02 April 2013

“He wasn’t so much of a Wizard as he might have been.”

This is how Tip, the young hero of L. Frank Baum’s second Oz book, explains the first to his creation Jack Pumpkinhead:

“Where are we going?” asked Jack, when they had resumed their journey.

“I’m not exactly sure,” said the boy; “but I believe we are headed South, and that will bring us, sooner or later, to the Emerald City.”

“What city is that?” enquired the Pumpkinhead.

“Why, it’s the center of the Land of Oz, and the biggest town in all the country. I’ve never been there, myself, but I’ve heard all about its history. It was built by a mighty and wonderful Wizard named Oz, and everything there is of a green color. . . And in the Country of the Munchkins, over at the East, everything is blue; and in the South country of the Quadlings everything is red; and in the West country of the Winkies, where the Tin Woodman rules, everything is yellow.”

“Oh!” said Jack. Then, after a pause, he asked: “Did you say a Tin Woodman rules the Winkies?”

“Yes; he was one of those who helped Dorothy to destroy the Wicked Witch of the West, and the Winkies were so grateful that they invited him to become their ruler,—just as the people of the Emerald City invited the Scarecrow to rule them.”

“Dear me!” said Jack. “I’m getting confused with all this history. Who is the Scarecrow?”

“Another friend of Dorothy’s,” replied Tip.

“And who is Dorothy?”

“She was a girl that came here from Kansas, a place in the big, outside World. She got blown to the Land of Oz by a cyclone, and while she was here the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman accompanied her on her travels.”

“And where is she now?” inquired the Pumpkinhead.

Glinda the Good, who rules the Quadlings, sent her home again,” said the boy.

“Oh. And what became of the Scarecrow?”

“I told you. He rules the Emerald City,” answered Tip.

“I thought you said it was ruled by a wonderful Wizard,” objected Jack, seeming more and more confused.

“Well, so I did. Now, pay attention, and I’ll explain it,” said Tip, speaking slowly and looking the smiling Pumpkinhead squarely in the eye. “Dorothy went to the Emerald City to ask the Wizard to send her back to Kansas; and the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman went with her. But the Wizard couldn’t send her back, because he wasn’t so much of a Wizard as he might have been. And then they got angry at the Wizard, and threatened to expose him; so the Wizard made a big balloon and escaped in it, and no one has ever seen him since.”

“Now, that is very interesting history,” said Jack, well pleased; “and I understand it perfectly all but the explanation.”
A number of touches show the influence of the Wizard of Oz stage extravaganza that debuted to great crowds in 1902:

  • the vaudeville crosstalk of the conversation itself. Baum’s first Oz book has relatively little dialogue, and much of it is straightforward and declaratory. With this sequel he began writing patter. That offered more chance to distinguish his characters, but also more chance to stretch for cheap laughs.
  • the omission of the Cowardly Lion as one of Dorothy’s companions, just as Baum omitted him from this book. The big stars of the stage show were the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman, and this sequel was designed to give the public more of them. 
  • the portrayal of the Wizard as a villainous fraud, as he appeared in the stage show, rather than a good-hearted humbug. In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the Wizard builds a balloon in a sincere attempt to take Dorothy home to Kansas, but he can’t stop it once it’s launched. As Tip retells the story, the Wizard built the balloon simply to escape before Dorothy and her companions could reveal his secrets.

Or is that actually how the people of Oz came to look upon the Emerald City’s former ruler?


Nathan said...

Makes me wonder who would have revealed the Wizard as a fraud, when Dorothy and her friends agreed to keep silent on the subject.

J. L. Bell said...

One gets the feeling that Tip snuck out to see the stage show at some point.