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It’s easy enough to buy into the idea that Miyamoto’s quote may have been mistranslated or simply misinterpreted by those who read it, but it still feels odd that he felt the need to go out of his way to address the Alice in Wonderland comparison. After all, it just seems so obvious that the idea of Mario eating a mushroom to grow larger would be borrowed from a story that made that very specific idea famous. Why would Miyamoto seem so determined to walk back that idea? 

The answer may have something to do with Alice and Wonderland‘s relationship with psychedelic drugs.

Alice in Wonderland, Drugs, Mushrooms, Fantasy Stories, and Super Mario’s Other Influences

Look, I’m not going to blow anyone’s mind by saying that Alice in Wonderland is now commonly associated with drug use. The idea that the entire story is some kind of hallucinogenic voyage gained momentum in the 1960s, and it’s really only become more popular since then. Jefferson Airplane wrote a song about it, the entire Matrix franchise is based on that idea (in its own way), and everyone from your stoner roommate in college to esteemed literary professors has offered some kind of interpretation of Alice in Wonderland that suggests the whole thing is either about drugs, was written under the influence of drugs, or can be interpreted in a way that makes it easy to see it as an allegory for drugs. It’s not unreasonable to suggest that a lot of people’s minds probably jump to drugs when they hear “Alice in Wonderland.”

However, the fact of the matter is that there’s very little evidence that suggests Alice in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll intended for it to be a story that was “secretly” about drugs or even that he was under the influence of any notable drugs when he wrote the story. In fact, most of the hallucinogenic drugs that Alice in Wonderland is commonly associated with these days (LSD, mushrooms, acid, etc.) either wouldn’t have been available or weren’t recreationally popular at the time that Alice in Wonderland was written. Carrol was known to drink wine from time to time and theoretically could have used some amount of opium during his life (it was a pretty common drug at the time), but there’s certainly nothing to suggest he was experimenting with the kind of hallucinogens that Alice in Wonderland is often associated with or was even especially interested in the subject above other, more prevalent themes in the novel.

As Miyamoto noted in that 2009 interview, mushrooms have also historically been associated with other fantasy realms. The relationship between mushrooms and magic really gained steam in the early 1800s when fantasy writers like the Brothers Grimm became fascinated with the rate at which people were moving out of the country and into cities. Some at the time feared that the migration from the countryside to cities would not only mean that more rural areas would be swallowed by urban expansion but that the folklore, history, and culture of the country would also be lost in the process.

As such, more and more fantasy stories used aspects of nature (such as mushrooms) as a kind of shorthand symbol for the idea of these magical settings where mysticism was still alive. The close relationship between nature and magic wasn’t invented during that time (Shakespeare and others had played with that concept well before then), but that era certainly saw a rise in mushrooms being used to symbolize fantasy lands. 

Source: Den of Geek

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