Mystery, Ancient and Modern

I remember someone on the old Nonestica mailing list asking why it seems that no Ozites knew the history of their country, and it’s definitely a valid point. In The Lost King of Oz, we read, “Snip knew the names of the rulers of Oz as well as you know the names of the Presidents–perhaps even better–for as only a part of Oz history has been written down there have not been so many. The first ruler mentioned was the famous Wizard of Oz, who had flown to the marvelous country in a balloon from Omaha. It was the Wizard who had built the famous Emerald City, and who had given Ozma, the little girl ruler, into the keeping of an old witch. This witch had already captured the King, Ozma’s royal father, and very little was known about the royal gentleman.” Indeed, a few pages earlier, Mombi says, “Ozma is Queen now and nobody even remembers there was a King of Oz!” Really, though, was it that long ago? Even putting aside people like the Samandrans, some of whom are specifically said to be around 700 years old, surely some Ozites remember Pastoria‘s reign. Ozma speaks in Dorothy and the Wizard of a line of rulers named Oz or Ozma, but how much do we know about any of them individually? If Ozites really didn’t write down history prior to the Wizard’s reign, then how is Pastoria himself literate enough to make a pun out of the words “tired” and “retired”?

Handy Mandy has Nox the Ox mention “a prophecy on the west wall of the castle [in Keretaria] that has stood for a thousand years.” And even if nobody wrote anything down, what about oral history? Mind you, I doubt too many children in 1925 would have known the names of all the Presidents of the United States up to that point either. Maybe the wicked witches purposely destroyed old historical records when they took power. Or perhaps Kimbaloo just doesn’t have the most accurate history books. Ruth Plumly Thompson also writes that “Professor Wogglebug in his history had neglected to put in the witch’s name,” presumably to explain how Mombi could have gotten a job under her own name when she’s one of the most notorious criminals in the land. But why would the Wogglebug have neglected to put in her name when he himself had met Mombi and been involved with the restoration of Ozma? This is the same professor who, when planning to write a book of genealogy, tells Ozma, “Being descended as you are from a long line of fairies, your family tree is the oldest and most illustrious in Oz.” If he knows this, why wouldn’t he have at least included some mention of these earlier rulers in his history books?

Another event that might have affected people’s knowledge of history is reported in Emerald City, when Ozma tells of a wicked king centuries earlier who had drunk the Water of Oblivion and forgotten his past life, and then made all his subjects do the same.

Paul Dana’s Time Travelers expands upon this, explaining that Lurline and Glinda sent the magical water into “every river and stream in the land” shortly after the Fairy Queen enchanted the place. The Royal Timeline of Oz has it that the king who drank from the fountain was Ozma’s grandfather, meaning this event took place before Pastoria’s reign. And again, everyone losing their memories wouldn’t have affected written records, assuming there were any. Regardless of how it happened, it seems that records of ancient Ozian history are largely fragmentary. By now, however, the Wogglebug and other scholars might well have reconstructed a fair amount of it.

Picture scanned by Jared Davis for the Royal Blog of Oz

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20 Responses to Mystery, Ancient and Modern

  1. By the time we get to Thompson I pretty much believe Oz history is pseudo-history.
    I like the Lost King of Oz, I think focusing on Mombi was wonderful and I liked having her be the main character in parts of the book.
    But like a lot of others I don’t accept the death of Mombi. Not just because of the character being interesting, but because it goes against Ozma’s nature.
    I don’t think Thompson did well in carrying over the characteristics of certain Baum characters and whil i know people do change, I think Ozma ordering an execution for witchcraft is extreme, especially seeing as how she has forgiven so many other enemies who had done worse.
    I like to think she was dunked in the Fountain of Oblivion and not all witches melt.

    • Nathan says:

      She DID want to execute Eureka, although that was before she’d established her generally non-violent nature. In both that case and that of Mombi, there were personal issues at stake. That said, I’m willing to accept that Mombi’s execution was a sham, and that not all witches melt in water. Mombi herself says in Lost King that “water is death and destruction to all witches,” but is this true? Coo-ee-oh considers herself a witch, and I doubt she’d live in the middle of a lake if water were deadly to her. I would imagine it’s more due to a specific sort of magic, quite likely linked to the Wicked Witch of the West not having any blood and the WWE drying up in the sun. Maybe Mombi wasn’t quite as decrepit as those two.

      • In The Tin Woodman of Oz, Baum notes that the Witches were dried up before Lurline enchanted Oz. In The Witch Queen of Oz, the East and West witches drink from the fountain containing the essence of Enilrul, and is the last time they drink any kind of fluids.

