Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The Patchwork Girl of Oz

So, it was back to Oz, back to the adventures of Dorothy and her friends in their whimsical fairyland. Yes, it'd all been done before, and in order to keep the money coming in, Baum was forced back onto the Yellow Brick Road. But as we'll see, he decided to change the characters he'd put in the foreground, this time, at least.

The book opens not in the Emerald City, nor in our great outside world, but in a humble Munchkin home where a boy named Ojo lives with his Unc Nunkie. Ojo realizes they are running out of food, and will soon starve, so he suggests they leave their home. Unc Nunkie silently concurs and prepares to leave the next day.

Their journey brings them to their nearest neighbors, Dr. Pipt, the Crooked Magician, and his wife Margolotte. Dr. Pipt claims he can work magic if only for the benefit of himself and his family, claiming Ozma has only outlawed people to do it as a practice, instead of a hobby. His current project is making a batch of the Powder of Life, which takes six years to make. He and Margolotte claim he is the inventor of it, furthermore, he is the one who supplied it to Mombi. (They claim she stole it, Mombi says she fooled him into trading with her.)

Now, in The Marvelous Land of Oz, Tip says Mombi got the Powder of Life from Doctor Nikidik. Later, in The Road to Oz, it is revealed the magician who created it died. Now, we have someone who claims to be that person, and also, in each of these books, the powder works a different way. In Marvelous Land, it works after an incantation and gestures are made. In Road, a rug is brought to life just by someone wishing it was alive. Here, in The Patchwork Girl of Oz, it works without any incantations or gestures.

My theory is that since the Good Witch of the North did not allow witches in the North, after Mombi's use of the Powder came to attention, Dr. Pipt, who may have been using "Nikidik" simply as a brand name, moved to the Munchkin Country. The only problem here is time: Unc Nunkie seems to be old friends with Pipt, so unless they are old acquaintances whose paths happened to cross again, this cannot work without Ojo having met them before, as he seems to be no older than Dorothy.

In order to get out of the public eye, Dr. Pipt (or Nikidik) may have staged his death, which may also be one of the reasons why he is physically crooked: he has broken bones.

As for the changes in the Powder of Life, it can simply be explained that the recipe was being refined over time. It seems now, the powder is perfect, except for its preparation time.

As Margolotte treats Unc Nunkie and Ojo to lunch, she reveals what the Powder of Life will be used for: using an old patchwork quilt, she made a life-size rag doll to be her servant, so she can relax and simply enjoy her life. However, the Patchwork Girl needs brains, so Ojo watches as Margolotte mixes together a few elements (Obedience, Amiability, Truth, and Cleverness) that would be needed in a servant. Ojo slyly adds some extra elements, some of everything (including Judgment, Courage, Ingenuity, Learning, Poesy, and Self-Reliance).

Dr. Pipt finally finishes the current batch of the Powder of Life, and Margolotte they are introduced to the Glass Cat, Bungle, a haughty creature brought to life with the previous batch of the Powder of Life. They wanted Bungle to catch mice, but she refuses to, as mice inside of her would spoil her beauty. She is notably proud of her pink brains (you can see 'em work!), her ruby heart, and her emerald eyes.

The next morning, the Patchwork Girl is brought to life with disastrous results. Hearing music played by a phonograph, the Patchwork Girl begins to dance wildly, knocking the Powder of Life across the room, causing Unc Nunkie to upset a shelf, spilling the Liquid of Petrification on himself and Margolotte, turning them both into marble statues! (Did Dr. Pipt give Mombi this recipe?) Dr. Pipt tries to use the Powder of Life to bring the statues to life, but discovers to his dismay that the rest of it fell on the phonograph, bringing it to life as well.

