The Second Most Dangerous Game


I would have to suspect that, in a land in which practically all animals can talk, humans killing and eating them would pretty much disappear. Perhaps strangely, however, there are a few mentions of human hunters in Oz. They’re most common in the Ruth Plumly Thompson books, but aren’t totally absent from L. Frank Baum either. We’re told in The Marvelous Land of Oz that the Gump was shot with a gun, then had his head stuffed and hung above a fireplace in the Royal Palace.

In Dorothy and the Wizard, Ozma states that her grandfather was captured by Mombi while out hunting.

I’ve seen it suggested that this former king is the one who killed the Gump, which could explain why his head would have been in the palace (although it presumably wouldn’t have been exactly the same palace at that point). Henry Blossom’s Blue Emperor indicates that Ozma’s grandfather was friends with the Gump, whose name was Namyl, so presumably wouldn’t have been the one who shot him. It also says that Mombi captured him during a banquet rather than when he was hunting, however. Joe Bongiorno’s workaround is that the character of Ozroar in Blue Emperor is Ozma’s great-grandfather. Her grandfather, according to Edward Einhorn’s Paradox, was imprisoned in Absurd City and then transported to an alternate world where time ran in the opposite direction. The rabbits of Bunnybury refer to their wild relatives fearing “man and gun and hound.”

Professor Grunter Swyne, a civilized pig in Tin Woodman, keeps his teeth sharp in order to deter butchers; and Pigasus is said in Wishing Horse to dislike farmers for much the same reason. In Cowardly Lion, Notta Bit More dresses up as a hunter with a gun. He isn’t really one, but the Lion immediately recognizes him as a potential threat.

Grampa shoots down a bird, and while it turns out to be a weather-cock who isn’t injured, he’s fully intending to kill it for dinner. We’re told in Ojo that “the heads of deer, elk, and other large animals proved the robbers to be doughty hunters.” Of course, they ARE outlaws who think nothing of trading a boy in for sapphires. Later in the story, Realbad kills “two wild fowl” in order to make a meal for himself and Ojo. He also describes his father, the former King of Seebania, as being “ever fonder of hunting than of ruling.” Since the Gump says he’s from Seebania in Blue Emperor, that gives us another possible killer. And that’s not even mentioning all the occasions of people catching fish, or Snip’s lack of surprise at a talking goose being a potential dinner in Lost King.

There are probably ways to get around some of these examples. For instance, maybe Ozma’s grandfather was captured and enchanted before animal sentience was the norm. And we could say that some of these hunters are ostracized by society, but since Ozma makes friends with Grampa and allows Realbad to take the throne of Seebania, this doesn’t seem that likely unless we consider Thompson an unreliable narrator (which all of the Oz authors presumably are sometimes, what with all the contradictions, but I prefer to consider as much of the authorial voice as I can to be accurate). Or maybe she discussed this with them off the page. Elmer Fudd might have no problem trying to kill animals who can converse with him, but I like to see Oz as rather more functional than the world of Looney Tunes. There could also be cases of ancestral memory; maybe hunting rabbits is frowned upon now, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a time in Ozian history when it was common. And maybe some cases of hunting for sport don’t involve any actual killing, but just chasing. There are a few precedents for this, the most significant being that View-Halloo in Merry Go Round is a community centered around fox-hunting, but they just tag the foxes instead of killing them.

There’s also Sir Hokus chasing a dragonette in Wonder City with no intention of harming her. Some gallows humor could also be involved. We know the Hungry Tiger has no qualms about telling people and animals that he’d eat them if it weren’t for his conscience, and the Cowardly Lion has a few instances of this sort of thing as well.

Still, it’s an element of the fairyland that I don’t think the authors fully thought out. Hunting was a common activity for historical kings, so Baum and Thompson just had Ozian kings doing that as well without being concerned with the implications.

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This entry was posted in Animals, Characters, Edward Einhorn, Eloise Jarvis McGraw, Food, Humor, John R. Neill, L. Frank Baum, Magic, Oz, Oz Authors, Ruth Plumly Thompson and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The Second Most Dangerous Game

  1. James says:

    In Book II, sheep don’t talk in Ix so they are a primary source of food. Them and fish are a source of protein. Now dogs especially can talk, as do cats and birds. Dogs also make up an important part of the Ixian military as co-warriors. Birds are used for recon.

  2. James says:

    Nevermind… Queen Zixi of Ix. Guess I had my first Baumian Contradiction.

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