One item that’s somewhat inconsistent throughout the Oz series (now THERE’S a shock, right?) is how much magic power the Nomes have. In The Emerald City of Oz, General Guph tells Roquat, “Nomes are immortals, but they are not strong on magic. When you lost your famous Belt the greater part of your own power was gone from you.” In Rinkitink, however, Queen Cor of Coregos says to her husband King Gos of Regos, “The nomes are our friends, and they possess magic powers that will enable them to protect the prisoners from discovery.” I suppose this is just a relative thing, as Regos and Coregos are quite mundane compared to most of the Nonestic world. Nomes have little magical power compared to other immortals, many of whom have innate powers, but they’re very magical in comparison to Regosians and Coregosians. So it’s not really a contradiction, but there are other related issues. In Ozma and Emerald City, it’s strongly suggested that Roquat can only work magic with the Magic Belt, which Dorothy takes from him in the former.
In Tik-Tok, however, this same Nome, whose name is now Ruggedo, transforms the Shaggy Man into a dove and Ozga into a fiddle without using the Belt. My conclusion was that he must have learned some magic in the time between Emerald City and Tik-Tok, which I explored in my short story “Ruggedo and the School of Magic.” As with a lot of the Oz stories I wrote years ago, I keep meaning to edit this one, but never seem to have the inclination. Anyway, Ruggedo loses his power once again when a ribbon enchanted by Tititi-Hoochoo removes his ability to work magic, although the exact nature of this power loss is a little unclear.
Quox says, “My great master, Tititi-Hoochoo, the Jinjin, enchanted this ribbon in such a way that whenever Your Majesty looked upon it all knowledge of magic would desert you instantly, nor will any magical formula you can remember ever perform your bidding,” so it must have affected both his memory and his ability. When Ruggedo tries to use magic to destroy some eggs, he remembers the entire spell, but it has no effect. He can also only narrow down the charm to break the Ugly One’s curse to three different possibilities. In later books, Ruggedo successfully uses magical tools, including the contents of Glegg’s Box of Mixed Magic in Kabumpo and the Standing Stick in Pirates, and the latter also has him temporarily regain the Belt and transform a few Ozites with it. Presumably the removal of his magical power didn’t extend to the use of items that you don’t need knowledge of magic to operate.
There’s also the case of Kaliko, who in Tik-Tok states, “Ruggedo was fond of magic, and learned a good many enchantments that we nomes know nothing of.” As far as the canonical books go, we only see him working magic in Rinkitink, in which his behavior is somewhat uncharacteristic anyway. In Wishing Horse, Dorothy tells Pigasus that Ruggedo “could make floors and walls spin round and round, open yawning caverns at your feet or drop rocks down on your head without even moving,” but these are actually all things Kaliko does in Rinkitink.
Of course, it’s not at all unlikely that he had just learned how to operate magical traps that Ruggedo had installed earlier.
I’ve already written about Potaroo, whose name is similar to that of a rabbit-sized Australian marsupial, but is actually the Royal Wizard of the Nome Kingdom. Called a fifth-rate wizard by Jack Snow in Who’s Who and (assuming he’s the same as the Chief Magician in Tik-Tok) said to have “common magic,” he was still able to invent some rather impressive items. He might well have been the inventor of the Magic Spyglass Kaliko uses in Tik-Tok, which even when twisted in odd directions will let its user look through it as if it were straight.
Potaroo also uses it in Wishing Horse to locate the missing rulers of Oz.
A few more recent writers have given additional powers to the Nomes. In Sherwood Smith’s Emerald Wand, Ruggedo’s son Rikiki is able to shift stone in order to move through it, but it takes effort. This is probably derived from Paracelsus’ idea that gnomes could move through earth as easily as we do through air. If all Nomes possess this ability, why would they need pickaxes to do their mining? Maybe not all Nomes can do this, or they can but prefer not to because it’s difficult. In Scott Dickerson’s Ruggedo, the former Nome King has power over stone in general, and even exerts some level of control over the Glass Cat because of her mineral composition. Although I like the story, that aspect is a little difficult for me to buy. Still, the Nomes might well have powers that we would consider magical, but that are just natural to them. They ARE rock fairies, after all.