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“But if you drink from my glass, all my riches are yours.
You will be queen in this palace, and happier than you have ever been.”
Comus, by Margaret Hodges, is a short, picture book version of the archetype, based on an older tale by John Milton. A young girl named Alice (of all things!) becomes separated from her brothers in the strange, dark woods at night when she foolishly suggests they leave her to look for the path home. She is then approached by the adversary, Comus – an evil magician dressed in robes who beguiles her and leads her to his castle. Meanwhile, her brothers are befriended by a good spirit who helps them in their quest to rescue Alice. The castle is filled with creatures part animal, part human, dressed in gaudy costumes. Alice is enthralled, unable to move from her throne, a queen for Comus, who is now revealed as a satyr-type creature. The brothers burst in to fight the adversary, but he escapes. So the good spirit calls on a powerful river goddess for help, who dissolves Alice’s enchantment so they may all leave.
Although this story is missing some points (including the all-important self-motivated qualities of the heroine, who in this case is saved by her brothers rather than saving herself), it still has the spirit of a Girls Underground plot. It is especially reminiscent of a Bluebeard type tale, albeit with a much younger protagonist.
Also notable are the enchanting illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman, which make it worth picking up on their own.
My mother came across this amazing book, The Vege-Men’s Revenge (pictures by Florence K. Upton, verses by Bertha Upton – a mother/daughter team – and originally published in 1897) and was nice enough to pass it on to me. This isn’t really a full-fledged Girls Underground example, as it’s missing most of the salient features, but it is a literal girl-goes-underground story, and it’s also awesomely weird and gruesome, so I just had to add it here.
It tells the story (entirely in rhyming verse!) of Poppy, who is out walking one day, planning to harvest some veggies from the garden, when she is accosted by a couple of anthropomorphic vegetables. They sweet talk her into following them down underground to their kingdom….
Then they pick the Poppy-veggies, cook them, and eat them! After the feast (portrayed in the cover painting, above), they have a wild dance that flies around faster and faster until they all sort of explode in a bang – and it turns out to be all Poppy’s dream (which kind of says something about the strangeness of Poppy’s mind).
I’ll forgive the all-too-common “it was all a dream” ending, but I do love how Poppy’s reaction to this is to gleefully go ahead with her plans to harvest her vegetables, completely unfazed by the dream’s message.