See this post, The White Knight and the Dodo, for the Lewis Carroll background. The dodo’s only appearance is in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and is the first of the two times Charles Dodgson put himself into the story.
The skinny of the story
Marley should apologize to a substitute teacher for ruining a model volcano. But her friends in Storybook Land need her help in ridding the land of a mountain newly appeared in their land. Furthermore, eerie yodeling can be heard coming from the Matterhorn’s summit. Someone – Marley – must ascend the fearsome heights, solve the mystery, and return with the mythical material: Le Thinair.
Serving as her guide and companion is a guardian angel, Chuck the dodo bird. Hindering our heroes is the villainous Stromboli who schemes to take all the thin air for his greedy self. Together Chuck and Marley conquer the mountain, solve the mystery, and befriend some Swiss misses. And, of course, Marley learns a lesson in graceful apology.
A Guardian Angel on the Matterhorn
During recess Marley fixed the volcano problem. Now, the next volcano her third grade class built would work fine. After entering the classroom, the substitute teacher disputed her assertion and declared the science lab off limits and all science experiments dead for the day, maybe the week. As the returning girls and boys entered Room Six and saw the cracked mountainside of the volcano, some glared at Marley with narrowed eyes and some regarded her with sorrowful eyes.
Feeling all alone and standing by the teacher’s desk she felt wronged by everyone’s condemnation. The sub demanded that Marley apologize to the class. With her arms crossed against her chest, she refused. Speaking quite rudely, the substitute teacher ordered her to the coat closet for a long time out. “A long, long, long timeout,” was what the woman said. Marley went there and in the semi-darkness sat on the floor next to a stack of old and unused books. She determined not to cry but her little sniffles said otherwise. Poor picked on Marley with not a friend in the world – this third-grade classroom world at any rate.
From on high and in a better place, Charles heard the faint sound of sniffles and looked in on the little girl his fellow authors had once helped in a fairytale realm. Being her guardian angel – a loving duty granted by the Heavenly Father – he quickly put himself into one of those old and unused books. Its gold lettering on the cover he caused to glow brightly. Marley, being in a darkened room, noticed the gold colored light pulsating from a large picture book.
“That’s weird,” mumbled Marley. “This book was never in the class library. And it doesn’t look beat up at all.”
Sitting cross-legged on the floor, she set the book on her folded legs, opened it to the title page, and read, The Further Adventures of Marley in Storybook Land. Though astounded by the title, her eyes immediately focused on the illustration of Mr. Badger, Mr. Mole, Mr. Rat, and Mr. Toad standing in front of Toad Hall. And, in the background, off to the side of Mr. Toad’s handsome mansion, she could just make out a little girl being chased by a cloud of flying insects. No, she told herself those aren’t insects. She brought her face closer to the title page, her nose almost touching the paper, and even though they were very small in the picture, she could see that the cloud consisted of fairies. And running from that cloud, waving her hands about her head, the little girl looked to be her.
Suddenly, no longer sitting in a dark coatroom but running across a lawn, Marley had no time to wonder but instead had to busy herself with swatting at the buzzing fairies. As fast as she could she ran toward her friends. Mole called to her, “Quick, Marley. We need to hide inside.”
She followed them inside and Toad shut the door. The fairies buzzed excitedly around the large oaken door, but then, after a few seconds, flew off – probably off to the nail and wing salon to have their wings freshened up.
“Why were they acting so weird?”
“Oh, lassie,” Badger shook his head and whiskers and sadly said, “the Westland pixies and our dear fairies have been out of sorts and a wee bit looney ever since that monster mountain appeared in our land.” He pointed out the window. Marley went to the large paned window and looked outside to see a tall snow covered rocky pyramid of a mountain looming over the hills and canals of Storybook land.
“Where’d that come from?” asked Marley meaning not where did mountains come from. She knew the answer to that, God. But meaning why hadn’t she noticed it before. The others gathered behind her and stared sorrowfully at the immense alpine peak.
“It didn’t rise from the ground,” said Ratty, “because it’s not a smoking volcano.”
“It didn’t fall from the sky,” said Toad. “We would’ve heard the plop of its landing.”
“I don’t think a mountain falling from the sky and onto our land would have gone ‘plop’,” said Ratty. “Probably would’ve made a ‘thud’ sound.”