While the Patchwork Girl (who Bungle dubs "Scraps," a name the new character likes) doesn't really care what's going on around her (she has no heart), Dr. Pipt and Ojo look for an antidote. Dr. Pipt finds one at last, and reveals the ingredients needed to be three hairs from a Woozy's tail, a six-leaved clover, a gill of water from a dark well, a drop of oil from a live man's body, and the left wing of a yellow butterfly. Ojo, Bungle, and Scraps set out to find these things, while Dr. Pipt will begin work on more Powder of Life to bring his wife and friend back to life, should Ojo fail.

Along the way, Scraps discovers her ability to construct nonsense rhymes, as she proves to be as colorful and lively as the patches that make up her body. Again, Baum has made one of his artificial people's personalities reflect their structure.

Overnight, the travelers stay at a dark house where they are told to go directly to bed by a disembodied voice. Since she cannot sleep, and has no wish to lie down and be quiet, Scraps is thrown out. The next morning, Ojo finds a hearty breakfast for him, and is told to eat by the same disembodied voice. When he finishes, he leaves, and feels as hungry and tired as he did the night before. Scraps tells them that a big gray wolf came to the door of the house three times at night. What exactly the house was remains a mystery. Is it a haunted house? Did it let Ojo in to protect him from the wolf?

They are joined by the live phonograph, but quickly find his music (popular music, it claims) so terrible, they order it to leave at once. The travelers continue to the home of the Wise Donkey and the Foolish Owl. The Wise Donkey proves to be the same Wise Donkey from The Magical Monarch of Mo, and the Foolish Owl also spouts nonsense rhymes. Very much, all they do is tell Ojo to continue on until he finds the Yellow Brick Road, which will lead to the Emerald City.

Next, Ojo finally finds one of the ingredients. They come to a high wall saying "Beware The Woozy." Climbing over the wall, they discover the Woozy, a blocklike creature with leathery skin, and three hairs on its tail. The Woozy has been locked away by Munchkin farmers because he enjoys eating honeybees. However, Ojo shares his bread and cheese (enchanted to never run out) with the Woozy, who likes them, and eventually agrees to let Ojo have his three hairs. It turns out the hairs are impossible to remove by pulling, so they decide to take the Woozy along. He burns down the fence with fire from his eyes when everyone shouts "Krizzle-Kroo!" because it angers him that he does not know what the word means.

Now you see what Baum decided to do differently: bring in a new cast of characters, giving them a task to accomplish to make the story interesting. But as we'll see, this didn't mean he'd swear off using his previous cast.

Ojo and his friends find the Yellow Brick Road, but are caught by giant venus fly-trap-like plants. Ojo expects that it is the end, until he hears someone whistling, then the head of the plant falls off and opens, releasing him. The rescuer turns out to be the Shaggy Man, who frees the Woozy, Scraps, and Bungle as well.

Shaggy proves to be their guide, showing them how to get past tricky parts on the road, dodging a giant porcupine named Chiss, and even sends the live phonograph on his way again when he rejoins them. Along the way, they even run into the Scarecrow and the Sawhorse, and Scraps and the straw man become quite smitten with each other.

Outside the Emerald City, Ojo spots a six-leaved clover, but the Shaggy Man warns him that picking a six-leaved clover is against Ozma's laws, however, Ojo finds another and picks it sneakily. In the Emerald City, Ojo is promptly arrested and taken to jail, which he finds to be quite comfortable and accommodating. Surprisingly, Ozma's prisoners (of which Ojo is said to be the first), are treated kindly, since being isolated from society should be punishment enough, and kind treatment makes one even sorrier for transgressions.

Scraps, Bungle, and the Woozy meet Dorothy, who welcomes them kindly, as Scraps feels assured that she can save Ojo by putting the stolen clover in a vase. However, at the trial the next day, Ojo is repentant, the clover is shown, and Ozma forgives him, and offers aid in finding the remaining ingredients, though she does say that Dr. Pipt is breaking the law yet, and it is his willful violation that caused the accident, however, it would be unjust to allow Margolotte and Unc Nunkie to remain as statues.

