C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, The Wizard of Oz, The Princess Bride, and others.

Can we find some of these literary references or influences? The purpose of this thread is to try to identify them. Here are some I have noticed:

1. The R.O.U.S. (Rodents of Unusual Size) from The Princess Bride

Instead of rodents, Fantastiqa has rabbits! [insert drumroll...] Introducing the Rabbits of Unusual Size! I love it already - deckbuilding games do need more rabbits, after all!



2. Milo's companion the watchdog Tock from The Phantom Tollbooth

I could be wrong about this one, but the idea of having a dog with you as your companion in a fantastic world seems awfully reminiscent of what happened to Milo in The Phantom Tollbooth. Great, great, book by the way!



Are there more literary references or allusions in Fantastiqa? There must be more than the ones mentioned here - I just haven't been clever or well-read enough to find them! I suspect there's more, because clearly there's a creative mind at work here! Admittedly, in many cases the influences are more a matter of style, or are somewhat of a spoof on stereotypical creatures that inhabit the usual fantasy genre, and thus can't be pinpointed exactly. For example, creatures like "the Carnivorous Cave-Wight of Wongo", "the Woozle of Ooze" and quests like "swinging from the Marsh Mangroves of Myria and win back the Gem of Joopolo" probably don't have counterparts in existing literature, but do bear their style.

Please post here if you find other literary references, allusions, or influences in the game! Maybe even Alf himself will chime in to help us out at some point. He's done some terrific work, and I love the fact that Fantastiqa has been informed by his academic background in literature, and enhanced by his own alliterative and creative literary prowess. Thank you Alf, and consider this thread a tribute to and appreciation of what you have brought to this game!
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Michael Sweazey
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Having water subdue the witch is, of course, from Oz.
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msweazey wrote:
Having water subdue the witch is, of course, from Oz.

You're absolutely right, of course! Thanks for that - let's add it to our running list:

3. The melting Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz



To quote from the story, Dorothy throws a bucket of water at the Wicked Witch, and this is what happens:

Quote:
....the Witch began to shrink and fall away. "See what you have done!" she screamed. "In a minute I shall melt away."

"I am very sorry, indeed," said Dorothy, who was truly frightened to see the Witch actually melting away like brown sugar before her eyes.

"Didn't you know water would be the end of me?" asked the Witch, in a wailing, despairing voice.

"Of course not," answered Dorothy; "how should I?"

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Andrew MacLeod
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And when, exactly, are we playing Churchill again?
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....the Witch began to shrink and fall away. "See what you have done!" she screamed. "In a minute I shall melt away."

"I am very sorry, indeed," said Dorothy, who was truly frightened to see the Witch actually melting away like brown sugar before her eyes.

"Didn't you know water would be the end of me?" asked the Witch, in a wailing, despairing voice.

"Of course not," answered Dorothy; "how should I? I never played Fantastiqa back in Kansas."
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James Torr
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The Troll creature is subdued by the horn symbol, a clear reference to the Three Billy Goats Gruff. (Dunno why the Billy Goat creature is subdued by the web symbol, though.)
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James Torr
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A couple quests:

--"Cleanse the Putrid Stables of the Unhygienic Ogre Abernathy" (requires three pails, two brooms) brings to mind the cleaning of King Augeas's stables in the 12 labors of Hercules.

--"Play croquet with the Evil-Tempered Walruses of Wygar!" (requires two clubs) makes me think of Alice in Wonderland.
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Andrew MacLeod
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JamesT wrote:
A couple quests:

--"Cleanse the Putrid Stables of the Unhygienic Ogre Abernathy" (requires three pails, two brooms) brings to mind the cleaning of King Augeas's stables in the 12 labors of Hercules.

--"Play croquet with the Evil-Tempered Walruses of Wygar!" (requires two clubs) makes me think of Alice in Wonderland.


