It’s established in Ozma of Oz, the very first Oz book in which the Nomes appear, that these immortals can be harmed by eggs. This point remains consistent, but what exactly the eggs DO doesn’t really. In Ozma, the Nome King simply says that eggs “are rank poison, as I said, and we Nomes can’t bear them around.” Later, the Scarecrow throws two of Billina’s eggs at the King. He and his subjects all panic, but it doesn’t appear as if the eggs do any permanent harm. His Chief Steward uses a simple sponge and bowl of water to remove them. Tik-Tok is much more specific about the effect of eggs on Nomes: “If by chance the inside of an egg touches one of these underground people, he withers up and blows away, and that is the end of him unless he manages quickly to speak a magical word which only a few of the nomes know.” Since the King didn’t wither up and blow away in Ozma, could have have said this magic word? It seems like he’s in too much of a panic to do so, but I guess we don’t know for sure. Perhaps it’s also significant that he was wearing the Magic Belt at the time, and it’s known to have powers of protection. Dorothy removed the Belt while the eggs were still on the Metal Monarch’s face, but perhaps it had already neutralized them by then. Tik-Tok also states that Ruggedo knows a spell that “would destroy eggs and render them harmless to nomes,” although it doesn’t work when he performs it because the Great Jinjin has removed his magic powers. Regardless, Rinkitink tells a different story: “The nomes are immortal; that is, they do not perish, as mortals do, unless they happen to come in contact with an egg. If an egg touches them—either the outer shell or the inside of the egg—the nomes lose their charm of perpetual life and thereafter are liable to die through accident or old age, just as all humans are.” What exactly would be old age for a Nome isn’t clear, but this is certainly different from immediately withering. Putting the Tik-Tok and Rinkitink passages together, perhaps a yolk makes a Nome die instantly, while a shell makes him mortal? Kabumpo has Dorothy say that “if an egg touches a gnome he shrivels up and disappears,” obviously recalling the Tik-Tok description. Wishing Horse says that “eggs were immediate death and destruction to gnomes.” And Wonder City has Number Nine’s mother knock out Umph and Grumph by hitting them with eggs. Other books (Emerald City, Magic, Gnome King, and quite possibly more) mention the Nomes’ fear of eggs, but don’t go into detail about it.
Another aspect of the egg thing that I wonder about is what sorts of egg are dangerous to Nomes. In Tik-Tok, there’s a statement that “there is something about a hen’s egg, especially, that fills a nome with horror.” And Emerald City has an exchange between Roquat and Guph about how Oz now has a lot of chickens. But are chicken eggs especially dangerous to Nomes, or are they just the ones that surface people would be most likely to have on hand?
I sort of think the latter, as Magic has Ruggedo being afraid of laying an egg while in goose form, and Gnome King has Ozma successfully warding off the former king with an oztrich egg. So Nomes are definitely scared of bird eggs, but what about eggs laid by other animals? I’d suspect that they don’t like any kind of egg, but something like an insect egg might well be considerably less deadly. Eric Shanower‘s storyboard for his unfinished “General Jinjur of Oz” has the Nomes planning to ride a lava lizard across the desert to Oz, only to panic when it turns out to be an egg-laying female. Interestingly, Emerald City reveals that the Nomes employ birds as spies, but I would guess they’re all male.
Finally, the Nomes are described in several different books as serving cakes to guests, but there’s no indication as to how they make these without eggs. I guess they must have some kind of substitute, so maybe they were the first to make vegan cakes! Okay, I don’t see any reason why a Nome wouldn’t be able to use milk, but I would have to suspect it’s rather hard to come by underground. Didn’t George Washington Carver manage to make milk from peanuts? I would imagine they’re easier to find in the Nome Kingdom. Actually, what Nomes eat would be an interesting subject for another post, but that will have to wait until tomorrow.