“Aye, a really loud ‘thud’ which dinna come to our ears ever,” said Badger.
“It came from the future,” announced Mole. Everyone turned to stare at Mole who held a sheet of paper in one hand and an envelope in the other. “Toad, you never opened this letter. It’s from the Board of Creators, and it says, ‘We have redrawn the map. The Matterhorn will no longer exist in Tomorrowland. Henceforth, by the stroke of a mapmaker’s marker, the mountain will exist in Fantasyland of which Storybook Land is a sub-division.”
“That’s it?” asked Ratty. “Some clerk upstairs redrew a map and now we have a mountain to contend with?”
“There’s a P. S.,” said Mole. “If you don’t like it, we’d tell you to lump it, but that mountain is much bigger than a lump, so ha-ha.”
Toad seized the letter from Mole’s paws and tore it up. Ratty and Mole gathered up the pieces of paper and dropped them into the fire place. Badger walked away, headed to the kitchen.
“It’s kind of beautiful,” said Marley. “Don’t you think it adds nicely to the view?”
“Oh, it’s pretty enough to look at,” said Toad. “It’s the eerie sounds we hear coming from the mountaintop that give us the willies.”
The three animals expressed how they felt about eerie sounds by making sour faces. Marley thought to herself, “Those must be some really spooky noises coming from that mountaintop.”
“Aye, lassie, it sends a shiver of fear right down to our bones.” Badger reentered the parlor carrying a black kettle. This he set by the fire to warm it up. Marley watched closely as he broke a large bar of chocolate into the milky contents of the kettle. “We’ll relax by the fire. Soon we’ll have some hot cocoa to wet our whistles. And it won’t be long after that, we’ll hear the faint but fearsome cries from the mountain.”
Each of them sat in a comfy chair facing the fire. More than just the cheery red flames in the fireplace, or the smell of the milk and chocolate mix, being in the company of her good friends made her feel warm inside and out. She contentedly waited to be served a mug of the delicious drink. Mole disappeared for a moment and came back carrying a tray of mugs and a plate of oddly shaped cookies. Into each mug Badger poured a ladle of chocolate brown steaming hot milk. Toad handed her one of the mugs. But before she could sip a tiny amount – it was still steaming hot – Ratty held the plate of cookies in front of her. She picked up one.
“This cookie is shaped like a whistle.”
“But of course, it is, my dear girl,” said Toad as he dipped his cookie into his mug.
Mole patted Marley’s hand. “That’s where the expression, ‘wet one’s whistle’ comes from.”
Wherever it came from, the wetted whistle tasted delicious, as did her thick and tasty warm beverage. She enjoyed her treats while listening to her friends talk about recent games between the fairies and pixies. Before she grew too sleepy eyed, Mole turned to her and asked, “Tell us what is new in your third-grade world.”
Marley sighed and then began the tale of her independent volcano science experiment that, while yielding valuable scientific information, did destroy most of the class-made paper-mache mountain. She, in words of anguish and sorrowful lament, vividly drew a picture of the cold-hearted substitute teacher and her closed-minded classmates. Her face grew stern when she described the smug faces of the boys and girls as she trudged to her coat room banishment. Just in the middle of telling about the lucky finding of the magical book, she stopped. She’d heard a far off but very distinct roar. She looked at the others, but their expressions remained calm and unconcerned.
“Yes, do go on,” said Toad. “It’s rude to quit a story in the middle of the telling.”
“Didn’t you hear that roaring?”
“Oh, that,” said Ratty. “That’s just the abdominal snowmen.”
“They’re called that because of their bubble bellies,” said Mole. “And because they have monstrous belly aches.”
“Probably gobbled up too many snow cones agin,” said Badger. “Daft greedy guts, they are. Will they ever learn?”
“You’ve been to the mountain and met them?” asked Marley.
“Us? Go up those fearsome heights? No, we knew them from when they used to live in the Snow Queen’s village,” said Ratty.
“But the Snow Queen banished them after they’d eaten nearly all the ice cream and snow cones in the Eastland,” said Badger. “Their belly aching kept her up at night.”
“Me, too,” added Mole.
“So, after the mountain appeared in our land, they took one look at its snow covered peak, and straightaway hiked to it.”
