Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Characters of Oz — Inga, Rinkitink and Bilbil

This entry is a little odd because originally, these three characters were not Oz characters. They are the heroes of Rinkitink in Oz, which was actually written in 1905 as King Rinkitink. For whatever reason, Baum had held the book back from publication. Most likely, he had realized that it was a better idea not to release too many Baum books each year, and after The Marvelous Land of Oz and Queen Zixi of Ix in St. Nicholas Magazine (and the collected novel edition), he decided to shelve it.

Rinkitink was the first book Baum wrote that featured a group of characters going to the Nome Kingdom to rescue royal prisoners and going through a tough trial to complete their task. This element was successfully reworked into Ozma of Oz. Ozma was in turn adapted into the musical The Tik-Tok Man of Oz, in which the prisoner was reduced from royalty to a tramp's brother. As the musical was a loose amalgamation of elements from several Oz books, Baum adapted it into Tik-Tok of Oz, adding in an original fairyland on the other side of the world that the characters are temporarily sent to, as well as shaking up the Nome Kingdom's throne and putting Oz proper into the final chapters.

Health conditions and other issues gave Baum little time to produce a new book for 1916, so he decided to see if he had any manuscripts that he might turn into an Oz book. And so, King Rinkitink had its opening revised to mention Oz, and part of its original ending changed to have Dorothy and the Wizard suddenly visit the Nome Kingdom to resolve the plot and facilitate a trip to Oz. Unfortunately, the original version of King Rinkitink is not known to exist, so how our heroes eventually left the Nome Kingdom is anyone's guess.

Inga is main character of the book, and is the prince of island kingdom of Pingaree, which harvests luscious pearls they trade for goods to keep their country thriving. A studious young man, Inga is made privy to the family secret of the three magic pearls by his father. Hidden under a floor tile, the three pearls have magic powers: the blue pearl gives whoever carries it great strength, the pink pearl makes its carrier invincible, and the white pearl whispers words of wisdom or advice.

Inga happens to be in a tree top studying when Pingaree is invaded, enslaved, carried off and devastated by Regos and Coregos and manages to escape imprisonment. Finding the visiting Rinkitink and Bilbil the talking goat, Inga takes lead of the survivors and recovers the pearls at night, later taking them to Regos and Coregos where they use the pearls to drive the king and queen away, despite a few mishaps. They chase King Gos and Queen Cor to the Nome Kingdom, where the Nome King (Kaliko, who acts suspiciously like his predecessor) keeps King Kitticut and Queen Garee of Pingaree prisoner after being paid.

Inga defies Kaliko and uses the pearls to defeat a series of trials for him. Perhaps these trials were enough to win his parents back in the original version, or perhaps the Nome King had another challenge for him. But in the published version, Inga and his parents are freed by Dorothy and the Wizard dropping in with a basket of eggs. After a brief visit to Oz, Inga and his friends and family return to Pingaree, where they find everything rebuilt even more glorious than before.

King Rinkitink rules a small kingdom called Gilgad, where he amiably rules, but feels overwhelmed by his duties. Rinkitink in Oz has him take an unannounced vacation during which he sneaks away to Pingaree and is an honored guest until Regos and Coregos attack. He escapes imprisonment by falling down a well, which Inga and Bilbil rescue him from.

Although always preferring comfort and food and a song (which he writes and sings on the spot, much to Bilbil's chagrin), Rinkitink does manage to give some good advice to Inga, and later helps the boy keep the secret of the pearls, using one himself to get past a few trials the Nome King puts him through.

Finally, the jolly fat king of Gilgad returns home after his adventures, much to his dismay. But he is glad to have had his adventures with Inga.

Bilbil is something of an oddity. In the original version, it was supposed to be a curious thing that he was a talking goat. However, since it was released as the tenth Oz book and just about every animal has talked in the series now, the reader can easily miss that it's supposed to be a mystery as to why this goat can talk.

The gruff, surly goat serves as Rinkitink's steed. Rinkitink is too fat to walk far without tiring and cannot expect to ride a taller beast. Bilbil accepts his duty, but not without complaint. He seems to despise being attached to Rinkitink, even suggesting that Inga leave him in the well. However, Bilbil does pull his weight in the story, helping Inga and even butting King Gos and Queen Cor at great speeds.

After being protected by Rinkitink and his borrowed pearl, Bilbil meets the Wizard, who wonders why the goat can talk, since he's never been to Oz. (Because we've seen talking foxes, donkeys and chickens outside of Oz and now this is a surprise, Wizard?) He then identifies Bilbil as the transformed Prince Bobo of Boboland. (We never discover who enchanted him or why in the Famous Forty.) Returning to Oz, the Wizard and Glinda work hard to restore Bobo to his natural form, and he proves to be an amiable prince, though the last line of the book suggests that he still isn't a fan of Rinkitink's songs.

I recently revamped Bobo's character for a short story in Oziana that ballooned into Marcus Mebes and Jeff Rester's The Royal Explorers of Oz series. In it, I reveal that Bobo is amiable, as long as things go his way. If not, he turns surly and grouchy, much as he was when he was a goat. Marcus and Jeff then whisk the character off a devastating adventure on The Crescent Moon that makes him re-evaluate how he sees things.

Aside from that, I've seen Rinkitink and Bobo appear in small roles in non-Famous Forty tales. Inga not so much, though a couple books have him lend the pearls to the heroes. But the history of Oz is ever-expanding. Perhaps the prince (or now king?) of Pingaree will have another adventure in the near future, perhaps with his old friends.

1 comment:

Eric said...

One quick correction: The kingdom where Rinkitink rules is actually called Rinkitink. (It's not clear whether or not the king is named for the country, or the country for the king.) Its capital city is Gilgad.