One of Eric Shanower’s short stories, which he apparently liked enough to name his collection of stories after, is called “The Salt Sorcerer of Oz.” Its title character is named Aa, which is actually a Hawaiian term for a certain kind of lava, but I tend to doubt the sorcerer’s name has anything to do with that. He says that his name is “at the beginning of every alphabet book,” and the point is driven home by the fact that the villain of the story is named Zyzzwyzz. Anyway, not only does Aa work magic with salt, but he’s made of salt, and hence can’t stand the rain. When the sulfurous springs from the nearby Cork Mountain caused constant rain on his forest clearing, he recruited Kabumpo to help him stop it.
Accompanying them were Clank, a metal automaton made by Aa to work in his salt mines; and a pessimistic green bear named Fardels. His name means “burdens,” which makes it appropriate, but I’m sure the the main inspiration for it was Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” speech:
“Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover’d country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?”
Get it? Fardels Bear? Interestingly, in The Ork in Oz, the Scarecrow and Sawhorse write part of this speech into the Great Book of Records to throw Mombi and Blinkie off their track. Getting back to the story without spoiling too much, the Elegant Elephant and the others succeed in stopping the rain, and a wish from the Water Genie makes it so it never rains in Aa’s clearing again.
So what of Aa after this? Well, we really don’t know, aside from the fact that he’s present in Eric’s drawing of the celebrities attending Mordra’s trial in Living House. I wonder how he travels to the capital with his fear of rain outside his own home. Some sort of covered conveyance, I suppose. Also, I came across this doll-style graphic of Aa online, thanks to the same artist linking to my post on Belfaygor of Bourne.