Monday, May 10, 2010

Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz

One thing Oz fans tend to forget about Baum's stories is that there are things he didn't write about. In Ozma of Oz, we left Dorothy and Uncle Henry in Australia, but when Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, the Oz book for 1908, opens, Dorothy is heading to Hugson's Ranch from San Francisco. Whatever happened in Australia and San Francisco was left completely unrevealed. What Oz fans forget to do is think that sometimes, occurrences in Oz happened in between stories as well. (Okay, some have remembered this, and have written some great in between stories.) So, sometimes, details revealed in one story might not match another one.

Dorothy is riding a train to Hugson's Siding, and the train is running late due to an earthquake. Oz fans have speculated which earthquake in history it could be, and there was a well-researched article in The Baum Bugle that suggests it could have happened quite a bit further back in the past that most Oz fans would guess, but I think Baum intended it to be a fairly recent occurrence for his contemporary readers, yet entirely fictional.

It is extremely early in the morning when the train arrives at Dorothy's stop, and she gets out and finds her ride: a boy asleep in a buggy drawn by a tired old horse. Dorothy wakes the boy who proves to be her second cousin Zeb. He explains that his uncle, Bill Hugson, married Aunt Em's sister. (This bit also supports my theory that Dorothy must be related by blood to Uncle Henry.) The horse is named Jim, and Dorothy has with her, in a bird cage, a white kitten named Eureka that she found. (In later Oz books, the kitten became permanently pink, with no real explanation.)

As they head to Hugson's ranch, more tremors of the earthquake are felt, until the ground opens up beneath the buggy, and all fall into the earth. As they fall through the earth, it is, at first, terrifying, but quickly, the descent becomes slow. (Alice, anyone?) They see that inside the Earth is a country where the houses are made of glass, and six multi-colored suns shine. (These lights make things seem a different color, and it is because of this light that Eureka appears as pink.)

Dorothy and company land at last on top of a glass house. (Wait... Something's coming to me...) They notice a man in a house opposite the one they're on, and see him walk off the edge, and walking through the air to the street. With a bit of experimentation, our friends discover they can also walk in air. (Baum later gives the reason that they must be near the center of the earth, and gravity has less effect there. As smaller planets have less gravity, this may bear some weight. However, to say for sure, we'd need to find a hollow in the earth that deep down.)

Upon descent, the strange people of the land confront them with emotionless voices and faces, calling themselves Mangaboos. They ask if they caused a "rain of stones," damaging the houses and injuring the people. Of course Dorothy and Zeb deny responsibility, but they are taken to the home of Gwig the Sorcerer, who suggests they are responsible for the stones, then tells the Prince that although he had previously said there would be no more "rains of stones," claiming that this was a "Rain of People-and-Horse-and-Buggy," accompanied by stones.

Yeah, we get it, Gwig, you're a phony. And speaking of phonies, the Mangaboos notice something else falling from above: a man in a hot-air balloon. Yep, it's the Wizard, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The Prince of the Mangaboos asks Gwig why another person has come from the sky, but Gwig humbugs that he said "people," and the Wizard is just a person. Seeing this, the Wizard claims a wizard is better than a sorcerer, to which Gwig challenges him to feats of magic. Gwig makes music sound, while the Wizard seems to pull nine tiny piglets out of nowhere. Gwig then makes the Wizard gradually become unable to breathe, and to combat this, the Wizard joins together many knives to create a sword, and uses it to slice Gwig in half.

Yes, the Wizard just killed someone.

And you thought Oz books were squeaky clean books for kids...

When we are told the grisly details, we discover the Mangaboos are not human: they are vegetable. They grow on vines and bushes and are picked when they become ripe, and when they die, must be "planted" to grow new bushes. Thus, the sliced halves of Gwig look like a sliced potato. The Mangaboos are rather creepy, no emotion, looking human, but are something else all together.

Dorothy, the Wizard, and Zeb are taken to the planting grounds, where they see the Royal Bush of the Mangaboos, noticing a princess who appears to be ripe. Willing to guess that the Prince is delaying her harvest, thus extending his reign, Dorothy and the Wizard pick the Princess, who takes the throne. The Prince had intended to kill them. With the Princess, she might be kinder, or will have to be made aware of the strangers in her land, but in any case, they're buying some extra time.

The Wizard soon reveals to his friends that his trick with the piglets was sleight of hand, and the piglets were obtained from the island of Teenty-Weent. (However, that would also change.) Eureka automatically wishes to eat one of the piglets (because, like all of Baum's fairylands, now the animals can talk), but Dorothy and the Wizard will not let her. (Later, Jim even threatens to eat Eureka should she do such a thing.)

The Wizard takes Gwig's old home as his own, but is soon confronted by the Princess of the Mangaboos. The Mangaboos cannot tolerate other people living with them, and as they do not believe there is a way to leave, they feel the only answer is to kill the invaders. However, the Wizard pulls a trick to keep himself and his friends alive for awhile at least: he sets a fire on the ground and says any Mangaboos who spoke untruthfully against them will be withered instantly. The Princess sends some of her advisers into the fire, and they are all withered and must be planted right away. She agrees not to harm the Wizard or the children, but asks that the animals be disposed of. The Wizard, however, manages to protect the animals.

