Just How Immortal Are You?

I’d like to revisit a point I made back in this post, about how it’s a big deal in The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus for the immortals to give Santa the Mantle of Immortality, but Lurline grants everyone in an entire country immortality in the back story given in The Tin Woodman of Oz. So what’s the difference? It could just be a matter of time, with Lurline only later figuring out how to accomplish this. It also seems that the immortality of Ozites might be a somewhat lesser kind, if that makes any sense. In Emerald City we’re told that “no one ever died unless he met with an accident that prevented him from living,” while Tin Woodman states that “while no one could die naturally, as other people do, it was possible that one might be totally destroyed.” The implication I see is that “total destruction” isn’t exactly the same as death, but the difference would be more of a metaphysical issue. Certainly, if someone is chopped into pieces, the pieces would remain alive. If someone were digested or exploded, that might potentially stop someone from living, although even then there might be the potential to restore them. But are the genuine immortals indestructible? Actually, I don’t recall this really coming up. There are a few interesting accounts of destruction as far as Nomes are concerned, though. In Tik-Tok, Kaliko mentions running into a Nome who was torn into pieces by a dragon, but could still talk because the entire mouth was on one piece. How he could talk without vocal cords is a different issue altogether. The Nome was not totally destroyed and definitely not dead, but it was still destruction of a sort. In Emerald City, the Nome King orders a subject who displeases him to be chopped into pieces and fed to the seven-headed dogs, but could even this totally destroy a fairy?

There’s also the question of whether immortality can be revoked. Tik-Tok has Queen Ann Soforth being concerned that the Shaggy Man is mortal. While we don’t know for sure whether Ann is correct, I took this to mean that Ann, having been born in Oz, retains her immortality even when she leaves the country; while the American-born Shaggy does not. Rinkitink indicates that a Nome who touches an egg will become mortal, but this isn’t entirely consistent with what other books say. A plot point in Eric Shanower’s Forgotten Forest is that Queen Zurline takes away her subject Nebelle’s immortality, but later gives it back when the Wood-Nymph appears to be dying. In Melody Grandy’s Tippetarius, Lurline transfers Celestia’s half-fairyhood to Zim. The Enchanted Island of Yew involves a fairy who is turned into a mortal man, but this seems to be a change in outward appearance only, as he/she can still use his/her fairy powers.

Speaking of powers, I think one significant thing about the Mantle of Immortality is that it was given to someone who had a job to do, and as such was more or less like the other immortals in the story, who are basically guardians of the world. It might also grant him magic, as he doesn’t appear to work any during the events of Life and Adventures, but in Road he has enough to direct the bubbles made by the Wizard of Oz to various places. It seems that all of the fairy sort of immortals have magic to some degree, although it varies. L. Frank Baum writes in Queen Zixi of Ix, “The powers of witches are somewhat limited; but [Zixi] knew that the powers of fairies are boundless.” Still, according to the back story given in Ruth Plumly Thompson’s Lost King, Lurline was unable to break Mombi’s spell on Pastoria. General Guph says in Emerald City, “Nomes are immortals, but they are not strong on magic.” The Nome King learns how to do some magic, and he employs a wizard, but what they have does not seem to be normal for Nomes. Fairies can also learn other sorts of magic, which is presumably how Faleero can be both a fairy and a witch. But normal humans or animals who are granted immortality don’t appear to have any magical abilities unless they learn them. The people of Mo have apparently been deathless longer than those of Oz, but the only characters in The Magical Monarch of Mo who work magic are the sorceress Maetta and the Wicked Wizard.

A few authors have picked up on the possibility that, in enchanting Oz and other lands to make their inhabitants deathless, she might be going against the wishes of other immortals. The Mantle of Immortality was supposedly made by the Supreme Master, but what are his thoughts on the enchantment of Oz? Marcus Mebes’ Lurline and the White Ravens has the Fairy Queen stealing from the Greek gods in order to enchant Oz, and being banished from Olympus for doing so. Some of the trouble in Paul Dana’s Law centers around a disagreement between Lurline and Tititi-Hoochoo on how magic should be distributed. It would be interesting if the same Fairy Queen who seems to be against Zixi’s using witchcraft to remain young granted that ability herself to a few countries. That would, however, require Lurline and Lulea to be the same.

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4 Responses to Just How Immortal Are You?

  1. Joe says:

    The Nomes seem to be the only branch of fairies that have an Achilles’ Heel, and I imagine that it has something to do with their past misdeeds. This isn’t limited to Ruggedo either, as several other Nomes seem to be either militaristic or blindly obsequious to those who are. I read an interesting Thompson short story recently that I think plays into the larger mythology well, called “How the Mice Folk Escaped the Gnomes,” (reprinted in The Wonder Book), wherein by story’s end, the former mice slaves of the gnomes are given a magical advantage over them. This plays into a pattern, I think, of the Nomes breaking the protocols of faerie and suffering the consequences of that.

    • Nathan says:

      I think the other fairies might have weaknesses of sorts, like darkness for the Light Elves and fire for the Wood-Nymphs, but these aren’t as instantly potent as eggs for Nomes. I wonder if they’re being punished for something involving eggs. Maybe they captured the Phoenix of An at one point.

      Oh, and don’t forget the rumor in “Nelebel’s Fairyland” that Nelebel might have been banished for “making eyes at the gnomes.”

      • Joe says:

        Ooh, I may use that! (crediting you, of course!)

        And I HAD forgotten the rumor about Nelebel! Hmmm, that’s definitely worth further scrutiny. I’ll have to try and get some answers from my sources in Oz! ;)

      • Nathan says:

        Apparently all fairies are forbidden to make eyes at the Gnomes. Are relationships between the two types of immortals forbidden? Ruggedo offers to marry Polychrome in Tik-Tok, but she might be a different sort of fairy.

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