Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Characters of Oz — The Hungry Tiger

After Ozma had Dorothy freed from Princess Langwidere's tower, she went to get Billina. But on her way out, she ran into her old friend the Cowardly Lion. He then introduced her to his friend, the Hungry Tiger.

Baum is never fully clear: does the Tiger just constantly feel hunger, or is it because his hunger always returns, or is it because he constantly craves to eat a fat, human baby but hasn't because his conscience won't let him? I'm going to suspect it's a combination of the last two, but some have taken it to mean the first one.

Like the Cowardly Lion, the Hungry Tiger accompanies Ozma on her quest to rescue the Royal Family of Ev, pulling her chariot. (Apparently, they agreed to it. Ozma does not have to whip or guide them.) The Nome King did not allow them into his palace to take part in the guessing game.

After Ozma of Oz, the Hungry Tiger is the faithful companion of the Cowardly Lion, and they are often seen in each other's company. Most of the time, they are at Ozma's throne, one sitting on each side of her.

Jack Snow, in Who's Who in Oz, theorized that the Hungry Tiger actually first appeared in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as "the biggest of the tigers" who tells the Lion and his friends about the giant spider that the Cowardly Lion shortly deals with. In Ozma of Oz, the Hungry Tiger is referred to as an "immense tiger," so the descriptions seem to match up. Quite a number of fans have adopted this idea. Even Rob Roy MacVeigh's abandoned animated Wonderful Wizard of Oz film seems to have intended to go with the idea. (When I was adapting the story for a script, the tiger is the only animal they meet and he mentions his conscience.) Sean Gates, writer of Barnyard Studio's L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, has let me know that their film will follow suit as he shares the idea.

The Hungry Tiger serves on the jury during Eureka's trial in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, oddly saying that kittens have no consciences. That book also describes the Tiger with purple stripes, which some take quite literally, while others think it was a one-off description. Perhaps tigers in Oz have dark purple stripes?

Aside from serving as Ozma's bodyguard, the Hungry Tiger doesn't do much in the remaining Oz books. Little Wizard Stories features him and the Cowardly Lion going out to attempt to look fierce, the Lion mauling someone and the Tiger eating a fat baby, but both—when given the chance—decline in the end.

The Tiger got a title role in Thompson's The Hungry Tiger of Oz, in which he is taken to the tiny Ev sub-kingdom of Rash to eat prisoners, but he winds up sympathizing with his victims and protecting them instead, particularly when Betsy Bobbin, Carter Green the Vegetable Man and Reddy, the true ruler of Rash, wind up with them. Throughout a series of odd and exciting adventures and misadventures, the Tiger and his friends help Reddy take back the throne of Rash.

Like the Cowardly Lion, the Hungry Tiger is a faithful member of Ozma's court. Just don't make him hungry for you.

1 comment:

Nathan said...

I believe Jaglon in "Jaglon and the Tiger Fairies" is also described as having purple stripes.