However, one night (as the suns cannot move, night is only specified by when the people sleep), the sleepless Mangaboos kidnap the animals and force them into a hole in a mountainside. Jim fights and Eureka claws, but in the end, they are forced into the mountain anyways. Eureka manages to escape to wake the Wizard, Dorothy, and Zeb, but when they go to rescue Jim and the piglets, the Mangaboos seal them all into the mountain.

You realize what just happened? People who lived in glass houses just threw stones.

Deciding to continue traveling than waiting for death to take them, the Wizard and his friends continue into the hole and discover it's a tunnel. It leads them up to another country, in another plateau of this underground world. While gravity has now been restored and there are no more multicolored suns, just a single one, they find it to be a more natural-looking place, except they cannot see any living thing.

The Wizard feeds a peach-like fruit to the piglets and discovers to his horror that it made them invisible. He gathers up the invisible piglets as they venture to a farmhouse, where they find an invisible family sitting down to dinner, which the Wizard and friends are invited to join.

The family fills the travelers in: this is the Valley of Voe, and everyone is invisible because they eat the peach-like dama fruit. The main reason is because wild, vicious bears roam the valley, and they also eat dama fruit, so being invisible offers a fighting chance to survive against the bears. (Yes, you're either invisible, or you will almost certainly die.) The travelers decide against eating the fruit and to try their luck at escaping the valley, in a similar way that they escaped the Mangaboos: Pyramid Mountain sits on the other side of Voe, and leads to the country of the Gargoyles.

As the travelers journey across the valley, they rest beside a river when they are warned by an invisible person that the bears are near. The person shows them a leaf that, once rubbed on the soles of their feet, will allow them to walk on water. The charm also seems to work on the buggy wheels, but before everyone can fully escape, the bears attack Jim, and he gets a few scratches, but the Wizard manages to use his collapsible sword to kill one of the bears.

The travelers hurry to Pyramid Mountain, walking on the water as much as possible. Inside the Mountain is a winding staircase that they all must walk up. About halfway up, they see an opening, and looking through see a black sea with flames shooting out of it, giant fierce-looking birds flying around, and on their level, Cloud Fairies, who must be akin to other sky fairies we'll meet in later Oz books. I can't figure out what country they're looking at, though it seems uninhabited. Is it Baum's own take on Hell?

Now we come to an odd part of the book: inside this cavern lives the Braided Man of Pyramid Mountain, who got there by accident when he stacked a lot of post-holes up together and fell through. He also makes rustles for silk dresses and flutters for flags, which he gives to the Wizard and Dorothy in return for a hair ribbon. Really, this scene is weird. The travelers have been going from one peril to another, and then we suddenly get a character who makes non-material objects? Seriously, I was trying to write this into a script, and wound up crossing out the whole page and wrote NO GOOD on it. Yes, the Braided Man was fun, but he felt really out of place.

Moving on... The country of the Gargoyles, at the top of Pyramid Mountain, is completely made of wood, down to the grass and pebbles. Even the Gargoyles are made of wood. Remembering that the people in Voe told them the Gargoyles hate noise, the Wizard uses his revolvers (what did he have that for I wonder?) and sword to try to fight, but eventually, the travelers are conquered and imprisoned.

The prison proves to be the top of a tall building with no windows or doors. However, Eureka discovers she can cling to the wood and climbs down to the city and observes the Gargoyles. She reports that the Gargoyles unhook their wings before they sleep, and the Wizard deduces that the magic power of flight must be in the wings, so if they could get some, they could fly away. Zeb makes a rope ladder with Jim's harness and quietly steals many wings that the Wizard uses to attack to Jim and the buggy, enabling them to fly away.

Well, Pegasus it sure ain't...

Anyways, the Gargoyles wake and see them escaping, so the ones with wings still make chase. The travelers reach the mountain at this end just in time, the Wizard unhooking the wings and setting them on fire, making the remark that no one will miss the Gargoyles if the fire spreads and burns the entire country. (Genocide?)

In the cave, they discover some dragonettes, baby dragons left by their mother as she hunts for food. After a humorous yet grim conversation, the travelers continue to find a dead end, apparently very close to the earth's surface.

And it is at this moment that Dorothy remembers that Ozma promised that every day at 3PM, Dorothy will be seen in the Magic Picture, Dorothy having only to make an unspecified signal with her hand to be brought to Oz.

And all Oz fans shout "WHY DIDN'T YOU THINK OF THAT BEFORE, DOROTHY?" And actually, in Ozma of Oz, it was stated that this would actually occur on Saturday morning. David Hulan mentioned in a recent Baum Bugle that if this had been left as it was introduced, it would have made more sense, and given a bit of urgency to the story: the travelers just needing to stay together and alive until Saturday. I tend to agree, especially as the 3 o'clock timing makes no difference in subsequent Oz stories.

