Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Characters of Oz — Oscar Diggs, the Wizard of Oz

Because the Wizard's story is so complicated (and I've discussed it before), I offer instead: storytime with Jared!
 Once upon a time, a politician had a son. He was so thrilled that he gave the child the longest name imaginable: Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmanuel Ambroise Diggs. It would be a long time before the boy would remember all nine of his names, until he realized that his initials spelled "OZPINHEAD." Oscar knew he wasn't a pinhead, so he decided to just go by "Oscar" or by his first two initials: "OZ."

Oscar became enamored with performing feats of spectacle. His father initially supported this hobby until he thought his son should leave it behind and look into a serious career. But Oscar had no interest in politics: he just wanted to stun people by the masses! So he decided it was time to leave home.

Stunning audiences with sleight of hand, ventriloquism and illusions, Oscar got extra work as a balloonist, going up in a balloon to draw people to the circuses he would find work with.

One day, though, he had an accident with the balloon and got blown away. He was stranded in his balloon for a whole day and night. The next morning, he found himself over the Land of Oz.

When Oscar landed in Oz, things were not going well. The previous king of Oz, Pastoria, was believed to be dead and the wicked witches held their sway over all the people.

The people of Oz and the Wicked Witches had not seen tricks like Oscar's and were fooled into believing that he was a great Wizard, arrived to be their new ruler. He had them begin to build a new capitol city. It would be studded with emeralds. When supplies began to run low, he had green spectacles made to make the people see the entire city as green.

At first, Oscar tried to launch a force to free the Winkies from the Wicked Witch of the West, who had recently enslaved them with the Winged Monkeys. But the Wicked Witch decided to use the Golden Cap again to hold her newly-gained power over the Winkies. The Wizard, fearing for the safety of his forces, withdrew them in defeat.

As Oscar examined the center of the Land of Oz, he discovered the old home of King Pastoria called Morrow. Hiding in it was the surviving nursemaid of Pastoria's children, with a baby she identified as Pastoria's daughter Ozma.

Oscar didn't know what to do with the baby. He was not going to be in a position to care for the baby, particularly with the Wicked Witches liable to attack. Finally, he had an idea: who better to protect the baby from Wicked Witches than someone who understood their ways? He heard of a witch called Mombi who had been conquered by the Good Witch of the North, but was still living in a humble cottage.

Over the course of three visits, Oscar made Mombi promise to care for Ozma in return for allowing her to practice magic that would not be so easy for the Good Witch to trace, rather like his own sleight of hand, teaching her a few tricks himself. As such, Mombi took up the role of sorceress, working with potions instead of heavy enchantments. Oscar promised her that he would be able to detect if Ozma was harmed, and that if that occurred, Mombi would be punished. They agreed that when Ozma came of age, Mombi would take her to the Emerald City to take the throne.

Deciding that sneaking around Oz was inviting danger and exposure, Oscar decided to stay in the palace, only venturing out into the Emerald City in disguise, having only one servant—a Gillikin girl named Jellia Jamb—to care for the palace. The fewer people around, the better. To maintain regal appearances, some well-to-do citizens of the Emerald City were allowed into the courtroom of the palace, but never into the throne room itself.

The scheme worked, and the mysterious nature of the Wizard soon became storied throughout the Land of Oz, the Wicked Witches believing that they lacked enough power to defy him.

Then, one day, about ten years after Oscar arrived in Oz, word reached the Emerald City that a house had fallen from the sky and killed the Wicked Witch of the East. It was said that a new witch had done the deed. Within a week, this "new witch" arrived at the Emerald City, accompanied by a small, black dog, a live Scarecrow, a living man made of tin, and a lion. They requested audiences with the Wizard, which Oscar was cautious about, until he heard the new witch had the mark of the Good Witch of the North.

So it was that Oscar Diggs met Dorothy Gale. Hoping beyond hope that Dorothy could also rid Oz of the Wicked Witch of the West, he granted the audiences. Oscar realized that Dorothy was nothing but a little American girl, but perhaps fortune would find Oz in its favor again. After all, Dorothy was protected by the Good Witch of the North, so nothing bad could happen to her. And if Dorothy would not kill the Wicked Witch, then she would be safe inside the Emerald City at least.

Most curious was Dorothy's desire to return home to Kansas. Oscar had long since given up on leaving Oz, deciding that this was where he was going to end his days, but her request made him realize he'd actually like to see his homeland again before he died. But, aside from a way to leave Oz, he would be leaving the Emerald City vulnerable. Thus, he couldn't leave unless the Wicked Witches were both gone.

Oscar used disguises to see Dorothy and her friends. He was well-versed in stagecraft and illusion by this time, so his guises managed to convince Dorothy and her friends that he was the mighty Wizard.

