For I Am One Thousand Years Old

What’s generally considered the canonical Oz series starts with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and then continues to describe events that occurred after that story. There have been prequels written, but not until long afterwards, so most of the history of Oz has to be garnered from descriptions in the books themselves. As I mentioned before, details are pretty scant on history before the arrival of the Wizard of Oz, but for ancient history they’re even worse. Ruth Plumly Thompson was rather fond of claiming that characters were about 1000 years old, which she did for Faleero, Ruggedo, King Ato, Wunchie (well, actually, she lived in the Munchkin Mountains for 1000 years, so she could have been alive and living somewhere else before that), and even Ozma.

What Oz was actually like back then is never specifically revealed, however. It’s quite possible that it was before the original enchantment of the land. I’ve pondered the question as to when Lurline’s enchantment took place, and Joe Bongiorno’s Royal Timeline of Oz holds that she cast two enchantments of sorts, one in the thirteenth century and one in the eighteenth. Oz was clearly inhabited before that, however, and while it may not have officially been a fairyland, it always had some magical properties. In Thompson’s Cowardly Lion, the stone man Crunch says that he was “hacked out by a primitive Oz man to decorate his cave,” then “buried for several centuries” before being excavated and brought to life by the Wizard Wam “several ages ago.”

All of this is quite vague, but it suggests that Oz had human inhabitants during the Stone Age. On the other hand, there are cavemen living underground in modern Oz in Ozmapolitan, so who really knows? Wam, by the way, is said by Melody Grandy to have been born over 3000 years ago. Randy Hoffman once told me that he’d come up with a timeline that included the industrial revolution and other such events in Ozian history, but I don’t know the details. I have occasionally wondered how long the arrangement of Oz into color-coded lands has been the case. Phil Lewin’s Witch Queen indicates that the colors originated with the first enchantment, but there might well have been people who identified themselves as Munchkins, Winkies, Quadlings, and Gillikins before that. There’s a reference in John R. Neill’s Wonder City to a Munchkin baker’s boy having been missing for 984 years, but does that mean there was a Munchkin Country that long ago, or was that ethnic label applied retroactively? Back in 2002, I came up with a story idea that involved the Gillikin Country celebrating its millennial anniversary, and I still don’t THINK that contradicts anything else. Of course, founding dates for countries can be debatable anyway. I also decided that Faleero was banished from Burzee and Roquat was crowned Nome King in 1331.

Stories set in the Oz universe do make reference to events in the distant past, but most of them don’t involve Oz proper. The evil Zog in The Sea Fairies is 27,000 years old, and was at one point cast from the land into the ocean. I’m tempted to somehow link this with the sinking of Atlantis, which Plato claimed took place about 9000 years before Critias’ time, hence around the ninety-seventh century BC. Atlantis is actually mentioned in Dorothy and the Wizard as the home of the green dragon from whom the dragonettes are descended, said to have lived 20,000 years ago, “in a time when humans had not yet been created.”

Of course, there were humans 20,000 years ago, so the dragonettes were presumably partially mistaken. Or did L. Frank Baum think mankind was younger than modern science tells us we are? I wrote here about the magician Hiergargo’s construction of the Forbidden Tube being assigned to “the Year of the World 1 9 6 2 5 4 7 8,” which presumably can’t be taken entirely literally. The Royal Timeline sets this event to 32,709 BC, based on a calculation involving sexagesimal number systems. As far as more modern writings go, Chris Dulabone’s Lunarr and Maureen tells us that Montypuerto, the Sorceress of Cuubeville, disappeared 10,000 years before the events of that book.

And the parts of his Colorful Kitten set in the Kingdom of Pinkaree occur in the ninth century AD.

Pinkaree somehow disappears and ends up in Oz at the time of Dorothy and the Wizard, and is later visited in Grandy’s Zim Greenleaf. Whether it was already in Oz back in the ninth century isn’t clear. Zim claims that Pinkaree “disappeared, then reappeared in my atlas a few decades ago,” but doesn’t indicate whether it reappeared in the same physical location.

