Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Gnome King of Oz

Something I didn't mention about Thompson that I will say now about her 1927 Oz book. She preferred to use the traditional spelling "Gnome" with a "G" for the Nomes. I'm not exactly sure if it's been verified, but Baum claimed he wrote it without a "G" so it would be easier for children to pronounce. However, he did use the traditional spelling in his book The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, and if that Gnome King is the Nome King, then there's really no issue...

Now, on to The Gnome King of Oz!

We open in the kingdom of Patch, somewhere in Winkie Country, where the Queen has just gone to pieces. (This kingdom's form of dying: when people "wear out," they fall into pieces and are put in a scrap bag, only to emerge good as new ten years later. A very amusing method, I must say.) Ministers Scrapper and Piercer set out, following the Spool of Succession to find the next ruler. The spool (and the Wizard's footpath) takes them to the Emerald City, where they find Scraps, and assume she must be the next ruler. However, she is indignant at being captured and carried away, and is none to thrilled to discover that the Queen of the Quilties is expected to wait upon the ministers and do menial tasks.

Meanwhile, a boy named Peter in Philadelphia goes to buy a balloon, but it turns out it's a balloon bird intent on carrying him to Baloona where he will be a servant. Peter takes the first opportunity to drop from the sky and onto an island, which has one inhabitant: the titular Ruggedo.

THOMPSON TRADEMARK: High flying into adventure. (Oh, wait, wrong blog entry...)

Ruggedo offers to make Peter rich if he helps him off the island, and Peter ... agrees to an extent. He's very wary of the Nome (Yes, Thompson! Call 'em what you will, but I'm dropping the G!), but is still a little tempted by the offer of riches. So... Thompson has a kid with potential for corruption? ... Go, girl!

The two find a pirate ship with some food and treasure inside, as well as a magic cloak that can transport the wearer anywhere and makes them invisible. It just doesn't work now because it's been torn. The ship manages to get Peter and Ruggedo to Ev, where Ruggedo wastes no time invading the Nome Kingdom, and threatening Kaliko off the throne. (Oh, Kaliko...) Ruggedo discovers that the only way to mend the cloak is to have it done in the kingdom of Patch.

So, you know what this means? They have to cross the Deadly Desert! They plant some plants that grow under them very high and reach right over the desert, dropping them off. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: that desert is getting too easy to cross!

They visit a man named Kuma Party. From the spelling, you might think it would be pronounced "Koo-ma Party," but when you find out more about the character, you discover his first name is pronounced "Come-ah." "Come Aparty," because he can dismember himself and send his body parts flying around. ... You know, I think there was a superhero like that...

After letting them have supper, Kuma literally lends Ruggedo and Peter a hand by having it carry a lantern for them when it gets dark. They reach Patch and Scrapper and Piercer are only too happy to have Ruggedo as a customer to have them repair the cloak, though Scraps, recognizing the Nome, objects. When the cloak is repaired, with only a blue patch that does not turn invisible showing, Peter wishes Ruggedo to "Zamagoochie!" by raising his arm, the proper way to use the cloak. (Ruggedo, classic male, did not read the instructions.)

Scraps, Peter, and their new companion, the tiny bear Grumpy, hope this has bought them enough time to get to the Emerald City. Getting help from Kuma Party's hands, they escape Patch. On the way to the Emerald City, they hurry through the kingdom of Suds, are joined by a helpful Oztrich, sing their way through Tune Town, before reaching the Emerald City.

Suddenly, my wish to visit Oz is swayed by all these weird places that are easy to get stuck in...

Ruggedo, meanwhile, was captured in Zamagoochie by the Wizard Wumbo, who happens to be Kuma Party's father. He holds Ruggedo captive in his chair's arms, but when the arms finally let go, Ruggedo promptly escapes and heads to the Emerald City. Wumbo sends for Kuma to send a message to Ozma in the Emerald City.

However, Ozma is away and has the Magic Belt with her, so Ruggedo remains invisible in the Emerald City, pulling tricks in his invisible state. Just as Ozma returns, Scraps and her retinue arrive and warn them. But it is too late, as the sneaky Ruggedo manages to steal the belt anyways, and is about to send everyone to the bottom of the Nonestic Ocean, when Peter hits him with a stone that happens to be the Silence Stone. (Yay, deus ex machina...) Because he is mute, he cannot command the cloak to carry him away, or for the Magic Belt to do anything, so he is quickly captured.

Ozma wipes Ruggedo's memory again in the Water of Oblivion, sends the Quilties of Patch a new Queen (changing some laws, though), and sends Peter home with two big bags of gold from the pirate ship.

At first, the story seems to be okay, despite the deus ex machina conquest of Ruggedo. However, the story seems to be just too easy. It's not a bad story, but it's not great. Thompson plays with some interesting ideas, such as Peter not being an average good boy, but doesn't really develop them into a satisfying conclusion. Kuma Party is just about the best new character, but most of the time, it's just his hands doing the action. We don't really see his character develop.

The Gnome King of Oz is an okay story. Like I said, not bad, but not great.

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