Emerald Security

Even though Ozma has a Magic Picture that she can technically use to spy on anyone at any time, her palace and capital don’t appear to have much in the way of security. The Magic of Oz describes the royal dwelling as follows: “Around the palace grounds was a great wall, thickly encrusted with glittering emeralds, but the gates stood open and no one was forbidden entrance. On holidays the people of the Emerald City often took their children to see the wonders of Ozma’s gardens, and even entered the Royal Palace, if they felt so inclined, for they knew that they and their Ruler were friends, and that Ozma delighted to give them pleasure.” I’m sure this doesn’t mean that visitors are allowed ANYWHERE in the palace, but is there really any system in place to keep them from staying out of forbidden areas? The implication here is that most Ozites are good people who will behave themselves in the palace. Really, though, I would think that true of most people in the civilized world as well. The problem isn’t the law-abiding citizens, but those who don’t obey the law. And just two books earlier, in Lost Princess, Ugu the Shoemaker entered the private rooms of both Ozma and the Wizard of Oz, stealing their items and kidnapping the Royal Ruler herself. Granted, he got inside the palace through magical means, so it might have been difficult to detect him even if there HAD been security systems in place.

Still, where there’s one thief there may be more, and we find out in the Ruth Plumly Thompson books that this is indeed the case. In fact, Jack Pumpkinhead shows a ridiculous lack of security. Baron Mogodore and his army happen to reach the palace grounds when the inhabitants are playing a game of blind man’s buff, so his soldiers simply tie up the participants, and Mogodore himself marches in and takes control of the palace and the Magic Belt.

He doesn’t last long at this, as he makes some significant mistakes and Jack Pumpkinhead holds the key (or rather flagon) to his defeat. Still, you would think it would be a pretty simple matter to have a few people keeping watch during the game to avoid such happenings. As innocent and trusting as Ozma’s courtiers may be, I’m sure they still remember Ugu’s break-in. And as John Bell indicates here, Handy Mandy shows Emerald City security in a pretty bad light as well.

The thing is, in the midst of these failures, we do see Ozma and her court taking some steps to deter theft and conquest. In Yellow Knight, the Comfortable Camel mentions the palace having electronic burglar alarms. While the Magic Belt is apparently out in the open when Mogodore takes it, later books refer to it as being kept in a safe. (Oddly, I think the safe is first mentioned in Kabumpo, but Ozma presumably didn’t think of putting the Belt in there until some years later.) Also, Cowardly Lion almost shows the opposite situation, in that the palace denizens are overly prepared for what turns out not to be a threat at all. I can just imagine the crime report for the Thompson years: “Invasion and theft are up 40%, but idiots running into the city in witch costumes is down 70%.”

And getting back to the Baum years, we still don’t know exactly how Ozma discovered Ojo picking the six-leafed clover when there was no reason for her to be watching him in the Picture.

I have to wonder if one reason it seems like Ozma is such a failure in repelling invaders is that we only see the extreme situations in the books. Who knows how many would-be thieves are sent packing before they even make it to the palace gates? The Neill books include a few invasion attempts that are thwarted quickly and easily, if in weird ways. (Mind you, just about everything in the Neill books is done in weird ways.) The theft/invasion plot is kind of overdone in Oz stories anyway, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t written some examples of it myself. {g}

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6 Responses to Emerald Security

  1. vilajunkie says:

    Now I wonder if the Emerald City suffers from any arsonists…

    • Nathan says:

      Well, if Neill is correct, the houses of the Emerald City are prone to setting each other on fire.

      • vilajunkie says:

        Makes you kinda wonder why the people of the Emerald City didn’t bug Ozma for some non-alive houses.

      • Nathan says:

        I have to suspect that it wasn’t intentional for the houses to come to life in the first place. Maybe it was a side effect of some spell the Wizard used without proper safety precautions.

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