Sunday, October 25, 2015

Ozbusters! What makes a Witch?

In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the existence of witches is quickly established as Dorothy discovers she killed a Wicked Witch with her house and finds herself greeted by a self-identified Good Witch. Later, Dorothy is sent to destroy the Wicked Witch of the West, and in the final act of the story, undertakes a journey to find another Good Witch, Glinda.

Except, in later books, Glinda is not called a witch, but a sorceress.

"Well," fans might think, "they're just different terms for women who use magic, right?"

Well... Maybe not.

I was going to tackle this topic in an Oz story, but have decided to skip it and just tell a story.

In one of the notes in The Annotated Wizard of Oz, Michael Patrick Hearn points out that witches traditionally work for Satan, while sorceresses work for themselves. However, while Baum states in Wonderful Wizard that there is a power of Good and a power of Evil in his fantasy world, it does not appear he intended there to be a Devil.

The way Evil (or wickedness) comes about in Baum's world is that people "do not try to be good," or rather, as I've observed, that villains follow their selfish, self-serving goals rather than goals that will actually help people. That is what makes Wicked Witches different from any Good Witches. Good Witches work for the good of their people or the entire Land of Oz.

Okay, but what's the difference between witches and sorceresses?

In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, we have two witches who use magic that we as the reader observe: the Good Witch of the North and the Wicked Witch of the West. We are only told they work magic or use a little chant before they turn their hat into a slate or make a bar of iron invisible. Nowhere are we told that they use tools, herbs, or extensive magic words to work their magic. Thus, it seems they actually have magic power.

In contrast is Glinda. A fun fact check is that nowhere in the first four Oz books does Glinda work magic. In The Marvelous Land of Oz, she uses magic tools, but these items are already magical and would presumably work for anyone who knew how to use them. She gives advice on how to use magic devices in Wizard and Ozma of Oz, but is absent in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz. In The Road to Oz, we are told she makes a tree grow and bear fruit in a very short time, then makes it disappear. Baum does not tell us if she used tools or just made it happen. A similar case is in The Emerald City of Oz when she reveals she's created an invisible barrier around Oz, but we are not told how she accomplished this. Once again in Tik-Tok of Oz, we are told Glinda performs a "magical ceremony," but what this consists of, we have no idea.

The biggest revelations about Glinda's way of working magic happen in The Lost Princess of Oz and Glinda of Oz. When Ugu steals Glinda's magic tools, she is unable to work magic. Furthermore, she must use tools to try to save Dorothy and Ozma in the latter book. Thus, it seems, Glinda does not have magic power of her own, but she knows how to use magic tools and magic words to accomplish great feats.

I must also point out that Baum says that Mombi is only a sorceress (or "wizardess") in The Marvelous Land of Oz. However, he later states that she was the Wicked Witch of the North in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz. This must mean that magic power can be stripped from a witch, presumably turning them into an otherwise harmless woman. (Mombi, we must assume, has learned every bit of magic she could find, so even without magic power, she's still capable of quite a lot.)

So, how do Witches get magic power? According to many old legends, they sacrifice youth and beauty for their wicked arts. I came up with another concept: they can turn in their names for magic power, which is why the Wicked Witches disposed of in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz had no names. (As far as Baum's writing is concerned.) The thing is, it's a bit more than becoming a nameless person. Giving up your name is beginning to give up your identity, and in the Wicked Witches' cases, their main concerns were becoming more powerful and holding dominion over their people.

So wait, what about the Good Witch of the North? According to Thompson, she is Queen Orin who Mombi had tried to transform into a Wicked Witch, but since Good is greater than Evil, Orin could not be turned into a Wicked Witch, and so became a Good Witch.

