A little girl, radiant and beautiful, shapely as a fairy and exquisitely dressed, was dancing gracefully in the middle of the lonely road, whirling slowly this way and that, her dainty feet twinkling in sprightly fashion. She was clad in flowing, fluffy robes of soft material that reminded Dorothy of woven cobwebs, only it was colored in soft tintings of violet, rose, topaz, olive, azure, and white, mingled together most harmoniously in stripes which melted one into the other with soft blendings. Her hair was like spun gold and flowed around her in a cloud, no strand being fastened or confined by either pin or ornament or ribbon.
Filled with wonder and admiration our friends approached and stood watching this fascinating dance. The girl was no taller than Dorothy, although more slender; nor did she seem any older than our little heroine.They soon discovered that the girl's name was Polychrome, the daughter of the Rainbow. In Baum's universe, the Rainbow appears to be a sentient being or at least, controlled by one. Baum is unclear as to exactly what Polychrome's father is. (Dorothy calls her Polly, but the nickname dropped off in later books.) My guess is that he controls the rainbow, creating arches when the rain finishes. His daughters dance on it, and dressed in their multicolored dresses, create the colors seen.
Polychrome, however, has a tendency to slip off the Rainbow and leave it, getting lost in other lands. And in this case, she happened to be in Dorothy's path, and of course joined the company.
After charming Dorothy's friends in Oz and attending Ozma's grand birthday party, Santa Claus told the Rainbow where to find his wayward daughter and Ozma managed to get a rainbow at the end of her celebration without any rain.
With a glad cry the Rainbow's Daughter sprang from her seat and danced along the curve of the bow, mounting gradually upward, while the folds of her gauzy gown whirled and floated around her like a cloud and blended with the colors of the rainbow itself.
"Good-bye, Ozma! Good-bye, Dorothy!" cried a voice they knew belonged to Polychrome; but now the little maiden's form had melted wholly into the rainbow, and their eyes could no longer see her.
Suddenly the end of the rainbow lifted and its colors slowly faded like mist before a breeze.
Polychrome appears next in the "Trot" book Sky Island, Baum explaining that it made sense for her to appear since the adventures in the book take place near her home. Luckily the Rainbow comes near Sky Island when Trot, Cap'n Bill and Button-Bright were about to be pushed over the edge of the island. Polychrome is recognized by Button-Bright and she steps off and has a visit during which she correctly interprets the law of the Pinkies that allows for the protagonists' protection. Furthermore, she points out that their laws state that Trot is now the queen. Since she didn't get lost, she soon returns to the rainbow, and the protagonists see her again on their trip back home.
(I have to link to John Troutman's rendition of Polychrome's role in the book. It is perfect.)
In The Tin Woodman of Oz, the Tin Woodman, the Scarecrow and Woot happen upon the castle of Mrs. Yoop, who soon imprisons them and reveals that she has Polychrome captive as well, transformed into a canary. After she transforms them as well, the four manage to escape the castle.
"Polly, can you do any magic?"But considering her adventures off of the Rainbow, it is entirely possible that Polychrome has learned some magic. From Neill's illustrations, she seems to be a little older in her later appearances than in The Road to Oz. Whether by choice or by necessity or requirement, Polychrome seems to have learned some magic in the interim, possibly to help out further transformations she might encounter, should she spot someone who needs her help or if she should stray from the Rainbow again.
"No dear," answered Polychrome, shaking her dainty head.
"You ought to know SOME magic, being the Rainbow's Daughter," continued Dorothy, earnestly.
"But we who live on the rainbow among the fleecy clouds have no use for magic," replied Polychrome.
Later, Polychrome uses her magic to repair damage to the Tin Woodman and Captain Fyter, and later still, shrink herself and her companions to a small enough size to creep through a rabbit's tunnel into Nimmee Amee's garden and then restore them to their proper size. She later repeats this on their way out, waiting to restore them because it has begun to rain. Sure enough, after the rain finishes, the Rainbow arrives and Polychrome returns home.
In The Road to Oz, we have Polychrome, the dancing fairy girl, who knows no magic and is quite friendly. In Sky Island, we have Polychrome, who is still a dancing fairy girl, but is now willing to leave the Rainbow to help people out. In Tik-Tok of Oz, we still have the helpful Polychrome, who (given her next appearance) realizes she needs to learn to help others. This brings us to the Polychrome in The Tin Woodman of Oz, where she has become a powerful fairy by learning some magic. Perhaps after her adventures with the Tin Woodman, she has become more alert and is a little more careful not to slip off the Rainbow so easily.
But still, that's not to say that an accident might not happen or that she might do so willingly someday...
Yes, I know I didn't use any pictures from Tik-Tok of Oz here, but Neill produced so many lovely pictures of Polychrome that the ones I selected from the other Baum books that she appeared in proved plentiful enough for illustrating this blog entry.