One of my favorite characters in the Oz books is Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmanuel Ambroise Diggs. (And yes, I did just type that from memory.) A few Oz fans, when they heard that, wondered why. "He doesn't do much!" one said. "I hate the Wizard! He's probably the Wicked Witch of the West's father!" said another.
Needless to say, I don't really take the second one's advice to heart much...
But it sure was a breath of fresh air when I was at my first Winkie Convention last year and people actually understood why I liked him before I had to explain anything.
Oscar was the son of a politician who ran away and joined a circus, learning sleight of hand, ventriloquism, and various other tricks. Eventually, he became a balloonist and went up to help publicize the circus. But one day, the balloon got away and he was taken to Oz, where the people named him a Wizard.
Unfortunately for Oscar, the land was held by four witches, two good and two wicked. Oscar must have known his lack of magic would likely make a close working relationship with the good witches as dangerous as facing the wicked witches, because we are never told he went to them for help.
We do know that either he lived in the land of the Winkies for awhile or tried to conquer the Wicked Witch of the West once. She used the Golden Cap to make the Winkies her slaves, then drive the Wizard out of the West. (Donald Abbot's How the Wizard Came to Oz explains he landed in the Winkie Country.)
We also know the Wizard had the Emerald City built, though it's controversial if it was on the site of an old capitol. Whether or not the Yellow Brick Road was built as a thoroughfare to the Emerald City through Munchkin Country is also debatable, though given how hostile the Wicked Witch of the West was to the Wizard, why would the Wicked Witch of the East be any different? Thus, it may be likely the yellow brick road was built before the Wizard arrived.
It's not clear when the Wizard shut himself up. Did he do it at the close of some victory against the Wicked Witches? Or was it just after the Emerald City was built?
Another messy subject is his supposed involvement with turning Ozma over to Mombi's care. He isn't present when we're told he did this, and Mombi tells us he did while wearing a pearl of truth. From what she says, he brought her Ozma and begged her to conceal the child. What his motives were for this is completely unclear. However, if it really happened this way, given his nature in other Oz stories, it seems likely he was under the impression that Ozma would be safe with someone who knew magic looking after her in private rather than her growing up in the palace. (According to Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, Mombi already had a shady past herself by this time.)
Then, for years, the Wizard stayed in the palace, either having servants help him or leaving the palace incognito. Finally, when he got word that Dorothy had killed the Wicked Witch of the East, he must have hoped the death of the Wicked Witch of the West would not be far behind. Because, you see, his staying hidden prevented the fact that he wasn't a real Wizard from getting out, thus letting the Wicked Witches know they could easily attack the Emerald City whenever they wanted.
Fortunately for him, Dorothy arrived in the Emerald City, so he tasked her to kill the last Wicked Witch that held part of Oz in bondage. Dorothy managed to do this. We can only assume he knew that with the Good Witch's mark (which he noticed), Dorothy wouldn't be harmed, so he didn't feel too badly about sending a little girl to do this.
We know how he gave the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and Lion placebo gifts to simulate their desired brain, heart, and courage, a move that comes across as disturbing, but he did try to encourage them to look inside themselves for what they wanted. Then, he attempted to fly Dorothy back to Kansas in a hot air balloon, but Dorothy missed the flight.
Baum reveals later that the Wizard made it back to the United States safe and sound. Unable to find his old friends, he joined a circus again, possibly adding a new act with a collapsible sword and pistols to his repertoire, if it wasn't already there.
Also, he had a new trick with nine tiny piglets. He tells Dorothy in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz that he got them on the island of Teenty-Weent, where everything is small. However, in The Tin Woodman of Oz, the Tin Woodman and Scarecrow and their friends meet Professor Swyne and his wife, who say they are the piglets' parents. This could be explained that the Wizard picked them up before leaving Oz (he did say hot air isn't the best to work a balloon with), and somehow they became permanently tiny. The Wizard could have made up the Teenty-Weent story as part of his act, and had told it so many times that by the time Dorothy asked about it, he said it without thinking twice.
What else the Wizard may have done back in the United States is not revealed, though some speculation about The Woggle-Bug Book might indicate that someone stole a balloon he was working. However, if that's true, he got another one and when it went down, it slipped into a crack in the earth.
This led the Wizard into the adventure recounted in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, which reunited him with Dorothy and eventually returned him to Oz, where Ozma allowed him to stay as the royal Wizard, saying a humbug Wizard was the safest to have.
However, the Wizard's mind, now freed from work and worry, began conceiving machines to perform impressive feats with. He managed to create a machine that would blow immense soap bubbles that would harden to carry a person inside. Showing this off at Ozma's Grand Birthday Party, many guests opted to ride home in them, their bubbles being guided by magic to return them home. (Although they could support a person, I hope that magic also kept the bubble intact for the journey.)
The Wizard also began learning actual magic under Glinda's tutelage, becoming almost as an accomplished magician as herself. In later Oz adventures, he is able to take initiative and be depended upon, saving the day in The Magic of Oz, or seeing through enchantments in Rinkitink in Oz and The Lost Princess of Oz.
Later Oz books by Thompson and the others used him in varying roles, but Thompson was fond of creating her own magic workers. Her lovable Jinnicky the Red Jinn of Ev even gave himself a rivalry with the Wizard. She and Neill made the Wizard an inventor, turning out new magic tools and vehicles, and Neill even made him a bit of a busybody. Jack Snow had him step aside to let Ozana or the King of the Fairy Beavers do what they needed, while Cosgrove and McGraw only had him in minor roles.
Still, the Wizard, as he was conceived, proves to be an imaginative and curious fellow, one quite worth working with. (Yes, he is one of the main characters in my Outsiders From Oz.) I hope I'm not the only one who sees a lot of potential left in Mr. Diggs.