The Marvelous Land of Oz
L Frank Baum
208 pages • Reilly & Britton • 1904
L. Frank Baum, author of the children’s book of 1900, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, wrote a sequel, The Marvelous Land of Oz, to answer all the questions about the future of the Scarecrow & the Tin Woodman put to him by his many young readers. Or, at least, that is what he writes in the preface. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz had been adapted into a stage musical in 1902 with great success. The musical was aimed more at adults than children, and featured two popular vaudevillian comedians who played the Scarecrow & the Tin Woodman. Baum, who was 44 when The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was published, was experiencing real success for the first time in his career, and he was pragmatic in his work, clearly writing the sequel for an eventual stage adaptation featuring the vaudevillian duo. The resulting play was not a success. Nevertheless, The Marvelous Land of Oz started Baum on a series of Oz books that would amount to 14.
The Marvelous Land of Oz tells the story of Tip, a boy who is at odds with his guardian, the witch Mombi. They live in the Country of the Gillikins, in the North of Oz, which is divided into four kingdoms at the centre of which is the Emerald City. To scare Mombi, the mischievous Tip makes a man out of wood with a pumpkin for a head, and he calls him Jack Pumpkinhead. This does not fool Mombi, who attempts to scare Tip in return by sprinkling the Powder of Life onto Jack, and then threatening to turn Tip into a marble statue the following morning. That night Tip uses the magic powder to animate a wooden horse, and, with Jack in tow, he heads toward the Emerald City.
The three arrive just as a coup is launched against the Scarecrow, who had assumed the kingship of the Emerald City after the Wizard had left. The coup, led by General Jinjur, is, as the lame joke goes, an army of girls who are revolting. It is a not-so-kind satire on the suffragettes. (Baum’s mother-in-law was a friend to Susan B. Anthony, who founded the suffragette movement.) Under the revolutionary Jinjur, the men are forced to cook and clean for their wives. Or as one critic noted, “General Jinjur and her soldiers are only shapely chorus girls,” and are thus another element in the plans for a stage adaptation.
Tip and his unconventional companions escape with the Scarecrow and head to the Kingdom of the Winkies, which is ruled over by the Tin Woodman. There are a series of adventures to be had on their way back to the Emerald City to reclaim the throne. They pick up a new companion on the way, Mr HM Woggle-Bugg. HM stands for Highly Magnified because, it would seem, he escaped from a school whilst he was magnified. More bad jokes fit for vaudevillians abound, but the Woggle-Bug is an amusing attack on the style of the self-important teacher. The adventures are also a great reason for Baum to expand the world of Oz and start to work out what it means to have and to use power.
Mombi, enlisted by Jinjur’s to use her magic as an impediment, mars progress. The troop then go to the castle of the Sorceress Glinda, the Good Witch of the South. (Incidentally, in the 1939 MGM extravaganza, The Wizard of Oz, the witches of the North and South are made one. The Silver Slippers of the book become Ruby – far better for Technicolor – and the Emerald City is in fact green and made of emeralds, whereas in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz this is a con that no-one catches onto as they are forced to wear emerald glasses when in the city to protect their eyes from its glare.) Whilst discussing the ruling of Oz, Glinda reveals that the rightful ruler is in fact Princess Ozma, who had been hidden as a child by the Wizard after he took the crown from the rightful king, Pastoria. Through her spies, Glinda discovers that the baby was delivered up to Mombi. And so they march on the Emerald City to force Mombi to reveal the whereabouts of the lost princess.
The Marvelous Land of Oz is the book that establishes the series far more than The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which could easily have been a stand-alone. The usurping of Pastoria destabilized its centre, the Emerald City, and in The Marvelous Land of Oz Baum re-establishes the rule of law in Oz, which frees him to pit good against evil in the ensuing series in a more menacing way. General Jinjur and Mombi are hardly a match for the Wicked Witch of the West. The Nome King, who makes his first appearance in the third book, Ozma of Oz, is a formidable enemy who understands Realpolitik. For those concerned about Judy’s – I mean Dorothy’s – role, she reappears in Ozma of Oz.
What of Ozma? You will have to read the book to find that out. With the resolution of The Marvelous Land of Oz, Baum employs a theatrical trick in which the result is as subversive as it is satisfying.
” ‘The throne belongs to whoever is able to take it,’ answered Jinjur as she slowly ate another caramel. ‘I have taken it, as you see; so just now I am the Queen, and all who oppose me are guilty of treason.’ “