“Oh,” said Marley who had heard of something like abdominal snowmen. She sipped the last of her warm and tasty chocolate milk, and then with the mug still touching her lip she froze. The sound of faraway quavering high-pitched voices, probably female, faintly came to her ears. She tilted her head to hear better. The others stared at her.
“I see that you have your head tilted,” said Mole. “That’s clever. It does improve one’s hearing.” Mole and the others tilted their heads and then their mouths dropped open.
“It’s them!” cried out Toad.
“Oh, fearsome eerie banshees of doom!” shouted Ratty.
“Now, now, now. Let’s not scare the poor child,” said Mole.
“I’m not scared,” said Marley. “Let’s go outside to hear it better.”
Badger led the way, stopping by the door to take up his walking staff while saying, “I call this my fearsome cudgel.” Toad grabbed his favorite cricket bat and said, “I call this, Mean Mr. Chirp.” Not seeing much left by the front door Ratty picked out a short stick from the woodpile and said, “I shall call you, Mr. Baton.” Mole went to the kitchen and brought back a long thin loaf of bread. As Marley followed Mole out the door, he broke off a piece and handed it to her while saying, “This bread loaf I call a baguette.” Marley put the piece of still warm bread in her mouth and thought: Whatever one calls it, it’s delicious.
Outside, under the twilight sky, a numerous crowd of Eastland folk had gathered on the grassy slope in front of Toad Hall – it had the Eastland’s best view of the mountain which they all stared at as if in a trance. The Storybook folk were mostly silent and only occasionally whispered to one another. Badger led the way to the back of the crowd where they too paused to listen. From the peak of that towering mountain of rock and ice the quavering sing song came to them.
Marley listened and then brightened with a thought she just had to share with Mole by whispering into his ear. “It sounds a little like Tarzan, in the jungle movies. Except it sounds more like singing.”
“Singing, yes,” whispered Mole, “but the singers can’t seem to decide which voice they’re going to use, their normal singing voice or that eerie high-pitched voice.”
“It’s kind of pretty,” said Marley.
“She’s not spooked by the eerie sounds!” shouted Toad.
“She can be our hero!” cried out a voice in the crowd.
“Heroic by doing what exactly?” asked the Blue Fairy.
Marley’s friends and the whole crowd of Eastland folk turned to her. Except for Mole her friends looked thoughtful and as if they were sizing her up for an adventure of unknown outcomes. Badger turned to the crowd and shouted, “Who said the lassie could be our hero? Step forward and explain yourself!”
From out of the crowd emerged a large top hat and under that hat was the Mad Hatter. He smiled at Marley and then began his explanation to Badger. “She could go to the mountain, couldn’t she? Climb a little way up and ask anybody who happens to be up there just what kind of monster is making those eerie sounds and then begging their pardons, of course, ask them the simple question of…”
Under the glaring regard of the Badger’s fierce stare the Mad Hatter’s voice faded to nothing. But then Pinocchio spoke up. “Of why and what for.”
The crowd began to excitedly talk among themselves. Some turned hopeful faces toward Marley. Mole shook his head and her three other friends had doubtful expressions on their faces. Toad’s doubt melted a bit and so he mused, “Well, she did destroy the last mountain she was involved with.”
“She’s a mountain killer!” shouted Geppetto.
“Hold on, dear friends and neighbors,” said Mole. “We can’t send her up there all alone.” Ratty, Toad and Badger nodded their heads.
“Aye, that we canna do,” said Badger. “And while I’m not a-feared to ascend those heights, I am purely an underground beastie.”
“I never leave the riverbank myself,” said Ratty.
“It’s a canal,” muttered Pinocchio.
“I’ll go,” said Mole.
“Nobly spoken, my brave friend,” said Badger. “But you’re every bit of an undergrounder yourself.”
“Well, maybe,” said Ratty huffily because he’d felt Pinocchio’s correction rather disrespectful, “we should have Marley accompanied by a bird.”
“Because birds can fly high?” asked Mole. “And that mountain is ever so high?”
“Excellent reasoning,” said Badger. “Now, which Eastland bird would be best suited for the job?”
“You know, back in Wonderland,” said the Mad Hatter, “there is Chuck.”
“What’s a dodo bird?” asked Marley who’d been to the zoo more than once and had never seen such a bird there.
“My dear,” said the Toad, “Everyone knows that the dodo is an angelic bird famous for its faithfulness and, most importantly, it has the rare distinction of being quite extinct.”