Sissajig-Saw Puzzle

Two of Ruth Plumly Thompson’s non-Oz fantasies that still have a fairly Ozzy feel are the Sissajig tales, Adventures in Sissajig and Tommy and the Flying Slippers. Originally serialized in Jack and Jill between 1942 and 1943, and later the featured stories in the 2003 publication Sissajig and Other Surprises, they feature a boy from Philadelphia visiting a magical kingdom where magic is fairly commonplace and animals can talk. This is Sissajig, a country that’s square in shape and has square-shaped buildings, fruits, and other such things. The people even use the expression “a-square” in place of “around.” I’m sure the meals are square as well.

There are four major cities in Sissajig, each located in a corner of the country, with forests in between and a mountain in the center. When Tommy King looks at a map, he says that One City is “in the left corner” and Two City “at the right.” This might mean west and east, but doesn’t necessarily. Predictably, the other two are called Three and Four City. One City is the capital and seat of the reigning monarch, while Two City is ruled by a duke and duchess. The latter city is almost entirely blue in color, and pretty much everything that can be is doubled, much like Twi or Double Up. It’s on a seashore, while One City borders on a plain that presumably is either part of or on the way to the neighboring country of Giddybad. The underwater land of Underseapia is also presumably close by. Ruth Berman’s introduction says that Sissajig is “near a deadly desert and over a rainbow,” but I don’t believe a desert actually features in the stories. There are, however, sand dunes on the beach near Two City. Joe Bongiorno proposes that Sissajig is an island and Giddybad might be one as well, which is possible, although the text does refer to “the plain beyond Sissajig,” so perhaps the square country doesn’t take up the entire island. It could also potentially be somewhere on the Ozian continent or another nearby landmass. I’ve long had the idea of a separate continent for Thompson’s fairylands that don’t seem to be in or that near to Oz.

There does appear to be one Oz character living in the country, the bowman Bustabo, who had usurped Red Top Mountain in Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz. Ozma punishes him by turning him into a red squirrel, but as the Bustabo who serves as the gate guard for Sissajig has the same speech pattern and skill with archery, he’s likely the same guy now disenchanted and reformed. There’s no mention in the Sissajig stories of his iron-hard beard, however.

While Sissajig is a monarchy, there is no regular line of succession, and kings rule only as long as they want to. After a king abdicates, a chariot runs loose in One City, and the person who stops it is declared the new king, as their courage is necessary for ruling. There’s a little more to it than that, though, as Susan Figg, who runs a yarn shop but is also a witch and the power behind the throne, is able to locate new rulers with her magic. When she chooses Tommy King, he appoints her as Prime Minister. Upon returning home to Philadelphia, he chooses the naturalist Dr. Pillbilly as his successor. When he returns a few months later in the second story, the Doc is still ruling.

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2 Responses to Sissajig-Saw Puzzle

  1. Pingback: Double Your Fun | VoVatia

  2. Pingback: The Patchwork Map of Oz | VoVatia

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