Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Keeping the Palace Running

As egalitarian as Ozma and her court might try to be, it is a sad fact that the palace staff is largely ignored, with the occasional exception of Ozma's personal maid Jellia Jamb. The most complete count of the staff appears in Ruth Plumly Thompson's The Lost King of Oz, which refers to "forty-nine courtiers, thirty-nine footmen, thirty-seven handmen, twenty-six serving maids, ten cooks and a flock of pages." The very next book, Hungry Tiger, mentions sixty-nine footmen working at Betsy Bobbin's birthday party, so this number might vary a bit. Also, when Glinda attends Ozma's party in Road, fifty servants wait upon her.

Few of the palace servants are ever named in the Famous Forty, although Wishing Horse does refer to two kitchen boys named Kapo and Iva. The Royal Gardener is named Lucion in a story fragment that might or might not have been written by L. Frank Baum. Other members of the palace staff are never given names but at least have official titles, like the Chief Steward who argues with Jim the Cab-Horse in Dorothy and the Wizard and the High Chamberlain who announces the guests in Road.

One apocryphal book that gives us a good look at the inner workings of the palace is Bill Campbell and Irwin Terry's Masquerade. Here, the Royal Cook is named Nonperril, and his assistants are Whisk, Beater, and Strainer. We also meet the staff of the laundry room: the Laundress with a scrub brush and a flatiron for hands, Washer with his washboard belly, and Ringer with his clothes-wringer body. I have to wonder if the three of them were born that way or had body parts replaced in the manner of the Tin Woodman.

There's also a Palace Washer Woman in Gilbert Sprague's Nome King's Shadow, although there's no indication that this one has unusual hands. She does, however, get together with the Royal Chef.

As for the cook himself, Hugh Pendexter's Wooglet names his Stovely, and has Ozma knight him for his role in defending the palace from pirates. In Marie Richardson's short story "Ghosts in Oz," the palace cook is female and everyone just calls her "Cook." I also remember an unfinished story by Alison McBain that named the cook Gar Banzo. It's interesting how many people have their own takes on a character who's only mentioned in the main series itself.


Carrie Bailey said...

I wrote a Royal Chef into my Oz story, Bungle of Oz, and didn't really give him a name. But I did like how the illustration of Jellia turned out.

Do you know if anyone has ever written a mouse into the palace before?


Joe Bongiorno said...

Carrie, is your book going to be released in hardcover or paperback? I don't own a Kindle or read books online (unless I'm editing them). But I'll definitely purchase a copy from you if you release it in print.