Published 23 November 2022
This is the third post in my series about the Oz books that come after the well-known one in which Dorothy follows the Yellow Brick Road. Please read those first, or else some of this one will seem even more like nonsense.
For reference, please remember that these are the first six Oz books L. Frank Baum wrote:
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
The Marvelous Land of Oz
Ozma of Oz
Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz
The Road to Oz
The Emerald City of Oz
Ozma of Oz marks a shift in the Oz series. In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz, the characters’ journeys occur within the Land of Oz. In these stories, Oz is a perilous, exotic place. It is full of environmental dangers, violent political actors, and, in the first book, even deadly monsters that the characters must overcome. After the ascension of Ozma in the end of the second book, the chaos of the primordial Oz is “tamed,” as though Ozma is a mythic culture hero, and the land becomes a magical utopia. Instead of facing danger in Oz, the characters face adversity abroad before finally returning to Oz.
(There are still, probably unintentional, hints that Oz may not be so pleasant as it appears. Ozma, for example, is greatly amused when someone is injured and begins crying. I suppose that matches her mean streak in The Marvelous Land of Oz.)
The fourth book, Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, given at the top of every other page as Little Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, falls into this pattern. Despite the title (Baum is so bad at titles!), Dorothy and the Wizard spend the majority of the book not in Oz but in a series of underground countries beneath California connected by caves. I wonder whether this is an allusion to the underground world of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, no doubt an influence on Baum.
This time around, Dorothy has returned from her trip to Australia in Ozma of Oz. She leaves a train from San Francisco and, with her feminine parasol and pet cat, Eureka (Toto is still AWOL), waits for her second cousin Zeb. He arrives driving a cart pulled by his scrawny workhorse, Jim, to take her to Hugson’s Ranch. After a brief ride, a terrifying earthquake causes a fissure to open in the earth. The carriage plummets into the chasm people, animals, and all. This continues a pattern whereby people enter the fairy countries via what should normally be lethal natural disasters. In the underground vegetable kingdom, Dorothy reunites, by pure coincidence, with the Wizard of Oz himself, and together with Zeb, Eureka, Jim, and the Wizard’s nine miniature piglets he bought in Los Angeles, they embark on a journey to ascend through various underground worlds and return to the surface. The most perilous threat they face, aside from the Mangaboos, are the Wooden Gargoyles in the third country. The Gargoyles apparently ritually abduct and kill everyone who enters their domain.
Eventually, Dorothy and her friends become trapped in a cavern above a dragon’s den. Here their journey comes to an anticlimactic conclusion when Dorothy performs her signal so that Ozma can use the magic belt to deus ex machina the characters back to Oz, where a few chapters of whimsy and comedic sketches play out before the novel concludes. The ending, which renders their journey almost pointless, highlights an issue: Ozma having the magic belt allows her to get Dorothy and friends out of any situation so easily that it potentially undermines any possible conflict.
To return to the opening, Dorothy, Zeb, Eureka, and Jim descend through the deadly fissure, more and more slowly, until the fall can no longer hurt them. “Dorothy sighed and commenced to breathe easier. She began to realize that death was not in store for her, after all, but that she had merely started upon another adventure, which promised to be just as queer and unusual as were those she had before encountered” (24). Jim and Eureka start talking, and Dorothy knows they are back in fairyland. This maintains continuity with Billina gaining the capacity for speech in Ozma of Oz—and also raises the point that, since even the Gump can talk in The Marvelous Land of Oz, everyone should be a vegetarian in Baum’s world as every single animal is a person and that, nonetheless, people (gumps) at least used to be hunted for sport in Oz. Retroactively, this also makes one wonder why Toto never talks in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The answer, of course, is that Baum was worldbuilding by the seat of his pants.
At last Dorothy and her friends land in the underground Land of the Mangaboos, where six suns arranged in a pentagram, each a different color, shine perpetually such that the sunlight varies between purple, blue, green, and so on, illuminating a city where every building is made of glass-like material. The Mangaboos are scary doll-like alien beings without emotion or expression, and they have no children: “There were men and women, but no children at all, and the folks were all beautifully formed and attractively dressed and had wonderfully handsome faces. There was not an ugly person in all the throng [of Mangaboo people], yet Dorothy was not especially pleased by the appearance of these people because their features had no more expression than the faces of dolls. They did not smile nor did they frown, or show either fear or surprise or curiosity or friendliness” (38). It later turns out that the Mangaboos are the literal fruit of “folk gardens,” where they grow on the vine into adults, gaining sentience and the ability to move only after they are picked. After being picked, each generation lasts about five years, the vegetable Prince tells Dorothy: “If we keep cool and moist, and meet with no accidents, we often live for five years. I’ve been picked over six years, but our family is known to be especially long lived” (60).
