Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Speckled Rose of Oz

The Speckled Rose of Oz, by Donald Abbott - Back when Books of Wonder was still publishing new Oz books, they put out quite a few by resident W.W. Denslow imitator Abbott, and these books were never all that popular among the fans with whom I'm familiar. To my mind, it's not even so much that they're BAD per se as that they're very slight, and presumably intended for an audience even younger than that of the original series. In this book, a magician called Poison Oak causes all of the flowers in Oz to disappear. Yeah, kind of a lame plot, and the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Cowardly Lion don't have much trouble defeating him. One thing that Abbott does well, however, is his introduction of characters from the 1902 Wizard of Oz stage play into a more book-consistent universe. And this time, the character he uses is second-tier villain Sir Wiley Gyle.

In the play, Wiley Gyle appears in the Emerald City scenes. He's an aged inventor who despises all magic, and seeks to expose the Wizard of Oz as a fraud and take the throne for himself. He succeeds at the former, but not at the latter, as Pastoria takes the opportunity to reclaim the crown. He's then put to work sweeping up. It appears that, during the run of the show, his role as inventor was phased out in favor of just making him a conspirator. A version of the script from the New York Public Library makes his main gag throwing discount bombs that don't work. So how does Abbott work the character into his story? Well, in Speckled Rose, Gyle is identified as the younger brother of the Wicked Witches of the East and West, who had no magical powers of his own. He spent most of his time guarding a vault of equipment for his sisters, but after they died, he sought revenge against Dorothy's companions. This relation is interesting in light of my post last week, as it introduces a new figure to the family. If the Enchantress Vile is Wiley's mother, does that make her full name Vile Gyle? Eh, probably not. By the way, Abbott frequently refers to Wiley as "Sir Gyle," which is actually inappropriate, as "Sir" isn't supposed to be used with just the last name. Then again, neither is "Reverend," and I don't know that anyone pays attention to that rule anymore.

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