13 October 2006

The Purple Dragon Did Not Want to Be Destroyed

L. Frank Baum published other books in 1900 besides The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The longest was a collection of fairy tales titled, derivately, A New Wonderland. Baum had written these stories before the manuscript he at first called "The Emerald City." They offered a lot of magic and humor, but they didn't have the unified plot, emotional depth, or determined young American heroine of Wizard. And they didn't sell as well.

A few years later, after Wizard was a huge hit and Wonderland wasn't, Baum rewrote the latter book. He now titled it, derivatively, The Magical Monarch of Mo. And it stayed in print for many years.

The land of Mo gets mentioned in The Patchwork Girl of Oz and then visited in The Scarecrow of Oz. In both countries, animals talk and (eventually) people are immortal. But in Mo the winds are scented, snow falls as popcorn, the ground is candy, rivers can be made of treacle or needles--the whole country is so much more whimsically magical that it can give you a headache, like certain types of candle stores.

A little of Mo can go a long way, but a little can also be a lot of fun. This is the start of the first story in the collection, in its second version.

A good many years ago, the Magical Monarch of Mo became annoyed by the Purple Dragon, which came down from the mountains and ate up a patch of his best chocolate caramels just as they were getting ripe.

So the King went out to the sword-tree and picked a long, sharp sword, and tied it to his belt and went away to the mountains to fight the Purple Dragon.

"The King had a terrible fight with the Purple Dragon."

The people all applauded him, saying one to another:

"Our King is a good King. He will destroy this naughty Purple Dragon and we shall be able to eat the caramels ourselves."

But the Dragon was not alone naughty; it was big, and fierce, and strong, and did not want to be destroyed at all.

Therefore the King had a terrible fight with the Purple Dragon and cut it with his sword in several places, so that the raspberry juice which ran in its veins squirted all over the ground.

It is always difficult to kill Dragons. They are by nature thick-skinned and tough, as doubtless every one has heard. Besides, you must not forget that this was a Purple Dragon, and all scientists who have studied deeply the character of Dragons say those of a purple color at the most disagreeable to fight with. So all the King's cutting and slashing had no effect upon the monster other than to make him angry. Forgetful of the respect due to a crowned King, the wicked Dragon presently opening wide its jaws and bit his Majesty's head clean off his body. Then he swallowed it.

Of course the King realized it was useless to continue to fight after that, for he could not see where the Dragon was. So he turned and tried to find his way back to his people. But at every other step he would bump into a tree, which made the naughty Dragon laugh at him. Furthermore, he could not tell in which direction he was going, which is an unpleasant feeling under any circumstances.

At last some of the people came to see if the King had succeeded in destroying the Dragon, and found their monarch running around in a circle, bumping into trees and rocks, but not getting a step nearer home. So they took his hand and led him back to the palace, where every one was filled with sorrow at the sad sight of the headless King.
See the rest of the story, with Frank Ver Beck's illustrations, at this Project Gutenberg page. Also, in Mo's final tale the king and his advisors decide they have to do away with the Purple Dragon once and for all. (So there's a bit of a unified story.)

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