Lovable and Not-So-Lovable Rogues

I’ve now read a few of the Best of the Baum Bugle volumes I just recently purchased, and there are some interesting articles in there, including some on the Nome King and L. Frank Baum’s other villains. I’ve already covered Ruggedo in a few posts, including Judy Pike’s point that he’s a somewhat sympathetic villain, as well as having a comic side to him. C. Warren Hollister’s “Baum’s Other Villains” makes a similar point about some of his other nasty characters, how they’re made figures of fun and given back stories that let you pity them somewhat, the suggestion being that evil thoughts and behavior are often the result of environment. They also frequently reform when faced with the chance to start over. Hollister describes the arguments of the invaders in The Emerald City of Oz, Gwig‘s weak attempts to justify his inaccurate predictions, the slapstick to which the Boolooroo is subjected, and Ann Soforth‘s exaggerated and pathetic imperialism. He also notes the ridiculously sadistic humor seen with the Growleywog jailor sticking pins into Guph and pulling out his whiskers. The silly names Baum tends to use are also noted, the Grand Gallipoot of the Growleywogs being the prime example, although maybe that actually sounds threatening in their culture; a lot of what language sounds funny is relative.

Still, it counts as Baum poking fun at his evildoers, even if other characters don’t see the humor as the Wizard of Oz does with Gwig. Ugu the Shoemaker is described as not knowing he’s wicked, and having been abandoned by his father and made to do a job he doesn’t like. Kiki Aru is sullen and bored, and turns to evil largely because he thinks it seems interesting. Zog and King Terribus of Spor are both driven to villainy by embarrassment over their hideous forms, and the latter reforms when Prince Marvel makes him handsome.

We don’t really know enough of Zog‘s back story to determine whether his ugliness ever actually caused problems for him, or it was entirely his own decision that a monstrous form meant he had to act like a monster. Eric Shanower does an interesting twist on this idea with Bortag in Enchanted Apples, who is mocked for not being ugly enough and turns to villainous magic, although he’s not very good at it. The Red Rogue of Dawna has a similar story as well, making himself a giant because he’s ashamed of how small he is. Zog is eventually killed, but many other villains give up their wicked ways. In some cases, this is done by removing their memories with the Water of Oblivion, letting them essentially start from scratch.

It’s hinted with the Nome King that this might not be foolproof, however, as he relearns his nasty ways. He reforms in Tik-Tok, then is a bad guy again in Magic. This book ends with his losing his memory once more and being given a home in Oz. Baum might have intended this to be permanent, but Ruth Plumly Thompson had him regaining his memory and wickedness in her books.

Whether the post-Baum authors retain the same take on their villains is an interesting question. Thompson does do something of the sort with King Skamperoo, the greedy and childish King of Skampavia in Wishing Horse.

He uses magic to conquer Oz, but with help from the Ozites and his horse Chalk, he becomes much kinder.

While he’s defeated, he’s able to negotiate a way to improve his own kingdom when he leaves. Often, however, Thompson seems to be rather more vindictive toward her villains, having many of them transformed. This happened to Ugu in Lost Princess as well, but there we found out that he preferred the form of a dove, and no longer had the desire to to be wicked. Abrog in Grampa, Captain Salt’s old crew in Pirates, Faleero in Purple Prince, and Bustabo in Ozoplaning are all turned into animals; but we never find out what they think of these forms, or whether they decide to reform or continue their villainy. It’s not like they’d be totally harmless in these forms, after all.

Quiberon, who’s monstrous and disagreeable but also seems to desire companionship, is petrified.

So is the naive but unfeeling Crunch in Cowardly Lion, who is determined to have wasted his life. Ruggedo, Mooj, Wutz, and Gludwig are also left in inanimate forms, and while they can presumably be brought back, there isn’t any indication that anyone wants to do so. Baum’s “Ozma and the Little Wizard” ends with the Wizard turning the three trouble-making Imps into buttons, but with the stipulation that they’d change form upon reforming.

