Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Silver Princess in Oz

1938, Ruth Plumly Thompson was beginning to get fed up. Not only did she dread her drying well of ideas for Oz stories, but all her ideas to further publicize the Oz series were getting turned down. She believed that merchandising would be a good avenue to pursue. But Frank O'Donnell, the current president (there was now no Reilly in Reilly & Lee), kept turning her down.

So, what to do in her next Oz story? Have fun! And that is what her lead characters set out to do!

The story opens in Regalia, where King Randy is tired of his councilors telling him he should marry, when who should arrive but his good old friend, Kabumpo? The two decide to run off to visit Jinnicky in Ev. They head through the troublesome Gaper's Gulch and brave the heads of Headland before they are blown across the Deadly Desert by a storm. (Seriously? That easily?)

Randy and Kabumpo find themselves in Ix, where they meet Planetty and Thun, the Silver Princes of Anuther Planet and her steed. Both seem to be made of some silver-like metal. Thun jumped on a thunder bolt, carrying them to earth. Planetty reveals, in her own talk, that in order to not freeze into statues, she and Thun must return to their vanadium springs. Randy and Kabumpo feel sure that Jinnicky can either send them home or find a vanadium substitute.

The four travelers find a secluded country called Boxwood, where the people wear boxes like armor all the time. (That is, if they are people. John R. Neill's illustrations suggest they might not be shaped the same way normal humans are.) Boxes of many things grow on trees, but when Chillywalla, the leader of the country, sees that his guests are not interested in boxes but the contents, he throws a fit and they must quickly leave Boxwood.

The travelers continue to Jinnicky's palace, becoming fast friends along the way. But when they reach the palace, they discover that Jinnicky's peaceful home has been overthrown by his former trusted servant Gludwig. He has stolen magic tools and made the servants (or slaves? Thompson calls them slaves, and they are, regrettably, black, but they are paid and have homes) do as he commands. Jinnicky himself is in the bottom of the ocean. Randy and his friends burst in, intending to turn Gludwig into a statue with Planetty's staff, but he makes them fall into a cellar, just after Planetty hurled her staff.

They find Ginger, Jinnicky's servant of his magic dinner bell, in the cellar, but time runs out for Planetty and Thun, and they stiffen into statues. Deciding there's nothing for it but to find Jinnicky, they suddenly find themselves being whisked through the air, for Jinnicky has been recovered by a fisherman, who doesn't have the best of intentions at all. Informing him of what happened, they all head straight back, finding that Gludwig has been transforming many of the servants into statues.

When Randy and the others attempt to sneak up on Gludwig in bed, he is ready for them and hurls Planetty's staff at Randy. However, it turns away from Randy and hits Gludwig, petrifying the villain. It turns out Randy had picked up Jinnicky's weapon turning elixir in the cellar and that protected him.

Jinnicky works hard to restore Planetty and Thun, and finally gravely announces that he has failed to totally restore them. Instead, he managed to transform Planetty into a normal girl and Thun into a regular talking horse (he spoke only by breathing out smoke letters before), meaning they have no further need of vanadium springs, and can stay on Earth.

And through their adventures, Planetty and Randy have fallen in love and decide to marry, meaning that Randy wound up finding a wife after all.

And there ends one of the most rollicking adventures Thompson penned. The Silver Princess in Oz is a lot of fun. While she still has little stops and a somewhat loose plot, the story is a lot of fun.

However, the revelation of Jinnicky's servants (or slaves) has served to disturb some Oz fans. Is the affable old Red Jinn of Ev a slave owner with stereotypical black slaves? While they seem to enjoy working for Jinnicky, the matter of the servants is still a bit unsettling.

Even more disturbing to me is the number of petrification victims in the story who we are not told of their restorations. Planetty's staff's powers are first revealed in Boxwood, when she is forced to petrify some attacking inhabitants (we can argue that as they wore boxes, maybe their boxes were petrified, and not the people inside). The more disturbing transformations occur after they reach Jinnicky's home. Some of Gludwig's army, who seem to be only following orders, are petrified, and we are later told Jinnicky has them set up as reminders against treachery. But this occurs before he manages to find a way to un-petrify Planetty and Thun. Gludwig, owning the staff, uses it to petrify Jinnicky's favorite dog and a dozen servants. We can only assume these innocent victims were restored by the same means used to restore the heroine, but Thompson does not mention it.

When the reader decides that Jinnicky will eventually restore all the petrified people, The Silver Princess of Oz is one of Thompson's better stories, with a dashing young king, a beautiful otherworldly princess, a noble steed, and our old favorites Jinnicky and Kabumpo.

But still, Thompson was not getting along well with Mr. O'Donnell, and she was about to reach her breaking point.

1 comment:

Nathan said...

The storm blowing Kabumpo and Randy across the desert irked me as well. Too easy, and didn't they already encounter a storm at the edge of the desert in Purple Prince? Maybe the Rain King has some kind of reason to want to help out the Elegant Elephant.