Ozian-American Studies

The five most recent stories on Hungry Tiger Tales are fairly obscure promotional material for the Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz comic pages. A set of faux news stories about the visitors landing on various planets before getting to the United States is fairly well-known at this point, but I hadn’t heard of these others. They apparently only ran in the Chicago Record-Herald, and I don’t think anybody knows for sure whether L. Frank Baum actually wrote them. If he did, they show a rather different concept of Oz than he’d have in later books. But then, the Visitors stories themselves don’t entirely fit with the main series either, although the characters are generally consistent. Not only are there no mentions in the main books of these visits to the Great Outside World, but the Ozites have access to a lot of magic that they never do otherwise. Still, since they take place outside Oz, they don’t affect the fairyland itself a whole lot. The materials that have the characters visit outer space suggest that Oz is on a separate planet from the lands we know, which doesn’t fit with how Baum wrote about it elsewhere (although some later authors have used the idea). There’s even an article in the earliest Ozmapolitan issue that says Oz is on a flat world, which, even if the land IS on a planet other than our Earth, doesn’t fit with the plot of Tik-Tok of Oz. These Record-Herald articles propose the possibly even stranger idea of regular migration between Oz and Chicago, where Americans seem to be able to casually visit the fantasy land, and there’s a colony of Ozites in Chicago. One of them is recounted by a boy and girl from Oz now living in Chicago, and another by “the former leading toymaker of Oz,” with no indication as to why he no longer has that job. Each of the stories focuses on one of the visitors, with the Wogglebug being a major presence in all of them rather than having his own. Like the regular Visitors stories, they all end with the question of what the Wogglebug said to resolve a dilemma, but I doubt the answers still exist.

The Scarecrow’s tale involves a drummer from Chicago who tries to sell Thick Tamales for Attenuated Artists, presented in the story as an old joke. I have to say I don’t get it. Maybe it made sense in Chicago in 1904, or maybe it didn’t even there and then. The timeline doesn’t quite work, as it has the Wogglebug present at the Scarecrow’s royal court when, as per Land, Ozma takes the throne only a few days after the straw man meets the bug. The Sawhorse’s has him race a French automobile brought to Oz by the Lord High Chancellor. For some reason, he declares that he’ll raise taxes on toys unless something else can beat the car in a race. The Chancellor reappears in Jack Pumpkinhead’s piece, which has Jack trading the crown for Ozma’s coronation for what he thinks is a better crown, but turns out to be a jam tart. There’s a definite similarity to the story where Jack pawns the Sawhorse so he can buy a saddle. The Chancellor sentences Jack to be fed dry soda crackers for the rest of his life, which doesn’t seem like much of a punishment since he doesn’t need to eat. Or is having useless crackers shoved inside his pumpkin mouth part of the penalty? Anyway, he gets out of it when the Wogglebug answers a riddle on the Pumpkinhead’s behalf. I think I understand why Ozma didn’t keep this Chancellor on her staff. And it never says whether Ozma ever got her crown back, although I guess she could have later tracked it down with the Magic Picture. With the Gump, we’re told, “When it first appeared in Oz people were afraid to venture in it,” ignoring that the Gump was made in the first place to escape the palace. Maybe this is about when the Gump was reassembled to visit the States. The flying contraption is said to be easily able to reach the farthest stars and make trips around the Sun, which fits with the planet-hopping stories in other newspapers. And the Wogglebug says something in Greek, as suggested in the song by Baum and Paul Tietjens. And the Tin Woodman’s story has Ozma’s court physician claim that gumdrops are unhealthy, and tries to have Nick chop down the gumdrop tree in the middle of Chocolate Cream Forest, but the educated insect manages to convince the doctor otherwise. I don’t think there’s another mention of Ozma having a court physician until Herby takes that position in Ruth Plumly Thompson’s The Giant Horse of Oz.

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