Thursday, December 02, 2010

Good Knight, Everybody

Since I've been confirmed as a writer for this blog, I might as well write something, right? I've been making Oz posts on my LiveJournal and then my WordPress for some time now, and I feel like I'm running out of topics. Since Jared recently wrote about Yellow Knight, however, I feel it might not be a bad idea to revisit this post on Sir Hokus of Pokes that I made last year. I updated it a bit as well, and left out the parts on Ploppa. Let me know what you think of this idea.

Sir Hokus of Pokes is known by that name due to his spending several centuries imprisoned in the dull, sleepy city of Pokes. It's there that Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion find him during the events of The Royal Book of Oz, and help him to escape at long last. He's an impulsive old man, always wanting to go on a quest or slay a monster, and often looking at things through the lens of medieval romance. Sort of like Don Quixote, actually. Unlike seventeenth-century Spain, however, Oz actually has giants and dragons. They're just not quite what the good knight expects.

Sir Hokus is quickly accepted as part of Ozma's court, and makes at least token appearances in most of the first few Thompson Oz books. There are several references to his being seven centuries old, and strong hints that he originated in King Arthur's England. Arthur is generally thought to have lived in the sixth century or so if he existed at all, but this was some time prior to the era of knights in armor. Over the years, the Arthurian legend came to incorporate a lot of anachronistic material, and the castle with the Round Table and all that is probably much closer to the thirteenth century or so, which would make it about right for Hokus' seven centuries. It doesn't really matter in the end, however, as Yellow Knight reveals that the knight isn't from Merrie Olde England after all, but rather from a long-lost kingdom in the Winkie Country. The book confirms that Hokus is 700 years old, but the kingdoms of Corumbia and Corabia had only been enchanted for 500. The neighboring sultanate of Samandra is also said to have inhabitants who were up to seven centuries old, so some Oz scholars have taken this to mean that Ozites gained immortality sometime around the early thirteenth century. This doesn't really fit too well with other references throughout the series, however. Are we supposed to believe, for instance, that Nick Chopper's account of his life in Wizard, which includes his parents dying, spans 700 years? Also, would Prince Corum really have waited until he was 200 years old to leave his kingdom in search of a bride? Immortal or not, that's a little difficult to swallow. And why would Hokus not have remembered Oz and been surprised by the Cowardly Lion's talking when he was an Ozian native with a talking horse?

In addition to these questions, a lot of fans object to the ending of Yellow Knight because it essentially destroys the character of Sir Hokus. Is a handsome young knight in a familiar land anywhere near as interesting as a blustery old knight out of his element? Thompson obviously had fun writing Hokus, so why eliminate the character by giving him a happy ending? John R. Neill apparently felt the same way, because his books bring back the old Sir Hokus. Is this a continuity error? Well, not necessarily. Since Thompson seems to have thought of her books as occurring roughly one per year, that means about ten years passed in between Yellow Knight and Wonder City, which would be plenty of time for Corum to have aged back into his familiar appearance. Since aging is optional in Thompson's Oz, that would leave open the question as to why he wanted to, but maybe he didn't even think about it. After spending so many years as the aged knight, he might have naturally lapsed back into that role. And just because Neill's books never mention Marygolden doesn't mean she isn't still around. Interestingly, when Thompson returned to Oz with Yankee, she mentions Sir Hokus (not the Yellow Knight) as a resident of Ozma's palace. It looks like even she might have regretted changing him at the end of Yellow Knight.


J. L. Bell said...

I think what makes Sir Hokus interesting are contradictions and frustrations. He’s a man out of time, trying to follow values that no longer matter. He’s an old man in a role for a young man. He’s a fierce warrior who’s also (like so many fierce-seeming citizens of the Emerald City) actually gentle and childlike.

Being turned into Corum erases all that. He ends up in a medieval society, he’s young, and he’s taken away from Dorothy and the other children of the capital.

I agree that the “solution” for subsequent authors is to let Corum age a bit, becoming more like Sir Hokus, with the familiar frustrations and contradictions. And nothing would age a man, or frustrate his questing desires, more than having a bunch of children with his new wife.

Jared said...

Do Neill's books necessarily take place after Thompson's?

Nathan said...

Since Wonder City has Ozoplanes, which were introduced in Thompson's last FF book, I think they'd pretty much have to be.