We Can Be Happy Underground

I’ve already covered many of the lands underneath Oz and its neighboring countries, but not the places under the Gillikin Country visited by Randy and Kabumpo in The Purple Prince of Oz. Their visits to these locations are quite brief, as are most of the encounters in this book. I kind of get the impression that Thompson’s heart wasn’t in creating the odd villages that are so common in her books, yet she felt it was necessary to throw in a few, so she rushed through them. Anyway, after the boy and the elephant are swept underground by a mysteriously appearing river, they come ashore near a metal wall.

Pressing on it leads to its swinging inward and letting them into Torpedo Town. This town is made up of a chamber with a rock floor and iron walls, along which are small compartments where the inhabitants live. As you might guess from the name, the citizens are live torpedoes, with shiny black faces and fire arms.

Their ruler is Queen Torpedora the Glorious, a friendly but stubborn monarch who wears an iron petticoat and crown. Another inhabitant is Torpedodo, a bird with fire wings and claws. The torpedo people spend much of their time asleep (“torpedozing,” as they call it), and eat burning iron rings called torpedoughnuts. There’s a fire fountain in the middle of the town’s main chamber, and storms of tiny torpedoes sometimes arise.

When the visitors try to leave through the same door by which they entered, Torpedodo tells them that it only opens every hundred years. If this is true, does it mean Randy and Kabumpo were the first people to arrive there in the past hundred years? Well, maybe it just only opens from the inside every hundred years. I don’t know. Regardless, the bird shows the two another way out, through a secret door in the north wall.

The tunnel from Torpedo Town leads to another tiny kingdom that’s slightly closer to the surface, Stair Way. This place consists entirely of a giant staircase, and the people spend all their time ascending and descending the stairs at the order of their rulers, King Kumup and Queen Godown.

The inhabitants are known as Stares, and they’re all somehow step-relations to each other. The Stares have stooped forms and large eyes that don’t blink, and while they do have houses, they basically just step in and out of them.

Beyond Stair Way is a silver mine that’s home to fairy-like creatures known as Delves. Their ruler is the pretty but easily annoyed Queen Delva, and her subjects have spiked silver helmets and claws that they use to dig for more silver.

Kabumpo and Randy escape from the mine by means of an elevator to the above-ground country of Tripedalia, but the Delves do reappear in David Hulan’s short story “A Princess of Oz.” This tale stars Trot, who comes across the Delves when exploring the tunnels that the Nome King had dug under the Emerald City. Delva forces her to serve as a miner, and explains that she intends to undermine the entire foundation of the Ozian capital. Trot manages to escape with help from a groundhog, and Ozma banishes the Delves to the Nome Kingdom. I suppose that means anyone entering their old mine now would find it abandoned, unless new silver miners took it over.

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5 Responses to We Can Be Happy Underground

  1. vilajunkie says:

    It sounds like RPT was really getting bored with coming up with ideas for Oz books by this time. Her ideas for countries aren’t nearly as imaginative as some of her earlier books. I have to wonder if the Oz series was more about building character development and less setting/plot development, RPT would have come up with better stories–and stuck with Oz after the 19th book. After all, Discworld is around 30 books in the series plus some YA novels and all the ideas floating around in the calendars/diaries, so it’s possible to come up with fresh ideas for a long-lasting series.

    • Nathan says:

      The thing is, I think Thompson’s plots and characters were just as good at this point. In fact, her next book was Ojo, one of her strongest in both respects. It just seems like she figured she HAD to have visits to weird towns along the way, and eventually ran out of ideas for them.

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