Thursday, May 19, 2011

Handy Mandy in Oz

Another year, another Oz book. Thompson was beginning to run out of ideas and she knew it. 1937's Handy Mandy in Oz introduced Handy Mandy, a goat girl with seven unique hands. The thing is, Handy Mandy wasn't exactly original to this story. A different multi-handed maiden had been the subject of the poem "Handy Mandy: Solomon T. Wise's New Cook." Solomon created her as a servant, but the one in this story is a little different.

Mandy cares for her goats on Mount Mern, where all people are seven handed. Mandy has an iron hand, a wooden hand, a leather hand, two rubber hands, and two white hands. ("White" seemingly flesh.) While caring for her goats one day, a geyser erupts and sends her high into the air. Three guesses where she lands!

... "Oz?"

You're good.

To be specific, she lands in Keretaria, a little kingdom in the Munchkin Country. She quickly becomes friends with Nox, the Royal Ox. (I swear I didn't give him that title.) Nox tells Mandy about the current situation of Keretaria: little King Kerry has been usurped by his uncle Kerr.

Mandy discovers that Nox's horns unscrew and finds two silver balls inside: one with a key and another with a note that tells them to go to the Silver Mountain of Oz. Mandy and Nox leave Keretaria, and make their way to the Silver Mountain, braving a river (Mandy not knowing how to swim) and traveling through Turn Town. It turns out that Ox's other horn is a "horn of plenty," which will grant wishes for things. They are attacked by Hook Noses, but the horn helps them out with some molasses.

Mandy finds a door behind a waterfall. While it's locked, she tries knocking. When none of her hands seem to make a difference, she uses a silver hammer she dug up in Keretaria. It summons an elf, who opens it for them, and they find themselves in Silver Mountain, ruled by the Wizard of Wutz, who plans to take over Oz. He throws Nox and Mandy in prison, then heads to the Emerald City where he steals a jug that used to be a Nome. To make matters worse, he's already acquired the Magic Picture and Glinda's Book of Records.

The Wizard of Wutz has Mandy break the jug, restoring Ruggedo, who Wutz takes with him to help him conquer the Emerald City, especially since Ozma and the Wizard left to see Glinda. Mandy and Nox are led to Kerry by a silver ball, and they find him in a state of suspended animation in a bubble, which Mandy pops with her hand, reviving him. They use the Silver Hammer to summon the elf (named Himself), who whisks them to the Emerald City.

Conquering the Emerald City would be an easy task if Ruggedo and Wutz didn't argue, and Mandy catches up with them quickly, and has Himself take them away. There's a little confusion when Mandy is found with the Magic Belt in her hands, but eventually, all is settled. Ruggedo and Wutz have been transformed into cacti, Wutz's spies have become moles, Kerry regains his throne, and Mandy visits in the Emerald City for a couple weeks before returning home to Mount Mern. But after a month, she uses a gift from the Wizard of Oz—a wishing pill—to bring herself and her flock to Keretaria.

Overall, Handy Mandy in Oz is a lot of fun. Thompson uses some fine word play, and there's great witty dialogue. The story's one big shortfall is that instead of actually facing their troubles, Mandy and Nox just about always have some magic tool to get them out of trouble quickly.

Mandy herself is Thompson's first real grotesque protagonist, and is quite headstrong and brave, definitely a character that could be developed further. However, neither she nor Keretaria appear in the Famous Forty again.


Nathan said...

While the plot is a bit thin, I still quite like this book, probably mostly because of Mandy herself. Wutz's mountain is pretty cool, too.

I could be wrong, but I believe Sir Solomon's Handy Mandy had only four arms.

Jared said...

Correct as usual, Nathan!