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Unrecognized familiars?

I've noticed lately that there are quite a few stories (written "long ago") in which characters are either a) not recognized for a reason that seems quite silly now or b) mistaken for another.

Some such stories are as follows:
The Horse and his Boy, C.S. Lewis (1954)
The Prince and the Pauper, Mark Twain (1881)
Cinderella (story dates back to 800 AD)
At least one Shakespeare play.

(If anyone can help me add to this list, that would be great!)

I've always wondered where this concept came from! How is it possible that you could not recognize someone that you knew who was standing right in front of you? Was there a time when people looked so similar that it was easy to mistake them for one another? How is it that this became to be an exceptable literary element? Anyone who has resources that talk about this, please comment! Thanks. :-)


(Also I think it would be interesting to compile a list of works that involve people leaving this world, having adventures that last seemingly months/years/etc only to return and find out it lasted a moment. So far I have Narnia books and Peter Pan.)

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
lordxyyndragon
Jul. 19th, 2006 03:33 am (UTC)
Batman
shigeruhiko
Jul. 19th, 2006 05:18 am (UTC)
the above said Batman, but let's take that a step farther to SUPERMAN. I mean really. Glasses. O.o

Stories, hrm. Oh, there's Gandalf in bits and peices of the Two Towers. Um. . . many enchantresses and witches disguise themselves in old fairy tales.

Um, damn I can't think of many. Shakespear in Love, with the whole woman-disguised-as-a-man thing.

I know there are more, as the theme is kinda common, but I'm a moron and am blanking.
xterminal
Jul. 19th, 2006 01:15 pm (UTC)
(If anyone can help me add to this list, that would be great!)

A really, really awful 80s horror flick called Alone in the Dark (no, not the Uwe Boll monstrosity with Christian Slater-- though this was almost as bad) I saw recently uses it as a main plot point. In fact, I mentioned it in my review as the main reason the movie sucked.

I know I've seen it many times in books, but for the life of me I can't remember a single one right now. Damn.

(Also I think it would be interesting to compile a list of works that involve people leaving this world, having adventures that last seemingly months/years/etc only to return and find out it lasted a moment.

A lot of alternate/parallel universe stuff uses this convention. Yu Watase's series Fushigi Yugi, which I'm reading right now, uses it. I think Pullman's His Dark Materials does as well, but it's been a few years since I read them, and I can't remember for sure.
memeslayer
Jul. 19th, 2006 06:53 pm (UTC)
Was there a time when people looked so similar that it was easy to mistake them for one another?

Maybe it was because gender roles and social status were much more rigid in the past than they are now? Seeing a man in women's clothing (or vice-versa) or a rich celebrity in trashy hobo garb would have been a lot more unexpected a few hundred years ago. Also, people tend to not look very closely when they see what they expect to see. But yeah, it is kinda strange.
tenthz
Jul. 19th, 2006 07:15 pm (UTC)
oooh... good points. I'm just waiting for our resident literary-buff to chime in, but it seems like Cindi is out-to-lunch on this one.

Personally, I think it would make a great thesis for someone!
pumpkingod
Jul. 20th, 2006 02:45 am (UTC)
people tend to not look very closely when they see what they expect to see.
I was just gonna chime in with that, but avast! You beat me to it you scurvey dog! :D 12th Night, of course, comes instantly to mind.

As for the unorthodox / unequal time comparissons, I would have to say that I vaguely remember Madeleine L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in Time" quartet using this principle. I could be wrong as it's been AGES since I read them, but I'm 85% sure that "A Swiftly Tilting Planet" and "Many Waters" involved unequal time between universes / shifts in eras if not the other two books as well. That's the first thing that comes to mind.
memeslayer
Jul. 26th, 2006 06:51 am (UTC)
Something brought this post to my mind again... I forgot to mention before that in the Peter Pan novel, the adventures actually do take place in real time -- the Darlings return to their house something like a year after they left.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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