Friday, July 31, 2009


I get a few questions, so I figured I should answer some.
  • Isn't your name actually Jared? That is my birth name, yes, and when I wrote several of my first published works and blogs, I was going by that name. "Jay" is the name I prefer now.
  • Are you affiliated with the International Wizard of Oz Club? No. I am a member of the Club, but all of my Oz projects, whether or not they involve other Club members, are not endorsed by the Club or any other organization.  Yes, I am. I currently help edit the "Oz and Ends" section of The Baum Bugle. This blog, my podcast, and any of my other sites, however, are not affiliated with the Club. (They don't even link to me.)
  • Can I get your help with my Oz story? No. I did do a blog sometime back advising that I be e-mailed prior to sending me anything, but recently, I'd just prefer not to get involved. After all, it's not like I'm a published author... I am open to giving advice, but you must understand that I now also write Oz fiction. By communicating with me, you take the risk of my accidentally stealing your idea. I don't mean to, but later on, I might remember the idea, but not that it was yours. Or perhaps we could collaborate.
  • Why won't you talk to me? Because I have the option. Some people have expected me to maintain correspondence with them, and frankly, I don't have the time. Aside from the various Oz projects, I have a job and other things to do that are not Oz-related, so expecting (and in some cases, demanding) a correspondence can come off as rude and inconsiderate.
  • Hey, can I see your Oz screenplay? Unless you're a movie studio executive or my fellow screenwriter, or someone who I'd really trust (in which case, you wouldn't ask), no.
  • Can you send me ____'s contact information? Unless it's definitely a matter for the greater good, I do not share anyone else's contact information without their consent.
  • You used a clip from ____ in one of your videos! How do I get that? Look around. I amassed my Oz video collection by being a smart shopper and looking for good deals and people selling from their own collection.
  • How do you make a podcast? Various ways. A podcast can be one or more people speaking on a certain subject, or a variety of subjects, usually tied to the same topic. This is recorded and released online. I tend to use Skype and edit my recordings with Audacity. You can read more about the podcast at the Podcast's FAQ page.
  • How do I get so many views? In my case, it happened after I put myself out where other Oz fans are. Get to your intended audience, let them know you're there. And be attractive. I started with text-based video games, reviews, online e-texts, and now do blogs, podcasts, and videos. No one is interested in a plain vanilla website with no interesting content. They might look, but they're not sticking around. (Oh, and having good manners helps.)
  • How do I make money with my Oz enthusiasm? After I make a red cent with mine, I'll get back to you. I'm not in this for money or attention. If you are, you're talking to the wrong guy. I just want to provide quality Ozzy content for Oz fans and encourage activity in the Oz community. EDIT: For those curious, I have set up an Amazon affiliate and the Zazzle store. All funds (if any) from those are going to help pay for the hosting for the podcast (I switched it over to a paid account), and for the website I'm still trying to find a good host for.
  • Hey, you didn't mention ____ on your blog, so let me fill you in... While I like getting Ozzy news, the Royal Blog of Oz is not, and has never been, a news site. There are various sites to keep up on Ozzy news, including this great site. A number of people write me to tell me about things that I haven't mentioned on my blog. I'm not trying to maintain a news site, so I'm not posting blogs about every bit of news I hear. Of course I've done some, but don't expect me to blog about everything!
  • Can you announce this for me on your blog? Maybe. E-mail me with it. Remember that doing so is just a favor and I am under no obligation to pass along announcements.
(I'm going to link to this in the sidebar. I may update it when a new question arises.)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Dot & Tot of Merryland

I suppose this book could be seen as the end of a trilogy: the Baum/Denslow collaboration. The two broke onto the children's book scene in 1899 with Father Goose: His Book, became best-sellers the next year with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (which would be the crown jewel for both men), and then ended their partnership in 1901 with Dot & Tot of Merryland. (I did not count The Songs of Father Goose as Baum's involvement was minimal. The lyrics were his, but they had not been written for this project.)

Why Baum and Denslow ended their partnership here has always been a matter of debate. Some say it was because Denslow felt cheated with his royalties for The Wizard of Oz musical, but as this was about a year later, I find it hard to believe.

The more reasonable idea that has been going around is that Baum and Denslow had become independent of each other. I think so, though I do think that the closing of the Geo. M. Hill Company (who had published these books) was a factor in this.

