Now I Know My A-B-Seas

I came across an interesting thought here that the A-B-Sea Serpent from The Royal Book of Oz might be either Unko or Inko, two sea serpents mentioned in The Sea Fairies. I posted before about Anko, the sea serpent who rules the Pacific Ocean, and the mermaids do indeed mention that he and his two brothers are the only such creatures in the world.

I also mention, however, that there’s a sea serpent in Captain Salt, and it almost certainly isn’t one of these three.

As such, while Anko, Unko, and Inko might be the only three members of their own species, there are likely other creatures colloquially referred to as sea serpents. Or we could just dismiss it as a difference between the views of L. Frank Baum and Ruth Plumly Thompson, but what fun is that?

While hardly a major character, the A-B-Sea Serpent has the distinction of being both the first odd character to appear in a Thompson Oz book (the first original character to do so is Professor Wogglebug’s assistant Zif, but he seems pretty normal) and the first entry in Who’s Who in Oz. He’s about 200 feet long and made up of alphabet blocks, which are apparently removable, as he gives his X block as a present to Ozma. Thompson describes his head as “a huge square block with a serpent’s face,” but John R. Neill apparently had trouble with that description, as he draws the head as more rounded and not particularly wooden in appearance. He also adds a United States Navy cap. The serpent’s tongue is a tape measure. His job is teach letters to the mer-children under the sea. When he visited Oz on his annual vacation by means of a passage from the ocean to the Munchkin River, he is accompanied by his smaller friend the Rattlesnake, whom he calls Rattles. Not surprisingly, this is also a pun, as his body is made up of rattles fastened together with wires. His companion says that “it is his business to amuse the Mer babies while the Mermaids are mer-marketing.” It’s not entirely clear whether the two of them are magically animated beings. Their composition of wood and other such materials suggests that they are, but the Serpent makes a comment that suggests he needs to eat, and he does mention having relatives. Then again, who knows how a creature made of alphabet blocks would define familial relationships? He mentions having seven brothers, while Unko and Inko would presumably only have two each.

The A-B-Sea Serpent and Rattlesnake first show up when the Scarecrow is on his way back to the farm where he was created, and the former helps the straw man to cross the river. On his advice, they then visit the Emerald City and Ozma, but don’t mention having met the Scarecrow, Thompson’s explanation for this being that “they have no sort of memories whatever.” I hope the Serpent can at least remember the alphabet.

This entry was posted in Characters, John R. Neill, L. Frank Baum, Oz, Oz Authors, Ruth Plumly Thompson and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Now I Know My A-B-Seas

  1. In Marcus and Jeff’s Royal Explorers, they establish that King Anko can shape-shift, and even indicate that the goofy-looking sea-serpent that Cap’n Salt meets is actually just one of the forms he takes on to amuse his and his wife Aquareine’s daughter, the sea-fairy Chrysalissium. With that possibility in mind, The A-B Sea Serpent may very well be Inko or Unko…. But given that he says he has seven siblings, he may more likely be an offspring of either of them. Inko and Unko are probably huge, like King Anko, so that it could be accurately said there are no other creatures like them in the world.

    As to A-B Sea Serpent and rattlesnake “having no memories,” perhaps a better way of stating that is that they might be considered a bit scatterbrained by our standards, but which in their worldview would translate as being only focused on what’s important to them at that time.

    • Nathan says:

      So Ato threw burning hot molasses in the face of the ruler of the ocean?

      In The Sea Fairies, Anko says, “I have two brothers who live in other oceans, but one is seven inches shorter than I am, and the other several feet shorter.” They might also leave most of themselves behind when they go out, though.

      As to A-B Sea Serpent and rattlesnake “having no memories,” perhaps a better way of stating that is that they might be considered a bit scatterbrained by our standards

      Well, the Rattlesnake IS a rattlepate, after all.

  2. Pingback: Oz Fish | VoVatia

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