Tempus in a Teapot


Getting back to apocryphal Oz characters who seem to have gained a marginal amount of fame, we now turn to Tempus the Parrot-Ox. We meet this character in Edward Einhorn‘s Paradox in Oz, one of the most popular Oz books published within my lifetime. I think part of the reason for its popularity is the way it looks, with a professional appearance and lots of illustrations by Eric Shanower. But we can’t discount the appeal of Tempus himself, either.

He’s a creature who can only do the impossible, but since it’s impossible for him to do anything possible, he can do those things as well. That last sentence gives a good indication of what a conversation with Tempus is like. He’s very friendly, but purposely tries to be contradictory and confusing. According to Glinda, he’s the offspring of a parrot and an ox, to which Ozma objects that there are no parrots in Oz. Interestingly enough, Paradox came out around the same time as Gina Wickwar’s Hidden Prince, in which there’s a blue Ozian parrot named Beak.

I guess that just adds another paradox to the mix. Not mentioned in the text (for obvious reasons, I’m sure) is that oxen are often castrated. Tempus is capable of time travel (hence his name, which is Latin for “time”), so he was a valuable companion to Ozma on her search for why aging in Oz stopped and then mysteriously started again. The Parrot-Ox claims that his natural habitat is Absurd City, where many of his kind can be seen flying in the sky and playing time-tag. These are actually all Tempus at different points in time. The impossible creature makes return appearances in Einhorn’s “Unauthorized Magic” and Living House, but Paradox remains his most significant adventure.


Also worth mentioning is another character from Paradox, Dr. Majestico. As mentioned in this interview, the mad scientist was originally from Einhorn’s adaptation of a play called “My Head Was a Sledgehammer,” and later found his way into the author’s other writings. In Oz, he’s an alchemist who’s originally determined to prove that magic can’t exist, but after Lurline’s enchantment takes hold, he begins practicing magic himself. He speaks with a German accent that becomes much more exaggerated after the enchantment. He gets on quite well with Tempus, and in “Unauthorized Magic” the Parrot-Ox brings him to the present and gives him an indestructible house, on the condition that he destroy it. I find him to be a quite enjoyable character, and hope he shows up in future Oz stories. He actually didn’t appear at all in Living House, which was kind of a shame.

By the way, “Unauthorized Magic” was converted into a puppet show, and if you were interested enough in this post to read this far, I’d definitely recommend watching it.


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6 Responses to Tempus in a Teapot

  1. vilajunkie says:

    Tempus reminds me a lot of the History Monks and *SPOILER ALERT*the adult Esk*END SPOILER* in the various Discworld books, but especially in Thief of Time and Night Watch.

    • Nathan says:

      There are definitely some similar themes there. Also, I read Jeremy Steadman’s Time in Oz, and it has Father Time’s family functioning a lot like the History Monks.

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