Another possible factor is that Baum was not happy that Denslow used his characters without his permission, although Denslow was in his rights, as the two men had copyrighted their works together. While we often cite Denslow's The Scarecrow and the Tin-Man comic page as an example, it must not be forgotten that Denslow did some Father Goose pages beforehand.

So, with seemingly bright careers for both Baum and Denslow, why did they separate? We will never know for certain. It seems neither was particularly incensed against the other, but they never worked together again, aside from The Wizard of Oz musical. (I believe I recall that they were not exactly "chummy" in their meetings on that project, but I'm not sure.) What we do know is that Denslow died of pneumonia in 1915, penniless and drunk. Baum died of a stroke in 1919, not exceedingly rich, but enough to secure a home for his widow for the rest of her life.

But enough of that. Dot & Tot of Merryland opens with a little girl, Evangeline Josephine Freeland (or "Dot," as she is usually called, though "Dot" is a noticeable shortened form of the name "Dorothy), going to stay on an estate called Roselawn for her health.

One thing anyone who has read a decent Baum biography should know is that Roselawn was the name of the home that Baum grew up in Syracuse, New York. His detailed description of Roselawn shows that he definitely had some affection for the home of his boyhood days.

I almost wonder if Dot's illness was a little bit of Baum (he was a rather ill child) added to the character. Once could easily read into this and think that Baum felt that his health laid in his childhood, but that might be going in too deep. Some might also read into it the illness of his infant niece Dorothy. That may also be too deep.

Playing one day, Dot meets Tot Thompson, the Gardener's son. The two become fast friends and playmates and Dot plans a picnic by the river bank. The next day, the two set out for the river and find a boat. Climbing in it to play, they get so caught up that they don't realize they're being taken far from the shore until it is too late.

This is a gentler form of what Baum often did in his Oz stories: nature giving way to a land of fantasy. In the Oz books, it happens by way of a cyclone, a storm at sea, an earthquake, or a whirlpool. Each time, the characters likely expect they will die, but they survive and find themselves in quite a different place than they expected.

So it is with Dot and Tot: they are swept into a tunnel and arrive in a stony valley. Here, they meet the first odd inhabitant of Merryland: the Watchdog, an old man with a long beard that covers his entire body. He tells them where they are and they are forbidden to enter Merryland. However, as Dot and Tot can't go back and can't stay, they've no choice but to go on, and the Watchdog, being powerless to stop them, lets them.

The first of the seven Valleys of Merryland is the Valley of the Clowns. It is here that the "real" clowns are trained until they're ready to go join a circus. (It is explained that false clowns are not so amusing.) Dot and Tot stay the night with Prince Flippityflop, who offers them odd foods to eat, like pickled shoelaces and fried goldfish, and suggests they eat sawdust to keep them from becoming damp inside.

One cannot read very deeply into this book, where Baum has secluded the stereotypical delights of children in Valleys. The clowns' logic, however, is pure Baum humor. "You certainly can't expect wisdom in a country of Clowns," Flippityflop says, which sums it up well.

The next valley, they find, is made entirely of candy, with many of the people being made of stick-candy and marshallows. (Later on, we find out about chocolate servants and licorice children.) Because they are made of candy, when someone "dies" (or gets broken into too many pieces to be mended), they are divided among their best friends and eaten.

This chapter was not exactly controversial, but when Books of Wonder reprinted the book in 1994, they removed the reference to the servants being made of chocolate, as well as a remark that they were untrustworthy. This was of course so one could not claim that it was humor at an ethnic group's expense. One can't call Baum a racist for this, as such jokes were made all the time in his day.

The next valley is full of babies that fall from the sky in blossoms, where they are cared for by storks before being taken into the world. Yes, this is where babies come from. We don't care what your biology lessons told you...

The next Valley is the home of the Queen. Dot and Tot are confronted by little wooden soldiers, who are another of Baum's classic lampooning of the military: they're there to look pretty but are otherwise useless. The Queen herself is a large wax doll who lives in a palace where the servants are dolls. The Queen decides to adopt Dot and Tot as her princess and prince. The people of the city around the palace are also dolls, but these are asleep except when the Queen decides to awaken them. This gives the Queen a dark edge: she is in complete control of her subjects. Should they prove unmanageable, as they do when Dot and Tot spend a day with them while the Queen speaks with the Watchdog, she can put them to sleep with a few waves of her fairy wand.