      • Nathan says:

        Mombi, on the other hand, drinks coffee in Lost King. And you’d think it would be impossible for someone who couldn’t touch water to be a cook, although maybe she wore protective gear.

      • That’s a question. To what degree does water affect them? There’s water in the air after all. If water is mixed half-and-half with something else, is it only partly harmful. What about 1/3? I wonder what proportion renders it safe.

  2. Darrel, David Tai’s short story “Executive Decisions” retcons this, demonstrating that Ozma, in fact, did not execute Mombi, but made it appear so for various reasons. Thus, the story preserves Lost King and Ozma’s non-violent nature.

    As to the issue of some Ozites not remembering who ruled prior to the Wizard, Dana’s story helps reconcile why they wouldn’t remember King Oz, but not Pastoria (his son), who as you noted came to rule shortly after his father’s madness was restored in 1743. Suffice it to say that I think Mombi abducts him (as well as his father and grandfather) a short time into his rule (and enchanting Queen Cordia, Pastoria’s wife, at the same time).

    Thus, while people in and around the Emerald City would certainly remember Pastoria, those on the outskirts or more difficult to reach places of Oz might not, particularly as they barely have contact with their local rulers, let alone anyone from the Emerald City.

    • Nathan says:

      I do think there wasn’t much communication in Oz back before Ozma’s reign, despite the existence of a swift messenger who brought news of the Wicked Witch of the East’s death to the Good Witch of the North. I’m sure there are still outlying parts of the country that haven’t even heard of Ozma. On the other hand, you’d think the history books would at least mention earlier kings.

      • I think the history books in Oz do tell a more complete story; it’s just that a lot of people haven’t availed themselves of those books. We have to assume too that if Baum knew then others in Oz know, because how else would he have gotten his information? Finally, in Dennis Anfuso’s The Astonishing Tale of the Gump of Oz, there’s mention of a spell that Mombi cast to make people forget Cordia, and I think there was something similar she used to make people forget Ozroar in The Blue Emperor of Oz.

        Mombi’s a lot more powerful and clever than generally given credit for. Thankfully, for the Ozites, she’s also not as evil as East and West witches were, otherwise she’d have destroyed the ruling family instead of merely enchanting them.

      • Nathan says:

        She might well have wanted to keep the royals alive to use for leverage. As far as forgetfulness goes, Lost King claims that she herself forgot what she did with Pastoria. Maybe she had wanted to cast a spell like she did for the others, but ended up mistakenly affecting herself as well.

      • Mombi’s a great character. She manages to do what not even the more powerful witches couldn’t — she abducts and/or transforms the entire royal family, Ozroar, Pastoria I (King Oz), Pastoria II (Tora), Queen Cordia (his wife) and Ozma, AND all of the royal Munchkin family! I’d argue that a more ruthless conqueror would leave no claimants to the throne alive, but I don’t think Mombi was as interested in power as East/West witches. I get the impression that she just wanted to be left alone, but was too powerful for the wicked sisters to do so. So, she’s forced to get into the political arena as a subservient to them. She’s twice defeated by a Good Witch of the North, once prior to the Wizard’s arrival (which is why there’s no Wicked Witch of the North when he gets there), and then later by Tattypoo (Orin), but in both cases, her defeat is relatively minimal, and she’s able to continue practicing her magic in secret.

    • I think I read that one. Wasn’t it in Oziana? I also read a funny “story” on the Book of Current focus pages about Mombi having extraordinary acting skills and escaping. Both ideas are funny, but I think I prefer Ozma not even trying to execute her. The way she dealt with Atmos and Ruggedo in spite of their wickedness makes me believe she wouldn’t kill Mombi, though I can see her altering her memory…and if the Neill books are to be believed, the Wizard can remove certain parts of a person’s personality (I know that was supposedly added in by an editor and I think that’s also disturbing.)

      • I’ve never read the funny story, but I’m intrigued. “Executive Decisions” has Ozma give Mombi a drink from the Fountain of Oblivion, effectually removing her memories and rendering her harmless. As regards Neill, I don’t know how much of that I accept as having “happened.” Still can’t believe the original version of Wonder City hasn’t been published.

      • Here it is:

        085 [Return to index] Subject: PARADOX and paradigms From: “J. L. Bell”

        Date: Wed, 8 Mar 2000 11:29:01 -0500
        From: “J. L. Bell”
        Subject: PARADOX and paradigms

        Nathan DeHoff wrote of Mombi:
        <So she was just pretending to melt? Yikes . . .

        Maybe she was a VERY good actress.>>

        “Oh! I’m melting! I’m melting! You horrible men, how can you watch this?”

        “‘Struth, my straw-filled friend, ’tis hardly a noble deed.”

