Ozma Seeks Council

As a ruler, Ozma of Oz doesn’t always seem to do much delegating of responsibility. We occasionally see her rushing into dangerous situations on her own, apparently without much thought of what would happen to Oz if she didn’t come back. In her own book, she takes most of the prominent members of her court with her, and there’s no indication that she left anyone in charge. In Glinda of Oz, she journeys to a corner of the Gillikin Country with Dorothy, who as a princess would presumably be her successor. This time, she does at least leave the Scarecrow as ruler of the Emerald City in her absence. Ozma does receive advice from her friends, but it appears very informal, without her having an official cabinet, or even a prime minister like her father did. Glinda is also the book that lists the members of her counsel, which Glinda assembles when Ozma is trapped on the Isle of the Skeezers. These counselors are the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, the Patchwork Girl, the Shaggy Man, Tik-Tok, Jack Pumpkinhead, Cap’n Bill, Professor Wogglebug, the Frogman, Uncle Henry, and the Wizard of Oz. We’re told that “Ozma loved them for their peculiarities and could trust every one of them,” apparently including the one who gave her to a wicked witch when she was a baby. This same group goes with Glinda to rescue Ozma and Dorothy, even though the Scarecrow is serving as temporary ruler and there’s no indication of his naming a replacement.

Also accompanying them are Betsy Bobbin, Trot, the Glass Cat, Button-Bright, Ojo, and the Cowardly Lion. I’m not sure why none of these additions were members of the council. For that matter, why Uncle Henry and not Aunt Em? It seems an oddly male-dominated group to advise a female ruler. Trying to recall other instances where Ozma calls a formal meeting of her advisors, I thought of Pirates, in which Ruggedo interrupts a meeting dedicated to “choosing a ruler for a new kingdom in the Gillikin Country.” I wonder if the inhabitants of the kingdom had a say in the matter. Ozma is said to be “surrounded by the celebrities and councillors of her court.” Specifically said to be present are Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Tik-Tok, Scraps, the Cowardly Lion, and the Iffin. The Wizard and the Soldier with Green Whiskers are later revealed to be there as well, the latter hiding behind the throne; and an illustration adds the Hungry Tiger.

In Ice King, after the title character kidnaps Ozma, Glinda calls a council attended by Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Nick Chopper, Shaggy, the Lion and Tiger, Billina, the Sawhorse, the Wizard, Jack, Tik-Tok, the Wogglebug, Aunt Em, and Uncle Henry. I would imagine these meetings often just consist of whatever close friends of Ozma’s are present in the palace at the time. Ruth Plumly Thompson’s unfinished short story “Enchanted Tree” has the Scarecrow identify himself as Ozma’s Chief Counselor.

I’ve seen some proposals from Oz fans that Ozma might have more recently opened herself up to the idea of representative government. Kass Stone’s Zen Master has Hank Sasquatch, a former Mayor of Seattle, helping to set up a Parliament in Oz. In the follow-up, Martian Invasion, we see the Parliament in action. Its members are on vacation most of the time, however, so only a few are present: Hank himself, the Frogman, Foolish Owl and Wise Donkey, a Fairy Beaver named Chipped, and the obstructionist Prince Phil-Buster Ayn of Pauland. And in Robin Hess’s Toto and the Cats, when the cats call for representation on Ozma’s council, the Wizard objects, “But Ozma could not possibly expand her Council to include every kind of creature in the Land of Oz–cats, dogs, mice, flying monkeys, Hammerheads, Fiddlecumjigs [sic], spiders…” In the end, though, Ozma does allow the cats to appoint one of their number to her council, specifically the orator Honey Cat.

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2 Responses to Ozma Seeks Council

  1. I actually like the informality of Ozma’s court. There are hints in other stories that there are leftover court proceedings that are formal, e.g., Ozma has to entertain some ladies-in-waiting in The Rundelstone of Oz, which is probably a practice that hearkens back to her father (if not much further back). But overall, I think it’s cool that Ozma chooses not to follow the traditions of governments in the Outside World and instead keeps things very loose. And clearly Oz has the best track record of anyone in terms of maintaining genuine peace and happiness for its citizens, so if anything it’s the Outside World that should be following Oz’s example. Also, culturally, Oz has been mostly insular, as has much of Nonestica in relation to our terrestrial realm. Books and other artifacts from the modern world have entered, as, of course, have individuals, but overall Oz and its surrounding countries were established by fairies and immortals, so if it’s going to follow any political/cultural pattern, it would be that of the fairies of Burzee and An, from which Lurline springs.

    I haven’t yet read Kass Stone’s books (I’m waiting for a potential paperback release), so I don’t know how closely she has Ozma mimic an English parliamentary system, but as far as I can discern, I don’t see any point in it.

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