Friday, June 17, 2011

The Scalawagons of Oz

Neill was not dissuaded by his editor's reworking of his work. Perhaps Thompson's own perseverance for her nineteen year term as Royal Historian inspired him. (The two had shared a closer friendship than Neill and Baum had.) But whatever determination this man of Scottish, Irish, and Dutch descent possessed, it did not help his next book gel at all.

Perhaps The Scalawagons of Oz, his Oz book for 1941, has an excuse for this. In the introduction, Neill writes:
Day by day strirring events happen in the Land of OZ which we are compelled to let pass. No one will ever know of them.

It would be impossible to tell you all that happens in a whole year.

This book is the record of less than a week.
So Neill is chronicling the events of a few days in Oz, focusing on certain characters. (It also offers a lovely excuse for all the Oz fiction that comes out nowadays.)

#9 has a second job, he's assistant to the Wizard of Oz! However, the Wizard's been at work on a top secret project. So secret, even #9 doesn't know what's going on. Only Tik-Tok knows: Scalawagons! These flying cars are being mass produced on Carrot Mountain for everybody in Oz. They run on flabbergas and Tik-Tok is using a mallet to knock sense into them.

You know, I think I know why people don't like this now.

Anyways, after the Wizard leaves, and after knocking sense into all the Scalawagons, Tik-Tok looks outside ... and winds down. This allows our mysterious villain the Bell-Snickle to enter and send Tik-Tok clanging down the Mountain, and then he gives the Scalawagons some flabbergas that sends them flying out of the workshop. Soaking himself with flabbergas, he flies away, too.

The Wizard had planned a party at Glinda's palace to unveil the Scalawagons, but Glinda discovers through her Book of Records that the Wizard's surprise has disappeared. Jenny Jump is the first to volunteer to look for them, and she is joined by the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Sawhorse. However, the Sawhorse proves too competitive, and his speed dries out the Tin Woodman. (You know... that actually makes a little bit of sense.) After an adventure in the Winkie Woods renders the the Tin Woodman completely immobile, Jenny makes use of her fairy gifts and sends the others back to Glinda's. (Of course, you realize, that means Jenny could have set off on her own and the story could have gone the way it goes without them.)

You know, this story is getting so tedious, I'm having trouble keeping my attention on this blog. (Come on, just a few more, and we get to JACK SNOW...)

Along the way to find the Scalawagons, Jenny meets the Nota-Bells, little men who live in bells and make music, and #9 joins her, and they rescue Tik-Tok from the town of the Lollys and Pops. And somehow they wind up flying and find the Scalawagons flying over the desert, which they take back to Glinda's palace.

While the festivities finally begin, the bloated Bell-Snickle arrives, but Jenny puts a hole in it, deflating it. It hurries off again and Jenny uses her Scalawagon to go after it. Things aren't quite as easy, because the Bell-Snickle steal Jenny's gifts, then tries to make a bunch of walking trees conquer the Emerald City and ... Ummm... Yeah...

Finally, Jenny brings the Bell-Snickle to justice, and Ozma agrees with her that by use of the magic turn style, he will be made smaller into a rubber stamp, and also be used as a rubber stopper to stop things Ozma doesn't approve of.

And then there's a celebration and all...

Just about the only redeeming thing about Scalawagons is getting to go on an adventure with the resourceful (if still somewhat flighty) Jenny Jump. The plot is a big, confusing, jumbled mess that can only be enjoyed by reading it. Attempting to examine it makes my head ache. Ugh...

Baum brought technology to Oz in little ways. In Tik-Tok of Oz, the Shaggy Man and Ozma have what seem to be cell phones, and there has always been electricity and, as fans assume from the luxurious baths in the palace, indoor plumbing in Oz. But most Ozites look to technology as common place, and it doesn't play a huge part in their lives.

The problems with Scalawagons, and to a similar extent, Thompson's Ozoplanes, is that travel machines in Oz take away a large part of the charm of tramping around Oz looking for adventure. Rather than face a giant monster with wits, an Ozoplane or Scalawagon could just fly over it. Stranded outside of Oz? Call the Emerald City for an Ozoplane lift! It's no wonder that later Oz authors ignored these two inventions. In fact, Neill's later books don't really mention them, at least, not that I recall.

Two more Neill books. Are they as messy as this, or have a good story at heart like Wonder City? Let's see...

No comments: