21 August 2012

Ozma, the Birthday Girl

Though L. Frank Baum probably never intended to convey this information, today is the birthday of Ozma, fairy queen of Oz. Some passages in The Road to Oz mention that her birthday is on the 21st of the month. Another passage says that the month is August. So there we go.

One of Baum’s longest descriptions of Ozma comes in The Magic of Oz, his penultimate novel:
Ozma, the beautiful girl Ruler of the Fairyland of Oz, was a real fairy, and so sweet and gentle in caring for her people that she was greatly beloved by them all. She lived in the most magnificent palace in the most magnificent city in the world, but that did not prevent her from being the friend of the most humble person in her dominions. She would mount her Wooden Sawhorse, and ride out to a farm house and sit in the kitchen to talk with the good wife of the farmer while she did her family baking; or she would play with the children and give them rides on her famous wooden steed; or she would stop in a forest to speak to a charcoal burner and ask if he was happy or desired anything to make him more content; or she would teach young girls how to sew and plan pretty dresses, or enter the shops where the jewelers and craftsmen were busy and watch them at their work, giving to each and all a cheering word or sunny smile.

And then Ozma would sit in her jeweled throne, with her chosen courtiers all about her, and listen patiently to any complaint brought to her by her subjects, striving to accord equal justice to all. Knowing she was fair in her decisions, the Oz people never murmured at her judgments, but agreed, if Ozma decided against them, she was right and they wrong.

When Dorothy and Trot and Betsy Bobbin and Ozma were together, one would think they were all about of an age, and the fairy Ruler no older and no more “grown up” than the other three. She would laugh and romp with them in regular girlish fashion, yet there was an air of quiet dignity about Ozma, even in her merriest moods, that, in a manner, distinguished her from the others. The three girls loved her devotedly, but they were never able to quite forget that Ozma was the Royal Ruler of the wonderful Fairyland of Oz, and by birth belonged to a powerful race.
Ozma is clearly devoted first to her ideals and second to the protection and rule of her country. I think those priorities present a challenge for people who want to write adventures for her. Ozma leaves her capital for extended periods in order to carry out what she sees as important duties (e.g., Glinda of Oz, The Magical Mimics of Oz), she can be kidnapped (e.g., The Lost Princess of Oz, Grampa in Oz, Kabumpo in Oz, The Hungry Tiger of Oz), and she can even suffer amnesia about her duties (e.g., The Forbidden Fountain of Oz). But I don’t see it as in her character to “go off on an adventure” the way Dorothy does. She’s got things to do.


Nathan said...

Are you sure you don't mean Hungry Tiger instead of Grampa as the book where Ozma is kidnapped?

J. L. Bell said...

I was picturing Atmos Fere, so you’re right.