But wouldn’t they presumably be unconscious, and hence not able make decisions, while in those forms? Then again, some inanimate objects in the series do seem to be at least somewhat conscious. It’s worth noting that, while Ozma reveals in Handy Mandy that the old Nome King’s jug transformation could be broken when dropped by the seventh hand of a traveling Mernite, she doesn’t actually know what a Mernite is at the time, and hence couldn’t break the enchantment herself without some research. So it’s really not that much different from having them destroyed, which she does with Mombi and Glegg. She doesn’t know the Triple Trick Tea will make Glegg explode, but nobody seems too broken up about it when it happens.

J.L. Bell has noted that Thompson shows a particular hatred for non-royals to try to force royalty to marry them, as happens with Glegg and Abrog. Mustafa, the Sultan of Samandra, and Strut of the Strat, who are already royalty, are barely punished at all. This doesn’t appear to be the case for Faleero or Ruggedo, both of whom were apparently legitimate rulers in their own right, although in the latter case he had previously been deposed by a higher authority. So the punishments don’t always fit the crime, but it does seem like some of them are serious enough threats that attempting to reform them could prove dangerous. Thompson’s villains tend to follow Baum’s in having jokey names and often comical personalities, but it’s less common for us to get into their backgrounds, which means less occasion for sympathy. Loxo the Lucky in Speedy is one Thompsonian antagonist whose point of view we do see, and while his shrinking down to normal human size is intended as a punishment, he doesn’t seem to mind it too much.

Beyond Thompson, it’s a little difficult to generalize about the treatment of villains. John R. Neill never really introduced any particular major threats, although it’s worth noting that the Bell-Snickle becomes a productive member of society and the painting of Mombi is repainted to be happy. Jack Snow’s Mimics were thoroughly evil to the end, and Conjo mostly just sought glory but was unhinged enough to be seriously dangerous. Terp the Terrible is never developed much beyond being a bully who turned himself into a giant. We do get into Singra’s head, but we don’t see that much beyond a desire for revenge and a rather sloppy mind. Sir Greves in Merry Go Round, not really a villain but unwittingly assisting one, is definitely treated sympathetically, his allowing Roundelay into the castle being due to his desire to pursue a path in life different from the one everyone expected of him. The Wizard also suggests that Slyddwyn, who’s pretty thoroughly nasty throughout Rundelstone, could potentially be reformed. Both Conjo and Singra have their memories wiped, and these later authors aren’t as keen as Thompson on having their villains petrified or otherwise transformed.

Posted in Characters, Eloise Jarvis McGraw, Eric Shanower, Focus on the Foes, Humor, Jack Snow, John R. Neill, L. Frank Baum, Magic, Oz, Oz Authors, Rachel Cosgrove Payes, Ruth Plumly Thompson | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t Mind the Maker

Not long ago, I came across a reference to a possible link between autism and atheism, which was interesting to me as I’m an atheist and on the autistic spectrum. While the idea can be misused, as this Turkish jerk did, there might be something in it. I did a little more research, and some, like this Psychology Today article link the possible correlation to the theory of mind, the basic idea being that it’s difficult for people with autism to understand the workings of other people’s minds, which leads to a lack of ability to conceive of God as someone with a personality.

Perhaps that’s true for some people, but for me, I think it’s related to theory of mind but less direct than that. I’ve had trouble with social cues for as long as I can remember, but I still could grasp the concept of personality, and ascribe this concept to the theoretical as well. I can conceive of a superhuman being with thoughts and emotions; I just don’t see why such a thing is so often deemed necessary. This piece by Razib Khan includes an interesting bit: “I had to read in a book why other people found gods so compelling as a concept. Reflectively I understood the gist, and I was indoctrinated in their existence as a small child, but these entities were never ‘real’ to me.” I can’t say I was ever indoctrinated; my family went to church when I was a kid, but my parents generally seemed agnostic. Obviously environment is a major factor in such things. I’ve also noticed, however, that really normal things often seem strange to me, like I’m often forced to view the world as an outsider of sorts. This is probably linked to the inability to connect to others, because if it’s difficult to engage, that can mean not picking up on what everyone else seems to do naturally. And religion is a very normal thing, yet also one that tends to be full of contradictions and not entirely rational. A lot of people believe in God or some kind of all-pervading entity without really thinking about it. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of believers who DO think about it, just that spiritual belief generally comes across as the default position, which to me seems weird. But at the same time, thinking just about everything is strange is probably MY default position. I’m an individualist less because I’ve rejected society than because I never knew how to be part of it. I feel this has led to a philosophical mindset of sorts, but that’s largely out of necessity. Also related to that is skepticism toward authority, something often associated with rebellion. While I’m sure I’ve had my moments of that, for me it’s not that I think I shouldn’t do what other people say so much as that I want to know why. If it seems reasonable, I’ll generally go along with it; I like to try to get along with other people. It comes back to seeing the world from the outside, and not accepting things simply because that’s how they’ve always been done.

