Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Purple Prince of Oz

Remember Pumperdink? Remember Kabumpo? They first appeared back in Thompson's second Oz book, Kabumpo in Oz, in 1922, but since then, we've heard nothing of this little Gillikin Country, save Kabumpo making an appearance in the 1925 Oz book, The Lost King of Oz.

A boy named Randy wanders into Pumperdink and is taken before King Pompus as a vagabond. However, Kabumpo decides to make him his manservant. However, Randy and Kabumpo soon go from a member of the court to the rescuers of Pumperdink when Kettywig, Pompus' brother allies himself with Faleero, the aged fairy princess, to make the royal family of Pumperdink vanish and to take over the kingdom for themselves. A Soothsayer tells them to look for the Red Jinn, so Kabumpo heads for the Quadling Country.

Kabumpo and Randy bravely face many obstacles on their way, some quite memorable, like Nandywog, the little giant (who appears fierce, but is actually quite friendly), and some less than memorable. Finally, they find a guide post, who they ask where to find the Red Jinn. It points northwest, which Kabumpo is sure must be wrong, but when Randy asks it to take them to the Red Jinn, it sends them both flying through the air in true Thompson tradition!

Meanwhile, in the kingdom of Regalia, the new King's progress at proving his right to be royal is being tracked...

Randy and Kabumpo find themselves in the palace of Jinnicky, the Red Jinn of Ev. While we first saw the jolly Red Jinn back in Jack Pumpkinhead of Oz, but here, the character has become more developed. Jinnicky wears a red ginger jar and has many servants (all black... hmmm...) and a grand vizier named Alibabble. To be honest, Jinnicky is one of my favorite Thompson characters. (You may find out why soon...)

Jinnicky, upon hearing Kabumpo and Randy's story, immediately pledges his help. With help from Polychrome and the Rainbow, they cross the Deadly Desert, and head to Pumperdink, tackling more obstacles and little kingdoms along the way.

Meanwhile, in Pumperdink, Faleero has been making life miserable for everyone (including Kettywig), and finally General Quakes of the army makes the brave attempt to go to Glinda's palace in the south.

Jinnicky, Kabumpo, and Randy encounter Ozwoz, the Wonderful, a wozard, who has an army of wooden soldiers, one of which Jinnicky trades a never-emptying cookie jar for. (I wonder if Ozwoz's wooden soldiers were the inspiration for Alexander Volkov's Deadwood Oaks.) The trade turns out to be a wise one, for the soldier, Johnwahn, is able to seize Faleero and carry her far away. However, they lost the control of him and cannot make him stop. Ozma and the Wizard arrive, having been alerted by General Quakes.

Ozma and the Wizard begin restoring Pumperdink, while Jinnicky, Randy, and Kabumpo head to Faleero's home, hoping to find some clue to restore the Royal Family. As it is night, they start a fire to see by, only to discover the logs they are using are the Royal Family. But they're doing the right thing, as this is the way to restore people who have been changed into wood.

As they return to Pumperdink, Randy finds the controller and makes Johnwahn return with an unconscious Faleero. When she awakens, she flies away, never to be seen again. (For now...) Suddenly, visitors from Pumperdink, who call Randy their new king, as he has passed the seven tests required to be royal. He made three true friends in Kabumpo, Jinnicky, and the giant Nandywog. He served a strange king, Pompus, who was strange while enchanted. He saved Queen Pozy, he proved his bravery in battle, fought a fabulous monster, disenchanted not just one, but two princesses, Peg Amy and her daughter, and even prince Pompadore, and finally received from Jinnicky Johnwahn, a magical treasure. Kabumpo promises to visit, Jinnicky promising to come along.

The Purple Prince of Oz may just be one of Thompson's best. Aside from a dragging second chapter where Kabumpo retells Kabumpo in Oz, the story is exciting and fast paced. She also further develops Pumperdink and Kabumpo, and finally fleshes out the Red Jinn, who had been mentioned and made a cameo in the last two books. Even better, in Baum tradition, the villains, no matter how bad, are aptly punished, and everyone who they hurt restored and made happy again.

Sadly, though, when it came to Oz, Thompson had a very shallow well of ideas, and being required to write a book annually was beginning to take its toll on her. However, her awareness of this weakness became a strength, as some of her later stories vastly improved on the former, and The Purple Prince of Oz is one of the better examples.

1 comment:

scott said...

I have to tell you that your reviews of the Oz books are some of the finest I've ever seen.