Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Lost King of Oz

Okay... Some of you can probably guess how I'll feel about the conclusion of The Lost King of Oz, Thompson's Oz book for 1925. But we'll get to that...

We open in the kingdom of Kimballoo, where King Kinda Jolly reigns, and has brought his cook a goose he bought to cook for dinner. Except his cook happens to be Mombi, and the goose is actually Pajuka, the former Prime Minister of Oz under the old King, Pastoria, who, Mombi reveals, is not dead, but under an enchantment. Mombi decides to find Pastoria, so he can take the throne from Ozma, and will probably reward her for finding him. (Flaw in your logic, Mombi. You enchanted him in the first place.) Mombi has forgotten her magic, due to Glinda taking it from her back in The Marvelous Land of Oz, but she has learned new magic based solely on cooking.

So, Mombi, Pajuka, and a button-boy named Snip set out to find Pastoria. Along the way, Mombi uses her food-based magic to help them along, from raising a city of cats with baking powder, or walking over a body of water using gelatin. Finally, Mombi fears that Snip will betray them, and throws him down a well, where he finds the city of the Blanks (invisible people who only care about dress), and their tailor, Tora, who is visible and has "Butterfly ears" that he can send away so he can hear things elsewhere. With Snip's help, he escapes Blankenberg at last.

Meanwhile, Dorothy leaves the friends she made in the last book, and stumbles onto another Wish Way, and accidentally wishes herself back in America, where she finds and wishes to life a dummy dressed like a king that was being used in a movie, that she names Humpy. However, she finds herself growing to her proper age, and wishes herself and Humpy back in Oz, and finds herself a little girl again.

That's kind of weird. I'd always thought that while in Oz, your physical aging froze, so if you went outside of Oz, you would start off at the same age you were when you went to Oz, and then age normally. But then, Thompson does tend to go for the more fantastic.

Meanwhile, Ozma and members of her court receive a message telling them to "Go to Morrow today," which they confuse for "Go tomorrow today." (Tik-Tok worries about it until he runs down, despite being mechanical and emotionless... I'm going to say that Thompson got his character completely wrong.) They realize it means Morrow, Pastoria's old hunting lodge, and there, they find a cloak that will restore the Lost King of Oz.

Dorothy and Humpy escape the Back Talkers of Eht Kcab Sdoow by running backwards, get helped along by the Scooters, and meet with Snip and Tora, and are joined by Kabumpo. These five catch Mombi and Pajuka at the Emerald City. Trying to restore the King, who they think Humpy is, Mombi accidentally sinks the palace into the ground.

Meanwhile, Ozma and her court hurry back to the Emerald City, anticipating the return of Pastoria, although almost everyone realizes that if Pastoria takes the throne, they might not be allowed to stay in the Palace.

Snip uses Mombi's baking powder to raise the Palace, and Ozma and the court return, but the attempt to restore Humpy is a failure. However, when they try it on Tora, it works! Pajuka is also restored to human form.

Pastoria decides to abdicate and let Ozma remain as queen of Oz, and he opens a tailor shop in the Emerald City, with Pajuka and Snip helping him, and Humpy being his dress dummy.

Now for the big, bad, ending...

Ozma decides to kill Mombi.

There's no better way to put it. Since Thompson is sticking with the idea that water "melts" Wicked Witches, and Mombi is a Wicked Witch, she has Ozma order the Scarecrow and Sir Hokus to dunk her in a fountain, which they run off to do and return with only her shoes.

My interpretation of Oz canon would stipulate that Mombi could not have died this way. She was just a sorceress, and we were never told that she had "dried up," like we were the Wicked Witches of the East and West. That accounts for how a heavy object like Dorothy's house crushed one into dust, and water broke down and dissolved the molecules of the other. I assumed the gradual crumbling of the Wicked Witch of the East and the slow dissolution of the Wicked Witch of the West was because they had used magic to keep them alive, but when it met with a force that it could not contend with, it broke down slowly.

And frankly, what did Mombi do that was so bad as to earn her a death penalty? Yes, she had played a major role in upsetting the old monarchy of Oz, but this paved the way for Ozma in the end. And now, all the people who had been affected by this have been restored and live happily ever after.

Furthermore, Ozma did promise to care for Mombi in her old age, so why the change of heart?

If Thompson had just had Ozma keep Mombi under probation, this would have been a very nice Oz story. It is nice to let Ozma have a parent around, and the story, despite being a little shallow, is humorous. I think Dorothy's brief visit to Hollywood was meant to tie in with the fact that the 1925 Wizard of Oz film was released that year.

Overall, I'd say The Lost King of Oz is a good story. I just wish I could forget that part of the last chapter ever existed.

(Don't worry, Mombi. In my Oz, you faked it.)


Hungry Tiger Talk said...

Generally I'm in complete agreement. The book has some charm and atmosphere for RPT and then that horrible ending comes along which ruins the book.

However, I must add I love your pointing out the pretty obvious tie-in to the 1925 film and Dorothy's suddenly returning to the US (Hollywood, too!) and growing to adulthood! I've NEVER seen anyone make that connection before. I may even like LOST KING and the horrid movie a teeny bit better now! So, Hah!

J. L. Bell said...

Good point about Dorothy's visit to Oz coming when Chadwick was preparing its Wizard of Oz movie. We know Reilly & Lee wanted Thompson to finish Ozoplaning so it could market that book in conjunction with the MGM movie. That makes the earlier attempt at cross-promotion more likely.

As for Mombi's execution, a while back I drafted an alternative scenario.

ColinAyres said...

I've said before I really like this book but so don't get where Thompson was coming from at times. Baum's Ozma would never order anyone death let a lone Mombi's!

Anonymous said...

I heard a very un-PC and indelicate term coined years ago: Character Rape. Used for fanfiction, it means having a character do something they just wouldn't do, simply because the writer wanted it. This is a prime example: Ozma is a pacifist and non-violent by nature, and simply would not have allowed the death penalty in her kingdom.

Nathan said...

I have to agree that Thompson didn't properly capture Tik-Tok's character. Neither did Neill is his Oz books, for that matter.

As for Ozma instituting the death penalty, she DID try to have Eureka executed.

Hollywood props said...
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saintfighteraqua said...

I agree with everyone, this is a good Oz story with a bad ending.
I was really thrilled to have Mombi back (But her new look just didn't work for me)
But the ending is so out of character for Ozma...even for RPT.
Ozma did try to have Eureka put on trial to be executed, but by Emerald City of Oz, she was much more pacifistic and too kind to harm an enemy.
And her attitude in Hungry Tiger when she thought she'd harmed Atmos is still rather in character compared to this.
I think the worst part is how nonchalantly she treats her death also.

In my own theory, she was dunked in a fountain: The Fountain of Oblivion.
Thus Mombi as Mombi was no more since her memories were erased and her soaking wet shoes were brought in as proof the deed had been done.

If Mombi was now known to not have been guilty of kill Pastoria but only enchanting him, and all of her other death threats turned out to be only threats, then why would anyone, let alone OZMA execute her?

In fact, though she is mean and spiteful usually, I always felt Mombi had some good in her and the way she treated Snip at times hinted at that.

I don't subscribe to the Mombi is dead idea at all.
Either it was a misunderstanding between RPT and whoever relayed the story or she flat out made that ending up! :)