Doesn’t that pretty much put the kibosh on having a personal relationship with Him, then?
This isn’t why I don’t believe in God, but it’s an issue I have with religion, that God has a plan for you but won’t let you know what it is. I’m just not that trusting, I suppose.

I get that a lot of people find the idea of a divine intelligence to be comforting, but I don’t think it would be for me. Whether the universe is random or controlled by someone, it’s still utterly confusing and frequently overwhelming. At least if things just happen, it means bad stuff isn’t the result of some higher intelligence having it in for me. I found the mention in the Psychology Today article about someone not understanding that some things are made for a purpose to be interesting. I can’t recall ever having that problem, but it’s pretty much the exact opposite of the people who argue that the universe couldn’t exist without a creator and a reason. I also wanted to comment on Khan’s reference to libertarians often exhibiting the same traits as atheists, which is likely true, although I’ve noticed that some of the most visible libertarians are incredibly dogmatic, just in a non-spiritual way. Of course, there are many different kinds of libertarians, so much so that the term has become rather vague. Some libertarian ideas are simply variations on the “do as thou wilt an it harm none” idea, but it’s frequently mixed with a self-centered viewpoint that doesn’t recognize more complex forms of harm to others.

Posted in Introspection, Philosophy, Religion | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Snow Business

I was aware from pretty early on that Ruth Plumly Thompson continued the Oz series after L. Frank Baum, and that illustrator John R. Neill would eventually write his own as well. I don’t think I’d heard of the fourth official Royal Historian of Oz, Jack Snow, until I found both of his books at a library in Virginia. A lifelong fan of Oz, he had also done some horror writing, and there seem to be some hints of this style with the monstrous shape-shifting Mimics in the first of his Oz books.

He also wrote a short story where Ozma was murdered by the ghost of her former self. Really, though, I largely think of his Oz work as being rather slow, perhaps due to the heavy action and humor from his two predecessors. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy his books, though. Snow used only Baum characters and only referred to situations in his books, and sometimes obviously tried to copy the first Royal Historian’s style. He also brought back some characters who were given short shrift in Thompson and Neill, like Cap’n Bill and the Shaggy Man, as well as a significant role for Toto.

While only the two Snow Oz books, The Magical Mimics in Oz and The Shaggy Man of Oz were published, it seems like every Oz author had some ideas on the back burner. The Autumn 1968 issue of The Baum Bugle included a fragment he’d written called “The Crystal People,” described as an excised chapter from Shaggy Man. Fred Meyer refers to it as the second of two chapters that were among Snow’s papers, the other being “Into the Cave.” That they were originally intended for Shaggy was confirmed by the book’s editor, who explained that the book originally had a subplot taking place within Oz concurrent with Shaggy’s adventures outside the land. The problem here is that “The Crystal People,” as published, has Shaggy along on the adventure in Oz. The chapter tells of Shaggy, Dorothy, Trot, Button-Bright, Ozma, and Cap’n Bill sailing in a boat called the Ozma (probably the same one the Cap’n is making during Magical Mimics) on the Gillikin River in search of its source, entering a cavern of live stalactites and stalagmites. Two of them, Prince Stalag and Princess Stalac, look forward to a time over 300 million years in the future when they’ll finish growing, at which point they plan to conquer Oz. According to Fred, “Into the Cave” had Dorothy join the others along with Father Goose, who for some reason was an actual goose.

It also mentions the Scarecrow being along on the excursion, although neither he nor Father Goose has any lines or actions in the published chapter. As I mentioned before, I can’t recall whether any books before that had mentioned the Gillikin River, which wasn’t on Baum’s map of Oz. According to James E. Haff and Dick Martin’s map, it’s the river Dorothy and Humpy cross with help from the Scooters in Lost King. Its source appears to be in the Gillikin Mountains, although the labeling makes it somewhat unclear which branch is which.

