A Dictionary of Ozian Marriage

There was a discussion on marriages in Oz at this year’s OzCon International, partially inspired by how The Tin Woodman of Oz includes two seemingly bad marriages. Mrs. Yoop is glad her brutal, uncouth husband, who used to kick her on the shins, has been captured and locked away.

Chopfyt is a lazy, surly man married to Nimmie Amee, who yells at her and hits her with a broomstick in order to get him to do what she wants. And Jinjur, who is said in Ozma to have given her husband a black eye for milking the wrong cow, shows no sign of living with anyone else in this book. The Swynes seem to be a happy couple, however, which also shows that at least some animals have adopted the institution of marriage.

We see examples of both sorts throughout the series. There is a common trend of the women having the upper hand in relationships. In Patchwork Girl, the lazy Quadling has a wife who’s rather angry, although it’s understandable as she has to do all the work.

Jo Cone in Tik-Tok claims that his wife is a much better fighter than he is. The other characters in Scarecrow aren’t sure what Princess Gloria sees in the rather weak, weepy Pon, but she remains devoted to him (well, except when her heart is frozen).

Queen Cor of Coregos is more clever than her husband, King Gos of Regos. (And yes, they don’t technically live in Oz, but they fit the pattern.) They normally live apart, and Cor doesn’t seem too happy to see him when he moves in with her after Prince Inga conquers his island, but that could be because he brought his warriors with him. They do work together and are generally on the same page, however.

The same is true of another villainous couple, the Supreme Dictator of the Flatheads and his wife Rora. While there’s the general trend of women abusing men being played for comedy that sometimes shows up in Oz, that’s not always the case just because the woman has the upper hand, which sounds like it was the case in L. Frank Baum’s own household. King Evoldo of Ev is portrayed as abusive and unsympathetic, and while I don’t think it’s specifically stated that he physically attacked his wife and kids the way he did his servants, he ultimately sold them to the Nome King in exchange for a long life, which suggests he didn’t have much love for them.

Aunt Em and Uncle Henry (not originally from Oz, of course, but they relocate there) and Dr. Pipt and Margolotte are both older couples who don’t come across as particularly romantic, but are affectionate and supportive of each other. I thought it was weird that, when Em and Henry are given their new room in the palace in Emerald City, they have separate bedrooms, although maybe that kind of thing was more common back in those days. I assume Pipt isn’t sleeping in the same bed as his wife either when he’s constantly tending his kettles.

Ruth Plumly Thompson shows us more young, romantic couples then Baum does, often princes and princesses. These stories often end with a marriage, and we don’t see a whole lot of them as married couples after that, except an occasional cameo. The same is true of couples who are involuntarily separated for a long time, like King Cheeriobed and Queen Orin or Realbad and Isomere. There are several less pleasant couples as well, often with the husband being subservient to the wife: the mild-mannered, easily confused King Theodore III and his overbearing wife Queen Adora; the kindly but rather distant and thoughtless King Fumbo and Mrs. Sew-and-Sew, who does all the work to keep the kingdom running and frequently boxes her husband’s ears; the furious Queen Fi Nance who runs Down Town with King Dad having very little say. Queen Kabebe of Stratovania is generally meaner than her husband, but we don’t see much of the two of them together, and Strut has no issue with taking other wives.

There was some discussion during the panel on how we never really see who’s officiating at weddings, which Thompson does address a few times in an offhand manner that doesn’t necessarily reveal whether they’re standard arrangements. I’ve mentioned before how marriage is often based on economics and mortality, neither of which would likely be major concerns in a nation that doesn’t use money and where death is very rare. That said, we don’t know how new these developments are, and the economic system isn’t always consistently portrayed anyway. Even when the communal system is in use, people are expected to share their surplus with others, but that doesn’t mean you can just move into someone else’s house. So even if private property technically doesn’t exist, the basic concept hasn’t totally died out. It’s also not clear what the legal ramifications are of marriage in Oz, or whether it’s just a traditional thing. We’re told that Gayelette gave an expensive wedding present to Quelala, but not whether this was a typical marriage ritual.

Does anyone ever marry for citizenship? The only case I can think of where an Ozite marries a foreigner is Randy and Planetty, and that wasn’t the reason they married.

Marriages for power and status apparently do occur, but they’re generally not portrayed positively. Prince Tatters specifically sets out to find a princess with a fortune, but he ends up with someone he loves AND whose father has access to a lot of gold bricks, although I’m not entirely sure why those would be so valuable in Oz. Lord Googly-Goo, Glegg, Abrog, Baron Mogodore all try to marry princesses against their will, and they never stop to think that, even if the marriage goes through, it won’t be viewed as legal. But then, they all seem to think they can make the woman in question love them. Is divorce possible? Grand Duke Hoochafoo of Regalia is said to have once been married, but we don’t know what happened to his wife. You’d think divorce might be more common when people don’t die, but maybe attitudes are different in Oz.

Finally, while practically immortal people likely don’t feel as much of a need to reproduce, some of them do anyway. The very first Oz book has a couple with children living outside the Emerald City. The Swynes have piglets who don’t live with them. Prince Pompadore and Princess Peg Amy are specifically said to give birth to Princess Pajonia between the events of Kabumpo and Purple Prince. There’s a farm couple in the John R. Neill books with fourteen children, which is probably not all that common in Oz, but I can see that they might want to have kids to help them on the farm.

Interestingly, the Thompson books have several parents with no partners mentioned at all: Peer Haps, Pastoria (although, according to Jack Snow, he’s an adoptive father), Asha of Rash, Wumbo, Randy’s father, and Sizzeroo. But it does appear that nuclear families are pretty common in Oz, even if the books tend to focus more on the families people (and animals) choose.

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1 Response to A Dictionary of Ozian Marriage

  1. marbpl2 says:

    Mention should also be made of the story “The Queen of Quok” (in a Borderland of Oz kingdom according to the Oz Club map) which satirizes the then current trend of rich American heiresses marrying poor European aristocracy. There is actually a new book out on the subject: https://www.amazon.com/Husband-Hunters-American-Heiresses-Aristocracy/dp/1250164591/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

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