Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Characters of Oz — The Queen of the Field Mice

Living scarecrows and metal men, talking lions and storks, and now kalidahs. Dorothy's first adventure in Oz was introducing her to some very unusual beings indeed.

However, Dorothy was seemingly protected from any being hurting her, thanks to the mark of the Good Witch of the North. However, other things could: a field of spicy red poppies put Dorothy, Toto and the Cowardly Lion to sleep with their pollen. While the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman could lift her and Toto, the Lion (a well-fed lion can weigh about 500 pounds) was far too heavy. However, help came in a very small form.

The Tin Woodman saved the Queen of all the Field Mice from a wildcat and as thanks, she agreed to do whatever she could to help him in the future. The Scarecrow called for a favor right away: if she could summon her people to come with string, the Tin Woodman could build a cart and they could hoist the Lion onto it and the mice could help them pull him out of the poppy field.

The Queen of the Field Mice doesn't appear often in the Oz books. She gives Dorothy a whistle to call for her aid. Dorothy uses this once after they've defeated the Wicked Witch of the West, to help them find their way back to the Emerald City. The Queen, however, recognizes the Golden Cap and advises Dorothy to use it, but she runs away before Dorothy does so the Winged Monkeys can't do mischief to her people.

You know, I once read a draft of a book that would reveal that the Queen of the Field Mice was none other than a transformed Gayelette, who made the Golden Cap and enchanted and also did not like the Winged Monkeys. Considering that Gayelette is never seen again in the Famous Forty Oz books, it does make some sense. Also consider that the Queen must have some magic, because how else could she happen to have a whistle that an average human could use on her person? (When I adapted the book as a screenplay, I had the Queen take the whistle from her neck, and as Dorothy took it, it grew to a size for her to use.)

The Queen of the Field Mice appears again in The Marvelous Land of Oz. Apparently, Dorothy gave the whistle to the Tin Woodman before she left Oz, because he uses it in the story to summon the Queen. In this book, she is able to see through the magic of Mombi and guide the Scarecrow and his friends back to the Emerald City, as well as allowing him to carry some of her mice to the Emerald City.

Baum doesn't mention her in future books, though John R. Neill has her reappear in The Road to Oz. Not only is she in a corner of the endpapers, she appears on the full-page illustration "Drinking the health of Princess Ozma," perched on the table.
When Alexander Volkov wrote his The Wizard of the Emerald City, the Queen of the Field Mice was named Ramina and reappeared in each of the original sequels. However, I don't consider that canonical at all.


James C. Wallace II said...

As you well know, the Queen of the Field Mice is one of my two favorite characters. I never thought to give Her a name and I don't believe I will. She does show up in our new Oz novel, The Emerald Slippers of Oz.

Marcus said...

I was pleasantly surprised to see the Queen of the Field Mice show up in the courtroom trial scene of Einhorn's LIVING HOUSE OF OZ.

Sam A M said...

Well, you haven't COMPLETELY ignored the Kalidahs - though I was expecting a post on them, how they seem rather average and savage beasts in "Wonderful Wizard" yet speaking normally in "Magic" (and others).

I never really understood or got how she knew of the Golden Cap or its charm, but I won't say the "she is a transformed Gayelette" idea is wrong, because it does sound reasonable. Just wish Frank Baum was a better writer in that aspect, especially with the whistle bit.