27 August 2013

Ruffles and the Invaders

Here’s a magical moment from L. Frank Baum’s Queen Zixi of Ix, first published in St. Nicholas magazine under the title (for reasons that become obvious) “The Magic Cloak”:
Today, as they came slowly down the garden walk, Tallydab noticed a splendid cloak lying upon the path. “How very beautiful!” he exclaimed as he stooped to pick it up. “I have never seen anything like this since the Princess Fluff first rode into Nole beside her brother the king. Isn’t it a lovely cloak, Ruffles?”

The dog gave a subdued yelp and wagged his stubby tail. “How do I look in it, Ruffles?” continued the lord high steward, wrapping the folds of the magic cloak about him. “How do I look in such gorgeous apparel?”

The dog stopped wagging its tail and looked up at its master earnestly. “How do I look?” again said Tallydab. “I declare, I wish you could talk!”

“You look perfectly ridiculous,” replied the dog in a rather harsh voice.

The lord high steward jumped nearly three feet in the air, so startled was he at Ruffles’ reply. Then he bent down, a hand on each knee, and regarded the dog curiously. “I thought at first you had spoken!” said he.

“What caused you to change your mind?” asked Ruffles peevishly. “I did speak, I am speaking. Can’t you believe it?”

The lord high steward drew a deep sigh of conviction. “I believe it!” he made answer. “I have always declared you were a wonderful dog, and now you prove I am right. Why, you are the only dog I ever heard of who could talk.”

“Except in fairy tales,” said Ruffles calmly. “Don’t forget the fairy tales.”

“I don’t forget,” replied Tallydab. “But this isn’t a fairy tale, Ruffles. It’s real life in the kingdom of Noland.”
Noland suffers a couple of invasions in the course of this book, and both times Ruffles proves his loyalty by helping out his master and the regime. The second and more dangerous set of invaders are the Roly-Rogues, shown above. Earlier the encroachment came from Ix:
When the army of Ix had climbed the mountain and was marching down again toward Nole, the lord high steward [of Noland] sent his dog Ruffles to them to make more mischief. Ruffles trotted soberly among the soldiers of Ix, and once in a while he would pause and say in a loud voice, “The army of Noland will conquer you.”

Then all the soldiers would look around to see who had spoken these fearful words, but could see nothing but a little dog, and Ruffles would pretend to be scratching his nose with his left hind foot and would look so innocent that they never for a moment suspected he could speak.

“We are surrounded by invisible foes!” cried the soldiers, and they would have fled even then had not Queen Zixi called them cowards and stubbornly declared they only fancied they had heard the voices speak. Some of them believed her, and some did not, but they decided to remain and fight since they had come so far to do so.
Psychological warfare is so much easier if you have a talking dog.

1 comment:

J. L. Bell said...

Two details I like about these passages is how (a) Tallydab is still clearly fond of his little dog even after it starts to talk crankily; and (b) both he and the soldiers from Ix first convince themselves that they should ignore their senses and continue acting as they did before. I take those as evidence of Baum’s understanding of human psychology.