Snow was also said to have been working on a book called Over the Rainbow to Oz, and various sources have stated that it featured Polychrome and a boy from the United States, and that at one point they took shelter in the abandoned castle of the Wicked Witch of the West. It also might have included the Good Witch of the North, as per a possible hint in Who’s Who in Oz. Snow mentions the GWN as a guest at Ozma’s palace in Magical Mimics, presumably a contradiction of Thompson’s Giant Horse, although I’ve seen suggestions on how to reconcile them. While Fred mentions having read “Into the Cave,” it hasn’t been published, and I have no idea whether it’s still around. It appears that none of Over the Rainbow survived, assuming it had even been started, but if it turns up it would have to be the ultimate Oz discovery still remaining. Someone needs to check the Valley of Lost Things in Merryland, or consult the Wizard’s Teletable.

Speaking of lost Oz tales, there’s a mention in Unexplored Territory that Dick Martin left notes for a second Oz book, with no indication as to what it might have been about. I’ve written before about a manuscript Eloise Jarvis McGraw started that had a single chapter published in Oziana. It involved the Flittermouse from Merry Go Round getting lost on the way to the Emerald City and being captured by a collector in the Great Wilderness of Nnydd, then rescued by the Hungry Tiger.

It also contains a reference to Bzzzantium, apparently a city of bees. At the last OzCon International, David Maxine told about how Eloise had considered continuing this one instead of what became Rundelstone, but changed her mind. I don’t know how much of it was written, but it might have included Ruggedo.

Posted in Characters, Dick Martin, Eloise Jarvis McGraw, Jack Snow, John R. Neill, L. Frank Baum, Maps, Oz, Oz Authors, Places, Ruth Plumly Thompson, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Beliebe It or Not

The news that Justin Bieber is thought to have canceled his tour because he found Jesus is just bizarre enough that I had to look for more information on it. Obviously Bieber isn’t someone I generally care much about. Most of what I’ve heard about him makes him sound like kind of a smug jerk, but at the same time he was also someone who had fame thrust upon him without much warning, and we all know that can mess with a person. The church he’s currently involved with is known as Hillsong, a Pentecostal megachurch franchise started in Australia by Brian Houston, a former window cleaner (for a nosy parker, it’s an interesting job) who has been accused of covering up his father’s child molestation. Carl Lentz, the New York pastor and Bieber’s personal friend, is known for wearing designer hipster clothes, at least when he’s not walking around topless.

They’re said to be anti-abortion, pro-Creationism, and homophobic, although some sources suggest they’re easing up a bit on that last one. Also, Houston wrote a book called You Need More Money: Discovering God’s Amazing Financial Plan for Your Life, which definitely sounds like prosperity theology. They run a record label, and Bieber is not the only celebrity to attend their services. Apparently Bono has, which is weird as I thought he was Catholic. Anyway, there are a few things I find confusing. One is that I think conversion stories tend to be exaggerated. I’m not saying they aren’t intense personal experiences, just that I don’t think people make 180-degree turns as much as religious leaders might want us to think. I’ll sometimes come across really extreme claims like how accepting Jesus can cure depression (I don’t think brain chemistry works that way), but even on a more realistic level, I have to suspect people tend to join religions that largely match their pre-existing beliefs. Yes, atheists and agnostics sometimes come to believe in God, but is it really that common for someone to go from having no particular spiritual beliefs to just accepting the whole package? It’s especially strange when bigotry is part of the package, because that doesn’t generally come from nowhere. I find it a little strange that newer religions are so intent on maintaining old prejudices anyway. Leviticus is anti-gay, but it was also written 3000 years ago. Yet both Mormonism and Scientology, quite new in the world of religion, are incredibly homophobic. As for prosperity theology, well, religion is complicated when it comes to money. There are certainly hints of wealth being a sign of God’s favor in the Bible, but I think most of it is from before the Babylonian exile. The Jews being repeatedly screwed over appears to have led to recognition that good people aren’t always rewarded and bad ones not always punished, and Jesus took this approach to extremes.

