Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Characters of Oz — Kaliko

As Roquat the Nome King waited for Ozma's company to try his guessing game, he proved hospitable, providing refreshments and even allowing them to stay the night. But during this, the company met the Chief Steward:
This Nome was not unlike the others that Dorothy had seen, but he wore a heavy gold chain around his neck to show that he was the Chief Steward of the Nome King, and he assumed an air of much importance, and even told his majesty not to eat too much cake late at night, or he would be ill.
Later, he chides Roquat for playing around with Ozma's company, leading the Nome King to reveal the key for deciphering the transformations, which a present but hiding Billina heard.

I am rather surprised that Baum hadn't planned the Chief Steward's story from Ozma of Oz, considering what he says to Roquat:
"Have your own way, since you are the King," he growled.  "But if you come to grief through your carelessness, remember that I told you so. If I wore the magic belt which enables you to work all your transformations, and gives you so much other power, I am sure I would make a much wiser and better King than you are."
Later in Ozma, he helps clean egg off of Roquat's face and notes that the Magic Belt is gone after Dorothy took it.

I generally assume that the Chief Steward reappears in The Emerald City of Oz, still serving the angry Roquat, and now named Kaliko. Nathan DeHoff, however, reminds us that by Emerald City, Roquat had few reservations about disposing of his staff. However, John R. Neill's Chief Steward and Kaliko in later books look rather similar (except for Rinkitink in Oz). Also, the characterization of the characters isn't incompatible. Kaliko will still stick up for himself and advise when he will, but the Steward was much more defiant. Considering that Roquat has become more violent by Emerald City, perhaps Kaliko has adjusted his habits so as not to be disposed of. Thus, to me, Kaliko appeared back in Ozma of Oz.
"Fetch my pipe!" yelled the King.

"Your pipe is already here, your Majesty," replied Kaliko.

"Then get my tobacco!" roared the King.

"The tobacco is in your pipe, your Majesty," returned the Steward.

"Then bring a live coal from the furnace!" commanded the King.

"The tobacco is lighted, and your Majesty is already smoking your pipe," answered the Steward.

"Why, so I am!" said the King, who had forgotten this fact; "but you are very rude to remind me of it."

"I am a lowborn, miserable villain," declared the Chief Steward, humbly.
Kaliko serves a small role in Emerald City, but it is he who tells the Nome King that to retrieve the Magic Belt, he will have to go to Oz. He also refuses a promotion to General, saying "Because I'm your Chief Steward and know nothing of warfare... I manage all the affairs of your kingdom better than you could yourself, and you'll never find another Steward as good as I am. But there are a hundred Nomes better fitted to command your army, and your Generals get thrown away so often that I have no desire to be one of them." (Extra credence to my theory of Kaliko calming down.) Presumably, after the mind-wiped Roquat returns, it was Kaliko who was really keeping the Nome Kingdom under control.

Kaliko reappears in the Little Wizard Story "Tik-Tok and the Nome King." After Ruggedo smashes Tik-Tok to bits, Kaliko actually disobeys the King who told him to throw away the remains of Tik-Tok. Instead, Kaliko repairs Tik-Tok in his spare time, thus saving a beloved Oz character and sparing the Nome Kingdom of the wrath of Ozma of Oz.

In Tik-Tok of Oz, Kaliko plays a more major role. He tries to advise Ruggedo against acting foolishly, advice that goes ignored. He even begins looking for other work. When Ruggedo orders Betsy and Hank thrown into the Slimy Caves, Kaliko takes them to his private room. When Quox dethrones Ruggedo, Kaliko is given the throne, and promises to be a much better king than Ruggedo.

Until Rinkitink in Oz. Behind the scenes, we know that Baum wrote the first version of Rinkitink about 1905, and the Nome King who works with the villains of that book is actually a prototype of Roquat, and in revising the book, he becomes Kaliko, though the character is pretty much just a name swap of Roquat. But this is the Royal History of Oz, so somehow, the power went to Kaliko's head (and he had a headache), so he agreed to hold King Kitticut and Queen Garee of Pingaree captive, a promise he holds even when Inga and Rinkitink face down all of his traps and even when Dorothy tells him that King Gos and Queen Cor were dead now. But then she shows him some eggs, and everyone gets to go home.

