Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Rinkitink in Oz

Here we are, the last of Baum's trio of Oz books based on previous works or unfinished materials, and Rinkitink in Oz is the most famous example of all. The fact is, Baum was writing the story in 1905 as King Rinkitink, with no Oz connection whatsoever. Whether this was finished or not in its original form is unclear. Also unclear is if Baum decided not to publish it, or if publishers declined to publish it at that time.

Anyways, in 1916, with the ongoing troubles of the Oz Film Manufacturing Company, Baum getting his gallbladder removed due to angina, and a little feud over the Oz Toy Book that almost made Baum demand John R. Neill be replaced as the illustrator, there was little time to make a new Oz book for the year, though Baum had one in mind. But since that couldn't be finished in time, he instead turned to King Rinkitink and did some revising, added a few chapters, and turned it into an Oz book.

The book opens on the island of Pingaree, in the Nonestic Ocean, past the Land of Ev. The island is a peace-loving land, rich because of the thriving industry of exporting pearls. However, young Prince Inga was puzzled to hear how quickly invaders from the twin islands of Regos and Coregos were driven off so easily. But one day, his father, King Kitticut, reveals the secret: the King of Pingaree has three magic pearls hidden away to use in times of crisis. A blue one will grant the bearer super strength, a pink one protects them from any harm, and a white one will grant valuable advice.

Thinking back to Baum's earlier fantasies, such as The Enchanted Island of Yew and Queen Zixi of Ix, the opening chapter of Rinkitink hearkens back to those. This leads me to suspect that only a few revisions were done to the included chapters to make them refer to Oz.

A few days later, King Rinkitink of Gilgad arrives on a surprise visit. Tired of being king, he has escaped his own people so he can have a vacation. Due to his short and ... "stout" physique, he quickly loses breath by walking too far, so he rides a surly talking goat named Bilbil. Rinkitink is jolly and fond of singing songs that vary from him expressing himself, to just plain nonsense. Most are glad to hear him singing, since that means he must be happy. However, Bilbil remains critical.

Some days later, Pingaree is attacked by warriors from Regos and Coregos, and Kitticut is captured before he can get the magic pearls. Inga is studying high in a tree, and escapes the sight of the invaders, who take everyone back to Regos and Coregos, and level all the buildings. After he is sure they are gone, Inga wanders around the island, and discovers Rinkitink, stuck in a well, and Bilbil. Bilbil helps pull Rinkitink out, and then Inga has them help him move some fallen marble blocks so he can recover the pearls, though he does not expose the pearls or their powers to his companions.

Taking advice from the White Pearl, Inga, Rinkitink, and Bilbil find a magic boat that is stocked full of food. Using the strength from the blue pearl, Inga rows to Regos and Coregos to free his family and his people from slavery.

You might begin to wonder where the part is that justifies this as an Oz book. Well, it's coming, but if you're really getting into the story, you might not really care just now.

Using the magic of the pink and blue pearls, Inga, Rinkitink, and Bilbil manage to break through the defenses of Regos, causing King Gos to flee to Coregos to his wife, Queen Cor, who would prefer Gos' room to his company. (What a loving wife.)

You realize that Baum has again established that there are alternatives to violence by Inga's rather peaceable conquest of Regos. Aside from Bilbil charging a bit, none of the warriors were injured, but instead feared Inga's apparent invincibility, and thought him to be a magician of some sort, and so fled. This also goes back to some classic Baum psychology of the meanest people turning out to be the biggest cowards.

Rinkitink and Inga take possession of King Gos' castle, planning on how to rescue Inga's family and people. That night, though, Rinkitink throws one of Inga's shoes at a cat that woke him. However, Inga had been keeping one of the pearls in that shoe, and when they try to find it, a maid throws out the other one. They fail to find either, but the remaining white pearl advises Inga to bluff that he still has the powers.

Queen Cor decides that women are smarter than men, and goes to visit Inga. She seizes him and carries Inga and Rinkitink to Coregos to be her slaves.

Meanwhile, the shoes were found by a charcoal burner named Nikobob, who decides they will make a nice gift for his daughter, Zella. On his way home, he manages to defeat and kill the beast Choggenmugger, that terrorized the island of Regos for years. (Why does Who's Who in Oz say that he grew back together?) Zella is delighted with the news of her father's victory, and his gift for her. She decides she will wear them when she carries honey to Queen Cor, and now that Choggenmugger is gone, she can collect twice her usual amount. Using the pearls, she can get to the palace easily, and manages to easily ward off wild animals.

