Friday, June 15, 2012


Everyone who's read the Oz series, at least up to Ozma of Oz, knows the Nome King. At least, Roquat the Red. Unlike the Wicked Witch of the West, Baum gave the villain a name as well as a title.

When Baum wrote Ozma of Oz, he had a contract to write more Oz books, and he decided he would write four more. Ozma was the first of these four, and has been identified as some fans as being the first book of the series, meaning that it was written with a series in mind, unlike The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz. We have a villain set up, and at the end, Dorothy is given a secondary home in Oz and given an option to return.

Roquat returns in the final of the four books, which Baum intended to be the last Oz book. Angered by his treatment by the people from Oz, he begins to plot revenge, and, under the guidance of his new general Guph, allies himself with dreadful warriors outside of Oz. In the end, though, they invade Oz, but are so thirsty by tramping through a dusty tunnel (thanks to magical interference by Ozma), they drink from the Forbidden Fountain of Oblivion, causing them to lose their memory.

The Nome King reappears in "Tiktok and the Nome King," a picture book in the "Little Wizard Stories" series. It is revealed that despite losing his memory, the Nome King still has a rash temper. His more proper return is in Tik-Tok of Oz, in which he has captured the Shaggy Man's brother, and Queen Ann of Oogaboo attempts to conquer him. Also, Baum reveals that he had forgotten his name (though in Emerald City, Ozma does tell him his name), so he took the new name Ruggedo.

In Tik-Tok, Ruggedo is relieved of his duties as king of the Nomes, succeeded by his steward Kaliko, because he broke a commandment of Tititihoochoo, the great Jinjin. While he was initially going to wander the surface world, Kaliko allowed him to stay in the underground Nome Kingdom.

Baum used Ruggedo one last time in The Magic of Oz, in which he allies himself with a young boy who has learned a magic word of transformation. He has apparently been exiled from the Nome Kingdom again. However, when the magic word gets flung about too much, the Wizard of Oz manages to learn it and uses it to defeat the villains, and later, Ruggedo's memory is wiped again and he is allowed to wander the Land of Oz.

That was how I decided I would approach the character of Ruggedo when I decided to include him in Outsiders from Oz. Initially, I decided I would either intend for it to take place between Baum and Thompson's books, or I would just be ignoring Thompson entirely. However, after reading Thompson's books, I found it impossible to try to say that her stories would be nonexistent in my Oz, so I have a brief mention of Jinnicky, letting my readers know that my Oz is the one in the Famous Forty, not just Baum's books.

Still, I thought Thompson wasn't kind to Ruggedo at all. In Kabumpo in Oz, she reveals he's taken up life underground as a petty thief, befriended by a rabbit named Wag. Using some magic he discovered, he turns himself into a giant and carries off Ozma's palace on his head! In the end, Ruggedo is restored to his proper size and exiled from the Land of Oz.

In Thompson's The Gnome King of Oz, he manages to return to Oz and cause trouble, but his plot is foiled by new boy hero Peter. He is struck mute and given another bath in the Fountain of Oblivion. Later, in Pirates in Oz, he manages to find the kingdom of Menankypoo outside of Oz and is later restored to his old self. He allies himself with some pirates, convincing them to invade Oz, but when he almost succeeds, Peter, assisted by Pigasus and Captain Salt, manage to defeat him again and he is turned into a stone jug.

Ruggedo made his last Famous Forty appearance in Handy Mandy in Oz, in which the Wizard Wutz disenchants him, but later Himself the Elf turns them both into cacti.

There have been various stories restoring Ruggedo to his original Nome form. Some even have him reform or have him "done away with." (One has him turned into a liquid and poured into the ground.)

I decided I wanted to do a more character-based journey with Ruggedo in Outsiders. I was inspired by reading Alexander Volkov's The Yellow Fog and reading about Urfin Jus, who is comparable to Ruggedo in that he makes serious trouble for the Magic Land in the series. In The Yellow Fog, though, Urfin is roaming through Magic Land after being subjected to the Sophoric Waters (sic), which is basically the Water of Oblivion, except the memory loss is temporary, but it does allow one to be taught new behavior in the interim.

Urfin is shown great kindness by the people he meets in the Magic Land on his way back to his old home, and when he is tempted (more than once) to cause more trouble for them, he rejects his old ways and begins a new, peaceful life, and in this and the final Volkov book, he even serves as a great ally to the heroes of the series.

So, I wanted to handle a Ruggedo with no memory and have him go on a character based journey. I don't want to spoil what I do with Ruggedo in Outsiders, but I do maintain that the character doesn't reform at the end. What he says about himself near the end is exactly how I perceive it.

Still, the loss of memory made for a fun character. Ozma gets to take care of an old enemy who doesn't even realize that he considered her his enemy. I also avoided calling him "the Nome King" as he wasn't the king anymore, except at one important plot point where it needed to be said.

One thing that popped up while writing was "why isn't Ruggedo a cactus?" I came up with an idea, but my editor suggested I just have Ruggedo pop up in the story with no explanation as to why he's a Nome again. When I explained this to Eric Gjovaag at last year's Winkie Convention, he agreed. (Eric, if you don't remember this, don't worry. I do!)

Aside from the Famous Forty, so many other Oz stories using Ruggedo have been written, and not only does not explaining why he's a Nome again allow my readers to use their imagination to fill in the blanks, it also allows them to fit my story in with a continuity consisting of their other favorite Oz pastiches. Even Chris Dulabone commented that he doesn't see why my story couldn't fit in with the books he's published. (Though he is curious as to where it would fit on a timeline, to which I have no idea.)

I want to work with Ruggedo again, as I do want to explore how his life will go after his adventures in Outsiders. There might be a straw hat involved.

To see how I handled Ruggedo, go ahead and get Outsiders from Oz in hardcover or paperback!


Mike Penick said...


One minor correction: In The Gnome King of Oz, the boy hero is Peter, not Speedy.

Jared said...

Whoops! Corrected!