Very good catch, James!
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JamesT wrote:
The Troll creature is subdued by the horn symbol, a clear reference to the Three Billy Goats Gruff. (Dunno why the Billy Goat creature is subdued by the web symbol, though.)

Great one James! We had caught that one when playing, but I hadn't thought to add it to this list!

4. The Troll from The Three Billy Goats Gruff



The Three Billy Goats Gruff is a classic fairy tale. Here's one version of the relevant part:

Quote:
"Who’s that stomping over my bridge?" roared the troll, resting his chin on his hands.

"Billy Goat Gruff," said the third goat in a deep voice. "I’m going up to the mountain to eat the lush spring grass."

"Oh no you’re not," said the troll as he clambered up on to the bridge. "I’m going to eat you for breakfast!"

"That’s what you think," said the biggest Billy Goat Gruff. Then he lowered his horns, galloped along the bridge and butted the ugly troll. Up, up, up went the troll into the air... then down, down, down into the rushing river below. He disappeared below the swirling waters, and was drowned.
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JamesT wrote:
--"Play croquet with the Evil-Tempered Walruses of Wygar!" (requires two clubs) makes me think of Alice in Wonderland.

Another terrific catch, James!

5. Croquet and walruses from Alice in Wonderland



One of the Queen of Heart's hobbies (besides ordering executions) is croquet, with live hedgehogs as balls and flamingoes as mallets/clubs. An excerpt from chapter 8 ("The Queen's Croquet-Ground"):

Quote:
`That's right!' shouted the Queen. `Can you play croquet?'

'Get to your places!' shouted the Queen in a voice of thunder, and people began running about in all directions, tumbling up against each other; however, they got settled down in a minute or two, and the game began. Alice thought she had never seen such a curious croquet-ground in her life; it was all ridges and furrows; the balls were live hedgehogs, the mallets live flamingoes, and the soldiers had to double themselves up and to stand on their hands and feet, to make the arches.


The Walrus appears in a narrative poem entitled "The Walrus and the Carpenter" in Lewis Carroll's sequel, Through the Looking Glass.

Some of the original illustrations from 1865 by John Tenniel are most memorable. Here's Alice with one of the flamingo "clubs" during the croquet game, and the Walrus with the Carpenter:

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JamesT wrote:
--"Cleanse the Putrid Stables of the Unhygienic Ogre Abernathy" (requires three pails, two brooms) brings to mind the cleaning of King Augeas's stables in the 12 labors of Hercules.

6. Cleaning the stables from the Greek myth The Labours of Hercules

Two of the quests in the game seem to reflect this actually. There's also one that says "Muck out the stables of the Ogress Ognar". But here's the one James mentions:



It's been a while since I looked at some Greek mythology, and I wasn't entirely familiar with the details, so I had to do some research to remind myself of what this was all about! The story of the "Labors of Hercules" is that the great hero Hercules was ordered to perform a number of labours/tasks, as part of his penance after killing his sons in a state of insanity. His fifth assignment was to clean the Augean stables, which housed thousands of livestock and hadn't been cleaned in 30 years. No problem for our friend Hercules - he simply rerouted a couple of rivers to do the job for him, getting it done in a day just as he'd said.

There are numerous retellings of the myth online (e.g. here). Here's one version:
Quote:
For the fifth labor, Eurystheus ordered Hercules to clean up King Augeas' stables. Hercules knew this job would mean getting dirty and smelly, but sometimes even a hero has to do these things. Then Eurystheus made Hercules' task even harder: he had to clean up after the cattle of Augeas in a single day.

Now King Augeas owned more cattle than anyone in Greece. Some say that he was a son of one of the great gods, and others that he was a son of a mortal; whosever son he was, Augeas was very rich, and he had many herds of cows, bulls, goats, sheep and horses.

Every night the cowherds, goatherds and shepherds drove the thousands of animals to the stables.

Hercules went to King Augeas, and without telling anything about Eurystheus, said that he would clean out the stables in one day, if Augeas would give him a tenth of his fine cattle.