But as I'm not a fan of the Good Witch of the North being disposed of, I've come up with another suggestion, in that rather than sacrificing youth, beauty or identity, the Good Witch of the North was given her powers as a reward for previous selfless acts and tasked to help protect the people of Oz from her base in the Gillikin Country. She is not a fairy, but not a sorceress as she doesn't use tools, so the term "Witch" is closest to what she is, so she took it, identifying as a good witch. (The Good Witch of the North will be making a return in a short story I've written, keep your eyes open.)

Glinda is often mistakenly called a Good Witch, although she's actually just a sorceress, but she's not particular as long as people remember she's Good and on their side.

So, why do Mombi and Singra (the Wicked Witch of the South in Rachel Cosgrove Payes' The Wicked Witch of Oz) have their names? Perhaps these are aliases or they recognized the danger of losing their identities and decided not to go that far.

The King Rinkitink Contest!

Ahoy there, everyone! This is my first blog post here, and I'd like to extend an invitation out there to all you creative types. The Oz Club is hosting a contest for those interested to submit an alternate ending to L. Frank Baum's 10th Oz Book: Rinkitink in Oz. As you may know, Baum originally wrote King Rinkitink around the time he wrote Ozma of Oz... shelved it, and then pulled it out to fill in for an Oz book by rewriting his original ending to include Dorothy and the Wizard in a deus ex machina role.

Would Kaliko really have behaved in such a manner as the Nome King acted in the book? Certainly not!How would Inga and Rinkitink have escaped from Roquat? (Yes, we're dealing with Roquat, or Ruggedo if you wish, and not Kaliko.) Baum surely wrote something quite ingenious, and it's up to us to figure out what it was.

Entries will be published in the 2016 issue of Oziana, and the winning entry will be published in book form in a joint venture between the Oz Club and Oz published Pumpernickel Pickle.

Put your thinking caps on and get creative! Contact me at if you have any questions!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Ozbusters! Why did publishers turn down Oz?

When you hear of how The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was published, you hear the claim that publishers were not interested in the book or didn't want to publish it. Many point to L. Frank Baum's text, claiming that there had been nothing like it. The movie The Dreamer of Oz even has a publisher reject "an American fairy tale" and then has Baum go into a rage over it.

However, I'm not sold on that.

L. Frank Baum had his name on a top-selling children's book from the previous year: Father Goose: His Book. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was a good story, somewhere between Alice in Wonderland and Pilgrim's Progress. So, why would people reject it?

My thought is... they didn't reject the text.

What people tend to forget or not understand is that Baum and W.W. Denslow worked on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz together and split the copyright on it. Baum didn't just write a book then got someone to illustrate or let the publisher get someone to do it. That means the book's design was how both author and illustrator decided the book should look.

The book would be more costly to print than if it was just the text or the text and simple line art or even inserted plates. The book included color printing on the same pages as the text, creating artwork that would surround and be under the text. Today, this would be no problem to print because we can easily do that with today's imaging and printing technologies, but in 1900, this would mean that the pages would have to be printed twice: once with the color ink, and then again with the black ink for line art and text. This special tooling would increase the cost of publishing. In addition to this, you had the two-dozen color plates.

Thus, it wasn't the text, but the whole package of the design and illustrations with the text that had been turned down. And it wasn't until Baum and Denslow helped fund the production of the book that the publisher of Father Goose: His Book (who had previously had to be sold on that lavish picture book) decided to publish The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Does that make a little more sense than the book being flat-out rejected due to the text? I think so. You'll find that there were lots of books published during that period of time, because this was a major form of sharing stories. But not all of them stayed in print. Our trend of having books that may be enjoyable but aren't very good available alongside our major, memorable works has been going ever since publishing books became a business model, well over a century.

Baum and Denslow wanted something that would stand out, not something that would disappear after a few years, but in order to do that, this book would require extra care in its packaging, something that not everyone was willing to gamble on.

What do you think? Do you agree that the book was rejected by publishers because of how they wanted to publish it rather than just because of the story? Or do you think no, it was just the story? Or do you have another thought? Post your responses and theories in the comments. And what other topics that we might have the wrong idea about should be on Ozbusters?