Nobody in this country uses stairs or other such devices because the gravity is so low that they are unnecessary. Baum imagines what a low-gravity scenario would be like, describing the characters rather confusingly, to a post-1960s mind already aware of such an environment, “walking through the air” (37). Instead of magic, Baum does have the Wizard explain the phenomenon scientifically in terms of gravity: “it is because we are close to the center of the earth, where the attraction of gravitation is very slight” (67). We now understand that gravitational force works in exactly the opposite way, and for all I know scientists already understood that in 1908, but Baum showcases tremendous creativity.
The description of the Land of the Mangaboos reflects a more contemporary style of worldbuilding, establishing concrete rules, social systems, social reproduction, alien biology, cultural attitudes toward death, etc. without resorting to magic. This segment of Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz resembles science fiction as much as fantasy. The Land of the Mangaboos is also eerie and cold in a way Oz never is, even in its untamed form in the first two novels. It is already clear that the Mangaboos are upsetting beings. Unlike the peoples of Oz, the Mangaboos live in alien and inhospitable darkness cut through with various colors of light, have no kind of privacy, and have nothing in the way of beds or other comfortable furnishings beyond stiff vegetable matter. Their monolithic, seemingly glass edifices are living organisms. They do not repair damage after the earthquake but wait until the injuries heal. The emotionless locals put no value on their visitors’ lives and little on their own:
“I have been talking with my advisors about you meat people, and we have decided that you do not belong in the Land of the Mangaboos and must not remain here.”
“How can we go away?” asked Dorothy.
“Oh, you cannot go away, of course; so you must be destroyed,” was the answer (78–79).
Despite a human-like exterior, the Mangaboos’ innards resemble those of a potato. Dorothy discovers this when the Wizard of Oz chops their Sorcerer clean in half: “Dorothy screamed and expected to see a terrible sight; but as the two halves of the Sorcerer fell apart on the floor she saw that he had no bones or blood inside of him at all, and that the place where he was cut looked much like a sliced turnip or potato” (52).
The adventures Baum invents this time around are darker and more violent than before—extremely creative, too. This is the first Oz book to explicitly describe blood and wounds: “when he drew back the blade it was dripping with blood” (116). And whereas, in Ozma of Oz, Baum was averse enough to death and killing that nobody dies in the battle against the Nome King’s soldiers (except, presumably, all the soldiers whom Dorothy transforms into eggs), this time around, as the above-mentioned scene where the Wizard kills the Sorcerer proves, Baum is feeling less hospitable. The battle against the Wooden Gargoyles only avoids death because the enemy is animated wood, though the Wizard casually remarks that he might have completely wiped out their entire people: “the Gargoyles never will be missed” (161). Earlier, Baum is explicit that the Wooden Gargoyles, however mean, are in fact people rather than mindless monsters: “the most amazing things of all were the wooden people—the creatures known as Gargoyles” (136). The Gargoyles live in little houses and construct cute gardens and everything. This is the first hint of Baum’s real-world genocidal politics I have noticed in his stories, and I hope it will be the last.
In my Ozma of Oz post, I reflected on a general subdued lack of emotion in the Oz novels. But Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz makes the peril feel legitimately perilous. The characters are concerned about the stakes in the story instead of lightheartedly bumbling through them. Consider the fall into the chasm that begins the story. Baum describes their fall like this: “The sudden rush into space confused them so that they could not think” (21). Then: “The horrible sensation of falling, the darkness and the terrifying noises, proved more than Dorothy could endure and for a few moments the little girl lost consciousness. Zeb, being a boy, did not faint, but he was badly frightened, and clung to the buggy with a tight grip, expecting every moment would be his last” (21–22). Ignoring that implication that only girls faint, uncharacteristic of a series where girls are consistently as tough as boys, Baum describes the scene in vivid, frightening language and has his characters actually respond with emotions. Compare that to Dorothy being blown overboard in Ozma of Oz:
After coughing the water out of her throat and getting her breath again, she managed to climb over the slats and stand upon the firm wooden bottom of the coop, which supported her easily enough.