Meanwhile, a neglected goat makes his way to Coregos...

Queen Cor discovers the Pingaree women refuse to work, and has them brought before her. (Inga's mother, Queen Garee, is not among them, as she has been put to work in the dairy.) As Inga goes to fetch Cor's whip, he spots Zella and notices her shoes. He asks for them, and she is convinced to trade with him, and he gets the pearls back in time to defeat Queen Cor, who flees to Regos, with Queen Garee, but not before she collides with an angry Bilbil!

Just how manic Baum could get comes into play here. It's also interesting to note that this bit of following separate storylines could have been written before many of the earlier Oz books. The first that really did that was The Emerald City of Oz.

Inga discovers that King Gos and Queen Cor have taken his parents and fled. Before going after them, Inga sets all his people free and makes arrangements for them to return to Pingaree to begin rebuilding their homes, allowing them to loot King Gos and Queen Cor's palaces to get whatever they might need. Inga attempts to give Regos and Coregos a new King in Nikobob, but he refuses, as being King is a huge responsibility, and he doesn't really want to be king over a country of warriors. Instead, he decides to move his family to Pingaree.

Gos and Cor have taken King Kitticut and Queen Garee to the Nome King, who is identified as Kaliko. They pay him to keep them prisoner, and though he knows their reasons for him to do so are false, he keeps his end of the bargain.

Using advice from the white pearl, Inga uses the Magic Boat to get to the Nome Kingdom, where he just misses Gos and Cor. He confronts Kaliko, who refuses to let his prisoners go, however, Inga refuses to leave without them. Fearing Kaliko may perform some mischief, Inga give Rinkitink the pink pearl for protection, while he keeps the blue one. It turns out to be wise, for Kaliko makes both Rinkitink and Inga go through many tests, and it is only by the virtue of the pearls and Inga's quick wits that they remain alive.

And now, finally, we get to Oz. It turns out Dorothy has been following Inga's story with interest, and is now disgusted at the way Kaliko is treating them. Taking some eggs, she and the Wizard head to the Nome Kingdom, where Kaliko is upset that Dorothy wants him to let Kitticut and Garee go. Dorothy informs him that Gos and Cor were lost at sea, and when he still refuses, she reveals the eggs. Kaliko gives in. The Wizard discovers that Bilbil is, in fact, the enchanted Prince Bobo of Boboland.

This part feels like a cop-out for some Oz fans. Inga and Rinkitink go through all that, and Dorothy and a few eggs save the day? And what's up with Kaliko and his new bad attitude? I'm assuming that Baum didn't revise the story too much, and the Nome King in the original version was an early version of the former Nome King. It is, however, difficult to tell how the original may have ended. Perhaps the Nome King put Rinkitink and Inga through a final test before giving in. Perhaps they had to defeat him as well. With Dorothy saving the day in a deus ex machina just to make it an Oz book, it cheapens the story a bit.

What gets me is how out-of-the-blue the reveal of Bilbil is done. We are given no hints that he may be an enchanted person, and the Wizard asks him how he happened to talk, never having been to Oz, forgetting that Billina could talk in Ev, and Jim, Eureka, and the piglets could talk in the underground fairy countries he visited. This may have been a revision or addition Baum made. Still, if we'd had some set-up for this reveal, then it would have felt better. (It's not too different from how Thompson would reveal some characters' enchantments at the end of her stories.)

Rinkitink, Bilbil, Inga, Kitticut, and Garee go to take a rest in Oz, where they are treated royally. Glinda and the Wizard perform a series of transformations to restore Bobo, and it works in the end. Eventually, the visitors return to Pingaree to find the island has been restored. Rinkitink continues his vacation, until his own people from Gilgad come to bring him home. He eventually consents, and Bobo joins him on his return.

Now, I do like this book, but really wish we could have had the original version as well. While I understand why Baum had to simply revise and expand an old manuscript, I feel it wasn't quite his best effort. Not only are we stuck with a deux ex machina ending, but my thoughts turn to the islands of Regos and Coregos. They have no rulers now, and this could cause an even worse problem for Pingaree, like how leaving a broken Germany came back to bite the rest of the world after World War I.

Anyways, by this time, the Oz Film Manufacturing Company was done, Baum was recovering from his surgeries, and now he could focus on writing an Oz book. Perhaps he knew the Oz book for 1917 had to be special...

1 comment:

saintfighteraqua said...

Do you have anymore information on Baum and Neill's argument over the Toy Book? I'd love to know more.