That isn’t to say that Christian leaders haven’t done their best to exploit the masses for their own personal gain, just as religious and political bigwigs have throughout history. And now we have megachurch preachers insisting they NEED to own private planes. To my mind, people in these churches are basically accepting the negative parts of Christianity while disregarding the good ones. Really, there are so many different kinds of Christianity that “finding Jesus” means basically nothing without some more information about which take on Jesus it is.

We live in a country where self-styled Christians are cheerleaders for Donald Trump, a guy who’s probably less Christ-like than Herod the Great.

Not that this particularly matters to me; what DOES matter is that he’s a terrible person by pretty much ANY moral system. But it’s interesting that the same basic religion can lead to views and actions that are essentially total opposites.

Posted in Celebrities, Christianity, Cults, Current Events, Fundamentalism, Mormonism, Prejudice, Religion, Scientology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

It’s a Brazzle Dazzle Day

Pete’s Dragon – Released in the year I was born, this classic Disney film is about human trafficking, child abuse, alcoholism, and medical scams. It also has a cartoon dragon, which is why it qualifies as a live-action/animation hybrid. I hadn’t seen it in a long time, but I remembered parts of it without really recalling how they fit together. That said, I’d say it has a tighter plot than Mary Poppins or Bedknobs and Broomsticks. The film starts with an orphan boy named Pete running away from a foster family of abusive hillbillies, accompanied by his best friend Elliott, the titular dragon.

He’s usually invisible, only revealing himself occasionally, so most other people assume he’s an imaginary friend. Elliott doesn’t talk, but makes noises sort of similar to a dog barking, which Pete can understand. His voice is provided by Charlie Callas, who basically seems to have been famous for making weird sounds. The two of them come to the seaside town of Passamaquaddy, which I believe is supposed to be in Maine, although I don’t recall if it’s ever stated in the movie.

There, Pete befriends Nora, played by Helen Reddy of “I Am Woman” fame; and her father, the town’s alcoholic lighthouse keeper, played by Mickey Rooney. The film seems to alternate a bit between showing his alcoholism as an actual problem and just something to laugh at, the latter being most apparent when he and Red Buttons’ character stumble upon Elliott while drunk.

There’s never any resolution for it, either. He’s still one of the more likeable characters, but that’s largely because pretty much everyone else is unnecessarily mean to Pete. They blame him for Elliott’s invisible blundering, which makes sense as far as it goes, but their reactions would be quite strong even if Pete really HAD been playing pranks on purpose. More abuse comes in when Pete goes to school and the teacher practices corporal punishment. Perhaps that’s accurate to the early twentieth century setting, but it’s still disturbing to watch.

Elliott ends up making a cartoonishly dragon-shaped hole in the schoolhouse, which isn’t enough to convince Nora of his existence, but DOES convince a traveling medicine man who’s in town to sell some sham cures.

His plan is to capture Elliott and sell off his body parts (so there’s dragon trafficking in addition to human trafficking), and they recruit the hillbillies and some of the townspeople in their plot. It backfires, however, and Elliott burns up the foster family’s bill of sale (why couldn’t he have done that much earlier?) and chases them out of town. He also saves the mayor and his associates, lights the lighthouse in a bad storm, and is a catalyst in bringing Nora’s lover back to town. So Pete is now part of a happy family, at least so long as the hillbillies don’t decide to sue for custody. There must be another record of that transaction besides the one Elliott destroyed, right? The dragon leaves Pete to help another kid, presented as a good thing, but let’s just hope Pete doesn’t turn to the drink like his adopted grandfather due to losing his friend. I guess I felt the happy ending was deserved but abrupt, and left some questions unanswered. One question I have is whether the remake is worth watching.

Posted in Cartoons, Revisiting Disney, VoVat Goes to the Movies | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Where the Hell Are the Singing Cats?

