Poetry and Candy Lands, 1875
Candy Land was a recurrent theme of popular children’s literature in the late nineteenth century. Poems and stories frequently featured children dreaming of a candy land, or being whisked away by the wind and landing in a candy forest, or taking a train by invitation of the King to a land of Candy. These candy lands represented the ideal of children’s desires: children, like candy, were seen as being sweet and insubstantial. Children, left to their own desires, would be expected to desire nothing so much as unlimited sweets.
“The King of Candy-Land” appeared in a children’s magazine called The Youth’s Companion in 1875. This writer describes a child’s dream of a land of candy, where every lovely thing tastes as good as it looks. In this benign vision, Candy-Land is a land far away from ideas about proper meals and sugar making you sick. There are no nagging grownups here to stand in the way of the child’s pleasure. It’s all candy, and it’s all good.
King of Candy-Land
by Hugh Howard (1875)
I had such a lovely dream last night!
It was truly so fine and grand!
I thought I was king, all alone by myself,
Of a land called Candy-Land!
I dwelt in the great lemon-cocoanut walls
Of a palace just to my taste;
With its furniture made out of all things nice,
From taffy to jujube paste!
With rarest of candies at every turn,
Obedient slaves would wait,
And my throne was studded with peppermint-drops,
And carved out of chocolate!
And O, ’twas such fun as I wandered through
Those beautiful rooms alone,
To bite off a morsel of sofa or chair,
Or nibble a bit of throne!
This poem is somewhat unusual for the “candy land” genre in so far as there are no negative consequences that result from the child’s indulgence in (imaginary) candy. In fact, the child in this poem dreams of having all the power, of being “king, all alone.” When he is put to bed, he is but a powerless child who only gets candy when Mama says yes. But when he enters his dream, he becomes the powerful King who is lavished with candies by his “obedient slaves.” The reversal of power suggests another idea in this poem as well: a rebellion against adult expectations of “proper behavior” and good manners. In Candy-Land, the child is free to lick the walls and bite the furniture and enjoy his own power as king. Back in his mother’s parlor, such destruction would surely result in a spanking.
In the next post, I’ll share an example of a much darker vision of what will happen to children if they give in to their desire for candy.
Source: Hugh Howard, Children’s Column: “King of Candy-Land,” The Youth’s Companion 14 October 1875.