Dot asks the Queen her name a few times, but the Queen is interrupted before she can answer. This happens a few more times in the book.

The Queen accompanies Dot and Tot through the remaining valleys, the first being a paradise of cats who have nothing to do but lounge around and eat all day and screech at the moon at night. (It seems the Baum family had a cat they were fond of. In a card commemorating their anniversary that Baum wrote, he noted that one of the few times that Maud was in tears was when their cat had died.)

The next valley is run by Mr. Split: a man made of various types of wood who splits in two so he can wind up his mechanical animals twice as fast. This is Baum's interest in new technologies and old creating psuedo-life forms with them, a theme he would more famously re-visit in Tik-Tok the Clockwork Man, who debuted in Ozma of Oz. Baum also had another wooden man who was made to live up to his name in John Dough & The Cherub.

The final valley is very somber: it is filled of heaps of lost things: pins, needles, overshoes, toys, even wallets and money. Tot manages to find a doll he had lost, and the Queen lets him keep it, since it no longer belongs in a place for lost things, since he now knows where it is.

Here, the Queen makes her decision: Dot and Tot will never be fully happy in Merryland, and as this is against Merryland's most important law, she allows them to go home, by sending them through the exit tunnel from Merryland, which she closes after they pass through.

Dot and Tot arrive home at Roselawn, where they find both of their fathers looking for them. (Baum established in later works that he believed that no one should be looked down on because of their station, but seen as equals.) Later, Tot tells Dot he has deduced the Queen's name.

Like I said, this book is not one of Baum's deepest. Surely many bits were based on things Baum loved as a child and through his life. If you look into it too deeply, you lose the entertainment of the story, which is simply delightful and fun.

There are a few text-only editions of Dot and Tot of Merryland available. The only recent illustrated edition was the 1994 edition illustrated by Donald Abbott, instead of reprinting Denslow's illustrations. Abbott's illustrations were modeled on Denslow's style, but whatever charm Denslow had in his un-childish children, circus animals and clowns, Abbott failed to replicate. If you dig around, you can find a copy of this.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Here we go...

I'd like to challenge my readers to do this: write up the titles and premise of Oz stories you thought of but never wrote (or never finished writing). If you have a blog, post it on your blog and leave a link to it in the comments section. If you don't, just leave a comment.

And so I don't come off as mean, here's mine.
Zeb in Oz Zeb Hugson returns to Oz.

The Apocalypse of Oz (Maybe the title is a little extreme.) When magic stops working in Oz, it is up to the Wizard, Dorothy, Betsy Bobbin, Trot, Cap'n Bill, and Button-Bright to find out what's going on, how to stop it, and restore magic back to Oz.

The Lonesome Zoop of Oz The Lonesome Zoop (from the Oz Film Manufacturing Company) makes his debut in the Oz series. (Why do I get the feeling someone already did that?)

The Fountain of Youth in Oz/The Magic Fountain of Oz (I went with the first, more unwieldly title, because the second one could easily refer to the Fountain of Oblivion.) Using some of my previous story ideas, Zeb returns to Oz as an elderly man. He later finds the Fountain of Youth, guarded by the Lonesome Zoop, who imprisons him. Woot the Wanderer and Ugu the dove befriend Zeb in prison, while Button-Bright, the Shaggy Man, the engaged couple Jeeseva and Danx (also from the Oz Film Manufacturing Company's films), and Jinjur's son Perry set out to find the Fountain and set the prisoners free. The story would explain why people in Oz stay young or feel younger: there's something in the water. I got pretty far into it, then I tried to write in Captain Fyter and the whole thing got bogged down. (Oddly enough, the unfinished draft ends with them finding Captain Fyter in a swamp, so when I say "bog," I mean "bog.")

Nonestica: The Story of Oz From The Beginning I actually finished the first draft of this one! In a mythology that wound up resembling The Silmarillion (which I never finished reading), the creation of Oz, the surrounding countries, and even Sky Island is explained. The origins of the Nome King, the Wicked Witches, Ozma, Mombi, Queen Zixi of Ix, and Queen Coo-ee-oh and the Adepts are revealed. In the end, I decided it was not an entertaining story. When I later ran into someone else who had a similar idea using Nonestica as a series title, I was happy to let him have it.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Oz: The Manga Podcast (Part 1)

I know, we recorded it last month, and it's just now getting up. Here is part one of the Oz: The Manga podcast featuring Sam Milazzo and I discussing the first series. Part two, featuring The Land of Oz: The Manga and The Land of Oz: The Manga - Return to the Emerald City will be up soon. We recorded both at the same time, but I decided to split it into two podcasts.