Posted in Characters, Chris Dulabone, Dick Martin, John R. Neill, L. Frank Baum, Melody Grandy, Onyx Madden/Jim Nitch, Oz, Oz Authors, Phil Lewin, Ruth Plumly Thompson | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Reciprocal Religion

Divine Misfortune, by A. Lee Martinez – I’ve thought before about the idea of religion as sort of a business arrangement, with humans providing tribute and worship to a god, and that deity in turn helping out the worshippers. It’s probably not how believers see religion, but there’s a certain appeal to it. So I was interested to learn that there was a book that covered this exact topic. It takes place in the modern world, but one where the old gods have hung on by providing more or less direct service to their followers. Many actual gods, both well-known and obscure, make appearances; but the main players are three deities that Martinez made up, at least as far as I know: Luka (nicknamed Lucky), a raccoon-headed prosperity god; the death god Gorgoz; and Syph, the goddess of heartbreak. Luka’s best friend is Quetzalcoatl, or Quick for short, who’s grown much less fearsome since the fall of the Aztec Empire. The story centers around a couple named Phil and Teri, who become followers of Luka, only to find out that he wants to stay in their house and that he has a lot of baggage involving Gorgoz and Syph. It’s pretty funny, especially when Gorgoz is on the scene, but I did find the story a little slight for something that addresses such a significant topic. In a way, though, I appreciated that it was more of a slice of life than an epic adventure. I’ll have to check out Martinez’ other work.

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Rapa Nui’s Delight

A bit of word association made me think it would make sense to incorporate Easter Island into my Oz story about the Easter Bunny, which meant I had to do a little bit of research to find out more about the island than that it’s the place with the giant stone heads. The name comes from the fact that it was discovered by a European explorer, the Dutch captain Jacob Roggeveen, on Easter Sunday in 1722.

This was not the first island to be named that way. A list on Wikipedia refers to Christmas, New Year’s, Pentecost, Candlemas, and Michaelmas Islands; as well as several named after months or days of the week. Of course, these names are all quite Eurocentric. The current Polynesian name for Easter Island is Rapa Nui, or “Big Rapa.” There’s also a Rapa Iti, or “Little Rapa,” in Polynesia. This doesn’t appear to have been its original name, though, and earlier names have been translated to such fanciful phrases as “Land’s End” or “Navel of the World” (a name also applied to Delphi). Despite its pleasant-sounding European name, the inhabitants of the island are known to have undergone a lot of hardship over the centuries, including famine, deforestation, and the slave trade. And I don’t think it ever had jellybean trees. Legend speaks of a founder named Hotu Matu’a, who arrived from elsewhere in Polynesia on a canoe, and to whom the chiefs traced their ancestry. The giant stone carvings with disproportionately large heads have been the subject of conspiracy theories, from alien visitation to Rapa Nui originally being part of the sunken continent of Mu.

Local myths have it that the gods enabled the moai to walk to their current positions, but a more likely explanation is that the people used wooden rollers. In fact, this might have been part of the cause of the deforestation.

So why carve giant stone heads that use up valuable natural resources? The prevailing theory appears to be that it was a form of ancestor worship. Some moai are incomplete, suggesting that people stopped making them rather abruptly. Some of them were also toppled in battles between clans.

Whatever religion the moai represented appears to have been gradually replaced by the cult of the Tangata Manu, or Bird Man.

People with the heads of birds were common carving subjects on the island, usually related to the creator god Makemake.

He was a fertility deity, commonly associated with birds, and one myth has him creating humans out of dirt and a woman from a man’s rib, most likely embellishments from after Christianity reached the place. Makemake is also the name of a dwarf planet discovered soon after Easter 2005.

Its nickname was Easter Bunny, and it received its official name as a reference to Easter Island. Anyway, an annual competition involved several prophetically chosen contestants swimming to nearby Motu Nui to retrieve a sooty tern egg, then swim back to Rapa Nui and scale a cliff. The winner would be declared the bird-man, a sort of honorary king. So, yes, egg-hunting was quite significant on Easter Island, although as far as I know there was no bunny involved. And despite his nickname, Robert Stroud never successfully retrieved a tern egg from Motu Nui. This dangerous contest was suppressed in the 1860s, and is the subject of a Rasputina song.

Posted in Christianity, Conspiracy Theories, Easter, History, Holidays, Music, Mythology, Pacific, Religion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Peter, Peter, Carrot Eater

There’s actually a bit of a story behind the Easter Bunny being called Peter Cottontail, and while it might not interest you, it does me. Peter Rabbit became a household name with the stories of Beatrix Potter, who named the character after her own pet rabbit Peter Piper.