Augeas couldn't believe his ears, but promised. Hercules brought Augeas's son along to watch. First the hero tore a big opening in the wall of the cattle-yard where the stables were. Then he made another opening in the wall on the opposite side of the yard.

Next, he dug wide trenches to two rivers which flowed nearby. He turned the course of the rivers into the yard. The rivers rushed through the stables, flushing them out, and all the mess flowed out the hole in the wall on other side of the yard.

When Augeas learned that Eurystheus was behind all this, he would not pay Hercules his reward.

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7. The wardrobe from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia)

The "Wardrobe of Changing" artifact has to be a Narnia reference. I'm sure everyone is familiar enough with Narnia to get the obvious connection!



There's also a "Looking Glass" artifact. Any guesses as to the origin of that? Alice in Wonderland is one possibility, but is there perhaps a magic Looking Glass in another well known tale of the fantastic?

Keep the ideas coming!
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Jeremy Yoder
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It'll be a few days before I get this game (looking forward to it!) so I've not really seen any cards yet I'm waiting to see them in the game rather than find them online.

But you mentioned "Woozles" in your initial post, and I know Woozles are mentioned by A. A. Milne in his Pooh books, from which Disney made a very catchy song I've always loved, as do my kids now...


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Jeremy Yoder
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Upon re-reading your post, you also mentioned a "Cave-Wight." Possibly a reference to the barrow-wights in LotR? *shrug*
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JYoder wrote:
But you mentioned "Woozles" in your initial post, and I know Woozles are mentioned by A. A. Milne in his Pooh books, from which Disney made a very catchy song I've always loved, as do my kids now...

8. The Woozle from Winnie The Pooh

Great suggestion from Jeremy to add this! Here's the quest in question:



From Wikipedia:

Quote:
A Woozle is a weasel-like creature imagined by the characters in the third and ninth chapters of Winnie-the-Pooh. No Woozles actually appear in A. A. Milne's original stories, but the book depicts them as living in cold, snowy places. They are first mentioned when Pooh and Piglet attempt to capture one, which they assume made the tracks in the snow going around a larch spinney. The more they follow them, the more sets of tracks they find, but Christopher Robin shows them that the tracks around the spinney are their own.

Woozles appear in the song "Heffalumps and Woozles" in Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, which establishes their fondness for stealing honey and their association with Heffalumps. In The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Woozles are real creatures. A Woozle named Stan and his sidekick Heff the Heffalump are recurring villains. They once recruited a giant Woozle named Wooster who turned against them when Pooh and his friends taught him the value of friendship. Woozles do not appear in the Disney adaptations nearly as often as Heffalumps do and, unlike Heffalumps, always attempt to act as villains, with Wooster being the only one to change his mind on this.
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Jeremy Yoder
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Funny none of us caught this one earlier, but the very name of the game itself is a changed spelling of the magical world from The Neverending Story: Fantastica.
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JYoder wrote:
Funny none of us caught this one earlier, but the very name of the game itself is a changed spelling of the magical world from The Neverending Story: Fantastica.

9. The world of Fantastica from The Neverending Story



What follows is taken from the Wikipedia page:
Quote:
The Neverending Story (German: Die unendliche Geschichte) is a German fantasy novel by Michael Ende, first published in 1979. The standard English translation, by Ralph Manheim, was first published in 1983. The novel was later adapted into several films.

The majority of the story takes place in the parallel world of Fantastica (Phantásien in the original German version; referred to as Fantasia in the films), a world being destroyed by the Nothing, a mysterious force. The first protagonist is a young warrior who is asked by the Steward of The Empress of Fantastica to set off and find a way to stop the Nothing; the other protagonist is a boy from the real world, a reader of a novel with the same title, for whom the story gradually becomes more and more realistic.
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10. The Raven from George MacDonald's Lilith

Lilith is one of several fantasy novels by George MacDonald, and was a partial inspiration for the "Mischievous Raven" event card.