Here is the link for part one.

Or if you don't want to go to another site, use the player below:

Saturday, July 18, 2009

I know...

Before you all start in, I know that the Japanese game Riz-Zoawd, based on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, is getting an American localization. It seems they've licensed the MGM movie's brand and are calling it The Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road.

Before you ask my thoughts, let me tell you this: I have not played the game, so my thoughts are being reserved until a time comes that I can. It's almost become a pre-requisite that anything with the name Oz should be approached with a low expectation. That way if it's better than your expectation, you get pleasure, and if it doesn't, you don't get disappointed.

After all, remember the last video game that got a license from the MGM movie?

The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus

Also in the series of books connected to the Oz series through The Road to Oz, (we've covered The Magical Monarch of Mo, Sky Island, and Queen Zixi of Ix) is The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus.

I re-read this book in either December or late November every year, and have taken to writing a blog about it each year. Instead of my little analysis, here are links to my previous blogs about it:
A Holiday Tradition
The Tradition Is Shared!
Santa Talks
Ranking of Fairies?
More On Santa And The Immortals

In December this year, I hope to obtain an edition of Mike Ploog's graphic novel adaptation and look at some of the adaptations the story has had through the years.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Queen Zixi of Ix

Probably L. Frank Baum's finest 1905 work was Queen Zixi of Ix. Originally serialized in St. Nicholas magazine, Edward Wagenknecht called it one of the best fairy tales ever written by anyone. Baum struck a way to mix his witty humor and love for the bizarre with the traditional European fairy tale.

The story opens in the Forest of Burzee (first introduced in The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus), where Queen Lulea and her band dance nightly. But the night that the story opens on, Lulea is tired of dancing, and wants to do something else. The fairies then make a Magic Cloak that will grant each wearer one wish, whatever it is, unless the wearer has intentionally stolen it. The Man in the Moon advises the Fairies to give the cloak to the most unhappy person they can find.

Some think Lulea and Queen Lurline (first mentioned in The Tin Woodman of Oz) may be the same. I'm not so sure. Lurline seems to be almost a goddess, while Lulea seems to be the queen of the Fairies who care for humans. I would definitely think that Lulea is the unnamed Fairy Queen who appears in The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus, though.

The same night, in the City of Nole (when you consider a map of the Nonestic continent, between Noland and Burzee is the Land of Oz, so it's quite a way off), the King of Noland dies, and his counselors must discover how to select the next king, as there was no heir. Finally, they turn to the Book of Laws, which tells them that the next morning, the 47th person who enters the City will be the new King.

This was not Baum's first time of letting a ruler be chosen almost at random: in "Old King Cole" in Mother Goose in Prose, a counselor is blindfolded and walks the streets, the first person who he touches is the new king.

Here the story goes back several days and introduces a ferry man who lives in Noland, and his daughter Margaret, or "Fluff," and his son Timothy, or "Bud." One night, he is killed while ferrying a passenger during a storm. The children's Aunt Rivette, a laundress from Nole, comes to take the children to live with them, the journey being hard for the children, and Rivette being a firm believer in "spare the rod and spoil the child."

I once started writing a script based on Queen Zixi that also borrowed from it's silent screen adaptation The Magic Cloak of Oz. I had the idea that Rivette was just making ends meet with her work in Nole, and she was not a generally nasty woman, it's that her brother's sudden death and the family responsibility of taking care of his children got to her. Too bad I never finished that script. Maybe I'll do another draft someday.

Upon reaching an inn outside of Nole, Rivette and the children spend the night in a stable, and in the morning, Fluff is greeted by a youth who asks her if she is unhappy. When she confirms his suspicion, he gives her the Magic Cloak, which had just been woven the night before (so now two of the story lines have been tied together), and Fluff uses it to be happy again.

