Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Pirates in Oz

Thompson's book for 1931. The title: Pirates in Oz. The cover, a boy and a scruffy, bearded pirate on the rigging of a ship at sea. What does this indicate? Adventure! But will Thompson deliver?

So, where do we begin? Ruggedo, still mute from last time, has managed to leave Oz and is heading south along the Ev coastline. He comes across the the Land of Menankypoo, where he is made the dumb king, as he is mute, but also passes a series of tests pretending to be stupid.

As he explores, he finds a cave, with some magic tools, including a pond that restores his speech, and a Clocker, a Cuckoo Clock man that dispenses wise advice every fifteen minutes.

As Ruggedo is leaving the cave, Menankypoo is attacked by pirates. All the people are thrown into the sea. (They don't die, as Menankypoo is still part of fairyland.) Ruggedo and Clocker decide to enlist the pirates to help them conquer Oz. The pirates agree.

Meanwhile, King Ato, the king of the Octagon Isle, and Roger the Read Bird, receive two unexpected guests. The first is Captain Samuel Salt, who has been deserted by his pirate crew. Still, the appearance of his ship made all the other inhabitants of the Octagon Isle flee in a ship. The second guest is Peter, who got shipwrecked, and has found a flask marked simply "Do not open." Captain Salt decides to take Ato, Peter, and Roger as his new crew, and they set sail.

Along their journey, Captain Salt encounter strange and interesting islands. All of these are plenty of fun to read about, actually. Eventually, they add Pigasus, a winged pig, to the crew.

They arrive at Menankypoo, where they discover the Octagon Islanders arrived and joined the pirates, who are going to conquer Oz, as Clocker has devised a way to cross the desert. The flask accidentally opens, and it makes Captain Salt's ship fly. They use it to go to Oz, while Pigasus carries Peter to the Emerald City. They find Ruggedo has already captured the Magic Belt and is holding Ozma and her court at his mercy.

Pigasus and Peter go to attack Ruggedo, but he renders them motionless with a magic stick. The most good they do is Pigasus swallowing Clocker's cuckoo, rendering him unable to dispense advice.

Meanwhile, Roger theorizes that closing the flask will make the ship go back down, so they land in the Emerald City, and it is Captain Salt who grabs Ruggedo and Roger removes the Magic Belt and restores it to Ozma. She turns Ruggedo in a stone jug and restores everyone else, including the other pirates and the Octagon islanders, who he had turned into cobblestones.

The Octagon Islanders are all returned home, and all the pirates are turned into seagulls, Ozma explaining that this will allow them to enjoy the sea while being unable to harm anyone, and Clocker is rebuilt to have gentle intentions. Captain Salt is made Royal Discover and Explorer of Oz, who will claim new countries for Oz. Ato decides he will spend half his time serving as Captain Salt's cook. Meanwhile, Peter returns home.

Overall, Pirates in Oz is a fun story, introducing some lovable new characters. I actually found myself laughing aloud at Pigasus' introduction. Captain Salt is one of Thompson's better characters: he's a pirate who doesn't ruthlessly pillage, take prisoners, or even make people walk the plank. He's a good natured "bad guy."

My only concern is that now Thompson has had less harsh punishments for her villains, but now transforming them all seems a bit off for Ozma. Consider that Ozma spent her early years transformed. Furthermore, transformations do not reform character, and just dehumanizes the character, literally.

And we'll see a bit more of that...

Anyways, go ahead and give Pirates in Oz a read.


Doug Wall said...

It's hard to say whether an animal form de-humanizes a character in Oz, but I agree it is a rather severe punishment.

Nathan said...

I have to say I'm a bit disappointed that Clocker (whether reformed or not) never makes a return appearance.