Military Maids

Oz is known for not having much in the way of a military. In Ozma of Oz, Ozma journeys to the Nome Kingdom with an army made up of twenty-seven officers and one private, then promotes the private to Captain-General at the end. Road tells us, “There were no privates in Ozma’s Army because soldiers were not needed to fight battles, but only to look important, and an officer always looks more imposing than a private.” From Patchwork Girl on, the army generally consists of only the Captain-General, who is also the Soldier with Green Whiskers.

He looks imposing, but isn’t much of a fighter, and usually prefers to run away from conflict. The Army of Oogaboo in Tik-Tok is much like Ozma’s, with eighteen officers and one private. Jinjur‘s all-female Army of Revolt is considerably bigger, but still not trained at fighting. They mostly just succeed at conquering the Emerald City because no one there has any particular desire to fight back. Once Glinda brings in her army, they barely have a chance.

The interesting thing is that Glinda’s army is ALSO made up entirely of women. In Land, L. Frank Baum writes, “But these soldiers of the great Sorceress were entirely different from those of Jinjur’s Army of Revolt, although they were likewise girls. For Glinda’s soldiers wore neat uniforms and bore swords and spears; and they marched with a skill and precision that proved them well trained in the arts of war.” Later in the same book, he adds, “The uniforms of the girl soldiers were pretty and of gay colors, and their silver-tipped spears were bright and glistening, the long shafts being inlaid with mother-of-pearl. All the officers wore sharp, gleaming swords, and shields edged with peacock feathers.” I don’t believe they actually ever use these weapons in this book, but they do prove themselves to be competent and organized. This army doesn’t show up all that often in later books, but they’re presumably still around. Ruth Plumly Thompson’s Ozoplaning has the Soldier with Green Whiskers visiting “an old Soldier Crony of his who drilled Glinda’s Girl Guard,” but there’s no indication as to whether this soldier is male or female. And Melody Grandy’s Tippetarius has the army, under the command of General Stalwart, fighting off the invasion of Rimmers. It is perhaps notable that, while Ozma prefers to keep her army primarily decorative and rely on a combination of kindness and magical power, Glinda still keeps a formidable fighting force just in case.

Speaking of female soldiers, when trying to enter Ugu‘s wicker castle in Lost Princess, Dorothy and her companions come across what appears to be “a regiment of soldiers, clad in gay uniforms and all bearing long, pointed spears and sharp battle-axes. These soldiers were girls, and the uniforms were short skirts of yellow and black satin, golden shoes, bands of gold across their foreheads and necklaces of glittering jewels. Their jackets were scarlet, braided with silver cords. There were hundreds of these girl-soldiers, and they were more terrible than beautiful, being strong and fierce in appearance.” John R. Neill draws them with Roman helmets instead of golden headbands, but the description of the latter makes me think of Wonder Woman’s tiara. When the Patchwork Girl laughs at an army of girls, the Frogman replies, “Girls are the fiercest soldiers of all…They are more brave than men and they have better nerves.” I don’t know whether there’s any truth to this (although the Frogman must have believed it to be true, since he’d bathed in the Truth Pond), but the Ozites are probably aware of Glinda’s military might. Still, Scraps’s reaction indicates that, even in Oz, female soldiers are not considered the norm. These soldiers turn out to be only illusory, but there was presumably some reason that Ugu made them appear female. It’s certainly a far cry from Narnia, where Father Christmas claimed battles look ugly when women fight.

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

3 Responses to Military Maids

  1. Melody Grandy says:

    There was a real-life female army of the Dahomy tribe in Africa, called the Minos. Even their enemies, the French, admitted they fought just as valiantly as the men. In fact, they were the last to surrender. They existed back in Baum’s time, so it’s possible he had heard of them.

  2. Pingback: Bah! There’s Always a War! | VoVatia

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s