Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Take me back to Phunnyland...

Some people have noted a screen name I've begun to use over the past year on many websites: JaredofMO. This of course refers to my home state of Missouri, but some Oz and Baum fans have asked if it is a reference to Baum's book The Magical Monarch of Mo.

Actually, this book has an interesting history. It was actually written before The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and Baum had originally intended for it to be published before that famous book, but somehow, it did not come out until 1900, the same time Oz appeared on the market.

Now, at this time, the book was not The Magical Monarch of Mo, but A New Wonderland, telling of the adventures and misadventures of the King of Phunnyland and his family and subjects. The stories were light, whimsical fairy tales, with logic similar to that of Alice in Wonderland: the King escapes a hole by turning it upside-down, two beasts devour each other, and an elephant jumps down it's own throat.

And in Phunnyland, Baum played with ideas he would later use in his Oz books. No one dies in Phunnyland, food, necessities, and other items grow on plants. In one chapter, a prince is dismembered, but his severed body parts find each other and re-attach. In another, another prince is flattened and is restored to three dimensions by an air pump. Baum's second mechanical man appears as a weapon of an antagonist. (The first was a clockwork man in Father Goose: His Book, but Tik-Tok was still his first sentient and intelligent mechanical man.) And all animals talk in Phunnyland, and are held in every bit of esteem as the human citizens.

In 1903, the Bobbs-Merrill company re-issued the book as The Surprising Adventures of the Magical Monarch of Mo and his People, but on the cover, the easier to digest title The Magical Monarch of Mo appeared. (This is, of course, the title most people use when referring to the book.) Phunnyland was changed to Mo, and for alliteration, the king became the Monarch. The opening chapter was re-written. It is this version that is now available today, though many Baum fans would like to see the original.

Both books were illustrated by Frank Ver Beck. His pictures excellently suited Baum's whimsical text: the Monarch is a jolly round fellow, the princes are boyish and heroic, the ladies are slim and fair, and the animals look quite ready to speak.

Baum connected A New Wonderland to The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus in a sentence about how Santa Claus was aided by his fairy friends to get candy to put in children's stockings:
And other Fairies flew to the wonderful Valley of Phunnyland, where delicious candies and bonbons grow thickly on the bushes, and returned laden with many boxes of sweetmeats for the little ones.

So, that connected A New Wonderland to Oz when Santa appears in The Road to Oz. However, a connection to Oz and Mo would surface in time.

In The Patchwork Girl of Oz, the 1913 novel that re-launched the Oz series, Ojo and his friends come across a Wise Donkey who lives with a foolish owl. The Wise Donkey reveals that he is not a native of Oz at all:
"You are wrong in calling me a Munchkin," interrupted the donkey, "for I was born in the Land of Mo and came to visit the Land of Oz on the day it was shut off from all the rest of the world. So here I am obliged to stay, and I confess it is a very pleasant country to live in."

And, in The Scarecrow of Oz, after leaving Pessim's Island, Trot, Cap'n Bill, and Flipper the Ork find their way to the home of the Bumpy Man, "The Mountain Ear," who tells them they are in Mo, and Baum finally got to revisit a fairyland he had created so many years ago. (I mentioned in an earlier blog that Baum may have begun the book as a third Trot and Cap'n Bill story to follow The Sea Fairies and Sky Island, so this may not have originally been a connection to Oz. On second thought, I guess it would, since characters from the Oz books appeared in Sky Island.)

Now, then, of course Phunnyland's mention in The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus is simple, since at the time, the book was about Phunnyland. But now that both countries are connected to Oz, is there a way to reconcile them? There must be, as some maps of the Surrounding Countries of Oz I've seen show the Valley of Mo and write under the title, in parenthesis, "Phunnyland."

In the context of a fictional world, it is possible that Phunnyland had it's name changed. (After all, two-lettered names for countries seemed to become quite the rage in the Nonestic continent, with Oz, Ix, and Ev.) It happened in the real world with Constantinople becoming Istanbul. (Why they changed it, I can't say, people just like it better that way.) The King decided to call himself the Monarch, and they called for a revision of the book of fairy tales about them.

It seems a bit odd that, at this time, no one has adapted the Mo stories in a visual medium. In fact, I only know of one adaptation the book has had, done by Your's Truly. It was a text-based computer game that took elements from many of the stories in the book and put them into one narrative. The goal was to collect iron to strengthen the forceps that you must use to defeat the Purple Dragon. Not exactly the greatest game ever, though I could see it further developed into a "point and click" game.


"So take me back to Phunnyland!
No, you can't go back to Phunnyland!
Been a long time gone, Phunnyland
Why did Phunnyland get the works?
That's nobody's business but Baum's...


Miriam said...

That game was AWESOME!
Couldn't quite reach the end, though. My favorite game was the one in which Button-Bright gathered Ozma's friends by giving them things they needed. I've played that twice through, actually.

Jared said...

Glad you enjoyed the game! I made it five years ago. I actually played it again a couple nights ago, and actually got stuck. I finished in the end, though.

Miriam said...

I remember the Merryland game being really cool, too. Actually, I was like eight the last time I read the book, so it was really cool to have an easy way to live it out again (until I find the book again, that is)!

Anonymous said...

There was asupposedly going to be a TV version around 1960 with a script by Gore Vidal.

Miriam said...

Really? Dammit, why do all these great Oz projects end up in production hell, while we get the dregs!?

Nathan said...

I kind of like the idea that Phunnyland is a name that non-Moians gave the valley. A manuscript that I've started identifies its first discoverer from outside the country as Sir Philip Phunny.

As for the Wise Donkey, I have to wonder how he crossed the desert.

Miriam said...

Also it could have two different names. Hindoostan and India are one and the same.