Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Characters of Oz — Billina

Once, a tiny chick was hatched. The boy tending the hens took a liking to it and named it Bill, though he actually wasn't sure if it was a girl or a boy. Well, as Bill grew older, it became clear that it was a girl, but the name was never changed. Eventually Bill was sold and was put on a chicken coop on a ship headed to Australia.

One night, the coop was washed overboard in a terrible storm. All of the other hens scattered away, but Bill stayed right where she was, and noticed a young girl climb aboard the coop.

The next morning, Bill laid an egg and began crowing loudly, waking the girl. When the girl asked what had happened, Bill suddenly began speaking like a human being. The girl soon revealed that she was Dorothy Gale. When Dorothy heard Bill's name, she decided to call Bill "Billina" to feminize the name. Billina didn't much mind, and soon adopted the name.

Dorothy and Billina washed up on the shores of Ev, where they had many amusing conversations, and Billina found a golden key while digging for bugs and other tiny creatures to eat. When Dorothy found the warning "Beware the Wheelers" in the sand, Billina suggested that they were automobiles. However, when the two did meet a Wheeler, it was Billina who correctly identified it and the two fled for safety, where they discovered Tik-Tok, who helped them reach the city of Evna.

When Princess Langwidere decided to punish Dorothy for refusing to surrender her head, she said she would eventually cook Billina. Billina bluffed that her breed was poison to princess, so she was instead kept to lay eggs. (Langwidere added that if Billina didn't do this, she would be drowned in the horse trough.) After Ozma rescued Dorothy, Dorothy set Billina free.

Billina, Dorothy discovered, had been fighting with the rooster. By the state of her, she'd won.

Billina joined Dorothy and Tik-Tok in going with Ozma and her troops to rescue the Queen of Ev and her children from the Nome King. Along the way, Billina had to stop to lay an egg, which the Scarecrow collected.

Upon arriving in the Nome Kingdom, none of the Nomes seemed to notice Billina, but she paid attention to what was going on. After eating some crumbs, she went to sleep under the Nome King's throne, where she managed to overhear the Nome King tell his Steward what he had transformed the Royal Family and the people from Oz into.

The next morning, Billina was discovered when she laid her egg and cackled. The Nome King yelled at her that eggs were poison to Nomes.
 The Scarecrow started to get this egg, but Billina made him refuse to get it unless the Nome King let her guess in the ornament rooms like her friends. He eventually agreed.

Of course, Billina knew what to look for and found and restored everyone (except the Tin Woodman, who they would find on the way back to Evna), but the Nome King was defiant and set his army to attack. Thanks to the Scarecrow hurling Billina's eggs and Billina telling Dorothy to take the Magic Belt, the Nome King was soon subdued and the entire company left the Nome Kingdom.

In Evna, Billina was awarded a necklace of pearls and sapphires by the new King of Ev. She went back to Oz with Ozma, where she decided she would stay, even chiding Dorothy for going back to "that stupid, humdrum world."

In The Road to Oz, Billina reveals that she has been hatching chicks, and she names them all Dorothy after Dorothy. In The Emerald City of Oz, she reveals that when her chicks turn out to be roosters instead of hens, she renames them Daniel. All of her brood wear lockets with the letter "D" and Dorothy's picture inside. The people of Oz are welcome to any of the eggs that Billina and her descendants don't care to hatch.

Billina generally retires to her Emerald City home with her children for the rest of the Oz books, but she does accompany Dorothy on her tour around Oz in The Emerald City of Oz. Surprisingly, she is quite a strong feminist character, even if she is just a chicken.

In The Emerald City of Oz, the Nomes had once believed that there were no chickens in the Land of Oz, but the Nome King says that a goshawk told him of Billina and her brood. However, in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, we are told of a rooster and a hen in the Emerald City who just laid an egg. What became of this pair? Did Billina's key role in Ozma of Oz make people forget about them?

Another curious thing: anyone who knows about chickens knows that a hen cannot hatch eggs without being fertilized by a rooster. We are never told of a rooster in Billina's life. Did she somehow just start reproducing asexually? Or is that rooster from Wonderful Wizard getting around?


Anonymous said...

Some have surmised that Billina was fertilized by the speckled rooster she fought with in chapter 8 of OZMA OF OZ.

Sam A M said...

That whole "none of the Nomes notice Billina when she and her friends enter the Nome King's domain" is a bit hard to get around for the big screen script, but Disney's "Return to Oz" pulled it off perfectly, because it had fewer characters!