Saturday, August 07, 2010

Kabumpo in Oz

Well, the readers ate up Thompson's disguised debut, and the next year in 1922, Thompson rolled out another Oz book. As it turned out, Kabumpo in Oz would feature many elements that Thompson would make her trademarks.

The story opens in the kingdom of Pumperdink, a little place Thompson had created in her earlier short stories. She took a page from Baum tying the locations in his non-Oz fantasies to Oz by making them borderlands, except Thompson actually placed Pumperdink in the Gillikin Country.

THOMPSON TRADEMARK: Oz is now full of tiny little kingdoms that were never there before.

As Prince Pompadore celebrates one of his eighteenth birthdays, his cake explodes, leaving a scroll warning that if he doesn't marry "the proper fairy princess" in a certain amount of time, Pumperdink will disappear. (How, exactly, is never explained.)

King Pompus (Seriously, Thompson? That's not even clever wordplay!) decrees Pompadore will marry the withered old fairy princess Faleero, but Kabumpo, the elegant elephant, is indignant at this pairing, and he and Pompadore run off to ask Ozma to marry him, thinking she would definitely do it to save Pumperdink.

THOMPSON TRADEMARK: The prince is after a princess.

As Pompadore and Kabumpo meet some of Thompson's fun characters and locations, we go to the Emerald City, where we discover the Water of Oblivion has worn off of Ruggedo, the ex-Nome King (except Thompson calls him the Gnome King), and he's burrowed under the Emerald City. (How exactly it just "wore off," I have no idea. Thompson doesn't explain, and Baum indicated it was a permanent removal.) He has carved away his history on rocks (including his life as Roquat), and stolen many items from the Emerald City, and resides with a rabbit named Wag, and Trot's wooden doll Peg Amy, that Cap'n Bill made from a tree. (For some reason, this required him to cut down the entire tree.)

THOMPSON TRADEMARK: Even if she's not messing with continuity, I'm still scratching my head over the details.

Ruggedo finds a box of magic tools marked "Glegg's Box of Mixed Magic," and we can already tell trouble is brewing. Heeding advice from the included Question Box, Ruggedo enlarges Peg Amy and Wag, and brings Peg to life. He also uses hair strengthener to make his hair go into very hard and sharp spikes, then when things get too crowded, he uses the enlarging magic on himself, making him a giant, with Ozma's palace on his head!

Meanwhile, Glinda reads that Ruggedo has something on his mind. When did the Book of Records become so cryptic?

Ruggedo heads to Ev, intending to take over the Nome Kingdom again, while Wag, Peg Amy, Glinda, Kabumpo, and Pompadore unite, and taking advantage of a live runaway country, follow Ruggedo to Ev.

Although Thompson uses her fun misadventures to stretch the story out a bit, it quickly breaks down to using the box of Mixed Magic to make Ruggedo go to sleep and sleep walk back to the Emerald City, where he is restored to his normal size, and the palace set back on its foundation.

Ozma refuses to marry Pompadore, and they ask the Question Box who the Proper Fairy Princess is, and are told that it is the Princess of Sun Top Mountain. So, Kabumpo, Pompadore, Peg Amy, and Wag head there and discover the Princess has been missing. Kabumpo's Magic Mirror reveals that Peg Amy is, in fact, the missing Princess, who had been turned into a tree, and then wound up becoming a doll when Cap'n Bill cut the tree down. This restores her, then the magician Glegg appears, but is subdued. Pompadore and Peg Amy marry, saving Pumperdink.

THOMPSON TRADEMARK: The princess wasn't that far off...

And now to punish our baddies! Ruggedo is sent on the Runaway Country to the Nonestic Ocean to live in exile. The odd thing about this is that Tik-Tok claims Ruggedo will never reform. Why is the emotionless clockwork man judging now?

THOMPSON TRADEMARK: Ruggedo is always, always, always bad.

As for Glegg, he is given some of his magic potion under suggestion from the Question Box, and this makes him explode. And no one bats an eye, in fact, the book ends with Scraps cheerfully sweeping up his ashes.

THOMPSON TRADEMARK: The bad guys get severely punished.

Altogether, Kabumpo in Oz is an enjoyable book, and it's far from bad. It's just that I can really see that Thompson did not completely understand why Baum did some of the things he did, which included giving even the villains a sort-of happy ending. (Unless they died...)

A lot of the new characters in the book are memorable. Pompadore is a nice leading boy hero, Peg is a great enchanted princess, and Kabumpo, even when he's haughty, is somehow lovable.

And why did I mark those trademarks? Because in the other three Thompson books I read recently, you will see them again.


Sam A M said...

Actually it's a very good thing you're now blogging about Ruth Plumly Thompson's Oz books . . . because since I haven't read them, I can read the blogs without any prior knowledge and enjoy finding out what they're about.

J. L. Bell said...

Other Thompson themes to look for:

• Old and ugly is usually bad, especially in women. Good people who are old and/or ugly often turn out to be young, pretty people under enchantment.

• Most really good people become royals or nobles, or have been such all along. Most stories end with royals and status quo ante restored, and there are rarely scenes (as in Baum) of people choosing whom they want to rule them.

• The worst punishments are reserved for old, ugly, and/or non-royal people who try to marry young, pretty, and royal people through deception or force. Villains who don’t cross that line can get off with lesser punishment.

Anonymous said...

From what I recall, Mombi in LOST KING wasn't trying to marry anyone.

ColinAyres said...

Kabumpo in Oz is one of my favourite Thompson Oz books. Firstly I think because it was the first one I ever read, secondly becuase I like the story and the use of the 'Nome' King.

Although as stated she does go onto use the several story devices again later on.

My Favourite Thompson Oz books are Kabumpo in Oz, Lost King of Oz, Handy Mandy in Oz, Wishing Horse of Oz.

One of the things I have hard time with in the Thompson books is the heartless way she dispatches with the villain's, this is so out of step with Baum vision of Oz. The fact that Ozma condones this make it worse, thinking of Clegg and Mombi later.

I do wonder whether Thompson really did her research on characterisation on the Oz books when writing them or if she she made a conscious descion to change some of the characterristics of the Ozian world.

saintfighteraqua said...

Kabumpo is way better than Royal Book and has a much more fun tone to it.
This was the first Thompson book I read and I was at first horrified when I read it as a child.
Why was the Nome King only a few inches tall? It made no sense to me why she messed with his character.
Did he shrink in the wash?

Really, that was my major complaint with this book.
The villain was forgettable but I loved Kabumpo and Peg Amy.
Wag I can do without, as much as I love rabbits.