A few years later, American author Thornton Burgess also wrote about a character named Peter Rabbit, although I think his character might have been white in color.

Burgess claimed that his rabbit was not named directly after Potter’s creation, but rather due to how Peter had become a ubiquitous name for rabbits, no doubt due to Potter’s influence. In one book, The Adventures of Peter Cottontail, Burgess’ Peter Rabbit briefly changes his name to Peter Cottontail, thinking it more interesting. Not that this is entirely free from Potter’s work either, as one of her Peter Rabbit’s siblings was named Cottontail. Burgess’ character actually changes his name back very quickly, and is always called Peter Rabbit in later books, as well as a comic strip Burgess’ illustrator Harrison Cady.

Still, the name Peter Cottontail must have stuck, as Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins used it in their 1950 Easter song “Here Comes Peter Cottontail.” Gene Autry, who had already had huge holiday hits with “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Here Comes Santa Claus,” sang the Easter number as well.

By the way, Nelson and Rollins also wrote “Frosty the Snowman.” I suppose you could say the name Peter already had an Easter connection due to the disciple, but that’s probably a coincidence. Well, unless Mr. MacGregor owned the Garden of Gethsemane.

Posted in Authors, Beatrix Potter, Christianity, Comics, Easter, Holidays, Music, Mythology, Religion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Some Bunny Special

According to the McGraws’ Merry Go Round in Oz, the Easter Bunny lives in the Munchkin Country of Oz, and is a loyal subject of Ozma. Edward Wagenknecht is quoted in the most recent Baum Bugle as having said that he thought Merry Go Round was “the only Oz book that includes distinctively Christian references,” but a footnote points out that L. Frank Baum used Santa Claus in The Road to Oz. Of course, both Santa and the Bunny are largely secular figures with a lot of pagan influence anyway. When Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion visit the Easter Bunny’s kingdom, sometimes called Bunnyland (not to be confused with Bunnybury), they find it to be a large cave surrounded by a series of tunnels. The rabbits at work there grow Easter grass, make baskets, carve chocolate, and of course dye eggs. The Easter Bunny’s woven throne is in the center of the main cave. This legendary lagomorph wears a waistcoat, a monocle, and a golden crown; and is said to be “nearly as tall as Dorothy, not counting his long, alertly twitching ears.” This makes him much larger than the citizens of Bunnybury, who shrink down visitors to their town; but not as big as the six-foot-tall Wag. The Easter Bunny mentions his grandfather’s reign, so he’s apparently not immortal like Santa. The specific reference is to the Chief Artist of Bunnyland making the Great Egg in the current Easter Bunny’s grandfather’s time. The band for the egg turns out to be one of the missing Circlets of Halidom, lost down a rabbit hole in the time of King Herald LXII. As Herald LXIV is ruling at the beginning of the book, the lifespans of the Kings of Halidom and Bunnyland were apparently similar.

This post is partially an attempt to promote my own story, “The Easter Bunny of Oz.” I figured it wasn’t entirely fair that Santa appeared in so many more Oz tales than the rabbit, so this was my partial attempt to rectify that. It includes an origin story for the Easter egg hunt, which an Internet search indicates was first known to be practiced around the seventeenth century, although dyeing eggs for Easter dates back to some time before that. I thought about addressing the beginnings of the office of Easter Bunny itself, but decided that was probably better left vague.

I don’t believe Baum ever wrote about the Easter Bunny, but he did pen two short stories related to Easter. One of them, “The Ryl of the Lilies,” has a boy named Bob helping out a Ryl who tends Easter lilies. In the other, “The Strange Adventures of an Easter Egg,” a hen manages to place a gold piece INSIDE an egg, which eventually makes its way to a poor girl named Nan. J.L. Bell proposes that the Easter Bunny tradition wasn’t as popular in Baum’s time (although it certainly did exist), and that both of these stories involve churches. While Baum tended to keep religion out of the Oz books, there are both positive and negative portrayals of churches and ministers in some of his other fantasy stories.

