Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Gnome King and the Nome King

Yes, a blog about our favorite Ozian villain, King Ruggeddo of the Nomes, formerly King Roquat of the Rocks.

We all know that Roquat made his debut in Ozma of Oz:

This important monarch of the Underground World was a little fat man clothed in gray-brown garments that were the exact color of the rock throne in which he was seated. His bushy hair and flowing beard were also colored like the rocks, and so was his face. He wore no crown of any sort, and his only ornament was a broad, jewel-studded belt that encircled his fat little body. As for his features, they seemed kindly and good humored, and his eyes were turned merrily upon his visitors as Ozma and Dorothy stood before him with their followers ranged in close order behind them.

"Why, he looks just like Santa Claus--only he isn't the same color!" whispered Dorothy to her friend; but the Nome King heard the speech, and it made him laugh aloud.

"'He had a red face and a round little belly That shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly!'"

quoth the monarch, in a pleasant voice; and they could all see that he really did shake like jelly when he laughed.


Santa Claus? Hmmm... You know, that reminds me of a scene in Baum's The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus...

His (Santa Claus') first act was to visit the Gnome King, with whom he made a bargain to exchange three drums, a trumpet and two dolls for a pair of fine steel runners, curled beautifully at the ends. For the Gnome King had children of his own, who, living in the hollows under the earth, in mines and caverns, needed something to amuse them.


Well, first off, we notice that the king in Baum's biography of Santa is the Gnome King, not the Nome King. (You realize reading that aloud will make no sense...)

Oz and Baum fans have wondered if these two kings are connected, as Baum wrote the word "Nome" in Ozma to be the same as "Gnome," but written in a style that children would find easier to pronounce. (Ruth Plumly Thompson changed the spelling to "Gnome" in her Oz stories.)

You know, I wonder if he had the same idea in mind for The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus, but maybe an editor at Bobbs-Merrill thought it was a misspelling. Baum wasn't happy with Bobbs-Merrill's editions of his works, since they were mainly a large reprint house. When Reilly & Britton offered to make him their star author, he was only too glad to jump for it. Sadly, this is nothing but my conjecture, and could only be verified or disproven by an examination of the manuscript, which, to my knowledge, no longer exists. (Boy, I can digress... This paragraph was going to be a parentheses.)

Some fans argue that the existence of gnome children is proof that the two kings are not the same. I have to disagree, though Baum never mentions the Nomes having children. All the same, just because someone or something isn't mentioned, doesn't mean it's not there. And even though her books aren't the best, Nome children play an important part in Sherwood Smith's Trouble Under Oz, one being a child of Roquat/Ruggedo.

Other fans say that the Gnome King is pretty jolly. Well, we saw that Roquat in Ozma could be jolly as well in that quote above. Yet, the Nome King of the Oz books is best remembered as a villain... Or is he?

...Tiktok spoke.

"Why should you fight the Nome King?" he asked. "He has done no wrong."

"No wrong!" cried Dorothy. "Isn't it wrong to imprison a queen mother and her ten children?"

"They were sold to the Nome King by King Ev-ol-do," replied Tiktok. "It was the King of Ev who did wrong, and when he re-al-ized what he had done he jumped in-to the sea and drowned him-self."

"This is news to me," said Ozma, thoughtfully. "I had supposed the Nome King was all to blame in the matter. But, in any case, he must be made to liberate the prisoners."

"My uncle Evoldo was a very wicked man," declared the Princess Langwidere. "If he had drowned himself before he sold his family, no one would have cared. But he sold them to the powerful Nome King in exchange for a long life, and afterward destroyed the life by jumping into the sea."

"Then," said Ozma, "he did not get the long life, and the Nome King must give up the prisoners. Where are they confined?"

"No one knows, exactly," replied the Princess. "For the king, whose name is Roquat of the Rocks, owns a splendid palace underneath the great mountain which is at the north end of this kingdom, and he has transformed the queen and her children into ornaments and bric-a-brac with which to decorate his rooms."