The youth is Ereol, one of the fairies in the first chapter, who has taken a disguise. This is one of the last times there was any gender-bending in Baum's stories. Strangely, most of the time it happened to a fairy, and not a human. It happened with the fairy in The Enchanted Island of Yew, the famous case of Tip in The Marvelous Land of Oz, and now here. The last one was King Gugu being changed into a fat Gillikin Woman in The Magic of Oz.

Finally, Rivette and the children enter Nole, where Bud is declared the 47th person to enter the gates, and the new King of Noland. He and Fluff are taken straight to the palace, going literally instantly from rags to riches. They are given new clothes, good meals, and all the toys they ever wanted.

However, the pleasure has a price, and Bud must attend to his matters of state, even when Aunt Rivette demands to be allowed to live in the palace.

Don't worry, now we're getting to the fun part. Aunt Rivette asks to go shopping for new clothes, and asks Fluff to loan her the Magic Cloak to cover up her old clothes. Fluff does this, but Rivette doesn't get to the shops before meeting with a curious incident: the shops being a distance from the palace, she wishes, albeit with an absent mind, that she could fly. She sprouts wings and makes a scene.

The next day, Jikki, the King's valet, is given the cloak to return to Fluff, as well as many other tasks. Being literally weighed down with his burden, he wishes he had a half-dozen servants to wait on him. Instantly, a group of young men, who could be identical sextuplets, appear, and take the chores for him. They refuse to wait on anyone but Jikki, they never seem to eat, they don't need to be paid, and if someone tries to hurt them, they become immaterial. The cloak drops to the floor and then begins to be passed from counselor to counselor: the general wishes to be ten feet high, the executioner wishes he could reach a distant apple, which results in his arm being able to elongate at will, the steward wishes his dog could speak, and the purse-bearer wishes that the Royal Purse might always be full. All of the wishes, though unintentional, come true, and finally, the cloak returns to Fluff.

Word about what the cloak can do spreads, and Quavo the traveling minstrel carries news of it to the neighboring kingdom of Ix, where there is no king at all. Queen Zixi has been reigning for six hundred and eighty-three years, for she practices witchcraft. However, possibly in a nod to The Picture of Dorian Gray, though Zixi appears to be youthful and beautiful, her reflection shows her true age: a withered old hag. When Zixi hears of the cloak, she wishes to use it so her reflection can reflect how people see her.

Since Noland and Ix are not friendly countries (why Baum never explains), Zixi sneaks into Nole as Miss Trust, a teacher of witchcraft. This attracts Fluff, who takes her handmaidens with her to learn magic, but when Miss Trust asks all the students to bring their prettiest cloak to the next lesson, Fluff gets suspicious and refuses to bring the Magic Cloak. When Miss Trust gets upset, Fluff leaves the class.

Being beaten, Zixi returns to Ix and makes war on Noland. However, using careful tactics, and a wish from the Magic Cloak by the last counselor who hadn't used it before, Noland is able to repel Zixi's army, despite them being seriously outnumbered.

Zixi then makes her last attempt to get the cloak: she disguises herself as a little girl and is hired by Fluff as a handmaiden. She manages to get a look at the Magic Cloak, and then has magical imps make an imitation cloak. She later manages to switch cloaks, and then hurries back to Ix, where she removes her disguise, and wishes. But her wish is not granted, as she stole it. She leaves the cloak in a lilac grove.

Along her way back to her palace, Zixi meets a series of animals and a little girl who wish for things that are foolish. Zixi, realizing how foolish their desires are, realizes her own desire might have been just as foolish, and decides to be content for the rest of her life.

Contentment is a theme Baum worked with in a lot of his stories. In one of his Animal Fairy Tales, a gopher chooses riches over contentment, and then has a hard life before deciding that contentment is better. In The Marvelous Land of Oz, Ozma tells the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman that the riches of content are the only riches worth having. It's not hard to see that it's a standard Baum must have lived by: he was never exceedingly wealthy, and when he was, it was quickly depleted. In the end, he had his wife and sons, he had his home, and he decided that contentment was the best for him. (Though it didn't stop him from making some risky ventures.)

Now the story introduces one final set of characters, the Roly-Rogues. Ball-like humanoids, they live high on a mountain over Noland. One day, they see Nole below them, and when one falls down to Nole (being protected by his tough, rubbery skin), they decide to invade Nole.