Posted in Characters, Easter, Eloise Jarvis McGraw, Holidays, L. Frank Baum, Magic Items, Mythology, Oz, Oz Authors | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Wave of the Future!

We got another look into the Simpsons’ future in the most recent episode, and it looks like they’re actually trying to be somewhat consistent this time. Several early episodes included looks into the future, one of the most memorable being when Bart was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The first time this was used as the premise of an entire episode, however, was “Lisa’s Wedding” in the sixth season, much of which took place in the then-far-off year of 2010. Of course, when we actually got to that year, Lisa was still eight years old. We can’t blame the writers for not realizing the show was going to last another twenty years, though. Anyway, this episode set the precedent for other future episodes, with a combination of older versions of the characters and gags based on the future theme, the latter consisting of huge science fiction style leaps in technology in just a few years. Bart was working in demolition, but did mention that he was working out his aggression before going to law school. While possibly just a throwaway joke, it might have been an intentional reference to the Supreme Court thing as well. If so, however, it wasn’t followed up in “Bart to the Future,” which presented Future Bart as an even bigger loser than Present Homer. About thirty years in the future, Lisa is President of the United States and Bart a lazy moocher. As far as I remember, the only direct reference to “Lisa’s Wedding” is that Krusty is wheelchair-bound and resembles an older Groucho Marx in both of them.

I find it kind of a stretch to think that Krusty, who’s already presumably in his sixties and in poor health, would live another thirty years, but stranger things have happened. When we look into the future again in “Future-Drama,” it’s a mere eight years, when Bart and Lisa are both graduating from high school, Lisa having finished two years early. Airing in 2005 and being set in 2013, it’s another future that’s now the past, but it’s not like the year ever matters a whole lot. This episode features even more sci-fi gags than the previous two, Marge lampshading the whole thing by claiming scientists had invented magic. Among other things, the Springfield cops have all become cyborgs, and quantum tunnels are used for transportation. This one was from after the first cancellation of Futurama, and I have to wonder if they incorporated some jokes that they couldn’t use on that show. Bender even makes a brief appearance.

There appear to be a few contradictions here with the other future episodes. Professor Frink is shown as having hanged himself, but he’s alive in “Lisa’s Wedding,” trying to come up with a cure for Mr. Burns being stabbed seventeen times in the back. In “Lisa’s Wedding,” Martin Prince is presumed dead after a science fair explosion, actually having become the school’s Phantom of the Opera.

In “Future-Drama,” he’s graduating with Bart. The Simpsons Wiki gives a possible explanation for this by proposing that the explosion took place AFTER Martin graduated, with his having been a teacher for a while. In “Future-Drama,” Otto jumps off a cliff while on acid and presumably dies, but in “Lisa’s Wedding” he owns a cab company that employs the indicted Mayor Quimby, and he’s one of the people Bart invites to Camp David in “Bart to the Future.” Mind you, I don’t think we actually see him die, and other characters on the show have survived bigger accidents.

“Holidays of Future Passed” was written so it could be the series finalé, which makes a certain amount of sense as the show also started with a Christmas episode. I guess Christmas was brought back after Mr. Burns stole it prior to the events of “Future-Drama.” What’s really interesting here, though, is the reappearance of Jenda, Bart’s girlfriend in “Future-Drama.” Voiced by Amy Poehler, she breaks up with him during the course of that episode; but the Christmas cards in “Future Passed” reveal that the two of them eventually got married, had two sons, and then divorced.

This one is also a thirty-year projection, but it totally ignores the events of the poorly-received “Bart to the Future.” Bart’s characterization is largely the same, but Lisa is married to Milhouse with a daughter and, you know, isn’t President. Actually, wasn’t “Lisa’s Wedding” the first time Milhouse is established as having a crush on Lisa? “Days of Future Future” is a direct follow-up to the Christmas flash-forward, and most of the future fates of the characters remain consistent.

Jenda has actual lines this time, and is again voiced by Poehler. She’s now dating a very friendly alien, and I think the aliens are new with this vision of the future, as are zombies.

Futurama has aliens and zombies as well, but it also takes place much farther in the future. Mind you, this makes more sense with the aliens (especially as Futurama‘s is a future where faster-than-light travel has been achieved) than the zombies, which are really a fantasy construct rather than a sci-fi one.

