Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Marvelous Land of Oz

L. Frank Baum did not want to write sequels. Like many good authors, he wanted to try to try other things, test his writing skills. While he eventually got to try various stories, he eventually found that series were very lucrative.

However, his return to Oz was not intended to start a series. The musical adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz spurred many people to read the book, which had already been popular. Many children wanted to know the further adventures of their favorite Oz characters, and wrote to Baum. While Baum indicated that a "Dorothy" had made a long journey to see him, in actuality, the newly formed Reilly & Britton had offered to make him their star author.

Baum was ready to jump for the chance. His last star author position was at the George Hill Company, who had published The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Baum's intended follow-up, Dot & Tot of Merryland. Currently, Baum's publisher had been Bobbs-Merrill, who he was not very happy with. The offer of being a star author again was enough to break through Baum's reticence to write a new Oz story.

The story opens with a boy named Tippetarius (or Tip for short) living with a cruel "sorceress" named Mombi. Tip hates his guardian, but does not know why he lives with her. When Mombi is out on a shopping trip, Tip makes a pumpkin-headed wooden dummy to scare her with. When Mombi returns, she brings "Jack Pumpkinhead" to life. Now, she decides to get rid of Tip once and for all by turning him into a marble statue.

While Mombi sleeps, Tip and Jack escape, Tip taking the Powder of Life Mombi used to bring Jack to life with. Determining to go to the Emerald City to meet the Scarecrow, Tip brings a wooden Sawhorse to life for Jack to ride, to ease his joints. However, the Sawhorse soon separates Tip and Jack by running the rest of the way to the Emerald City.

On the rest of the journey, Tip runs into Jinjur, a general of her own army, who intend to conquer the Emerald City and run it to suit themselves. Tip goes with them to the Emerald City, which is conquered quickly and bloodlessly, due to the Scarecrow's low defenses.

Tip and the Soldier with the Green Whiskers (who Baum would later reveal as Omby Amby, though Thompson said he was named Wantowin Battles) hurry to the Scarecrow, and using the Sawhorse, Tip, the Scarecrow, and Jack run to the castle of the Tin Woodman, who is eager to help his old friend. Heading back to the Emerald City, they are joined by the Woggle-Bug, who has been thoroughly educated, highly magnified, and doesn't really help to advance the plot. The party's progress is thwarted by deceptions by Mombi, who has joined with Jinjur. Guidance by the Queen of the Field Mice, making her sole return appearance since The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, easily defeats this, and she lends the Scarecrow some mice who scare away Jinjur and her army.

Once they have taken the Palace back, the Scarecrow and his friends realize they're still captured, as the army waits outside. Putting together a flying machine consisting of two sofas, a gump's head, palm branches, a broom, and a lot of clothesline, Tip uses the last of the Powder of Life to bring it to life with. Dubbing it "The Gump," the company flies to Glinda, but not before a miscalculated direction sends them into a misadventure in a jackdaw's nest, during which the Scarecrow has to be re-stuffed with money.

Glinda refuses to restore the Scarecrow to the throne, claiming that there is a proper heir to the throne. (Why she allowed the Scarecrow to take the throne at all is a mystery.) Revealing that the Wizard took the throne from the former King of Oz, Pastoria (a history Baum would retcon), she further reveals that he had a daughter named Ozma. The Scarecrow says he would not mind surrendering the throne to Ozma, as he tires of the duty. Glinda reveals Mombi was involved in Ozma's disappearance, and so she takes her army to the Emerald City so she can question Mombi.

Jinjur feels that it would be in her best interest to just surrender Mombi, but the witch threatens her, and disguises herself. Glinda manages to thwart Mombi's first attempt, but when Mombi disguises herself as a rose, Glinda and her friends fail to find Mombi, except the Tin Woodman picks the rose on his way out of the City.

Glinda becomes suspicious of the rose, and Mombi transforms herself into a series of shapes, until she turns into a griffin, and starts running towards the desert. The Sawhorse, however, races the griffin to the edge of the desert, where the griffin tires and transforms back into Mombi, being swiftly captured by Glinda.

Upon questioning, Mombi reveals the Wizard gave her Ozma, and in order to conceal the princess, she transformed her into a boy, which everyone realizes, and Mombi confirms, must be Tip. As her last act of magic, Mombi restores Ozma, who, with the aid of Glinda, quickly takes the Emerald City again. Tin Woodman returns to his kingdom and Scarecrow becomes the Royal Treasurer, Woggle-Bug unsuccessfully tutores Jack Pumpkinhead and Saw-Horse becomes Ozma's steed for occasions.

One major misunderstanding of the book is that Baum was making fun of the feminists with General Jinjur and her army. While Baum cleverly pulls off the revolt, keeping the women in character, it is not Baum disapproving of feminists at all. Baum's mother-in-law, Matilda Gage, was a leading, though largely forgotten, feminist, and Baum respected her work. It has even been held that she was the one who told him to start writing his children's stories, which led to his great successes. And the story itself presents a flaw with the theory: if feminism is a bad thing, why is a girl ruling the Emerald City at the end of the story, and throughout the rest of Baum's books? Glinda even states that if it wasn't for Ozma's inheritance, Jinjur would have as much claim to the throne as the Scarecrow, and she would not have interfered. Would Jinjur's government had been the right one? Probably not. But remember, Glinda let a humbug in a balloon rule the Emerald City.

Baum fairly peppered his script with humor, such as when Jinjur declares they are revolting, the Guardian of the Gates tells them they "don't look it," since that is also a word for "ugly." And one of the most memorable scenes is the scene in which the Scarecrow calls for Jellia Jamb (making her first appearance with a name) to interpret his conversation with Jack Pumpkinhead, and the girl decides to have some fun at their expense.

Also, Baum made the story fairly adventurous: midnight runaways, a city being conquered, familiar characters mixed with new characters, and a literal high-flying adventure! It's no wonder that this book was paired with story elements of Ozma of Oz to plot Disney's Return to Oz (Think about those points, and you'll see that they are in that film).

The discovery of Ozma as Tip is the most notable sex change in Baum's works. He did other enchantments, or fairies disguising as a member of the opposite sex. Many members of the LGBT community relate to Tip and Ozma due to this plot twist. Really, the two, as they appear early on, seem to be polar opposites: Tip loves mischief and is very handy with his jack-knife, while Ozma is definitely sophisticated and regal.

This is also a long Oz book, mainly due to the characters spending much time talking as they walk or stand about - a prime example being the Woggle-Bug's recollection of how he came to be - which naturally slows down the story and drags the action. Naturally this is changed in the adaptations, be it comic or acting-media.

All in all, for some reason, there is something lacking from Baum's sequel... What was it? Well... We'll soon see...


Anonymous said...

I like these individual book posts.

Will you be covering Thompsons' books too?

Good work.

Jared said...

I want to.

Garage Door Repair in Phoenix said...

This book was awesome. The story line was great and I am going to keep reading this series.

P.S. there is a big surprise at the end you won't believe it.