It definitely seems that the legal system in Oz has changed since Eureka's trial in Dorothy & The Wizard In Oz. Also, Omby Amby now has his beard again. He shaved it off in The Marvelous Land of Oz, so I guess five books is enough time for it to grow back.

A new group sets out from the Emerald City, consisting of Dorothy, Ojo, the Scarecrow, Scraps, and Toto. Their first stop is Jack Pumpkinhead's house, where they are told they might find a dark well in the mountains.

Heading south, they find the home of the Tottenhots, based on the stereotypical African Hottentot. While these people love nothing more than to romp and play at night, some have found the Tottenhots to be offensive. The Books of Wonder edition is infamous for switching some words around and dropping an illustration of a Tottenhot. However, it all seems to be taken far too seriously, as the Tottenhots are quite hospitable, and friendly. They only toss around the Scarecrow and Scraps, and those two note that the shaking actually helped evenly distribute their stuffing.

Their next obstacle is in the mountains, when they must run past the cage of the giant, cannibalistic Mr. Yoop. He luckily only catches the stuffed people, and knowing they are no good to eat, tosses them back, letting Dorothy, Toto, and Ojo escape.

They find a cave, and soon discover the warring cities of the Horners and the Hoppers. The Hoppers have one large leg, and the Horners have a horn on their foreheads. The war is because one of the Horners said that the Hoppers have less "understanding," than them. When Scraps is able to interrogate the offending Horner, Diksey, he says he meant that their legs are under them, and as the leg is the manner of standing, that was what was meant by "undestanding." To avoid the war, he explains the joke to the Hoppers, and Dorothy advises them to just laugh it off.

Diksey, when asked, tells them he has a dark well in his radium mine, so they go to get some water from it, making three items they have collected.

And now, you all stop and say "radium?" Yes, this was written when radium was not known to be lethal. In fact, one of the Horners claims that no one can get sick if they live near it. Either Oz radium is not lethal, or the enchantments of Oz prevent it, for Dorothy and Ojo show no ill effects.

Heading further south, they bribe a lazy Quadling to build them a raft to sail up river to the Winkie Country. However, the river happens to switch courses randomly, making travel impossible until Ojo manages to catch a fish swimming upstream so they can be tugged along. Finally, they get past the tricky part, release the fish, and grab a long branch to guide the raft. Crossing over a wall of water, they are finally able to get into the Winkie Country and soon reach the Tin Woodman's palace.

Realizing the Tin Woodman oils often, Ojo keeps an eye on him and when he sees a drop of oil about to drip off, catches it, leaving the left wing of a yellow butterfly as the only ingredient left. As the Tin Woodman hears this, he flatly refuses to let Ojo have a butterfly. As it seems the journey has failed, they return to the Emerald City, Ojo thinking his full name of Ojo the Unlucky has proven quite correct. The Tin Woodman disagrees, saying Ojo is indeed lucky in many ways.

At the Emerald City, Ozma reveals she has brought the marble statues of Margolotte and Unc Nunkie, as well as Dr. Pipt to the Emerald City. Pipt's magic tools have been destroyed, so at first Ojo despairs, before the Wizard tells them he has consulted with Glinda, and using magic he learned from her, straightens out Dr. Pipt's body, and restore Unc Nunkie and Margolotte. Ozma gives Ojo and Unc Nunkie a home outside of the Emerald City, and they all live happily ever after.

So, for his full return to Oz, Baum presented The Patchwork Girl of Oz glowing with all the fun and liveliness that he could muster. At times, it feels like too much, as many parts do not really add to the story, and some are not even explained.

Also, Baum introduces a wealth of new characters and races, but in the future, makes very little use of them. Scraps has some memorable cameos, but when it comes to featuring majorly in a story, Scraps, the Woozy, and Bungle only got one each. Ojo never again goes on an adventure under Baum's authorship.

Once again, we have a time where Baum wrote a great story, but completely loaded it down with many easily removable points. For some reason, though, they don't weigh the better parts down.

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