        “But she is a witch, you know.”

        “Oh, yes I am! And now I’m melting! To think that someone as, um,
        floppy as you could destroy all my beautiful wickedness!”

        “Hmmm. She’s not melting much.”

        “But I am! I can feel myself draining away!”

        “Methinks she’s crouching.”

        “No, no, you foolish knight, my knees have dissolved! Haven’t you
        seen anyone dissolve into molasses before?”

        “By my sword, no.”

        “It’s a sad sight. Turn your heads away, for your own sakes!”

        “Actually, I’m rather curious to see this. Dorothy told me about
        melting that other witch, but she couldn’t really describe–”

        “Oh, for wickedness’ sake! As my last act of spite, I shall light a match!”

        “What?! Come, Hokus, let’s watch at a distance.”

        “But, noble sir, recall you not that the witch be soaking wet?”

        “But you know what I always say: better to be safe than on fire.”

        “Curses, my final wicked wish foiled! I can’t even stop myself from
        seeping behind this thick bush. Soon I shall breathe my last! It shall take
        only five minutes for me to pass through the highly volatile, inflammable
        stage into total nothingness. Ah, me! Maybe ten minutes, to be safe. What a
        world, what a world!”

        J. L. Bell JnoLBell at

      • Nathan says:

        Yes, “Executive Decisions” was in Oziana. And there’s some precedent for the Wizard altering Jenny Jump’s personality when he replaced the Glass Cat’s pink brains with transparent ones, although that apparently didn’t work out as she has the pink ones back in Magic. Also, in Pirates, the Wizard plans to replace Clocker’s bad works with good ones, but we never learn how that turned out.

  3. J.L. Bell has written some very funny scenarios. There was a good one he wrote explaining why Glinda matched up the search parties she did in Lost Princess.

    A bit of a side note as to the Glass Cat, there’s two stories that explain how she got her pink brains back, and they’re conflicting, which leaves us with an interesting story. Bungle has them removed at the end of Patchwork Girl, what everyone refers to as her lobotomy. Shortly after, in “Toto and the Truth,” she asks the Wizard back for them, and he complies on the condition that she not be so vain. He has the literal pink marbles that he places back in her head. Bungle does become vain again, but this time it seems he only turns the pink color white, because when the Glass Cat rescues Ozma from a magician, in “A Bungled Kidnapping in Oz” (also The Magic Carpet of Oz), Ozma grants him any request, and that is, of course, to get her pink brains back. This time, there’s no reverse-lobotomy. The Wizard merely places a sheet over her head and says some words, and poof, they’re again pink.

    Amusingly, Bungle punishes the Wizard in her own way in The Magic of Oz by having him declare that, on the condition that she finds his missing black bag, her brains are superior to ordinary ones, which he reluctantly does, believing she won’t find it. Of course, she does.

    • You’re absolutely right, Nathan. The Wizard does have a history of lobotomizing people…you could even say he began as early as the Wizard of Oz when he gave the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and Lion the things they wanted. (Though that was by request.) Maybe that made him feel he really could change a person’s personality.
      So I guess the only the thing that set Jenny apart was that she is human…or human/fairy.

      I haven’t read that, was it also on Book of Current focus?

      • It is, and I liked it so much, and feel that it explains the reason she so quickly and haphazardly organized the search parties that I quoted it in my description of Lost Princess. I’ll quote it for you here as well:

        Dorothy: Glinda, do you have any news yet?
        Nick Chopper: What sort of heartless person would do such a thing?!
        Jack Pumpkinhead: Does this mean I’m an orphan?
        Dorothy: The Wizard an’ I should just march ‘cross the Desert and make the Nomes give us back Ozma, shouldn’t we?
        Toto: When you have a minute, Glinda, would you look for my growl?
        Trot: Shall I go to the lake and call for Queen Aquareine?
        Dorothy: What if I took the Cowardly Lion an’ looked in the most dang’rous forests in the Gillikin Country?
        Cowardly Lion: What if you *don’t*?
        Betsy: Would it be all right if I stayed home and looked around the palace one more time?
        Tik-tok: Sor-cer-ess, are we both-er-ing you?
        Button-Bright: Is it lunchtime?

        Bell was responding to David Hulan who offered the possibility that Glinda was merely keeping them busy and out of her hair, while she found out a way to solve the mystery through whatever magic Ugu hadn’t stolen from her castle.

    • Nathan says:

      Greg Gick’s Bungle and the Magic Lantern has a joke about how, when the Wizard replaced the Glass Cat’s brains, she went nuts and tried to drown herself in a bowl of lima beans.

  4. Pingback: For I Am One Thousand Years Old | VoVatia

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