Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Grampa in Oz

1924 brought about Thompson's fourth Oz book, Grampa in Oz. When I started reading this one, I smelled ... hash! No, even worse, RE-hash!

We open in the country of Ragbad, former supplier of clothes to all Oz, now in a terrible economic crisis. To make matters worse, the king loses his head in a storm! So, after trying replacement heads, the body must finally be restrained.

Prince Tatters and a soldier named Grampa (who has a "game leg," a box shaped like a leg that can open for him to keep things in) head out to not only find the King's head, but to find his fortune and marry a princess. ... Hold on a second... Is this sounding a little familiar to anyone?

Tatters and Grampa meet an iron rooster (originally part of a weathervane, he was brought to life by live lightning in the storm) named Bill, and, after escaping from bandits, find their way into Urtha's garden, where they find Urtha, a pretty maid (who Thompson cannot stop telling us how beautiful she is... we get it!) made of earth and flowers. Using magic medicine (something Thompson would bring up again later, and it does seem rather dangerous for a children's book to have characters liberally dosing on such substances, as a child might try to re-create the story), the travelers get shot out of a volcano into the Nonestic Ocean, slay a dragon, turn into crows, fly to Oz, and finally find the King's head in the clouds...

Meanwhile, Princess Pretty Good of Perhaps City has disappeared, and the prophet Abrog has seen that the princess will marry a monster with two heads in four days. Only one person in Perhaps City is brave enough to look for the princess, and that is the Forgetful Poet Percy Vere.

The Forgetful Poet was a column, featuring poems Thompson wrote for newspapers, so now the idea was made into an Oz character. So, a previous Thompson work was brought into Oz... ?

Percy winds up running into Dorothy, and they wind up on Monday Mountain, where they get caught by the washerwomen. They finally escape and meet Tatters, Grampa, and the rest. They head back to Perhaps City, where Abrog shows that Tatters is the monster (since he's carrying an extra head), and it's revealed that Urtha is really Princess Pretty Good, and Abrog is really the wicked magician Gorba!

Pretty Good is restored, Gorba is turned into a rat, and Pretty Good and Tatters marry, restoring prosperity to Ragbad.

Altogether, if it wasn't for the fact that Kabumpo in Oz came first, this might have been more bearable. But the plot of "Prince goes to find princess for good of kingdom, but she's missing and/or enchanted and the prince finds her but doesn't realize she's a princess until later" was already done. The things that Tatters must do echo Sir Hokus' ambitions from The Royal Book of Oz, and Urtha being a plant princes... Mangaboos and Ozga, anyone? (In that sense, Baum rehashed himself, but managed to use the characters very differently.)

In terms of chronology, Thompson has yet to impress me. Grampa in Oz is a series of wild, fantastical adventures with a rehashed plot. For me, it wasn't so satisfying.

From Sam: Although Thompson's books were never dramatized for the screen, some of the cover for this book did surprisingly make it into the background in the final scene of the animated musical (Thanksgiving/Christmas) special half-hour short "Dorothy in the Land of Oz".

1 comment:

saintfighteraqua said...

I agree with you on this book. Total rehash.
I did like Urtha though.
That is until her true, boring and predictable identity was revealed.
Grampa was okay too.

Another RPT mainstay was that characters almost always get blown out of Oz somehow. Man that annoyed me!