For today’s Oz post, how about a look at a few very minor characters whom I nevertheless found quite intriguing? Both are birds, are both appear briefly in Ruth Plumly Thompson’s Oz books to solve a problem, and then promptly disappear. While L. Frank Baum’s writing certainly wasn’t free from this sort of deus ex machina, Thompson really took it to the limit sometimes. The thing is, most of her quick magical solutions are quite interesting, but they essentially come out of nowhere and go back to nowhere. This is even more disappointing when you take into account that there are occasions when Thompson really explored the ways in which a piece of magic could be used, like Mombi’s baking powder in The Lost King of Oz and the Red Jinn’s dinner bell in Jack Pumpkinhead.
The first of these magical bird characters is the Grand Mo-Gull from Giant Horse. When Prince Philador of the Ozure Isles needs a way to leave his home and ask the Good Witch of the North for help against Quiberon, one of the blue gulls that he frequently fed told him to come back to the beach at night. When he did, he was greeted by the Mo-Gull, an enormous blue gull with a crown of feathers on his head who described himself as “King of all the land and sea birds.” I have to say I find myself wondering about such an animal. Where does he normally live? When he says he rules “land and sea birds,” what does that entail besides other gulls? I can’t help but think of Garuda from Hindu mythology, who is considered ruler of the birds. I think the Grand Mo-Gull is due for a return appearance, although we probably won’t see one due to copyright issues.
The other character is Opodock, the giant silver bird from Ojo. After being kidnapped by gypsies, Ojo finds a silver whistle in the woods. When the boy is subsequently captured by bandits, he blows the whistle, which summons the bird. Opodock is said to be “seventy times as large as the largest eagle,” and speaks in a “low, melodious voice.” At Ojo’s request, he uses his wings to blow the bandits away, and then obeys Snufferbux in sending him, Ojo, and Realbad to a safe place. Why the bear can also ask requests when he didn’t blow the whistle isn’t clear, but that’s how the story was written. Ojo loses the whistle after this episode, though, so we never see it or Opodock again. That is, unless you count Fred Otto’s Lost Emeralds, in which Ojo finds the whistle again, and we learn about the king who enchanted the bird to obey commands in the first place. I also put a reference to Opodock’s sister Aranock in one of my own stories.