This paper considers how Goto’s book for children, The Water of Possibility (2001), subverts the patterns and motifs of typical Anglo-American children’s literature, and explores its uniqueness and originality, compared with the representative North American children’s story, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900).
First, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz portrays a binary conflict between good and evil, as is often found in conventional Western children’s literature, and the deaths of the evil characters Dorothy repeatedly encounters are clearly depicted. In contrast, in The Water of Possibility, this type of binary conflict is disrupted, and the deaths of the evil characters are never depicted. These characters are depicted as mending their behavior. This indicates that Goto is deconstructing the typical image of the hero and narrative patterns, namely, the clear delineation of good and evil and the pattern wherein the villain dies at the end.
Also, as is often found in Japanese folktales, Living Earth is a country that cannot exist in the real world. Meanwhile, unlike the Land of Oz, no humans other than Sayuri and Keiji exist on Living Earth. This indicates that Living Earth is a world that extends beyond the human world and is separate from it. From the perspective of the findings of Japanese folklore studies, a border exists between the human world and the exterior world, namely, the human world and an alien world. The“ forest” in Living Earth, where Sayuri and Keiji first visit is near the border between the two worlds. Therefore, Yamamba, a character the two children encounter, can be regarded as a guard near the border. The extent to which Goto has inherited and transmitted Japanese concepts into her books is evident.
In addition, one can superimpose the companions that Sayuri encounters, Machigai the fox and Echo the kappa, on the Tin Man, Scarecrow, and Lion from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. However, although the three companions in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz are truly pure and obedient to Dorothy, in The Water of Possibility, Machigai has human hands and Echo commits the crime of betraying Sayuri and Machigai to the squad of kappas that are obedient to Machigai’s Great Uncle Mischief, who is plotting the domination of Living Earth. The character of the fox, Machigai, with human hands, serves as a warning to humans. Now that technology is abundantly developed, there is wisdom and knowledge; however, if they are misused, violations and danger may occur, as the name“ Machigai” (mistake) suggests.
Finally, Goto’s transpacific perspective is also considered in this paper. Goto ties together the cultures of Native Canadians and New Zealand Maoris with the dwelling and songs of Tanuki, who symbolizes Japanese culture, thus demonstrating her empathy toward the indigenous cultures of Canada and New Zealand, which were marginalized by the English people, who were their former colonial rulers. Goto presents them in fusion with Japanese culture. As mentioned above, in The Water of Possibility, Goto dismantles the patterns and motifs used in conventional children’s literature, portrays the racial diversity and multicultural abundance in Canada, and presents ethnic minority identities in an effort to promote children’s growth while showcasing Canada’s multicultural society. Moreover, The Water of Possibility is also notable for Goto’s wisdom and creativity, which can help Canadian children overcome the various difficulties they are likely to encounter in the future.