“Why, I’ve got a ship of my own!” she thought, more amused than frightened at her sudden change in condition[.]
[…] “Well, I declare!” she exclaimed, with a laugh. “You’re in a pretty fix, Dorothy Gale, I can tell you! and I haven’t the least idea how you’re going to get out of it!” (20).
Even Baum’s acknowledgment of her danger assumes the shape of gentle humor: “It was lucky for Dorothy, I think, that the storm subsided; otherwise, brave though she was, I fear she might have perished” (22).
In contrast, in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, there is no attempt to soften Dorothy and Zeb’s fate up to the moment it is clear (though a foregone conclusion) that they are in for another magical adventure.
Also take the above description of Dorothy’s response to seeing the Wizard kill the Sorcerer: she “screamed” and “expected to see a terrible sight,” already more emotional detail than usual. Another instance is when the Wizard, Dorothy, and Zeb respond to the Mangaboos burying the animals in the dreaded Black Pit, where they bury all their enemies alive. Already a particularly frightening scene in a dark and unsettling world, this is what happens:
Before long they neared the Black Pit, where a busy swarm of Mangaboos, headed by their Princess, was engaged in piling up glass rocks before the entrance.
“Stop, I command you!” cried the Wizard, in an angry tone, and at once began pulling down the rocks to liberate Jim and the piglets (90).
The Wizard shouts, he “cries” in an “angry tone,” and “at once” takes action that reflects his emotions. You can tell he cares about what is going on. After a skirmish (the Mangaboos use thorny plants as weapons), Dorothy and the others are also trapped in the Black Pit, watching the Mangaboos block the entrance with glassy vegetable debris. The Wizard says, “My dears, what shall we do? Jump out and fight?” But Dorothy responds, “What’s the use? I’d as soon die here as live much longer among those cruel and heartless people” (92). The characters seem genuinely upset with their situation. I do not claim any of this is particularly extraordinary writing. But it gives off more emotion than the earlier adventures. Instead of a twee line about being in a pretty fix, Dorothy expresses despair and just plain frustration with their continuous mistreatment.
Not only the sad moments seem more convincing, but the happy ones too: “the dinner was no sooner finished than in rushed the Scarecrow, to hug Dorothy in his padded arms and tell her how glad he was to see her again” (196). Ozma, for her part, kisses Dorothy in two different scenes. (“I’ve noticed that many queer things happen in fairy countries,” as the Wizard points out on page 67.) Baum also lends a bit of psychological depth, relatively, to their relationship: “Ozma was happy to have Dorothy beside her, for girls of her own age with whom it was proper for the Princess to associate were very few, and often the youthful Ruler of Oz was lonely for lack of companionship” (231).
Note that Baum mocks royal practices when the dragonettes speak to Dorothy of their alleged noble Atlantean descent (169) but here takes for granted that the princess of his utopia cannot hang out with the common people. This is despite the ordinary people being so good there is no crime in Oz: “it must be stated that the people of that Land were generally so well-behaved that there was not a single lawyer amongst them, and it had been years since any Ruler had sat in judgment upon an offender of the law” (237). In any case, there is a stronger sense of camaraderie than in the wacky military discipline and glib attitude toward the friends lost to the Nome King in Ozma of Oz. Or perhaps I am just more favorably inclined toward Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz.
The conflict that arises between these characters feels somewhat more organic as well. When Zeb says, “This is a fine country, and I like all the people that live in it. But the fact is, Jim and I don’t seem to fit into a fairyland” (252), the reader believes it. Jim is treated as royalty but is too confused by the meals he cooks and agitated to the point of violence by the presence of the Cowardly Lion and Hungry Tiger and Sawhorse. (Note that the Sawhorse is now called the Sawhorse, without a dash, whereas before it is always called the Saw-Horse.)
The relatively grounded Zeb, Jim, and Eureka cannot be at home in Oz, where all animals live in peace with humans and each other, and where Eureka being a cat and trying to eat smaller animals gets her imprisoned and almost executed. There is also an amusing dynamic where Zeb is a simple country boy, overwhelmed and bewildered, while Dorothy, from her past adventures, takes the bizarre occurrences as pretty normal. At one point, faced with a story of the champion Overman-Anu’s grizzly death, Dorothy shrugs the impending danger off with, “They can’t be worse than the Wicked Witch or the Nome King” (111). This may be why Baum introduces the otherwise very bland and unnecessary Zeb to the story: Dorothy can no longer provide relatable grounding for the action.
