The Way to Way-Up

Ruth Plumly Thompson’s two stories about the Kingdom of Way-Up are not explicitly linked to Oz, but as she wrote them not long after retiring as Royal Historian of Oz, it’s not surprising there are some definite similarities. Way-Up is located on the top of Star Mountain, the tallest of the Silver Mountains, but quite where those are isn’t clear. Joe Bongiorno suggests a connection with the Silver Mountain in Handy Mandy in Oz, but that book only mentions a single mountain with that name. That doesn’t mean there aren’t other silver mountains in the area; we just don’t know one way or the other. The Yups, as the inhabitants are called, have a self-sustaining economy and little contact with anyone living below their homeland. The text mentions that some are farmers, and that hunting and fishing also occur. There’s apparently also access to a good deal of silver, not too surprising on a Silver Mountain. The capital city, called at various places Silver City, Castleton, and Sky-Hi Town, is made up entirely of silver castles. There are farming villages surrounding the capital, but it’s not really specified whether the dwellings there are also castles. All of the people have silver hair, and as in most of Thompson’s cozy kingdoms, frequently play like children well into adulthood. The ruler, King Ripitik X, is a light-hearted monarch with a single child, Princess Patickla.

The story states that Patickla’s mother “had unaccountably vanished when Patickla was a small infant” (there’s probably a story there), so his partner in raising her was the royal wizard Woff. He’s a Scissor Wizard, which I think is also the name of a chain of hairdressers. This means he has a pair of shears that will obey magical commands. During the course of the two stories, we see them used to transform people, produce objects out of thin air, and even change someone’s personality.

Star Mountain is home to other countries as well. Around the foot and up part of the sides is Rockwood, known for its grapes and ore. Its ruler, the friendly and simple King Richard, marries Patickla at the end of the first story. Deep inside the mountain is the Underwood, inhabited by red-bearded dwarves under the leadership of King Reddy, who also goes by the alias of Herman the Hermit.

He and his subjects’ idea of fun is to pull the beards of outsiders and throw stones at them. Well, at least it was; Woff’s scissor magic is supposed to have changed Reddy’s personality somewhat, but we don’t actually see him after this. The dwarves drink tar tea and coal juice, eat spruce bug tarts and earthworm pudding, and wash in root beer. Also living in this country are the Underdogs, canines about the size of fox terriers with legs on both the tops and bottoms of their bodies, so that they can crawl along ceilings and walls like spiders. King Reddy is married to Mayanna the Mighty, Princess of Little, another country on the mountainside; and they divide their time between their respective lands. Princess of Little, by the way, is also the title of the ruler of Dwindlebury, who is mentioned but does not actually appear in The Enchanted Island of Oz. Between Little and Rockwood lies Much, home to people who average about twelve feet tall and who are excessive in their attitudes and appetites. Woff is said to be able to see seven castles from his tower and shoots arrows bearing Patickla’s picture to the three richest. One of these is Rockwood, and another the marshy Mireshire, ruled by the wealthy but uncouth King Merk. He keeps wild pigs and rides on a boar.

The third arrow goes to Hidden Hollow, but we never find out anything else about that. Merk also mentions a place called Vodgers Valley, which apparently contains a lot of trees. I have to wonder if there is any connection between Rockwood and Rockbottom from the short story “The Princess of Plumpieland!”, another country ruled by a friendly, simple king, this one named Jonathan. To the north of Rockbottom is the plentiful country of Plumpieland, and the mountain kingdom of Timbertonia is also nearby. Unlike some of her fairylands, Thompson never specifically places these lands in Oz, but it’s possible that they’re there. Perhaps more likely is that they’re on a separate continent with some of her other non-Oz fantasy countries. There’s a story I wrote that has Handy Mandy visiting Saucerville from another Thompson story, and I might like to edit it to bring in Way-Up as well. It’s already tied into the Oz universe in that it appears in Chris Dulabone’s Do It for Oz.

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7 Responses to The Way to Way-Up

  1. Joe says:

    With few exceptions, I really enjoy Thompson’s non-Oz fantasies, and more than I thought I would. The Wizard of Way-Up and King Kojo being two of my favorites. Thompson had a wider range of styles than her Oz books would indicate, and even some surprisingly darker tales (some of which haven’t yet been collected), as well as some that just weren’t to my taste (e.g., The Princess of Cozytown).

    As to The Wizard of Way-Up, those are just really fun stories, aided in part by Marge’s whimsical illustrations. I was glad the International Wizard of Oz Club put them all in a book of the same name, along with a bunch of other good short stories.

    • Nathan says:

      I think Oz helped to rein in Thompson’s occasional tendency toward saturated cuteness, but certainly not all of her work was like that. I remember finding Marvelous Travels on a Wish, despite its childish tone, to be fairly dark in spots. It’s definitely more of a cautionary tale than many of her works. The Way-Up stories were quite similar in tone to Thompson’s Oz books and included some obvious connections, like a lower being the opposite of a tower (I have to wonder whether she pronounced the word just like “lower” or to rhyme with “tower”) and King Ripitik being similar in physique and attitude to King Rinkitink. On the other hand, I think the fact that she wasn’t working in a previously established fantasy world gave her a little more freedom, and these tales seem a bit more light-hearted than her later Oz books.

      What do you think of where Way-Up should be located? It could be in Oz, but I don’t know of any specific reason for this other than the similarity between Wutz’s Silver Mountain and the range of Silver Mountains in which Star Top is located. Since we don’t see much of the surrounding country, I suppose it could be just about anywhere. One idea I’ve been considering for some time is a continent containing Thompson’s fairylands that weren’t eventually brought into Oz. I’m also a bit iffy on Supposyville, as its Maybe Mountains could be the same as the ones on which Perhaps City is located, but doesn’t it also have a seashore?

      • Well, I’m just reading your “Goat Girls of Oz” now, and I really like how you’ve developed this western continent containing the Silver Mountains. Besides giving Oz a little more breathing room, I think it’s fun to have another landmass to explore and place some of Thompson’s little kingdoms that don’t quite fit in Oz.

        As regards Supposyville, Handy Mandy knows of the other Handy Mandy that Solomon T. Wise created to be his cook. Either that’s because Supposyville is in Oz, or it’s because Mandy came across Wise (or stories of Wise) in the western continent, which is feasible since you have her adventuring there. (That would of course mean that “Goat Girls” takes place prior to Lurline and the White Ravens of Oz, where Handy Mandy mentions the other Handy Mandy).

      • Nathan says:

        If the Maybe Mountains near Supposyville are the same as the ones in Grampa, the town and its Handy Mandy would have to be in Oz. Either that or there are two mountain ranges with the same name, which is possible. I considered the non-Ozian Maybe Mountains perhaps being discovered by an Ozian explorer in the vein of people giving familiar names to unfamiliar places, but now I’m kind of leaning toward Supposyville being in Oz. The only problem there is that it borders on a sea.

      • I don’t think the sea is too much of an issue. Perhaps for the Supposies, a large lake is considered a sea.

      • Nathan says:

        Well, the Soup Sea apparently isn’t that big, and I don’t know that the inland sea from Lost King is either, so maybe just a large lake. Or they could just SUPPOSE it’s a sea.

  2. Pingback: The Patchwork Map of Oz | VoVatia

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