It is Baum's classic style not to introduce all the characters at the story's outset, but introduce them as they come into the story. Really, when MGM adapted The Wizard of Oz as a musical movie, the touch of having everything hinted at was a very non-Baum idea. (I've discussed before how it owes more to Alice in Wonderland.)

Bud and Fluff happen to be away from Nole at the time, but when they hear of the invasion (would it count as an alien invasion?), they determine to let Bud use the Magic Cloak to wish the Roly-Rogues dead and buried. However, since the cloak is an imitation, it doesn't work, so Aunt Rivette, Bud, and Fluff are forced to flee to Ix.

Zixi welcomes them and they explain what happened, and Zixi confesses to her theft. Fluff then explains about the cloak not being able to grant wishes to thieves, and Zixi repents and helps Bud and Fluff find the cloak. However, it has been given to Dame Dingle, a seamstress, who cut it up to use it crazy-quilts. Even worse, she traded the patches with other women. When they learn of the true nature of the Magic Cloak, they return it and the patches, but one piece, which was made into a necktie for a sailor who went to sea. The cloak doesn't work unless it is whole.

Ruffles, the talking dog, arrives at Zixi's court and tells about the suffering of the people of Nole at the hands of the Roly-Rogues. Zixi decides to make up for her theft of the Magic Cloak by using her magic to make a potion that is mixed into the soup served to the Roly-Rogues. The Rogues are tied up and thrown into a river, never to disturb the peace again.

Eventually, the sailor returns. He is given the reward before giving them the necktie, which turns out to be a fake, the real piece was lost at sea. The fury in the court is interrupted by Queen Lulea arriving, to reclaim the Magic Cloak. The rulers of Ix and Noland both ask to have their wishes: Bud is granted his wish to be the best king Noland ever had, but Zixi's wish is refused, because fairies do not approve of witchcraft. In addition, Lulea removes or changes some of the foolish wishes made with the cloak.

The book closes with telling us that Bud and Fluff grew up and Bud was the best king of Noland, and that Fluff was married and became a great queen of another country. However, in The Road to Oz, when Zixi, Bud, and Fluff arrive at Ozma's birthday party, they are still children. Either the events of Queen Zixi happened shortly before Road (maybe a few years), or Baum actually retconned the last two paragraphs of Queen Zixi and now Noland is protected by the same anti-aging spell that hangs over the land of Oz.

Still, taken altogether, I recommend Queen Zixi of Ix as a must-read for any Baum fan. Shame that Dover Publication's fine paperback edition is out of print. (The only edition in print is without illustrations and very unattractive. If you're looking into getting a used copy, be careful that you're getting a good one.)

Pay no attention to the blog behind the curtain!

I don't blog about MGM's Wizard of Oz much at all, but... here's a couple things I wrote up recently that are a little humorous.

For the 70th Anniversary of the MGM musical movie of "The Wizard of Oz," Warner Brothers is releasing it to DVD and Blu-Ray in a "Ultimate Collector's Edition." I guess the next step up is the Chuck Norris Edition.

(Miss Gulch walks in with the sheriff, who looks a lot like the Winkie who said "You killed her! She's dead!")

There she is, sheriff! Do your duty and take that dog!

... Lady, get over it.


Look at that little girl all laid up in bed, with her little dog never having left her side. You want me to put that little thing down?

But it bit me! It's a menace!

Look, lady, we just had a tornado through here, and there are probably other people banged up even worse than this kid and you want me to kill a little girl's dog. Get over yourself. Good day, ma'am, and stop wasting my time.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Not-So-Silly Goose

I was looking around on Lulu, when I came across Marcus Mébès' storefront. He has many Oz and Baum books for sale on this Print-On-Demand site, reasonably priced for such books.

A new addition is a new edition of Father Goose: His Book, the book that made Baum and illustrator W.W. Denslow famous, and paved the way for Baum's most famous work The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

I've already ordered a copy. I once borrowed a second edition through interlibrary loan and carefully made black-and-white photocopies of it, which I still have, glued and taped together, but I of course wanted my own actual copy in color. There's been an edition out since 2004, but it only reprints the text. Despite what anyone thinks of Denslow's work, it made half of the book.