Neill’s illustrations undergo another change this time around. Instead of the relatively flat colors in Ozma of Oz, now his full-page, full-color Art Nouveau drawings are realized in bright, luscious watercolor. While no part of the production can be considered lazy or sloppy, the effect does not necessarily always serve the book for the better. In particular, aside from the very ugly and blurry cover art, the Wizard’s nose and cheeks are so red he appears to be suffering a flare-up of rosacea.
The illustrations that remain without color also mark a considerable shift. Neill has switched from favoring clean lines to a much scratchier, messier style that would become his standard. They are all expressive and fun.
Strangely, though the text never seems to indicate that Eureka is anything but a normal kitten, Neill consistently draws her wearing human clothing and, eventually, standing on two legs in full dress complete with an Elizabethan collar and a holstered pistol.
As Neill depicts him, the Wizard is ugly and quite frightening. He has a hooked nose, sunk-in eyes, furry yet thin eyebrows, and hair that comes to two horn-like tips, as though he is a devil. An appearance like an evil clown may suit the Wizard, who is a circus performer at “Bailum & Barney’s Great Consolidated Shows” (48). The most dynamic character of the novel, the Wizard becomes a complex figure. The rest of this post is going to be discussing him and the wrinkles Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz introduces to the backstory.
None of the frightening features of Neill’s Wizard are present in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, where Denslow portrays the Wizard, once Toto reveals the truth behind his various illusions, as a cute, tiny, Mr. Magoo-like old man. (Though the Wizard predates Mr. Magoo.)
Instead of a monster or a floating head or a beautiful woman or a ball of flame, “Oz the Great and Terrible” turns out to be almost baby-like when revealed for the “humbug” he is: some ventriloquist from Omaha. This version of the Wizard, though he assists Dorothy’s friends by giving them false versions of the qualities they believe they lack, is also a villain, deceiving the public through various tricks and attempting to dispose of the nosy protagonists by sending them into Winkie country, where the Wicked Witch of the West indeed almost kills them. The Marvelous Land of Oz increases the Wizard’s villainy by establishing him as an invader who conspired with Mombi to remove Ozma and rule the Emerald City for years prior to Dorothy’s arrival. Neill’s devilish Wizard seems to reflect this background: the Wizard is a selfish, wily conman whom Dorothy did Oz a favor by removing.
Earlier, being unmasked for what he is serves as an ironic defeat for a weak fraud Wizard. Even so, he is not evil and treats Dorothy kindly, when forced into it. Belying the Wizard’s earlier timidity, Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz shows off the wily, pitiless, and courageous side that must have allowed him to survive in Oz. At the same time, though, he remains a comical and absurd figure who readily admits, to Dorothy at least, that he is a complete humbug. Up against the Mangaboo Sorcerer, the Wizard shows he has the wild confidence necessary for a con(fidence)man:
“We Mangaboos have, at the present time, one of the most wonderful Sorcerers that ever was picked from a bush; but he sometimes makes mistakes. Do you ever make mistakes?”
“Never!” declared the Wizard, boldly.
“Oh, Oz!” said Dorothy; “you made a lot of mistakes when you were in the marvelous Land of Oz.”
“Nonsense!” said the little man, turning red—although just then a ray of violet sunlight was on his round face (46).
He pits himself against someone with genuine magical powers and succeeds in outperforming him using circus tricks. The Wizard also has no hesitation to kill, chopping the Sorcerer apart, in self-defense, yes, but without any wavering. The Wizard is a ruthless man. The most disturbing moment of the novel is likely when, after the vegetable Princess whom Dorothy has just saved from a conspiracy explains her plans to kill the meat people (the ingrate), the Wizard lays on some more trickery to persuade the Mangaboos to spare them.
Just then his [the Wizard’s] eye fell upon the lanterns and the can of kerosene oil which Zeb had brought from the car of his balloon, and he got a clever idea from those commonplace things.
