Monday, May 02, 2011

Captain Salt in Oz

1936 found Thompson only a little reluctantly returning to Oz. After all, in her previous fifteen books, she had created many characters worth revisiting. So, what about that one book, Pirates in Oz, that introduced a Royal Explorer of Oz? Yep, sounds like it's worth revisiting.

King Ato of the Octagon Islands and Roger the Read Bird are finally reunited with Captain Salt on the Crescent Moon. Their expedition is to find new lands for the Land of Oz to branch out into (because Thompson realized just how many kingdoms she crammed into Oz) and collect specimens of new creatures.

Salt, Ato, and Roger have a little adventure with a volcanic island, complete with Lava people, and while this is a fun adventure, something feels lacking. Thompson may have noticed this herself, because Captain Salt's next stop adds two new characters to the crew, Nikobo the hippopotamus, and Tazander Tazah of Ozamaland, the king and the son of a king's son. However, he has been stranded on this island.

While Tandy (as Nikobo is fond to call him) has trouble getting over his ego, he eventually comes around and becomes an able seaman, proving himself by drawing a detailed picture of an attacking sea serpent. And with a child character on board, the story feels right at last.

Captain Salt and his crew visit more islands, most of them submitting to Ozma's rule, and Samuel gets more specimens, until they arrive at Ozamaland, where it is revealed that Tandy has been usurped and it's been a wicked plot by the king's councilor Didjabo, who worked with Boglodore, the Old Man of the Jungle. However, when Didjabo refuses to repay Boglodore, the Old Man gets his revenge by helping Tandy. He has his Umbrellaphant (an elephant that flies through a parachute-like layer of skin on its back) fly the traitors off the island and drops them into the sea, where they remain trapped forever.

Tandy takes back his kingdom, but instead of resuming active ruling, he appoints a regent and resumes his journeys with Captain Salt, Ato, Roger and Nikobo.

I rather liked Captain Salt in Oz, though I do find the idea of Ozma needing to have new lands conquered in her name a bit much. Like I said, the story drags early on without a leading child character, but once Tandy comes in, the story picks up the pace.

The character that really struck me is Nikobo the hippopotamus. She is extremely motherly to Tandy and makes for some fun dialogue. It's too bad she never reappears.

Thompson wasn't as into the intrigue of political usurpers as Baum. In the stories in which she did it, the true ruler invades their home again with either magic help (the big wig in The Hungry Tiger of Oz) or some ally (this story's Umbrellaphant). Compare this to The Scarecrow of Oz, where ... Oh, wait, the Ork did help out... But Baum did manage to make the plot more intriguing by further developing the villains, whereas Thompson only brings them in when the heroes draw near.

All in all, Captain Salt in Oz is a lot of fun! Even though Captain Salt technically isn't in Oz during the whole story.

Now let's see if I can get to Handy Mandy in Oz in less than a month!

1 comment:

Nathan said...

Captain Salt was never one of my favorites. Some good ideas, but the episodic plot meant that very few of them ever really amounted to anything. Also, the whole idea of Captain Salt conquering other countries for Ozma is a little disturbing.