"I'd like to know," said Dorothy, "who this Nome King is?"

"I will tell you," replied Ozma. "He is said to be the Ruler of the Underground World, and commands the rocks and all that the rocks contain. Under his rule are many thousands of the Nomes, who are queerly shaped but powerful sprites that labor at the furnaces and forges of their king, making gold and silver and other metals which they conceal in the crevices of the rocks, so that those living upon the earth's surface can only find them with great difficulty. Also they make diamonds and rubies and emeralds, which they hide in the ground; so that the kingdom of the Nomes is wonderfully rich, and all we have of precious stones and silver and gold is what we take from the earth and rocks where the Nome King has hidden them."

"I understand," said Dorothy, nodding her little head wisely.

"For the reason that we often steal his treasures," continued Ozma, "the Ruler of the Underground World is not fond of those who live upon the earth's surface, and never appears among us. If we wish to see King Roquat of the Rocks, we must visit his own country, where he is all powerful, and therefore it will be a dangerous undertaking."


In this quote, we get a good, all-around look at the Nome King. He seems to be, in fact, not inherently evil, but is more comparable to a loan shark, or a bank who is ready to repossess. (Baum dealt with several through his life.) He's ready to take back what is his, which happens in the Oz series. He made a deal with Evoldo, and kept his end of the bargain. Ozma takes a bargain he offers, and sure enough, Billina wins the bargain in the side of Oz fair and square. (Notably, she made a deal with the Nome King to take part in the bargain.) Ozma takes the Magic Belt, and his scheme to conquer Oz in The Emerald City of Oz was to get the Belt back. (While Ozma could be seen as confiscating the Belt, it is notable that she may have been overstepping her boundaries, though it's actually Dorothy and Billina who take the belt, but Ozma didn't return it.) After Emerald City, Roquat becomes Ruggedo, and adopts a more villainous attitude.

The whole bargaining bit does seem to match the Gnome King. He does bargain with Santa for toys for his children in return for an item Santa wants. Likely Santa's compliant attitude towards him warms him up to voting for Claus' "reward" at the climax of The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus, this way he can make more deals with a client who keeps his end of the bargain. Remember that by Ozma of Oz, the Nome King is feeling bitter that other humans are taking his minerals without a proper exchange. (I once theorized that perhaps his ornament collection was the result of many exchanges he'd made for use of metal and stone.)

So, is the Gnome King of The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus the same as the Nome King of the Oz books? I think so.

(Everyone is welcome to disagree.)

16 comments:

Oz RPG said...

Also, don't forget that Santa Claus visited Oz in "The Road to Oz", bringing his stories into the Oz canon. It's much easier to accept a misspelling than to assume that there are Nomes and Gnomes running around getting confused with each other.

Jared said...

Actually, there was an earlier connection to Oz. In an episode of "Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz," the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, Jack Pumpkinhead, and the Woggle-Bug make toys based on themselves and the Sawhorse and give them to Santa Claus in the Laughing Valley for distribution.

S.P. Maldonado said...

I always thought that the Gnome King from Santa Claus might have been a relative of Roquat.

Nathan said...

If we take Thompson's statement in PIRATES that Roquat/Ruggedo is 1000 years old literally, then he's probably not old enough to be the SANTA CLAUS Gnome King (since the trading took place BEFORE Santa was made immortal). I'll admit that the characters are similar, though, and Thompson wasn't necessarily all that accurate about the Nome's age. I know John Bell has suggested that the children in SANTA CLAUS might be captured humans, since the Nomes show a tendency toward keeping surface-dwellers as prisoners.

Oz RPG said...

Try this on for size. A quote from "Rinkitink in Oz"

"It isn't that," said King Kaliko, with a groan, "but she insists on the nomes being goody-goody, which is contrary to their natures. Dorothy gets angry if I do the least thing that is wicked, and tries to make me stop it, and that naturally makes me downhearted. I can't imagine why she has come here just now, for I've been behaving very well lately. As for that Wizard of Oz, he's chock-full of magic that I can't overcome, for he learned it from Glinda, who is the most powerful sorceress in the
world. Woe is me! Why didn't Dorothy and the Wizard stay in Oz, where they belong?"