“Your Highness,” said he [the Wizard], “I will now proceed to prove my magic by creating two suns that you have never seen before; also I will exhibit a Destroyer much more dreadful than your Clinging Vines.” [The Clinging Vines are one of the various methods they use to kill people.]
So he placed Dorothy upon one side of him and the boy upon the other and set a lantern upon each of their heads.
“Don’t laugh,” he whispered to them, “or you will spoil the effect of my magic.”
Then, with much dignity and a look of vast importance upon his wrinkled face, the Wizard got out his match-box and lighted the two lanterns. The glare they made was very small when compared with the radiance of the six great colored suns; but still they gleamed steadily and clearly. The Mangaboos were much impressed because they had never before seen any light that did not come directly from their suns.
Next the Wizard poured a pool of oil from the can upon the glass floor, where it covered quite a broad surface. When he lighted the oil a hundred tongues of flame shot up, and the effect was really imposing.
“Now, Princess,” exclaimed the Wizard, “those of your advisors who wished to throw us into the Garden of Clinging Vines must step within this circle of light. If they advised you well, and were in the right, they will not be injured in any way. But if any advised you wrongly, the light will wither him.”
The advisors of the Princess did not like this test; but she commanded them to step into the flame and one by one they did so, and were scorched so badly that the air was soon filled with an odor like that of baked potatoes. Some of the Mangaboos fell down and had to be dragged from the fire, and all were so withered that it would be necessary to plant them at once. [It is earlier established that this a Mangaboo is planted upon death to grow the next generation of the family line.]
“Sir,” said the Princess to the Wizard, “you are greater than any Sorcerer we have ever known” (80–83).
Burning several people to death in front of two children is completely unnecessary, but the Wizard does it anyway. His quick wit and sociopathy make it clear how the Wizard managed to conquer Oz—though less so how he could have held his own against the Wicked Witches—and also why Neill would draw him in such a frightening way. The Wizard has two pistols and a sword and dishes out what violence he needs to. He is clever, always willing to fight, and never gives up. Even facing the vicious Wooden Gargoyles, he sides with the brave Dorothy rather than fearful Zeb:
“Suppose we escape down the stairs, too,” suggested the boy [Zeb]. “We have time, just now, and I’d rather face the invis’ble bears than those wooden imps.”
“No,” returned, Dorothy, stoutly, “it won’t do to go back, for then we would never get home. Let’s fight it out.”
“That is what I advise,” said the Wizard. “They haven’t defeated us yet, and Jim is worth a whole army” (139–140).
(Also, again, the tension is so much higher this time around!)
This is because the Wizard is not a villain. Though vicious, a trickster, a former conqueror who ruled under false pretenses, and entirely open about being a “humbug” (fraud), throughout the novel, the Wizard shows Dorothy, Zeb, and Jim nothing but kindness. His violence is all to protect them. Eureka gets less kindness from him because one of her major character traits is wanting to eat his pet piglets. But even after Eureka appears to have devoured one of the piglets, the Wizard is remarkably compassionate: “He had no doubt Eureka had eaten his piglet, but he realized that a kitten cannot be depended upon at all times to act properly, since its nature is to destroy small animals and even birds for food, and the tame cat that we keep in our houses today is descended from the wild cat of the jungle—a very ferocious creature, indeed. The Wizard knew that if Dorothy’s pet was found guilty and condemned to death the little girl would be made very unhappy; so, although he grieved over the piglet’s sad fate as much as any of them, he resolved to save Eureka’s life” (237–238). He proceeds to concoct a scheme with the Tin Woodman to undermine the trial, which is already a farce because the people of Oz are not used to having any crimes or trials in the first place. Also because the Woggle-Bug is the prosecutor. The ethical sense of even this situation is ambiguous: the Wizard is helping Dorothy but is doing so by deceiving Ozma and defending (whom he takes to be) a murderer.
Ozma interviews the Wizard in an intriguing exposition dump. In this scene, Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz elaborates on the Wizard’s story that was presented in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. His real name is Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs, “Diggs being the last name because he [his father] could think of no more to go before it” (192). I am aware “Emmanuel” is the typical spelling, but I am accurately representing the Wizard’s name. His name is abbreviated as OZ PINHEAD, and to avoid the embarrassment of being called “pinhead,” he goes by Oz. The Wizard is the son of a politician, perhaps presaging his political future (some people do consider him a representative of the US president in the original novel). While young, the Wizard ran away from home and joined the circus as a ventriloquist, drawing crowds by flying a hot air balloon.