Marcus has four editions available, a paperback and a hardcover in black-and-white, and another paperback and hardcover in color. In addition, the color version is available as a free PDF download, which also makes it a satisfying e-book edition. Wanting a good edition, but still keeping my budget in mind, I ordered a color paperback.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Sky Island

We know by now that L. Frank Baum intended the Oz series to end in 1910 with The Emerald City of Oz. I see the next two years of his writing as him trying to re-invent himself as an author, for example the two books The Daring Twins and Phoebe Daring were released. Usually Baum would have released non-fantasy books like these under a pen name, but this time, he used his own name.

His almost-as-famous pseudonym Edith Van Dyne also did a surprising turn with the two Flying Girl books, which were a break from "her" lady-like Aunt Jane's Nieces. But I've discussed that before.

The two books from this period that people know best are The Sea Fairies and Sky Island, known as "The Trot Books." With The Scarecrow of Oz, you could call it "The Trot Trilogy." These books introduced readers to Mayre "Trot" Griffith, and Cap'n Bill Wheedles. The books were written in much the same manner as he had written the Oz books, with a difference: while the main characters visited different places, they did not return, and in each book, they were the only characters to return, almost a blank page for Baum to work with on every story.

The first book told of how Trot and Cap'n Bill visited the mermaids and destroyed the evil Zog, while the second took the two high in the air.

Sales for The Sea Fairies had not been overwhelming, so Baum decided to bring in a couple characters from the Oz series for the second adventure.

Sky Island opens with Trot meeting Button-Bright from The Road To Oz, who explains that he came to her home from his home Philadelphia by means of a Magic Umbrella. (Mary Poppins has nothing on this kid!)

One may wonder if there are other items in Button-Bright's home that may cause magical transportation, explaining how he got so lost in The Road To Oz.

Button-Bright himself seems to be much older than he was when we first met him in The Road To Oz. He is more proactive, thinks clearly, and his speech patterns have matured. Even John R. Neill's illustrations show him at least a few years older than he was in Road.

As for the Magic Umbrella, which Button-Bright says was owned by his great-great-grandfather who was an Arabian Knight (he might have meant a few more "great"s), and it's shroud of mystery about it opens up many possibilities for future stories. (Later in the story, it turns into a magical elephant.) It's almost a little sad that Baum didn't continue the Trot series instead of (or along with) the Oz Books because of all the stories that could have been told.

After proving the magic of the umbrella, Trot, Cap'n Bill, and Button-Bright decide to have a picnic on a island they've never been to they call "Sky Island," since it's just visible on the skyline. However, when they ask the umbrella to take them there, it takes them to the real Sky Island, an island in the sky!

They crash land on the Boolooroo of the Blues (literally), who rules the Blue Country. A cruel, hostile ruler, he is a little like the Wicked Witch of the West or the Nome King. His subjects obey him out of fear of being "patched," in which two people are cut in half and mismatched. He takes the Magic Umbrella, trying to figure out how it works.

In the vein of the Wicked Witch, he makes our heroes his slaves. However, they make friends. Trot, being her friendly self, makes friends with every pet of the Snubnosed Princesses, the six daughters of the Boolooroo. She finds a permanent companion in a blue parrot, who barks like a dog. Button-Bright and Cap'n Bill meet Ghip-Ghisizzle, the majordomo, who is elected to be the next Boolooroo. He informs them that the current Boolooroo has reigned his allotted 300-year reign. (The Blues live 600 years, after which they must march through the Arch of Phinis.)

Button-Bright manages to break into the vault, where he obtains the Royal Record Book for Ghip-Ghisizzle (but is unable to present it to him), but fails to find the Magic Umbrella. Trot and her friends are forced to flee to through the Fog Bank to the Pink side of Sky Island.

They discover the Fog Bank inhabited by giant amphibians, including some helpful frogs who help them through to the end. The Pinkies, they find, are more agreeable than the Blues, but Queen Tourmaline insists that custom be followed, and her council agrees to have them tossed over the edge of Sky Island.

Tourmaline is an interesting Queen. She is the poorest of the Pinks, making her seemingly their servant rather than ruler. This could be a play on how, in the Bible, as well as King, Jesus is a servant. Baum would later return to this theme in Tik-Tok of Oz with the character of Tititihoochoo.

The pinkie who casts the deciding vote is Rosalie. When she is summoned, she appears in a puff of smoke. Baum had used this before with Gwig the Mangaboo Sorceror in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz. This was a reference to seances, which were a fad at the time. Baum was no stranger to this, as he held seances as entertainment in Aberdeen, South Dakota. (Which was, at the time, just a territory.)

