If there’s a modern Oz author and illustrator who should be awarded semi-official status, I’d say it’s Eric Shanower. Since Dick Martin’s The Ozmapolitan of Oz often gets lumped in with the Quasi-Famous books, presumably because he illustrated books by Famous Forty authors. Eric has done the same, having illustrated Rachel Cosgrove Payes’s Wicked Witch, John R. Neill’s Runaway, and Eloise Jarvis McGraw’s Rundelstone. His Oz writings include five graphic novels, Giant Garden, and the short stories collected in Salt Sorcerer. As such, it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to take a look at some of his characters. Most of them only appeared once each, with the candle man Flicker being an exception, as he played important roles in both Ice King and “Dorothy and the Mushroom Queen.” Also, Eric will often work his own characters into illustrations he does for other authors’ books. For instance, a crowd scene in Living House includes Imogene the Cow, Flicker, Aa the Salt Sorcerer, and Abatha the Good Witch. I might look more closely at some of these characters in future posts, but for now I’m going back to Eric’s first Oz graphic novel, Enchanted Apples, and the guardian of the magic of Oz.
Valynn, as she is known, lives in a castle near the Emerald City, outside of which the enchanted apple tree can be found. The apples on this tree protect the magic of the land, and also have the power to break any enchantment. One of the apples is silver in color, and ensures Valynn’s role as guardian, not to mention her life. The guardian has been keeping the tree for centuries, keeping it safe from potential thieves. When an amateur magician named Bortag tried to steal an apple to disenchant the Wicked Witch of the South, Valynn transported the castle and the tree to Limbo for a century. She returned around the time of Ozma, and Dorothy, Billina, and the Scarecrow had to assist Valynn in protecting the tree from Bortag and the Witch. At the end of the adventure, Ozma placed a magical barrier around the tree, so that the guardian would not have to be there to protect it all the time.
Valynn, the Wicked Witch of the South, and Bortag
The enchanted apple tree is mentioned in passing in Edward Einhorn’s Paradox. When the Glinda in the dark version of Oz is explaining how Lurline’s enchantment was supposed to work, she says, “Lurline put her fairies to work creating an amazing tree that would bear enchanted apples as its fruit and provide Oz with all its needed magic.” It’s also referenced in Marcus Mebes’s Lurline and the White Ravens, in which it’s identified as a seedling from the golden apple tree of the Hesperides. This book also claims that Valynn is “a maiden practiced in the arts of sorcery” appointed by Hera.