Button-Bright Illumination


The other day, I came across a link to this bit of Oz fanfiction about Polychrome finding Button-Bright in Philadelphia and taking him to Mo. It fills in some gaps in his story, since The Scarecrow of Oz has him buried in popcorn snow and saying he lost his Magic Umbrella, but he gives no indication as to what happened to it or inclination to get it back.

This sort of reflects his initial appearance in Road, which has him show up on an enchanted road without knowing how he got there. The tale also gives the boy and the Daughter of the Rainbow a closer relationship that could potentially blossom into something larger, although canonically it doesn’t, as Button-Bright remains a child. Polychrome identifies the Snow Queen as her aunt. I wonder what relation she is to Jack Frost and his father the Frost King. Margaret Berg wrote a story with a Contessa Frostoria, whom I believe was Jack’s sister.


In Outsiders, Jared Davis provides an explanation for Button-Bright’s sudden appearance in Road, specifically that he was playing with a magical watch that his father Harold received from a wizard, the same one who appeared in L. Frank Baum’s story “The Glass Dog.”

Picture by Richard Svensson
It has the power to teleport people when wound.

Paul Dana’s Lost Boy calls his father Edward; I guess the typical way of resolving such discrepancies would be to say he was either Harold Edward or Edward Harold von Smith. He had six younger brothers, the youngest of them being the Uncle Bob mentioned in Sky Island, who lived in Germantown.

Button-Bright was not Edward’s biological child, but he adopted the boy when Bob brought him back from Fairyland. Bob had received the Umbrella from his aunt, Meg von Smith, and according to this tale Button-Bright sent it back to him after reaching Mo. According to Robin Hess’s Christmas, Button-Bright had a younger brother and sister who were born after he relocated to Oz, which doesn’t fit with Lost Boy, in which both of his parents were dead. One of this book’s protagonists, Merrie Christmas Pederson, is the granddaughter of Button-Bright’s sister. The von Smith name is odd as “von” is generally used with places rather than occupations. I’ve seen it proposed that, as Button-Bright can’t remember his entire name, there might have been something between the “von” and the “Smith.” You would think he’d know his last name, though. I had thought it might have been an ancestor’s ignorant attempt to sound like nobility after getting some money. Paul’s explanation is that their ancestor is a man named Vaughn Smythe, who was transported to Oz when en route from London to Philadelphia. He turns out to also be Button-Bright’s biological grandfather through Grandma Natch. Whether he’s also the Arabian knight the boy remembers as an earlier owner of the Magic Umbrella isn’t clear, but it’s possible given what happens to him. Vaughn makes his trip to Oz and Philadelphia in the early eighteenth century, so this presumably isn’t directly related to the Crusades unless he also did some time traveling.


Magic Umbrella also maintains that Ojo, during a trip back to this time, makes the Magic Umbrella from itself and gives it to Vaughn, who would later pass it down to Meg, Bob, and Button-Bright. Button-Bright’s theory is that this was the origin of the Umbrella, making its existence a temporal paradox, but we can’t be totally sure of that. I used the umbrella owned by Jinnicky and the one that appears in Jeremy Steadman’s Emerald Ring as indications that there’s more than one such item. Whether that’s a result of time travel or something else, I couldn’t yet say. Maybe there’s an umbrella theory that can tie it all together. Martin Gardner’s Visitors links Button-Bright’s umbrella to Mary Poppins‘, and they DO both have animal heads that occasionally show signs of life. Bill Campbell also noted the connection in a post back in 2008.

I think Gardner actually maintained that they’re the same, and that Mary lives in Oz when not serving as a nanny in England. Maybe time travel was at work here as well, although I’m sure Mary would never provide a straight answer.

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5 Responses to Button-Bright Illumination

  1. You’re good at finding new short stories! I’ll have to check it out when I have time again (next month, I hope!) I never heard of the Mary Poppins connection before, but I like the idea of crossovers (when they make sense)! I guess this means I’ll have to track down the Mary Poppins books (I hope there aren’t too many!) There’s another book I have, which I haven’t read yet, called The Incredible Umbrella, by Marvin Kaye, who is more well-known for editing genre anthologies. Wonder if that adds anything.

    • Nathan says:

      I found that story through a link from Gray Cardinal/Mycroft Mason, although I don’t think he wrote it. As for the Mary Poppins books, it’s probably not necessary to read them just because of the umbrella, which doesn’t even feature all that much. Still, it might be worth checking out at least the first one. There are eight, and I’ve recently read the first four.

  2. jaredofmo says:

    I hadn’t been aware of a name for Button-Bright’s father, so I named him Harold after my paternal grandfather. I actually use a fair number of family and friend names in my writing. Not that I’m writing these people in, just where I get the names.

    • Similarly, I think Lost Boy of Oz was being prepared around the same time. But that’s what retcons are for! I like Harold Edward or Edward Harold or any such combination.

      • Nathan says:

        Harold is my father’s and his father’s name as well. I don’t know of any attempt to name Button-Bright’s dad prior to Jared’s and Paul’s books, which came out around the same time.

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