Cats is a consistently popular but much maligned musical, and I guess it IS kind of dorky and cutesy. Then again, we live in a time when grown men openly love My Little Pony. Beth and I saw a Broadway performance of it this week, and I have to say I enjoyed it. There’s a sort of similarity to the jukebox musicals of today in that what plot there is seems to have been cobbled together to accommodate pre-existing songs. Actually, in this case they were pre-existing poems, from T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. Andrew Lloyd Webber set them to music, and included an eclectic mix of styles. I understand that the Eliot estate wouldn’t allow an actual script, which somewhat limited story possibilities. What’s there concerns one cat every year being chosen to die and live another life. Most of it consists of the cats being introduced and dancing, with some of them occasionally wandering out into the aisles. Members of the ensemble who aren’t the subjects of poems mostly have names from “The Naming of Cats” or other cat names Eliot came up with but didn’t use in his writings. These include both the everyday and more dignified names, which is why names like Victor and George appear alongside others like Bombalurina and Jellylorum.

Grizabella comes from an unfinished poem that Eliot deemed too sad for Practical Cats; and her song “Memory,” the one you might have heard without necessarily realizing it’s sung by a cat, has lyrics by the original director Trevor Nunn based on Eliot’s unrelated “Rhapsody on a Windy Night.” I know the chorus at my elementary school sang it, and I remember it being introduced at the assembly as being sung by “the mother cat”; but I don’t know of any indication in the show that Grizabella is a mother. I guess it’s likely, since spaying wasn’t the norm in Eliot’s time, but it’s not specified. Actually, “Rhapsody” is from the point of view of a prostitute. The name is presumably a combination of “grisly” or “grizzled” and “bella,” much like Sillabub being “silly” plus “Beelzebub.”

It’s perhaps worth noting that several of the cats seem to live with well-to-do families, the Rum Tug Tugger being given pheasant and grouse to eat, and Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer dwelling in a house with a cook. The play, however, is set in a junkyard, which I guess makes sense as it’s where the cats go when they leave the house at night.

I don’t think I could ever have an outdoor cat again, but I’ve had them in the past, and they do seem to have their own lives out there. Bustopher Jones kind of reminds me of my old cat Arthur, who would sometimes come back home having eaten and smelling like he had sat by a fireplace. I don’t think he went to any clubs, however, as we lived in a housing development at the time. Bustopher’s song was a favorite of mine anyway, having kind of a jaunty English sound.

Also featured are Jennyanydots, who sits around all day but tap-dances at night; Rum Tum Tugger, a rock star who makes the girl cats swoon; Skimbleshanks, who regularly rides on a train and has a song with a rhythm to match; Macavity, essentially the villain of the piece, inspired by Professor Moriarty from the Sherlock Holmes stories; and Mr. Mistoffelees, the Conjuring Cat. The latter has an incredibly catchy song and a jacket with electric lights on it. Old Deuteronomy, who chooses which cat will be reborn and is another favorite of mine, is sort of the Cat Pope, blessing the others by touching them.

Perhaps the indication in his song that he’s “lived many lives in succession” was the inspiration for the reincarnation plot. We’re told that he was alive “a long while before Queen Victoria’s accession,” which would make him over 120 at the time the book was published. The show was written to include two plays-within-a-play, “The Awefull Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles” and “Growltiger’s Last Stand,” the role of Growltiger being played by Gus the Theatre Cat. In the current production, however, Growltiger is cut out and Gus instead plays the Great Rumpus Cat in “Pekes.” The other song might have been excised due to its racist depiction of Siamese cats, but I’ve heard that other performances kept “Growltiger” and left out “Pekes.” It’s a short enough show that I don’t see why they’d bother to cut anything for time, though. The show ends with Grizabella, who is chosen to live again, ascending to the Heaviside Layer. The name comes from a layer of ionized gas in the ionosphere named for physicist Oliver Heaviside, but in the play it’s used metaphorically. There’s kind of a psychedelic feel to the show in general; Webber seems to have been rather heavily influenced by hippie culture, despite the fact that he’s a Conservative. I’ve seen references to the cats in the show as the “Jellicle tribe,” sort of like how the group of hippies in Hair are called “the tribe,” although cats really aren’t animals that form tribal groups.

At the performance we saw, I believe Grizabella was just on wires, not a UFO.

