Tuesday, January 08, 2013

The Princess of Cozytown

The Princess of Cozytown, by Ruth Plumly Thompson - This 1922 collection of short fairy tales by L. Frank Baum's successor to the Oz series is available here. The download costs money, but it's free to read on the website. The first story, which shares its title with the book, is a rather depressing metaphorical tale about growing up, in which the titular princess is captured by the Giant Grownupness and leaves her toys behind. Its view on growing up seems to be that it's sad but inevitable, and it's hard not to feel bad for the toys. "The Prince with a Cold in His Heart" tells how a wise man saves a prince from snobbishness by magically showing him the boy he could be. In "The Bald-Headed Kingdom," the only story in the collection to be divided into stories, a king is so sensitive about his baldness that he orders the heads of all his subjects shaved. His son discovers a cure for baldness, but when the king uses too much, he's smothered to death by hair. Kind of a dark twist at the end there. "The Tailor of Nevermindwhere" brings a tailor to a kingdom where the nobles refuse to pay for their clothes, and has him teach them a lesson in humility, as well as demonstrating the old adage that clothes make the man. I kind of think Thompson tried to put in too much plot twists for such a short story, but it's charming nonetheless. "The Last Giant" is about a giant who falls in love with a princess and uses magic to bring himself down to normal human size. While the giant is introduced as a sympathetic character, the ending plays his rather unfortunate fate for laughs. Finally, "The Princess Who Could Not Dance" has a princess learning that dancing should be fun and not purely calculated. Interestingly, considering that its lead story is about leaving childhood behind, the general theme of several of these tales is to embrace youthful fun. There's also a general undercurrent of learning to treat everyone with respect, but that's pretty much a constant in fairy tales. The tales are very much in Thompson's usual style (whether that's a good or a bad thing is up to you to decide), but have a more traditional feel than her Oz books and some of her other work.

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