Eventually, the Wizard lost control of his balloon and, after a day and a night, it blew to the Land of Oz, which by sheer coincidence had the same name as him. The locals assumed he was a Wizard because he descended from the clouds, flying machines being unknown in Oz, and the Wizard had them build the Emerald City, using his circus tricks to perpetuate the illusion he was powerful to avoid being attacked by the Wicked Witch of the West and the Wicked Witch of the East. He reigned for many years, until he was an old man, and Dorothy and her friends exposed his fraud. This is as far as the versions of his backstory furnished in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz do not contradict each other.
After The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the Wizard’s balloon blows him over the Deadly Desert, leaving Dorothy stuck in Oz on her own, and eventually he returns to Omaha. Like Urashima Tarō, the Wizard discovers the world has moved on without him and that his friends are “dead or had moved away” (194). After this, he returns to the carnie life at Bailum & Barney’s until his balloon descends into the open fissure and he reunites with Dorothy. Since there is nothing left for the Wizard in the mundane world, Ozma decides to let him live in the royal palace as the “Official Wizard” of Oz. Dorothy objects, with friendly teasing, “He’s only a humbug Wizard, though,” to which Ozma replies, “And that is the safest kind of a Wizard to have” (196). He is no longer a threat to the order of Oz and, despite his violence earlier in the novel, can safely be incorporated into the royal retinue as a kind of jester.
Given that the Wizard conspired with Mombi to ruin Ozma’s life and, by implication, might have killed her father, it is strange that Ozma does not bear him any grudge (though she does subtly trick the Wizard, pretending to know less than she lets on). Weirdly, none of the people of the Emerald City seem to bear the Wizard any grudge. Of course, the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Cowardly Lion think well of him, still believing they got their brains, heart, and courage from the Wizard, when really they had them all along. Jellia Jamb tells him, “I’m afraid you cannot rule the Emerald City, as you used to, because we now have a beautiful Princess whom everyone loves so dearly” (187). The Wizard responds, “I assure you, my good people, that I do not wish to rule the Emerald City” (188), at which point everyone welcomes the humbug wizard. Assuming the Wizard can be trusted, he became the ruler of Oz out of self-preservation and fear, believing it was the only way to save himself from the Wicked Witches. Now that Oz is peaceful, the Wizard can spend the remainder of his days in fairyland living his passion: doing parlor tricks to amuse people.
The real reason for this strangeness is that Baum cared little for consistency. You want lore? Get outta here, says Baum, I’m in a rush. He even forgets that a “Gump” is some elk-like animal in The Marvelous Land of Oz, instead saying the weird living flying machine from that novel is the Gump rather than the Thing and that the head, which is supposed to be the Gump, is nameless. But I will take the contradictory material at face value and see what happens.
The narration states that the Wizard “built the Emerald City and united the Munchkins, Gillikins, Quadlings and Winkies into one people” (191). In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the Wizard does claim he built the Emerald City and he does pretend to rule Oz, but in fact his power does not extend beyond the capital city. Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion are responsible for unifying the people into a stable federation, and later Ozma and Glinda are too (and maybe Jinjur, kind of). While Dorothy eliminated the Wicked Witches, the Wizard was hiding in his throne room. Though a powerful political figure stealing the credit from those who did the work is true to life. (If a history says a king built a city, remember that he didn’t—laborers did.)
I did not mention it in that post, but the backstory Glinda and Mombi furnish in The Marvelous Land of Oz contradicts the backstory in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It contradicts the backstory the Wizard and Ozma provide in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz even more. In The Marvelous Land of Oz, the Emerald City predates the Wizard’s arrival. The Scarecrow is clear that Pastoria, the ruler who preceded the Wizard, specifically ruled the Emerald City: “The former King of this City, who was named Pastoria, lost the crown to the Wonderful Wizard” (185–186). In this book, Mombi also states that the Wizard did, in fact, know some real magic, when he clearly does not either in the original novel or in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz: “He taught me all the magical tricks he knew. Some were good tricks, and some were only frauds” (270). If some were frauds, then he taught her some real magic.
