Thursday, May 03, 2012

The Raggedys in Oz

And here we have an example of a surprisingly well-done crossover fiction.  Johnny Gruelle's Raggedy Ann and Andy go to Oz courtesy of longtime Oz fan and International Wizard of Oz Club member Ray Powell. However, since the Raggedys are protected by trademark, the book has only seen small, private printings, the first in 1991, and a later edition (which is the one I read) in 2006. Marcus Mebes illustrated the book.

Raggedy Ann and Andy (I'm familiar with who they are, but not with their stories) are blown away to Oz as Percy the Rat decides to make something happen by freeing Ruggedo, the old Nome King, from his enchantment as a cactus. (I assume not dealing with the rights to Percy is another reason why the book was only privately printed.) Ruggedo sets free another cactus-imprisoned baddie: the Black Magician, who quickly uses his magic to rid Oz of all the celebrities Ruggedo can name.

The Raggedys meet the Scarecrow—who barely managed to escape the Black Magician's curse—and meet Hardas Flint, a man made of flint. Very soon it becomes clear that it is up to them to save Oz as things look their bleakest. Their biggest challenge is to get out of Oz to find the one who imprisoned the Black Magician: Ak, the Master Woodsman of the World.

Overall, the story is fun and exciting, and the people from Oz stay in proper character. Powell creates a few rules for his take on Oz, not ones I particularly agree with, but you always have to keep in mind that Baum didn't spell out all the rules of how Oz worked in his books, and the later writers rarely, if ever, touched them. Often, later writers had to decide the rules of Oz for their own. I'm not a fan of when they deliberately spell them out, though occasionally, some of them have to be explained for the story to work.

One thing I know about this book is that in the original version, Percy was punished by being sent back to the Outside World, while when the book was re-released in 2006, it seems The Wicked Witch of Oz had managed to endear Percy to Oz fans enough so that he was forgiven, a much Ozzier way of treating the character. At any rate, I'm glad of that, for it seems just mean to take a character someone else invented for Oz and send them out. Still, the way Percy is written isn't at all flattering to Rachel Cosgrove's excellent character. He could easily have been replaced with almost anyone else, like Woot the Wanderer.

As for the Raggedys, it is really more of an Oz story than anything, though when the reason why they're there is revealed, I actually liked it. Raggedy Ann and Andy felt right at home in Oz. Perhaps someday I'll look up the original Johnny Gruelle stories.

The Black Magician certainly is one of the meanest villains in an Oz book. We aren't told exactly what happens when he gets rid of someone, leaving behind nothing but a black smudge, but it's a relief that in the end, everyone is restored and the villain is dealt with in a very Ozzy manner indeed.

Overall, The Raggedys in Oz is actually an exciting little Oz book, and not what you'd expect from the cover at all!


Nathan said...

The characterization of Percy really doesn't fit, and I think Powell was just blowing off steam because he didn't like the character. Oh, well. Good story otherwise, although I never understood why the Black Magician was so slow in enchanting everyone in Oz. A little more explanation as to the limits of his power might have been nice. I did like how the Philms were tied in with the battle between good and evil in Life and Adventures of Santa Claus.

Chris Dulabone said...

I have not seen the rewritten version, but I do not think it is quite fair for somebody to alter another author's work without his permission. I know that he and March Laumer had a strong hatred for Percy, so they killed him off in this book. They did fix that before the book was initially released, but Percy was still banished. I once suggested to RC that I'd like to publish a book that explained how he got back. She was open to the idea, but the Oz Club thought it would interfere with sales of "Wicked Witch," so we never got to it.