While Trot and her companions are being carried to their fate, it is raining, but when they reach the edge, the rainbow comes out, and a second Oz character has an appearance: Polychrome.

Polychrome has learned a little magic since The Road to Oz, it seems, as she is able to cast a spell over a piece of clothing to keep her feet from getting wet, to make it a repeating carpet, just as Ozma's Magic Carpet had done in Ozma of Oz. Polychrome's chief purpose is to make the Pinkies look to the Book of Laws, and she reveals a law that says that the ruler of the Pinkies is the person with the lightest skin, who, Polychrome announces, is Trot.

As Queen, Trot decides to make war on the Blues, to recover the Magic Umbrella and conquer the Boolooroo. Rosalie and the Frogs of the Fog Bank help the Pinkies get to the Blue Country, where they quickly strike fear into the Blues, who retreat into their walled city, but not before capturing Cap'n Bill.

Trot uses a magic ring of invisibility to break into the Palace, where she manages to free Tiggle, a Blue who was to be patched to Ghip-Ghisizzle (who the Boolooroo suspected of taking the Record Book, but was freed by the Snubnosed Princesses, yet he escaped them to flee the city to turn himself over to the Pinkies) and finds Cap'n Bill, but he fails to escape the Blues and the Boolooroo tries to patch him to a goat the next morning. Using her invisibility, Trot manages to turn the tables on the Boolooroo and catches him in the frame where people would be cut in half for patching.

Trot declares herself Booloorooess of the Blues, and the Queen of Sky Island. She makes Ghip-Ghisizzle the Boolooroo and sets Rosalie as the new Queen of the Pinkies, who is now entitled to all the comforts her subjects have, but no more. Tiggle helps them find the Magic Umbrella, and it's home free for Trot, Cap'n Bill, and Button-Bright.

Some people see Sky Island as dealing with the subject of prejudice over skin color, since the Pinkies and the Blues cannot seem to peacefully co-exist (even at a celebratory dance, they refuse to mingle with each other) and both see the human visitors as lower forms of life, either to be used as slaves or to be put to death. It is unknown if Baum intended this to be the case.

Baum considered Sky Island to probably be his best work that he would be remembered for. However, we know that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is the book, with The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus being a possible second. It is definitely one of his better efforts, filled with adventure, humor, intrigue, and excitement.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Some more updates...

I promise, good blog soon.

I'm sorry to say it looks like I won't be attending this year's Winkie Convention. A shame, as I haven't had a vacation for over three years. (Unless you count the time in 2007 when I was unemployed, but I was actively seeking work.) Aside from being low on money, I also have family matters. My sister's wedding is gearing up to be a source of lots of family drama, and as I'm now a groomsman, and a... no... they might be looking... Anyways... (That's also where some of the money I won't have on hand is going...) There's an amazing program this year, so I'm going to hate missing it. (If you can go, go!) Jane Albright is suggesting I attend the Club's National Convention. We'll see... (Happy birthday, Jane!)

I set up a Zazzle shop with the Wonders of Oz logo and my 3D rendition of Neill's OZ logo, as well as the previously unreleased logo for the Royal Podcast of Oz. There's t-shirts, pinback buttons, hats, ties, totes, magnets, stickers, mousepads, mugs, and a skateboard! I tried to make everything as cheap as possible, but it didn't seem they'd let you take any less than 10% of the sale. I made just about everything customizable, so if you like the design, but not the shirt, you can find one you want. Link is here: Oz T-Shirts & More!

(I was originally going to use Spreadshirt, which is cheaper, but they took my designs down, claiming they could infringe on copyrights. That's dumb, since they all were derived from Public Domain sources.)

Tuesday night, Sam Milazzo and I had a conference call to record a podcast about David Hutchison's Oz: The Manga. I now have over two hours of me and Sam talking about the series recorded, at a cost of about 3 dollars of Skype credit. It'll be quite a chore to edit down... But it's coming! Also, the next podcast is planned. With someone who's probably reading this... You know who you are... We did a test call.

And I'm reading Baum's Sky Island again. I think I'll be doing a blog about it. Then I'll start on that series of blogs about books that Baum tied into The Road to Oz.

Oh... And happy Independence Day/4th of July, my fellow American Oz fans! (Everyone else in the world can have a great day!)