Glinda states that the Wizard stole the throne from Pastoria and abducted Ozma: “[W]here she is I have tried in vain to discover. For the Wizard of Oz, when he stole the throne from Ozma’s father, hid the girl in some secret place; and by means of a magical trick with which I am not familiar he also managed to prevent her being discovered—even by so experienced a Sorceress as myself” (241). Mombi, imprisoned and under threat of death, later confirms this: “The Wizard brought me the girl Ozma, who was then no more than a baby, and begged me to conceal the child” (269). Mombi also repeats the point, as if to leave no doubt: “the child brought to me by the Wizard who stole her father’s throne. That is the rightful ruler of the Emerald City!” (270). Based on this, and certainly the Wizard’s violence and unflappable ego in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, the Wizard was a conniving man who conspired with Mombi to unjustly maneuver himself into power over the capital city.
This has almost nothing to do with the backstory Ozma and the Wizard provide in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz. (Though in every book so far, Ozma’s gender transition is mentioned and consistent.) During her first meeting with him, Ozma tells the Wizard, “Many years before you came here this Land was united under one Ruler, as it is now, and the Ruler’s name was always ‘Oz’, which means in our language ‘Great and Good’; or, if the Ruler happened to a woman, her name was always ‘Ozma’” (194). This implies there is an indigenous Oz language when absolutely everyone in all the fairy countries speak and write in English and are never hinted to have any other language. Ozma goes on to explain that “once upon a time” four Wicked Witches joined forces and overthrew her grandfather, not father, who was the ruler Oz. The name Pastoria does not appear.
Mombi was the Wicked Witch of the North and had enslaved three generations of Ozma’s family: her grandfather, her father, and then finally her, though Mombi, in addition to the imprisonment, for some reason turned her into a boy. However, by the time the Wizard had arrived, Mombi had been conquered by the Good Witch of the North, while Glinda had defeated the Wicked Witch of the South. Weirdly, unlike the other witches, Mombi was left alive and got to keep her magic powers. This context creates a different meaning to these lines from The Marvelous Land of Oz: “Mombi was not exactly a Witch, because the Good Witch who ruled that part of the Land of Oz had forbidden any other Witch to exist in her dominions. So Tip’s guardian, however much she might aspire to working magic, realized it was unlawful to be more than a Sorceress, or at most a Wizardess” (7–8). This does not stop Baum from frequently identifying Mombi as a witch later on. If this backstory is at all true, then Mombi is not a lowly woman “aspiring” to something greater but, rather, is a former tyrant who wishes she could regain her glory. You’d think that would have come up at some point! If Mombi had been their former dictator, no wonder the Gillikans don’t like her! And why is everyone gentler to the Wicked Witch of the North than to the others?
Baum must have decided he did not want the Wizard to be a bad guy, even though that would create a more interesting dynamic and leave room for (gasp!) characters to grow or learn. So Baum retroactively changed the whole story. However, it raises the possibility that this is a Rashomon situation, each character providing a version of events more flattering to themself. The Wizard does not want to own up to killing or at least overthrowing Pastoria, and Mombi, to lessen her punishment, wants to pin the full blame on the Wizard rather than admit her direct involvement in overthrowing Pastoria. If the Wizard had somehow helped the Wicked Witches eliminate Pastoria, that may also explain why they let him have the Emerald City, rather than their being gullible. But the Wizard might have had some kindness in him and, unwilling to kill the baby Ozma, secreted her away to Mombi in return for some special favor he did not do the other witches. The Wizard, an inveterate liar, invented the story about building the Emerald City (especially given that the gathering of the emeralds would have upset the Nome King, who would have killed the Wizard in about ten seconds). Perhaps the city was already there, and the Wizard simply had it bedazzled and/or introduced the policy of wearing green spectacles to trick everyone into thinking it was full of more emerald than it really was, in some sense creating its present emerald status. This timeline would also mean that Ozma’s age in The Marvelous Land of Oz is just about how many years the Wizard ruled Oz.
Yet again, I find myself imagining a tale of political intrigue and complicated character psychology in fairyland, a tale more interesting than the simple (usually) good vs. evil whimsy featuring mostly cardboard cutout characters that, alas, Baum actually wrote. Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz is definitely a bit disappointing, a chain of disconnected episodes less focused and satisfying than the previous novels. Whether they prove boring or not, though, I intend to read the first seven Oz novels. When I have read it, a post about the fifth Oz novel, The Road to Oz, will also appear on this website.