After Rinkitink, Baum didn't return to the Nome Kingdom. Thompson largely left it alone. In The Hungry Tiger of Oz, Kaliko actually has one of the rubies of Rash which Carter Green takes back for Reddy. He tries to stop the party's escape, but the worst damage he does is making Carter Green's corn ears pop, which are eventually replaced. In The Gnome King of Oz, Ruggedo briefly re-takes the throne of the Nome Kingdom, but he leaves to conquer Oz where he's defeated, so Kaliko resumes his duty. Finally, in The Wishing Horse of Oz, he promises to help Dorothy fight Skamperoo if she can get another army to help out, and he gives her some magic tools that prove useful, though he'd actually prefer not to get involved and that Ozma stays missing.

The Nome Kingdom and Kaliko make their final Famous Forty appearance in Neill's Lucky Bucky in Oz, in which—with some help from Number Nine—Lucky Bucky takes the throne from Kaliko, but he soon leaves, letting Kaliko resume his reign.

I can't recall many instances of Kaliko outside of the Famous Forty. K. Kline wrote Kaliko in Oz, which had the new Nome King go onto his own adventure. Sherwood Smith's Trouble Under Oz features Ruggedo's son Rik wanting to take the throne of the Nome Kingdom, and as soon as he gets there, Kaliko lets him have it to teach the boy an important lesson. Finally, Kim McFarland's A Refugee in Oz has Ruggedo return to the Nome Kingdom, where he conquers Kaliko, but fortunately, the people from Oz soon defeat him again and restore Kaliko. A more amiable Kaliko appeared in the round robin tale The Ruby Ring of Oz which can be found online. At the close of the story, Ozma finally makes peace with the Nome Kingdom.

So, Kaliko seems a decent enough King for the Nomes, as long as he's left alone to rule them. Heavy is the head that wears a crown, and seemingly after getting one, Kaliko's head got quite heavy. But I'd like to think that not so deep down, the same outspoken, friendly and wise Nome is still there.

3 comments:

Sam A M said...

Kaliko also had a scene in the "Oziana" story "Evrob Visits the Nomes" - which reuses the Ozma/Rinktink/Tik-Tok illustrations, only now using the actual Nome king (headache) as Roquat who is in the process of changing it to Ruggedo.

Kaliko seems more of a good character than a bad one, interestingly. He is in a bad environment serving a bad person and doing bad orders, but (aside from the terrible rewrite "Rinkitink" enforced) is not actually a bad person.
A possible favourite!

J. L. Bell said...

Under the influence of Jack Snow's Who's Who in Oz, I grew up assuming that the Chief Steward in Ozma was Kaliko. As an adult, I came around to the idea that the snappish Chief Steward acted quite differerntly from the obsequious Kaliko. Whether that's because they were different Nomes or because Roquat's behavior had changed in the meantime is up to individual readers, but I lean toward the former idea now.

Xaq Rzetelny said...

His role in Rinkitink, I thought, was more complicated than that. I think it's explained that Kaliko would rather be a more peaceful king, but that he feels obligated to make war and do other bad things because that's what the Nome people expect.

He is also still trying to maintain his relationship with Oz. When King Gos and Queen Cor ask him to do something wicked for them, he agrees, but only so long as doing so does not, in any way, involve offending Oz. I think, by the end of the book, when Dorothy appears, he realizes that he simply can't avoid offending Oz, since they can automatically spy any time using the Magic Picture. And so he has no choice after that but to openly become an adversary to Oz.

Ruth Plumly's books seem pretty consistent with this portrayal of him. He's surely friendlier than Ruggedo, and he keeps up the appearance of friendship, but he has to be as much an enemy as a friend - sometimes one, sometimes the other. Whereas Ruggedo is always just evil.

I think Kaliko becoming King is really what broke him. Before, he could be wise, but as king, he doesn't have the luxury to be wise; and he's also not wicked enough to be a strong successor to Ruggedo in the eyes of the Nomes. He's a really interesting character, to me.