Here's a plot summary that includes the role of the raven in the story:
Quote:
Mr. Vane, the protagonist of Lilith, owns a library that seems to be haunted by the former librarian, who looks much like a raven from the brief glimpses he catches of the wraith. After finally encountering the supposed ghost, the mysterious Mr. Raven, Vane learns that Raven had known his father; indeed, Vane's father had visited the strange parallel universe from which Raven comes and goes and now resides therein. Vane follows Raven into the world through a mirror (this symbolistic realm is described as "the region of the seven dimensions", a term taken from Jacob Boehme).
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Jeremy Yoder
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Interesting thought with the Raven, but I've never read Lilith, so I can't say. Though in general, Ravens (like coyotes and foxes) have often been depicted as "tricksters" in various forms, ranging from fables, to Native American stories, to Poe's "The Raven", etc, so it makes sense, in that regard, to have a "Mischievous Raven."
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JYoder wrote:
Interesting thought with the Raven, but I've never read Lilith, so I can't say. Though in general, Ravens (like coyotes and foxes) have often been depicted as "tricksters" in various forms, ranging from fables, to Native American stories, to Poe's "The Raven", etc, so it makes sense, in that regard, to have a "Mischievous Raven."

I had corresponded with Alf about this, and he pointed me to Lilith as a specific and partial inspiration for the Mischievous Raven. But the examples you mention are all quite credible too. As you say, the raven is used more often in literature as a trickster - great comments Jeremy!

Keeps those suggestions coming, folks!
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EndersGame wrote:
I had corresponded with Alf about this, and he pointed me to Lilith as a specific and partial inspiration for the Mischievous Raven.


Ah, very cool.

As a result of your findings, I decided to add Lilith to my ever growing reading list, but I remembered from my English masters class on classic fantasy that I had read a book by George MacDonald, but hadn't enjoyed it at all. Curious to see what it was, I found it was Lilith.

Funny... I only remember a white tiger or leopard, and allegories with people sleeping, etc, but no memory of Mr. Vane, a library, or Raven. Mainly because I did not like the content, the writing, or any of the allegories -- none of it clicked with me, but fell flat overall.

So I guess I'll take it off my list, as I'm not a fan of MacDonald, though I'm very glad he inspired others like Lewis and Tolkien.
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JamesT wrote:
The Troll creature is subdued by the horn symbol, a clear reference to the Three Billy Goats Gruff. (Dunno why the Billy Goat creature is subdued by the web symbol, though.)


I always imagined that you use the net or webs to snare the Billy Goat by his horns...
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I love what I've learned from this list. I had no idea that's what a Woozle was! But I loved Winnie the Pooh as a child, so I wouldn't be surprised if that's at work here....whistle
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JYoder wrote:

Upon re-reading your post, you also mentioned a "Cave-Wight." Possibly a reference to the barrow-wights in LotR? *shrug*


Yes, I think so.
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Gary Barnett
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alfseegert wrote:
JYoder wrote:

Upon re-reading your post, you also mentioned a "Cave-Wight." Possibly a reference to the barrow-wights in LotR? *shrug*


Yes, I think so.


Well, I noticed that you referenced the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant elsewhere (Revelstone and Melenkurion Skyweir) and, of course, Cavewights appear directly in that series....
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barnetto wrote:
alfseegert wrote:
JYoder wrote:

Upon re-reading your post, you also mentioned a "Cave-Wight." Possibly a reference to the barrow-wights in LotR? *shrug*


Yes, I think so.


Well, I noticed that you referenced the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant elsewhere (Revelstone and Melenkurion Skyweir) and, of course, Cavewights appear directly in that series....


Yes! I'm currently re-reading The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by listening to the amazing audiobook read by Scott Brick.

I also wrote a short essay on pain inspired by leprosy in Thomas Covenant, available here.

I like your avatar image of the Forestal! Amazing books.
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