Making a Killing


For someone who wanted to leave out the heartaches and nightmares from his fairy tales, L. Frank Baum included a fair number of executioners. I suspect this is partially due to the influence of Lewis Carroll, whose Queen of Hearts was always ordering decapitation. Her Executioner shows up at one point, depicted by John Tenniel as the Ace of Clubs.

The Gryphon reassures Alice, however, that “they never executes nobody.” Gilbert and Sullivan were also known to have influenced Baum, and The Mikado features the Lord High Executioner of Titipu, who is forbidden to execute anyone until after he kills himself, which he obviously never does.

So executioners who never executes nobody were sort of a trope back then.

The court of King Terribus of Spor in The Enchanted Island of Yew includes an executioner known as the Fool-Killer, described as a tall, strong, fair-skinned man wearing a silver robe and brandishing a sword. His job is to kill fools, and Prince Marvel accuses him of being “laggard and unfaithful to his calling.” Terribus admits that he himself keeps the Fool-Killer in check, because otherwise he “would have no subjects left to rule; for at one time or another they all deserve the blade.” I figured there was a reference here I wasn’t getting, and at least according to this page, the Fool-Killer was a character created by North Carolina journalist Charles Napoleon Bonaparte Evans, who featured him in various purported letters to the editor. The character’s name was Jesse Holmes, and he used his club to kill fools.

O. Henry also wrote a story referencing the character.


John Dough and the Cherub has another frustrated executioner in the form of Maria Simpson, whom I previously wrote about here. She claims to be annoyed by how the Kinglet never carries out his orders of execution, but it’s revealed that she probably isn’t actually as bloodthirsty as she pretends.

The royal officials of Noland in Queen Zixi of Ix all have names that are the same except for the vowels, which makes it difficult to remember which is which.

I don’t know if they’re related, or it was just a coincidence that they ended up working together. The lord high executioner is named Tellydeb, and we never see him execute anyone either. He’s also in charge of administering corporal punishment with a switch, but he never does that on-stage, although he does threaten a few people at the King’s command. Tellydeb wears Princess Fluff’s magic wishing cloak while trying to reach an apple, and ends up with an arm that can stretch to great distances, making him sort of an antecedent to Mr. Fantastic.

Reachard in Ruth Plumly Thompson’s Ojo in Oz has a similar power as well.

Unfortunately, the Fairy Queen considers this wish to have been foolish, and takes away this power. It does help the Nolanders fight off the army of Ix, however.

Even though they can’t be killed by any normal means, the Nomes have their own team of executioners, led by a chief named Pang. They carry a variety of torture implements, and Ruggedo orders them to use these instruments on the people of Oogaboo. Fortunately for the Oogabooites, they had managed to escape, so no torture takes place. I wonder if Pang’s team operates the slicing machine to which Crinkle is sent in The Emerald City of Oz. If the Nome King REALLY wanted to scare his subjects, he would employ an EGGS-ecutioner.

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This entry was posted in Authors, Characters, Lewis Carroll, Oz, Oz Authors, Ruth Plumly Thompson and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Making a Killing

  1. marbpl2 says:

    There was also a Foolkiller character in Marvel Comics’ Man Thing.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foolkiller

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