Martin is said in “Future Passed” to have had a sex change, but he still looks male when we see him on a date with a robot in “Future Future.” Ralph Wiggum’s role in the future is also worth a look. In “Lisa’s Wedding,” he’s spent some time as Krusty’s sidekick and is on the run from the law. “Bart to the Future” makes him Bart’s roommate and the only other member of his terrible band. The two newest future episodes show him as having taken his father’s place as Chief of Police, and having been cloned multiple times.

This is presumably a common occurrence in Springfield’s future, as “Future Future” establishes that Homer has been cloned repeatedly, and “Future-Drama” gives Moe a clone as well as a spider that got into the cloning machine and took on some of his appearance and personality. Since it’s Professor Frink who clones Homer in “Future Future,” it’s not too unlikely that he might have cloned himself as well, explaining how he can be dead in “Future-Drama” but alive later on.

Since all of these future episodes are non-canonical (except for the framing material, which seems to have been phased out in these shows much as it was in the Halloween specials), I suppose the Simpsons’ future isn’t set in stone. Nonetheless, as the AV Club review indicates, it looks like it’s getting to the point where the writers see at least the last three future episodes as THE future for the characters, which is kind of depressing considering what happens with Bart. Does this mean there’s no chance of his becoming Chief Justice of the Supreme Court anymore? Well, maybe that’s actually one of his clones who gets that job. I do think it would be kind of funny to see one of the characters who so far exists only in the projected future in the present. I was hoping a young Hugh Parkfield might show up when the Simpsons visited England several years ago, but no such luck. Maybe Jenda is attending one of the other elementary schools in the district, or maybe her family hasn’t moved to Springfield yet. By the way, an interesting sidenote about Jenda is that “Future-Drama” shows her wearing basically the same jacket as Laura Powers, Bart’s first crush. Guess he has a thing for girls in that sort of apparel.

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He’s Not a Greenhorn, He Blows a Mean Horn

My posts on music tend not to get much response, possibly because a lot of them discuss something that either everybody else knows about already or something so obscure that hardly anyone knows about it. That said, I’m still making another one. The CD release of the Bonzo Dog Band‘s album Keynsham includes Roger Ruskin Spear’s version of “When Yuba Plays the Rumba Down in Cuba,” a song so catchy that it often comes into my head when I’m bored at work or something. I decided to look up the song the other day, and while it doesn’t have its own Wikipedia page, it didn’t take that much searching to find out that it was written by one Herman Hupfeld. While not exactly a household name, he did write “As Time Goes By.” In fact, he did so in 1931, the same year he composed “Yuba.” I believe “Yuba” was first performed by Rudy Vallee, not to be confused with Frankie Valli.

Actually, Rudy’s real name was Hubert Vallee, but he renamed himself after then-famous saxophone player Rudy Widoeft. Vallee is known as one of the first crooners. Early recording artists tended to sing as loudly as possible so they could be heard at all, yet still sounded reedy on the records.

Vallee had a much softer style that went over well on the radio, originally using a megaphone for amplification.

By all accounts, he was a pretty clean-cut Ivy League guy, but also one of the earliest pop idols, with the ladies finding his voice quite sexy. They probably weren’t thinking of “Yuba” when they decided this, but I have a long-standing interest in novelty music. It’s weird that Vallee seems to have hints of a British accent on this song (“he plays the rumber on the tuber”) even though he’s from Vermont. The song was featured in a 1933 Fleischer cartoon with vocals by the Mills Brothers, but I can’t find it online. Actually, there’s a video on YouTube that claims to be it, but the music is totally wrong. And in the cartoon Long-Haired Hare, Bugs Bunny plays a little bit of it on the tuba.

I have to suspect the line “every peanut vendor’s jealous of his oompa-oompa-oompa” might refer to the song “The Peanut Vendor” or “El Manisero,” the first Cuban song to be a big hit in the United States. Often referred to in the States as a rumba, it was actually a pregon, based on the cries of street vendors. While frequently performed as an instrumental, it does have lyrics in both Spanish and English. According to Wikipedia, it’s been recorded more than 160 times, and sold over a million copies in sheet music before that. My wife first introduced me to this song performed by Perez Prado:

And here’s a 1930 recording by the Havana Casino Orchestra, with Spanish lyrics intact:

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