Messing Around in Boats

I made some puns on the term “ship” last week, and that made me realize I don’t believe I’ve written a post about boats in the Oz series. There don’t seem to be that many boats in Oz proper, seeing as how it’s a landlocked country, but the Tin Woodman and other characters do seem to be able to easily construct rafts from whatever wood they happen to find near a river. Super-skilled carpenter Johnny Dooit makes a sand boat for Dorothy and the Shaggy Man to cross the Deadly Desert in The Road to Oz, but it’s smashed on the rocks at the border. Despite an odd statement by Ruth Plumly Thompson in Royal Book, there are several ferries across rivers, the most notable being the one who lost the ability to communicate with animals after torturing a few of them.

He says the Tin Woodman was responsible for his punishment, but he doesn’t explain how. There’s also Howzatagin at the Red Gorge in Merry Go Round, who is quite kind to animals.

The Scarecrow and Tin Woodman take an ill-fated boating expedition in one of the Little Wizard Stories, and try again more successfully with the Blue Moon in Ozmapolitan. It’s shaped like a gondola and painted sky blue, with a seahorse figurehead.

In the same book, Septimius Septentrion and Jinx fix up an old boat they find in the gardener’s tool shed at the Tin Castle, and name it the Princess Dorothy. The crow Cornelius ends up sinking it.

The Skeezers have magical submarines, the Sultan of Samandra a sampan, and the fortune teller Skipper Sally a gingerbread houseboat on the Winkie River.

An oracular crystal ball in Merry Go Round is set on a coracle on a lake of ink. In the Fiddlestick Forest is the Fiddlebow Boat, which is shaped like a hollowed-out violin with a bow for an oar.

And in Jack Snow’s Magical Mimics, Cap’n Bill is making a boat for Ozma to go sailing on Lake Quad.


Perhaps the most famous ship in the series wasn’t constructed in Oz, but has been there a few times. The Crescent Moon belongs to Sir Samuel Salt, Royal Explorer of Oz, and was formerly the best ship of his pirate crew. Described in Captain Salt by Roger the Read Bird as “a square rigged three masted sailing vessel,” it gains another mast when the captain saws off the tusk of a giant narwhal that had caught on to the boat. In Pirates, the crew is unrealistically small for a ship of its size, but Thompson gets around this in Captain Salt by having the Red Jinn supply “self-hoisting sails and a mechanical steering control,” as well as balloon sails that enable it to take to the air if necessary.

Additional magical contrivances, including a self-cleaning tank for the hippopotamus Nikobo (who had ridden on a raft behind the ship in Captain Salt) and a charm on the steering wheel that can locate crew members, as well as a magical preserving gel created by the sorceress Maetta, are introduced in Royal Explorers. The Captain Salt books introduce several other vessels as well: the pirates’ second-best ship Sea Lion, the Octagon Isle’s royal ship Octopus, the Duke of Dork’s castle boat, and the Mountain Lass of Peakenspire. The castle boat is made of gray stone with a high stone wall, and has no visible means of locomotion.

Peter Brown suspects it’s powered by electricity. The Mountain Lass is intended to cut down invading ships, and is originally limited to one use, but the captain promises to send the Prince of Peakenspire some balloon sails for it.

As far as other ships outside Oz proper (as well as a few in it that made more sense to list here, at least for me), Rinkitink shows us the ships of Rinkitink and the twin islands of Regos and Coregos, as well as the magical boat that the White Pearl provides for Prince Inga of Pingaree. The latter is black on the outside and silver on the inside.

In Gnome King, Polacky the Plunderer’s sunken ship Blunderoo rises to the surface in a seaquake and remains seaworthy after that, raising the question of how it sank in the first place. The Red Jinn’s yacht, made of red metal, glass, and ruby, sinks during the course of Marcus Mebes’ Shipwrecked. By the time of Royal Explorers, he’s either had that one repaired or a new one constructed, and this one can fly. Prince Bobo of Boboland has a schooner called the Hippocampus, which is stolen by pirates. The wooden whale Davy Jones is a ship as well as a character, and I suppose the same could be said about Tugg in Roger Baum’s Dorothy. He’s able to talk because he’s made from the wood of talking trees, which makes sense in Oz.

In Legends of Oz, Tugg was voiced by Sir Patrick Stewart.

A similar idea was used in Hidden Valley, when Nick Chopper unwittingly makes a raft from sentient and malicious wood, which then does its best to stop Nick and his friends from crossing the river. Fortunately, they manage to trick it with reverse psychology.

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This entry was posted in Dick Martin, Eloise Jarvis McGraw, Jack Snow, Jared Davis, Jeff Rester, L. Frank Baum, Marcus Mebes, Oz, Oz Authors, Rachel Cosgrove Payes, Ruth Plumly Thompson and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Messing Around in Boats

  1. jaredofmo says:

    Yours truly suggested the name Hippocampus. I thought a long, dignified name for a tiny creature might say something about the owner of the yacht…

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