Here are two more in my ongoing series of Oz rereads:
The Gardener’s Boy of Oz, by Phyllis Ann Karr – This is one of the better received apocryphal Oz books, which I guess isn’t too surprising as it’s by a professional author. It largely follows up on The Scarecrow of Oz, which resolved the problems in Jinxland, but also left some mysteries remaining, mostly the two former kings who were gone but not dead. Both of their fates are explored here, and the backstory is also expanded upon, including the part King Kynd’s wife played in it. It gives a much larger role to Pon, who’s a generally passive character in Scarecrow, letting him actually do some stuff. There are two different reformed villains in the story: Grewl (formerly Krewl), who’s grouchy and caustic but ultimately helpful; and Ugu, still in dove form, who’s somewhat mischievous and untrusting. Another major protagonist is Candy Longtaw, a determined girl who’s had a lot of adventures even before coming to fairyland. Karr’s recent Boy Baronet crosses over Oz with Gilbert and Sullivan’s Ruddigore, and there’s a reference to that here as well, with Candy’s companion Captain Ned Dauntless named after and presumably descended from the operetta’s Richard Dauntless. Candy is convinced that she had a Native American parent, but it turns out she’s actually an Ozian native, with red hair and freckles in her true form. It works for the story, but maybe it’s not as great for representation. Since the Great Gulf that marks the boundary of Jinxland with the rest of Oz is said to be bottomless, it makes sense that it would end up in the same basic area as the Forbidden Tube in Tik-Tok, so Tititi-Hoochoo and his fairy fellowship feature in this book as well.
New locations visited include Tizzland, an underground country inhabited by dragonfly people who are only allowed to live a few months; the Land of the Sour Notes, who make the Music of the Kubes instead of that of the Spheres (someone does comment on the misspelling, but how he’s able to hear it isn’t explained); and a city of bubble people in the Bermuda Triangle. There’s also the Rakpat, a forgetful sort of animal who shows up in various places to trade items, not all of them being of equal value as far as the previous owners are concerned, like when he leaves a pillow in place of a woman.
They’re all pretty developed, and figure somewhat into the plot. The more prominent Oz characters do appear here, but play fairly minor roles, with Glinda being the most involved.
Maybe the Miffin – The story behind this one is that Karr wrote it for an anthology of griffin stories that never came to be, and it received a limited publication in book form. The copy I have is a reprint, which I got from Marcus Mebes. It features the Iffin, introduced in Jack Pumpkinhead of Oz, who learns from some visiting Winged Monkeys that there’s another creature in Oz like him, the Miffin. While he’s red with canine features, she’s yellow with feline ones. When Snif sets out to find her, he encounters and assists Kericot the Considerate Kalidah and Terrence Oldshell the Wise Turtle, who had been introduced in the short story “The Guardian Dove.” Meanwhile, the Miffin is having her own adventures, teaming up with a stepladder who wants to be a bookcase in the Gillikin steppe country, and visits a town of living dolls created by a good witch named Cozmony. Here, they save two lovers from the nasty Prime President Raskolnikov Rasputin, who has taken over the town’s penal colony. Also living there is a doll named Sung Hwong who speaks with a stereotypical Chinese accent, but eventually makes clear that it’s put on. When the Iffin and Miffin finally meet, they fall for each other at once. Not so realistic, perhaps, but I suppose biology can sometimes affect that kind of thing. After all, the encyclopedia Snif reads says that they’re the only two known griffins in Oz. The Miffin names herself Maybe at the end of the story; and there are monkeys named Ippie, Pippie, and Kak after the incantation on the Golden Cap. That does raise the question as to whether they were also named after the spell in-universe. An illustration by Melody Grandy shows the couple with a baby, whom I’ve elsewhere seen identified as the Smiffin. Karr mentions that she wrote another story about these characters, so maybe this child was from that. I appreciate that Melody gave Snif the lion mane and eagle wings that I usually think of griffins having, which Neill didn’t.
Since I’ve already written about Karr’s Hollyhock Dolls and Boy Baronet, I guess I’ll close this out for now.