29 November 2011

Kaliko Vision

In L. Frank Baum’s Ozma of Oz, Roquat the Nome King is served by a Nome introduced this way:
Meantime the King ordered refreshments to be served to those waiting, and at his command a rudely shaped Nome entered, bearing a tray. This Nome was not unlike the others that Dorothy had seen, but he wore a heavy gold chain around his neck to show that he was the Chief Steward of the Nome King, and he assumed an air of much importance, and even told his majesty not to eat too much cake late at night, or he would be ill.
Later, thinking himself out of the hearing of the guests, the Chief Steward tells the king, “You are a fool to waste so much time upon these people” from Oz.

Baum next visited the Nomes in The Emerald City of Oz, and in that book stated that the king’s steward was named Kaliko. He’s “frightened” by his master, “trembling and white with fear.” Baum offers this exchange:
“Fetch my pipe!” yelled the King.

“Your pipe is already here, your Majesty,” replied Kaliko.

“Then get my tobacco!” roared the King.

“The tobacco is in your pipe, your Majesty,” returned the Steward.

“Then bring a live coal from the furnace!” commanded the King.

“The tobacco is lighted, and your Majesty is already smoking your pipe,” answered the Steward.

“Why, so I am!” said the King, who had forgotten this fact; “but you are very rude to remind me of it.”

“I am a lowborn, miserable villain,” declared the Chief Steward, humbly.
Obviously that exchange shows a interpersonal dynamic very different from the earlier one.

In Who’s Who in Oz, Jack Snow stated that Kaliko first appeared in Ozma—in other words, that he was the Chief Steward in that book as well as the later one. As a young reader, I adopted that interpretation without question. It suggests that the Nome King’s anger over losing his Magic Belt in the earlier book makes it much more dangerous to talk back to him in the later.

More recently, however, such Oz scholars as David Hulan convinced me that might be too much of an assumption. What if the Nome King got rid of the first Chief Steward between the two books? In that case, Kaliko didn’t change his behavior drastically; rather, he could be obsequious enough to manage the angry monarch. What happened to the earlier Chief Steward? Based on what the Nome King orders for some Nome army officers in Emerald City, it would be nothing good.

The Marvel Comics adaptation of Ozma of Oz comes down firmly on the first interpretation, with the Chief Steward being named “Kaliko.” Scripter Eric Shanower’s choice makes for a smaller, more unified cast of characters for the series, and there’s certainly tradition behind it.

Artist Skottie Young also makes an interesting choice in how he designed the Nomes. His Nome King looks much like John R. Neill’s, with a human face, hair, and beard; five-fingered hands; and a caricatured but recognizably humanoid body. In contrast, Young draws the rest of the Nomes as little imps, basically isosceles triangles with tiny limbs and snappish personalities. And Kaliko is among them, as the picture below shows.
Looking ahead, will we see this little Kaliko assuming the Nome Kingdom’s throne?


saintfighteraqua said...

It's interesting. I've wondered that too, but generally accepted that they were the same.
I was a bit disappointed by Young's Nomes, but I loved his Nome King!

Wasn't there another steward in Thompson's books?

J. L. Bell said...

After Kaliko becomes king of the Nomes in Tik-Tok of Oz, he makes Guph his chamberlain. But the next time the Oz books visit the Nome Kingdom, in Rinkitink, the chamberlain is named Klik. And during the visit in Thompson’s Wishing Horse of Oz, Kaliko’s top servant is named Shoofenwaller.

The position doesn’t seem to have a lot of job security; it’s pretty amazing that Kaliko lasted as long as he did, and left only for a promotion.

saintfighteraqua said...

Shoofenwaller was the one I was thinking of. Wasn't he also a Wizard or was that another character?

That's a good point...maybe Kaliko was even rougher on his chamberlains than Ruggedo!

odd news said...

Amazing, thanks for share. :)

J. L. Bell said...

The Nome King’s wizard in Wishing Horse is named Potaroo.

My personal theory is that the events in Rinkitink actually involve Ruggedo, so Klik is really Kaliko, and Kaliko didn't replace Guph as chamberlain so quickly. Roquat/Ruggedo goes through his advisors in the course of about a decade while Kaliko's next chamberlain showed up two decades later. But that's a theory that rewrites Rinkitink.

saintfighteraqua said...

Considering the true origin of Rinkitink in Oz, you are probably right.

Kaliko was quite out of character in that book and in Hungry Tiger as well.