Posted in Animals, Live Shows, Music, Names, Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Spectacle Spectacular

I find it interesting that the Frogman in The Lost Princess of Oz is said to wear “great spectacles with gold rims, not because his eyes were bad, but because the spectacles made him look wise.” I don’t know how old the stereotype is of glasses making people look smart is, but it was quite in evidence in L. Frank Baum’s time. It is generally thought to originate from the idea that people who need to use their eyes a lot tend to be more educated, as they use them for reading and such. So I suppose the Frogman, wearing glasses he doesn’t need in order to appear smarter than he is, could be considered a fake nerd. I have to wonder who made the glasses for him, although since he doesn’t really have bad eyesight, the lenses wouldn’t necessarily have been specially crafted. We’re also told in The Road to Oz that the King of Foxville and many of his courtiers wore glasses, “making them look solemn and important.” Interestingly, John R. Neill doesn’t draw the Fox King with glasses, but he does put them on the King of Dunkiton, who isn’t described as wearing them in the text.

Probably due largely to the illustration, I’d mistakenly remembered King Kik-a-bray as another character who wore spectacles to make himself look smarter than he is, which I guess he is if you go by the pictures. This makes him similar to the Frogman, except he’s less intelligent than the frog. Neill also draws glasses not specified by the text on the Wise Donkey, the Cowardly Lion, Jim the Cab-Horse, and Kabumpo.

Actually, I’m not sure there isn’t a mention of the Elegant Elephant wearing spectacles (not counting the Looking Glasses, which I’ll bring up later) in the books. Ruth Plumly Thompson casually mentioned characters wearing “specs” so often that I can’t really keep track of all of them, and how often Neill actually drew them. Wumbo the Wonder Worker in Gnome King wears glasses, but it’s Neill’s interpretation to show him wearing three pairs at once.

In the same book, there’s a drawing of the Wizard of Oz wearing two.

Blink, the Scarecrow’s housekeeper, is shown in Royal Book wearing his upside down, as per the text.

Grand Duke Hoochafoo in Purple Prince and Silver Princess has both a monocle and spectacles, but only the former is ever shown in pictures.

The knitting tree in Cowardly Lion isn’t said to wear glasses, but I guess it fits with its activity.

The nerdy boy Alexample in Neill’s Runaway wears glasses in Eric Shanower’s illustrations, but I don’t recall if they’re mentioned in the text.

Perhaps the most famous spectacles in the Oz series are the ones everyone in the Emerald City is made to wear during the reigns of the Wizard and Scarecrow. The Guardian of the Gates locked them onto the eyes of residents and visitors alike, claiming it was to keep them from being blinded by the glare of the emeralds, but according to the Wizard actually to make the city look greener than it really is. It must have been uncomfortable to sleep with them on. I’ve heard that one of Baum’s Our Landlady columns mentions a farmer giving his horses green glasses so they think wood shavings are grass, which might have been his first use of that basic idea. The Guardian actually still wears the green glasses in Road, although nobody else does.

Perhaps the prominence of W.W. Denslow’s illustration of the Lion wearing the glasses inspired the Neill picture from Road that I shared earlier. More ordinary sunglasses are seen in Pirates, where Ruggedo trades them for food, clothes, and lodging. Whether he made them himself or obtained them somewhere isn’t specified. And Faleero wears dark glasses in Purple Prince when disguising herself.

Finally, I should say a few things about magic glasses, which show up a few times in the series. Expectacles, smoked pink glasses that let their wearer see things before they happen, are an invention of the Nome Wizard Potaroo.

Kaliko’s pair breaks in Hungry Tiger, but he has them again in Wishing Horse. The Scarecrow also wears a pair of them in Thompson’s short promotional play A Day in Oz, and they’re mentioned in one of her non-Oz poems as being worn by fairies.

The Red Jinn‘s Looking Glasses draw the wearer toward whatever it is they’re looking for, and the Wizard mentions having Looking Glasses of his own in Handy Mandy. He also has a pair of “magic specs” in Enchanted Island, which he uses to determine that the last two buttons on King Rupert’s vest are good magic. And while The Master Key isn’t Oz, it is a Baum fantasy, and one of the gifts from the Demon of Electricity is a pair of spectacles known as the Character Marker. These tell the nature of anyone the wearer looks at with letters projected on their foreheads: G for good, E for evil, W for wise, F for foolish, K for kind, and C for cruel.

It’s kind of a simplistic system, but it still sounds like it could come in handy.

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