Monday, April 08, 2013

The Comeback Humbug

I've written before about the more sinister side of the Wizard of Oz (the character, that is), but a recent post by J.L. Bell made me consider another issue related to this, specifically the attitude people took toward the Wizard while he was gone. In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and her companions agree not to reveal that the Wizard is a humbug, and we're told that "the people remembered him lovingly." We're also told that "that was the last any of them ever saw of Oz, the Wonderful Wizard," and there's even a hint that he might have died on his way back to Omaha, both of which turn out to be untrue once Dorothy and the Wizard comes along. Before we get to that book, though, we'll take a look at Land. This was written soon after the success of the Wizard stage play, in which the Wizard is a much less sympathetic character. When Tip is telling the history of Oz to Jack Pumpkinhead, he says, “Dorothy went to the Emerald City to ask the Wizard to send her back to Kansas; and the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman went with her. But the Wizard couldn’t send her back, because he wasn’t so much of a Wizard as he might have been. And then they got angry at the Wizard, and threatened to expose him; so the Wizard made a big balloon and escaped in it, and no one has ever seen him since.” Later, the Wogglebug remarks, "I have been informed that the Wonderful Wizard of Oz was nothing more than a humbug!" The Scarecrow and Tin Woodman contradict him, but of course the insect is actually right. And near the end of the book, we find this passage: "The Wonderful Wizard was never so wonderful as Queen Ozma," the people said to one another, in whispers; "for he claimed to do many things he could not do; whereas our new Queen does many things no one would ever expect her to accomplish." It sounds like many of the citizens of Oz are aware the Wizard is a humbug, and don't remember him lovingly at all. How would they have found this out, though? Dorothy wasn't around to tell, and the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman still believed he was the real deal. Maybe the Cowardly Lion let it slip after his courage wore off, or perhaps somebody else figured it out on their own. Still, it's quite a shift from what we're told in Wizard, and also from what we later see in Dorothy and the Wizard, in which the people gladly welcome him back once they learn he has no intention of trying to take back the throne. We're told, "The people had learned that their old Wizard had returned to them and all were anxious to see him again, for he had always been a rare favorite." It's a little unclear how many people know he's a humbug at this point, although Ozma certainly does. I guess the public attitude toward significant political figures in Oz is just as volatile as that in any other country.

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