WILL DISNEY CHANGE TOM SAWYER ISLAND?

12 Jan

 

The welcome sign on WDW's Tom Sawyer Island in 2005.

I’m sure we’ve all heard of or read about the recent controversy over a newly-released NewSouth Books edition of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, which changes certain words, including the word “injun,” as in “Injun Joe.”

I grew up in a house in which my father the English teacher read me both Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn when I was very young, and he was careful to explain everything in a historical and respectful context. He also stressed that the word “injun” was, in addition, not only part of a dialect, but also an indicator of education. (Webster’s Dictionary still notes, beside the current definitions, “a common misspelling or typo”[1] of the word Indian, which of course today we use to refer to people from the country India and not indigenous Americans). “Huck and Tom aren’t very educated,” Dad had explained. “So that’s why they talk that way.”

With regard specifically to Twain, Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, this word isn’t just in Twain’s books. It happens to be on many of the signs of the Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom/Disneyland Frontierland Attraction, Tom Sawyer Island, so as we visited the Island in the parks as a kid, I simply took it as bad spelling among all the other badly-spelled words. These signs lend to the charm of the place. Visiting the Island is stepping into Huck and Tom’s world (it’s even rumored that the island itself has a Missouri zip code[2]). Consider the following signage (in some places, the letter ‘S’ is backwards; I’ve denoted that here with a *).

WELCUM!

IF’N YOU LIKE DARK CAVES*, MYS*TERY MINES*, BOTTOMLES*S* PITZ, S*HAKEY BRIDGES N BIG ROCKS* YOU HAVE COME TO THE BES*T PLACE I KNOW. IF’N YOU DON’T LIKE CREEPY OLD S*CARY PLACES* DON’T WORRY……HUCK FINN N MYSELF WUZ PLENTY S*CARED TOO. HUCK WUZ MORE S*CARED THAN ME.

TOM

WUZ NOT HUCK

~

The Harper's Mill sign, WDW's Tom Sawyer Island, 2005.

HARPER’S MILL

THIS HERE DESERTED GRIST MILL WUZ NAMED AFTER MY FRIEN JOE HARPER’S OLD MAN. IF N YOU CHOOZE TO GO INSIDE, PLEASE DON’T SCARE THE BIRDS THAT YOU WILL FIND THERE UNLESS SOME NO GOOD DONE SCARED EM BEFORE YOU DID.

TOM S*AWYER

~

OLD SCRATCH’S MYSTERY MINE

I HAVE EXPLORED MANY OLD MINES, BUT THIS UN IS THE BEST EVER! STRANGE THINGS HAPPEN IN HERE TO KEEP A SHARP EYE OUT AND DON’T STOP FOR NUTHIN!

TOM

And even this, which appears in the fort:

USE COTT’N WHEN S*HOOTN

Nathan--swear to God, the world's biggest Twain fan--in front of Injun Joe's Cave warning sign on WDW's Tom Sawyer Island, 2005.

And then, of course, there is the Island’s big ticket item: Injun Joe’s Cave. Not only are there directional signs everywhere on the Island pointing you in that direction, it is labeled as such, and the following warning is posted for visitors:

DO NOT WURRY…

INJUN JOE AINT BEEN SEEN IN THESS PARTS FOR ALONG TIME. HIS* CAVE IS DEESERTED! P.S. IF N YOU WANT TO MAYBE YOU COULD WURRY JUS*T A LITTLE BIT.

TOM

The cave’s mouth is so dark and emits such terrifying sounds that I didn’t go through it for the first time until I was in my late twenties. It turned out it wasn’t as scary as I thought—but I felt a sense of privilege and really appreciated the resourcefulness of this fictional character, who had done all sorts of clever things to his cave (want a brief tour of the cave? Check it out here at Zannaland: http://zannaland.com/tom-sawyers-island-pictorial-review-part1/)

While it looks as though the controversy is dying down a little bit and it appears, from all the news and blogs I’ve been reading, that most people are not liking this new edition of the book, it does makes me wonder: If this becomes widely accepted, what is Disney, in the wake of all this, going to do about the signs on Tom Sawyer Island?

DO NOT WORRY…

INDIAN JOE HASN’T BEEN SEEN IN THIS AREA IN MANY YEARS. HIS CAVE IS DESERTED. P.S.: IF YOU’D LIKE, YOU COULD WORRY JUST A LITTLE BIT.

TOM

I somehow suspect that if that happens, visiting ‘Indian Joe’s Cave’ just won’t be the same.

Me, in front, and Nathan, in the hat, navigating that crazy barrel bridge on WDW's Tom Sawyer Island, 2005.

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