I remembered having read this Oz story before, but I forgot where I’d seen it. It’s an interesting take on the issue of aging in Oz, which I’ve tackled in the past without any definite conclusions. L. Frank Baum says in The Tin Woodman of Oz that nobody has grown any older since the enchantment of Oz, and that specifically includes babies. Ruth Plumly Thompson modifies this in Kabumpo to say that aging is a matter of choice. But was that choice always the case, or did the enchantment itself have to be changed somewhat? This story suggests the latter. The Hungry Tiger meets a never-aging baby who’s been given incredible intelligence by a potion his mother took from Glinda. He confronts Ozma about always having to remain a baby, and she responds by enchanting the palace vegetable garden so it would age people.
Other Oz stories address the aging issue as well. In Edward Einhorn’s Paradox, it’s the result of Ozma accidentally rubbing a powder that prevents aging on an hourglass that’s really an alternate-universe version of Ozma’s grandfather who lives backwards.
Since such temporal anomalies affect a displaced person’s surroundings, everyone in Oz stopped aging, with the spell running backwards in time until shortly after Ozma took the throne. Glinda then reworks the magic on Ozma herself with a youth potion she received from Lurline. Paul Dana’s books propose that everyone around at the time of the enchantment stopped aging, and that included keeping pregnant women permanently pregnant.
Anyone who became pregnant after the enchantment, however, could have their babies in the usual way. This wasn’t mentioned in the original version of Time Travelers, and was likely added to account for what’s said about Ojo himself in Ojo, which I don’t think Paul had read when he first wrote the tale.
The Wizard of Oz specifically points out his own aging in Oz prior to Ozma’s reign in Paradox.
As I mentioned in an earlier post about the enchantment, Nick Chopper’s parents also died, and likely during the Wizard’s reign since his father once visited the Emerald City. (I guess he could have visited the place that would later be called the Emerald City, but I’m not sure this really solves anything.) So we’re left with a period of time when people did age and die, but also some references to much older characters. The thing is, I can’t recall Baum ever really using the older characters, at least when it came to mortals in Oz itself. This was more something Thompson did, as with the Samandrans in Yellow Knight. But then, Thompson might well have just worked with the Tin Woodman explanation, except revised somewhat to avoid the permanent baby issue. It doesn’t say when aging stopped, and she might have just forgotten about the early references, or disregarded them as contradictory. Since she did try to reconcile the accounts of the Wizard and Ozma’s early history as given in Land and Dorothy and the Wizard with her own Lost King, it’s not like she always ignored Baum’s contradictions; but she might well have done so when they went against the story she wanted to tell. A possible work-around that I’ve seen suggested, in Michael Patrick Hearn’s The Annotated Wizard of Oz among other places, is that the enchantment was suspended when someone not part of the royal family took the throne. It’s clever, but as David Hulan pointed out, it would make it strange that people seemed to have adjusted so well to aging and dying again when many of them would have been able to remember deathless life under the last rightful king. Then we have Jack Snow suggesting (if not outright stating) that Lurline’s enchantment occurred about 200 years before Magical Mimics. In order to fit all these sources together, we might be left with something like this:
1. Some Ozites have been around since time immemorial, possibly due to fairy blood, specific enchantments, or localized magic. This includes the Samandrans and their neighbors. According to Joe Bongiorno’s Royal Timeline of Oz, some of this was likely a result of Lurline’s attempt to undo her sister Enilrul’s curse as described in Phil Lewin’s Witch Queen, which made them unable to die but in constant pain. The timeline dates this to the thirteenth century.
2. Lurline’s enchantment in the eighteenth century, using the somewhat erratic power of an egg laid by the Phoenix of An, results in everyone alive at the time ceasing to age and die, at least as long as they remained in Oz. This includes unborn babies.
3. Babies born after the enchantment can still age and die, since they weren’t actually around when Lurline cast the spell. This includes Nick Chopper’s parents.
4. The backwards spell from Paradox affects everyone in Oz, including those who weren’t present at the earlier enchantment(s). This once again means non-aging babies, although I’m not sure whether it resulted in more permanent pregnancies.
5. A palace vegetable garden affected by the Magic Belt allows for controlled aging, especially for babies. I’m actually not sure whether this story takes place AFTER Paul’s stories in which Button-Bright and Ojo take pregnant Ozites to Ev to give birth, or these people were the exception because they were around for Lurline’s egg-based enchantment. I’m leaning towards the latter, as it would account for some people being able to age up to a certain point and then stop in Thompson’s Oz, like Randy. If so, this presumably means Ozma set up other localized spots for aging throughout the land, since not all of these Thompson characters would have been able to get to the Emerald City.
It ends up being pretty convoluted, perhaps unavoidable when some of these works are pretty obscure anyway, and adding in Baum’s penchant for contradicting himself. He never actually did say anything that went against the idea of permanent babies (at least as far as I can remember, and I remember these books pretty well), but it seems like pretty much everybody writing after him didn’t like the idea and tried to get around it in their own ways.
It’s like how more recent writers (including myself) tend to avoid having people and sentient animals kill each other for food, even though Baum was ambiguous on this point and Thompson apparently didn’t think much about it at all.