The Battling Barons of Oz

Today, we turn to Jack Pumpkinhead of Oz, the twenty-third book in the Oz series, and to the Land of the Barons. This land of fertile hills and valleys in the Quadling Country, stretching into the peaks of the Red Mountains, is divided up among many barons, some friendly and some very much not. The barons are known for constantly fighting each other, although presumably not violently enough that Glinda would have taken notice. When Peter Brown and Jack Pumpkinhead arrive in the land with Snif the Iffin, who had previously lived there, the first baron they meet is Belfaygor of Bourne. The baron’s name is presumably based on that of the demon Belphegor, yet there’s nothing demonic about this Ozian nobleman, with the possible exception of his employing an illegal mesmerizer. Belfaygor had arranged with the lord of the next hill over from Bourne to marry his daughter Shirley Sunshine, who is consistently referred to as a princess despite living in the Land of the Barons. The Baron of Bourne decided he wanted to grow a beard for the wedding, but as he had no time to do so, his mesmerizer used a spell to accelerate the growth of his facial hair. The spell backfired, however, and Belfaygor ended up with a beard that never stopped growing, forcing him to constantly carry around shears to clip it.

In the confusion caused by the beard, Belfaygor’s subjects deserted him, and the raiding Baron Mogodore of the Mighty of Baffleburg kidnapped Shirley. Belfaygor then teamed up with Peter, Jack, and Snif to raid the mountaintop fortress city of Baffleburg and rescue the princess.

While they did manage to overcome the obstacles barring the way to Mogodore’s castle, with no small help from Belfaygor’s athletic ability and creative uses of his magical beard, Mogodore himself decided to ride off to the Emerald City and conquer all of Oz. Accompanying him were his thousand-strong army and his timid steward Wagarag. The baron managed to capture the inhabitants of the palace while they were playing a game, but his obsession with the Forbidden Flagon proved to be his undoing. This flagon was kept in the castle basement of Baffleburg, and a warning told anyone that breaking the flagon or spilling its contents would bring woe to the city. Since he didn’t know exactly what it would do or why it was there, however, Mogodore desired to open it and see what would happen. After temporarily conquering the Emerald City, he figured he had no more use for Baffleburg, and summoned the flagon by means of the Magic Belt. As it turned out, Jack was in possession of the item, and the pumpkin-headed man broke it himself, shrinking down Mogodore and his subjects. As it turned out, the inhabitants of the city were originally tiny people known as Reddies, but a wizard rewarded their leader Jair, the great-grandfather of Mogodore by making the people and their home grow to normal human size. The flagon was the way to break the spell. I would assume that Baffleburg is still tiny today, and hence not a threat to the neighboring barons. Belfaygor’s beard disappeared into a magic sack, and he and Shirley were finally married.

Oddly, while we’re told that there are many barons living in the land, the only ones referred to by name are Belfaygor and Mogodore. I have to wonder if the placement of this area in the Quadling Country had anything to do with the fame of the Red Baron during World War I (who is still remembered today with frozen pizzas and Snoopy’s fantasies). The red-bearded Quadling Belfaygor could presumably be called a red baron as well. As for Mogodore, I understand there’s a city in Morocco called Mogadore, and perhaps the villainous baron’s name was an alternate spelling of this name.

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