Jared said...

I've always found that quote to be a little odd. In earlier books, "Tik-Tok of Oz" especially, Kaliko always seemed pretty gentle, unless he's let this King business go to his head.

Oz RPG said...

That's what I'm thinking. Also of interest, Kaliko is described in that scene as wearing a diamond crown, while Roquat/Ruggedo did not wear any sort of crown, as per your quote from "Ozma".

Jared said...

Well, it seems he got one later. "The Emerald City of Oz," chapter one:

"The King looked around for something to throw at General Blug, but as nothing was handy he began to consider that perhaps the man was right and he had been talking foolishly. So he merely threw himself into his glittering throne and tipped his crown over his ear and curled his feet up under him and glared wickedly at Blug."

Nathan said...

Well, the original draft of RINKITINK was written before OZMA, and later revised to be an Oz book. Since Baum apparently wanted the book to fit into the series in order, he was stuck using Kaliko as the Nome King, but this wouldn't have been the case originally.

As for crowns, is it possible he originally regarded the Magic Belt as his badge of office, and only started wearing a crown after Dorothy took the Belt? In LUCKY BUCKY, the Nomes obey Bucky simply because he's wearing the King's crown, which he takes from Kaliko.

Oz RPG said...

That's very likely, Nathan. The crown that Ruggedo wears in "Emerald City" doesn't get any description, meaning it's likely just a badge of office. Kaliko's crown is embellished with diamonds, which may help to represent all of the power going to Kaliko's head.

Nathan said...

In TIK-TOK, Ruggedo wears "a superb crown cut from a single blood-red ruby." It's also a ruby crown that shows up in LUCKY BUCKY, so maybe Neill was remembering this description. I believe the crown that Bilbil smashes is described as Kaliko's second-best, so maybe the ruby one is his very best.

Oz RPG said...

A diamond crown being only second best? Seems a bit unlikely.

But then, a crown cut from a single ruby is impressive. The diamond crown may simply have been embellished with diamonds.

Nathan said...

When Bilbil smashes Kaliko's crown, there's a reference to "the diamond-studded band of the crown," so I guess the rest of it isn't made of diamonds. Besides, a solid diamond crown wouldn't be destroyed by hitting a wall, would it?

Nuria "iluvendure" said...

hello, this blog is really interesting. It was a wonderful discovery for me(I am a Spanish fan of the writing of Frank L. Baum).

I really have always thought that Roquat was the same character mentioned in "Life and Adventures of Santa Claus." Or also Roquat could be a son or a descendant Of this king "gnome" with G. But ... well, the book says about the immortals:

"All the immortals are full-grown;
there are no children among them"

How can king gnome have children? It is a peculiar contradiction in story

My writer in English is not very good, Sorry

Nathan said...

Whether it's the same Nome King in the Oz books and "Santa Claus" might depend on how literally you take the "Pirates" reference to Ruggedo being 1000 years old. If he were born in the tenth century, that's probably too young to have been around at the start of Santa's career.

As for the lack of children among the immortals, not only does the Gnome King have children, but so does the King of the Light Elves. We either have an inconsistency here, or there's a lot about immortal relationships we don't know. (I'm guessing both.)

Nuria "iluvendure" said...

Certainly, if Roquat only is 1000 years old, it is impossible that he is the same king gnome mentioned in " the Life and adventures... ". Though both Kings have a similar personality (Nevertheless, Roquat showed his more vile instincts in later books)

TRUE! I did not remind the king of the elfs, but it is true, he had children.
I remember also that Jack Frost is the son of the Frost King and the fairy Polychrome is the daughter of the Rainbow. Though I do not remember that Baum was mentioning that they were children or had an infancy. (Though he does not deny this either. Simply it is not mentioned, it is not important for the story))

As you say, there is a lot about immortal relationships we don't know. Sad, because The children of the immortals are a nice idea to develop in other stories