Ain’t No Party Like a Kuma Party

I’ve already discussed disembodied but still living heads in the Oz series, but what about other body parts? Well, in Ruth Plumly Thompson’s The Lost King of Oz, the enchanted Pastoria has ears that can separate from his head, fly away, and bring him news. The end of the book reveals that his ears lost this ability when he was disenchanted, but Fred Otto has him successfully take them off and send them out again in “The Invisible Fairy of Oz.” I’d say the most notable case of body parts operating on their own is that of Kuma Party, a character introduced in The Gnome King of Oz.

At first I didn’t get the pun in his name, because I read it with a long U instead of a short one. I did eventually figure out it, however; it refers to his ability to come apart. He can send his head, hands, and feet out to perform tasks; and apparently maintains some level of control over them even when they aren’t attached. His arm guides Peter Brown and Ruggedo to the Kingdom of Patch, helps Peter and Scraps to escape from that kingdom, and gives a note of warning to Ozma.

Kuma is the son of Wumbo the Wonder Worker, but whether this makes Wumbo’s surname Party isn’t stated. The son attributes his condition to his father’s magic, although he never explains the exact circumstances that brought it about. Exactly how his arms and legs can function without his senses to guide them isn’t clear. At one point, Peter sends Kuma a note simply by throwing it into the air, hinting that he might have access to some other magic as well. Kuma lives in a house in the northern Winkie Country with a peach orchard outside. He’s quite friendly, albeit not so much to Ruggedo, as he does not trust Nomes. While he turns out to be right about the former Nome King, I’m not sure that makes his prejudice acceptable. As far as I can recall, Kuma is mentioned only once after Gnome King, when the titular character of Jack Pumpkinhead tells Peter that the man’s hand helped against the Hammer-Heads. Thompson used a similar theme in Ojo with Reachard, a resident of Dicksy Land who can stretch his right arm for miles.

Unlike Kuma’s arm, Reachard’s never separates from his body, and he has eyes on the ends of his fingers. On one occasion, the hand falls asleep and its eyes close.

The concept of disembodied Ozian limbs was also addressed somewhat in March Laumer’s Frogman, which explains that the Wicked Witch of the East had the Winged Monkeys take cast-off body parts to an island in the Nonestic Ocean. There, they melded together into a disturbing creature called the Abominable No-Man. Also, J.L. Bell’s short story “The Axman’s Arm” involves Nick Chopper’s old flesh arm coming to live with a Munchkin family. At first it’s helpful, but it eventually goes crazy.

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4 Responses to Ain’t No Party Like a Kuma Party

  1. Mike Conway says:

    In Frogman, you also got to see someone’s legs get chopped off and cooked, but the original owner was still able to manipulate them (no, I’m not saying who; readers can go find it and read it).

  2. Glenn I says:

    I had that long U problem, too. On my RPT reread this past year I would try out different pronunciations of Thompson nomenclature and discover puns I hadn’t previously recognized. This time I assumed she was punning and if I couldn’t find the pun it was my fault.

    • Nathan says:

      I know I’ve heard pronunciations of other Oz names that suggested the reader hadn’t gotten the joke, like “Jel-EYE-a” and “Kal-EE-ko,” and those are both Baum’s rather than Thompson’s. Well, I guess “Kaliko” isn’t really a joke, as I don’t see what the Nome has to do with fabric, but it IS a name that’s quite similar to an English word. Maybe more modern readers associate the name with the electronics company Caleco, but I personally had a calico cat when I first read about the character. One Thompson pun I remember not quite getting at first was the somersault/sum assault one from Kabumpo. I mean, I got that “sum” was in “somersault,” but not the “assault” part.

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