Well, the travelers are brought to Oz, and... well, isn't the Wizard going to answer for his crime in abducting Ozma and giving her to Mombi? The answer... no. In fact, he is no longer guilty of it somehow. Ozma tells him a completely different story of how the witches took over Oz and how she wound up with Mombi. There's been a number of stories trying to rectify the two stories, all making our Wizard innocent, as he was unaware that he was doing wrong, or that the Wizard who met with Mombi was actually a different Wizard altogether, and that Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs was actually the second Wizard of Oz. If this is to believed, which I think, if handled right, it makes a nice theory, I guess Ozma and Glinda found out after Ozma's restoration.

So, as the Wizard is no longer the ruler, he is offered a new home in Oz, which he accepts, taking a position in the court as a Wizard, Ozma noting that a humbug Wizard is the safest there is. During the pomp and parade, the Wizard makes a gift of one of the piglets (who became visible after leaving Voe) to Ozma as her own pet.

Jim has a bit of a rivalry with the Sawhorse, he thinking he is superior, while the Sawhorse admires Jim in every way. The two have a race, and while the Sawhorse wins, Jim kicks him, damaging the Sawhorse, and is quickly pounced on by the Hungry Tiger with the warning that none of their friends must be attacked in their presence, proving that Ozma does have a good bodyguard! However, Jim feels indignant, and Zeb sympathizes with his horse.

One day, Ozma calls for Jellia (who the Wizard recognized, making her likely the green servant girl from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz) to bring her pet piglet. When Jellia returns and says she failed to find it and that Eureka was seen leaving the room, they can only assume Eureka has finally sated her desire to eat one of the piglets. Eureka neither confesses or denies the crime, so she is to be put on trial. The Wizard, not wanting to have Dorothy upset over losing Eureka, gives the Tin Woodman, Eureka's defense attorney, one of the other piglets to substitute for it, forging evidence to clear Eureka's name.

The trial ensues very humorously, but eventually concludes with the verdict that Eureka is guilty. When the Tin Woodman produces the replacement piglet, claiming it is the missing one, Eureka is cleared of all charges, but the kitten refuses to be free unless the Wizard can produce eight piglets, and noting that Ozma's piglet had an emerald collar. The trick being exposed, Eureka finally explains that though she intended to eat the piglet, it ran and fell into a vase in Ozma's room, where it remains. The piglet is recovered, and Eureka claims that she didn't tell anyone of her innocence because it would have spoiled the fun.

Soon, Dorothy sees in the Magic Picture that Uncle Henry has returned home at last and is mourning with Aunt Em over the loss of Dorothy, so she feels she must return. Zeb and Jim feel out of place in Oz (fairyland isn't for everyone, it seems), and ask to go home as well. Ozma returns them all to their homes.

Really, Baum was at his best when he wrote stories of peril and adventure. While the Braided Man, the Dragonettes, Jim's rivalry with the Sawhorse, and Eureka's trial are all funny and great reading, they fall flat and almost feel out of place with the rest of the book.

And what is up with all the contradictions? While some can be explained away, the fact is that Baum did leave some glaring continuity errors unanswered. Even my "things happened in between stories" argument can only last so long.

But all the same, Oz fans love this and all of Baum's Oz books, grimness, uneven storytelling, and continuity errors. It proves that despite having problems, a good story can still shine.

5 comments:

J. L. Bell said...

Thanks for the commentary. I want to acknowledge that the heavy thinking about Ozma’s three o’clock Saturday look in the Magic Picture was actually done by David Hulan.

Jared said...

Noted and corrected. I was going off of memory instead of having an open book.

Doug Wall said...

Eureka went through several colors. She is mentioned at one time by Dorothy as being a purple kitten.

Nathan said...

Since there's no indication that Dorothy brought Eureka on the ship to Australia with her, it's probably safe to assume that she picked up the kitten during the trip. Possibly in Australia, which would presumably make her the first Australian to make a recorded visit to the other Oz.

I don't think there's any real explanation to the country visible from Pyramid Mountain, but it might be interesting to explore in a new story. The Mist Maidens from Glinda are presumably a variation on the Cloud Fairies.

I find it interesting how much the Braided Man's products have in common with some of what you can see in cartoons. I've seen a few cartoons with portable holes, and they played a role in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. I suppose Baum was a trendsetter in this respect, even if no one realizes it.

Although I did find this book violent when I was a kid, and it was never a favorite of mine, I don't remember being especially upset by the Wizard trying to burn the entire Land of Naught. Honestly, I'm not sure I caught that part on my first reading. As an adult, though, it bothers me. As for why the Wizard would have revolvers, maybe he did some sharpshooting as part of his circus act? Or they could have just been for defense.

One thing you didn't mention is that this is the only book prior to Jack Snow's that clearly identifies Omby Amby and the Soldier with Green Whiskers as the same man.

Jared said...

Doug, good point. Dorothy mentions this in "Glinda of Oz."

Nathan, also good points.