The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum (1904)
The other day I picked up a graphic novel version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. adapted by the talented Eric Shanower and drawn by the equally talented Skottie Young. I have to confess that when I read L. Frank Baum's original novel back in the day I was less than impressed -- enough so that I never read any other books in the series. I found the graphic novel delightful, however, and wondered if I had misjudged Baum. With that in mind, I tackled the second book in Baum's Oz series, The Marvelous Land of Oz, and found it (sorry!) to be marvelous.
At the end of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the Scarecrow was installed as the ruler of the Emerald City of Oz while Nick Chopper (the Tin Woodsman) ruled the Winkies in the land of the West. As The Marvelous Land of Oz opens, we meet Tip, a young boy being raised by a mean witch named Old Mombi. As a joke, Tip builds a pumpkin man to scare Old Mombi when she returns from meeting with an old sorceror, where she has tricked the sorceror into giving her a small powdered amount of the elixir of life. Mombi is mad at Tip for playing a trick on her; she uses the powder to bring Jack Pumpkinhead to life and -- since Jack can do all the menial and dirty chores that Tip had been doing -- decides to turn Tip into a marble statue for her garden.
Tip steals the remaining magic elixir and, with Jack, escapes from Mombi. They decide to go to the Emerald City to meet the scarecrow. Along the way, Jack uses the powder to animate a sawhorse to make the trip easier for Jack. The three arrive at the Emerald City just as General Jinjur and her rebellious army of girls conquer the city. (Their plan is to loot the city to buy pretty dresses and to have the men do all the women's work while they laze around and eat green chocolates. Baum was not the most enlightened of authors.)
Tip, Jack, and the Scarecrow escape on the Sawhorse and make their way to the land of the Winkies to ask the Tin Woodsman for help. The five then set off again for the Emerald City, figuring that the Woodsman's sharp ax will frighten Jinjur's army into submission. Along the way they are joined by Mr. H. M. (Highly Magnified) Woggle-Bug, T. E. (Thoroughly Educated). Arriving the Emerald City, our dauntless heroes find themselves trapped in the place, their only escape is to use the last of the elixir of life to animate a creature made of the mounted head of an animal called the Gump, two sofas tied together, four large leaves from a palm tree, and a broom. The Gump Thing flies them from the Emerald City and our stalwart heroes head to seek the help of glinda the Good Witch.
Ah, but General Jinjur enlists the help of Old Mombi, who uses her magic in an effort to prevent Tip & Co. from reaching Glinda. Despite Mombi's best efforts, you just know she's going to fail.
Now, here comes some logic: 1) General Jinjur usurped power from the Scarecrow, 2) the Scarecrow was named ruler by the previous ruler, the Wizard of Oz, but 3) the Wizard stole the throne from the former king, Pastoria, 4) so Pastoria should be the rightful ruler of the Emerald City but 5) although Pastoria is long-dead, the crown should go his daughter Ozma but 6) Ozma was stolen as a baby and nobody knows where she is and 6) the Wizard's old record books indicate that maybe, just maybe, Old Mombi holds the key to the puzzle.
*************SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!*************
It turns out that Princess Ozma is really...Tip!
Yep. Old Mombi had taken the baby princess and, using magic, turned her into a boy named Tip. Tip (go figure) does not take the news well but, on reflection, decides that he will try being a girl and see how it works out. More magic, and Tip becomes Ozma again, and Ozma rules wisely. The end.
Phew! What a head trip! Maybe Baum was more enlightened than I thought.
Uh, Not really. I'm sure a lot of dissertations can be written (and probably) were on gender identity in this book, Baum still seems pretty hidebound and well-grounded in the sexual steroetypes of his time. The gender-switching seems to be more of a Hail Mary pass used Baum painted himself into a corner. (Baum also had to mollify a large number of female readers.)
But, then again, I could be wrong.
But what I'm not wrong about, though, is the humor, wit, and imagination that permeates the story. Political correctness aside, The Marvelous Land of Oz is a joy.
I see more Oz novels in my future.