To Oscar's relief and surprise, Dorothy actually went west with her friends to destroy the Wicked Witch. But after a week went by, Oscar despaired, thinking that he had doomed Dorothy to live as the Wicked Witch's slave.

So imagine his surprise when—much later—Winged Monkeys were spotted over the Emerald City, not attacking, as he would have feared, but bringing Dorothy and her friends back with word that the Wicked Witch of the West was dead. But now that the Wicked Witches were gone, he was not sure how he could send Dorothy back home. If he sought the help of one of the Good Witches, he'd face exposure. As such, he delayed seeing Dorothy again.

Finally, Dorothy threatened to summon the Winged Monkeys if another audience was not granted. Not wanting to be exposed this way, Oscar granted it at last. Seeing all of them at once, he just threw his voice, pretending to be invisible. But when he said he needed more time to think their requests over, they got angry. The Lion roared and caused Toto to tip over the screen that served as Oscar's cover. He was at once exposed to them, so he made his case plain and clear.

The Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and Cowardly Lion were made to believe that they were given what they needed in the form of bran and pin brains, a plush heart, and a drink Oscar would call "Courage." But Dorothy's request needed more thought. Finally, Oscar decided to leave Oz the way he arrived: in a hot air balloon. After building one and naming the Scarecrow as his successor, the balloon left with Oscar, but without Dorothy.

Oscar was sorry that he could not help Dorothy, but he looked forward to going home again. During an unrecorded adventure, the Wizard obtained nine tiny piglets from a pig couple in the Munchkin Country and somehow managed to make his balloon float high and far enough to leave Oz and arrive back in America.

Having little money, Oscar took to doing tricks with the piglets. Deciding not to tell people too much of Oz, he invented the story that they came from the small island of Teenty-Weent. He told this story so much, that he soon began to accept it as the truth in his own mind.

Saving enough to get by, Oscar took up with Barnum and Bailey's Consolidated Shows and joined the circuit, looking to visit with his old friends again. But he discovered something strange: he had not aged much while he lived in Oz. But ten years of hard work had taken their toll on his friends. Some of them had died, some had not aged well. Others he simply could not find. Also puzzling was that the tiny piglets he brought from Oz never grew any larger. But that was fine, as that meant he could keep up his act.

Oscar eventually expanded his repertoire with a collapsible sword act and a pair of revolvers and even began running a hot air balloon again.

While running his balloon in California one night, there was an earthquake. As Oscar descended, he realized he was actually descending into a crack into the ground. Realizing that it must be the end, Oscar decided to face his death bravely...

But we know how the story continues, because from this point on, it is told very well in the Oz books. The above is generally how I've had to work out the Wizard's story in my own mind. (You'll note that I've had to ignore some finely written stories about his early time in Oz: this is so in any future writings, I don't tread on any copyright toes.)

Beginning with Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, the Wizard's story is made clear: he met Dorothy again in the underground land of the Mangaboos, and then helped her, her cat Eureka, her cousin Zeb and his horse Jim through the Valley of Voe, Pyramid Mountain, the Land of Naught, and the Den of the Dragonettes before Ozma brought them all to the Emerald City. (The Wizard asks "Ozma? Who is Ozma?" Apparently, since he thought his dealing with Ozma was done long ago, he'd forgotten about her.)

At the end of Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, Oscar is allowed to stay in Oz as Ozma's own Wizard. He begins experimenting with gadgets and machinery, and in The Road to Oz, he's able to make large bubbles with a machine. (These bubbles dry quickly with glue, which must be some sort of glue you can only find in Oz.) In The Emerald City of Oz, he reveals that Glinda is teaching him magic, and in Baum's later work, he is able to perform great feats of magic on his own. Eventually, it is revealed that of all the people in Oz, only the Wizard and Glinda are allowed to practice magic.

He is much the same in the books of Ruth Plumly Thompson, coming up with new inventions. In John R. Neill's books, the Wizard seems to go a little more madcap, doing many amazing things that seem to be partly just for show. He also take in an apprentice: Number Nine.

So, Oscar is obviously a clever, enterprising gentleman. But some have wondered as to whether he's ever had a romance, or if he's the eternal bachelor.

Seeing as he's a politician's son who ran away and joined a circus... I'd say yes, yes he has.

1 comment:

Hannah H. said...

After seeing "Oz the Great and Powerful" and rereading a few of L.Frank Baum's original works, I believe it to be completely possible that the Wizard and Glinda could most certainly have been in some sort of relationship. They could definitely be considered a "power couple", and it could be seen as a reason that she wanted to help hi when he came, instead of leving him to his own devices.