Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Yellow Knight of Oz

Thompson's 1930 book focuses on one of her first memorable characters: Sir Hokus of Pokes. Although he was mainly a supporting character, Sir Hokus was actually one of my favorites. A bluff, old-fashioned knight who would always try to be the hero? What's not to love? Of course he needs to be the focus.

Wait... It's not called Sir Hokus of Oz? Oh, it's The Yellow Knight of Oz. So, who's this yellow knight?

The book starts with Sir Hokus planning an adventure, but everyone in the Emerald City plans to go with him. Not wanting the company, he steals out alone. He travels through Marshland inhabited by giant turtles and frogs, and ruled by an ugly woman named Marcia. With the help of a giant turtle named Ploppa, he escapes.

Meanwhile, in the little kingdom of Samandra, the Sultan has had his Seer Chinda looking for the Comfortable Camel for ten years. In an argument, Chinda reveals he just discovered the Camel is in Ozma's court now. So, the Sultan sends Tuzzle the Grand Vizier to collect the Camel. Arriving at the Emerald City, Tuzzle does the smart thing: just asking for the Camel back! However, the Camel cannot be found. They send Tuzzle back, promising to send a message when the Camel returns. After he leaves, they go to check the Magic Picture, but it's gone. The Wizard says he has a magic searchlight that can find anything but decides against using it unless the Camel, Sir Hokus, and the Magic Picture don't turn up soon.

... Seriously? Yeah, Wiz, security must not be a big issue anymore.

Meanwhile, a young boy named Bill, but better known as Speedy, is testing his uncle Billy's rocket, which they plan to use to go to Mars.

Don't you love how little we knew of space exploration in 1930?

Anyways, it launches with Speedy alone and it crash lands in Subterranea, a country of quiet people under Oz. During a subter-rain, Speedy gets lost and finds a golden statue of a princess named Marygolden. It has fallen over, so Speedy starts to put it upright when it comes to life as a real flesh and blood princess. Using an umbrella, they escape Subterranea.

Meanwhile, Sir Hokus is joined by the Comfortable Camel and they eventually come across a deserted overgrown city. Finding a pack of dates in the Camel's saddle bag, Hokus eats one and tosses it away, but it hits a vine and transforms it into a Jester named Peter Pun. As the three journey on, the Comfortable Camel is captured by Chinda.

In Samandra, the Camel cannot talk anymore, but the Sultan is outraged that the Camel has lost his saddle bags.

Thompson returns to Speedy and Marygolden, who find themselves in Quick City, where Speedy is made King of the Quix. These people, as they wear special hats, age rapidly and then repeat their aging in just a few moments. It's actually one of Thompson's more amusing side-creations.

Escaping Quick City, Speedy and Marygolden arrive in a forest, where Speedy turns a horse chestnut into a chestnut horse named Stampedro, who says he belongs to the Yellow Knight. They soon are joined by Sir Hokus and Peter Pun, who go to Samandra to retrieve the Comfortable Camel. This they manage to do, but Hokus is separated from the rest, and they take the Sultan's dog Confido.

Confido, now being able to talk, is bribed into spilling all of the Sultan's secrets. He transformed the countries of Corumbia and Corabia, and Confido knows how to undo the enchantment, using date seeds that grow from a magic tree he instructs them to grow. He gives them the instructions, and the kingdoms are shortly restored. However, Stampedro demands the Yellow Knight be restored. But the Yellow Knight cannot be disenchanted until exactly ten in the morning. The Queen of Corumbia must eat the smallest date on the tree, and fling it from the tallest tower in the castle.

When this is done, the date seed strikes Sir Hokus, who turns into Prince Corum, the Yellow Knight. Backtracking, Thompson reveals the knight who Hokus fought and sent to Pokes all those years ago was really the Sultan of Samandra.

The Sultan is captured, and with a quick arrival by Ozma, the Wizard, and Dorothy. They see to the Sultan's punishment (return his stolen goods, all magic tools confiscated, and restricted to Samandra) and see Corum married to Marygolden, who was his bethrothed. (Before you ask, Thompson mentions that Sir Hokus hid the Magic Picture so the people in the Emerald City wouldn't come after him, but the Wizard found it.) The Camel stays with Corum, while Speedy returns home to Uncle Billy.

The Yellow Knight of Oz feels like it could have been more than what it was. Sadly, most of the story is about disenchanting things, which isn't too exciting. Yes, Ozma of Oz also had dispelling enchantments as a major plot point, but it felt more exciting there because there was also a large chance of danger for our heroes.

And Thompson winds up making one of her best characters into a character that isn't so interesting. And here, he drops out of Thompson's books. We never get to see what kind of character Prince Corum is, whether he became a completely different person, or if Sir Hokus was a part of his character exemplified. And the final problem is that if Thompson was going to do this, why place it ten years later? Ah, well.

The redeeming factor of Yellow Knight is Speedy, another adventurous child character to move the plot along, and guess what? He'll be back later!

1 comment:

Nathan said...

If I may make one minor correction, it's Tuzzle the Grand Vizier, not Chinda, who visits the Emerald City.