Bringing the Magic Back

The Spellcasters of Oz, by Philip John Lewin – Following up on Lewin’s earlier Master Crafters, this book shows the Ozites dealing with most of the magic that sustains their country disappearing, making beings like the Scarecrow inanimate and animals like the Cowardly Lion and Hungry Tiger revert to their beastly natures. This basic idea was briefly dealt with in Eric Shanower’s Enchanted Apples, but here it’s explored in more detail. Some people there are so unaccustomed to living without magical plants that they have to learn such skills as how to make a sandwich. While Dorothy sets out to find Lurline, who has gone to live among the mermaids, Ozma and the Wizard of Oz journey to Kansas to consult with Enilrul, whose curse might also be necessary to restore the fairyland. They bring with them a few people who have benefitted from the lack of magic, former china people who prefer being human. Dorothy turns out to have a much more significant role in shaping Oz than she had previously realized. As someone who tends to obsess over details, I did notice that a few of the origin stories given here don’t entirely line up with those in other fan-written stories, but I’m sure that won’t matter to most readers, and there are probably workarounds as well. The Society of Master Crafters, led by Jellia Jamb, has created several interesting devices that work without magic, including a flying bicycle, a sky sleigh, and a wind tunnel that can transport people. Dr. Nikidik returns as well, and turns out to be responsible for a lot of what’s gone wrong. It’s a clever tale with some excellent illustrations by Kamui Ayami.

Born Criminal: Matilda Joslyn Gage, Radical Suffragist, by Angelica Shirley Carpenter – While not an Oz book, I’m including it in what’s ostensibly an Oz post because of Gage‘s connection to Oz, being L. Frank Baum’s mother-in-law. The author is an Oz fan, and Spellcasters is dedicated to and has a character named after Gage. The young adult biography gives an overview of Gage’s life and her contributions to the cause of women’s suffrage. She was friends with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, but they eventually fell out because of her unwillingness to compromise with those who supported her main cause but were otherwise prejudiced. Gage was particularly critical of the church’s role in putting down women. At the same time, she was a member of a church, and was interested in astrology and fortune telling, and a member of the Theosophical Society. I guess to me, supernatural is supernatural, but there was less misogyny associated with these New Age beliefs. Matilda’s family was against slavery and active with the Underground Railroad, part of how she came to support equality for all, while other suffragists supported women being allowed to vote at the expense of others’ rights. How much we should be willing to compromise with those who promote some of the same causes but have other abhorrent beliefs is still a tricky issue. I heard something recently about how the legalization of same-sex marriage went along with a certain amount of transphobia, and that’s much along the same lines. I have to say I was shocked by some of the comments the media made about the woman’s suffrage movement and its adherents, but I really shouldn’t have been, as people still say some of the same sorts of things now. Matilda was also adopted into the Mohawk nation, which makes me wonder about her opinion on her son-in-law’s racist editorial against Native Americans, but as far as I know there’s no surviving correspondence on that. The book also addresses how Gage was largely written out of the movement she helped to establish, perhaps not intentionally, but with that being the ultimate effect. The volume includes a good number of photographs and some reproductions of relevant documents.

Currently, I’m reading Philip Jose Farmer’s A Barnstormer of Oz, a very non-traditional Oz book. I had originally wanted to include a review of that with these others, but I haven’t been able to finish it yet, and I read these other two a month ago. I also received the Autumn 2021 issue of The Baum Bugle, and it had a lot in it that was up my alley, much of which I’ve looked into somewhat in the past.

Robert B. Luehrs discusses the Demon of Electricity from The Master Key, and how he fits in with the concepts of demons, elementals, and jinn, as well as his personality. Dennis Wilson Wise writes about how gnomes are used by both L. Frank Baum and J.R.R. Tolkien in very different ways, although both sorts make crafts, like jewelry, and are connected to knowledge. Christina Maffa’s article compares Tik-Tok and other mechanical beings in Baum’s work to their antecedents from Greek mythology. The appearance of automata in mythology has long been fascinating to me, and Maffa also addresses Tik-Tok’s more human tendencies. I noticed that Ruth Plumly Thompson and John R. Neill tended to make him more emotional than Baum ever did, and this would probably be an interesting topic to look into in the future. And Ruth Berman catalogs the various flying creatures and devices in the Oz series. The back cover of the issue displays a map by Gabriel Gale, which is intriguing in its attempt to expand beyond the Ozian landmass, but does take some liberties.

Posted in Animals, Authors, Book Reviews, Characters, Christianity, Eric Shanower, Feminism, Greek Mythology, History, J.R.R. Tolkien, John R. Neill, L. Frank Baum, Magic, Maps, Mythology, Oz, Oz Authors, Phil Lewin, Prejudice, Religion, Ruth Plumly Thompson, Technology, Theosophy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Not Dying Today

Someone proposed on a Facebook post that you don’t actually kill the monsters in the Dragon Quest series. I don’t think I can link to it, since it’s on a private group. It generally seems like you are killing them, despite the fact that some of them are cute, and won’t even necessarily attack you.

Khalamari Kids often prefer to draw in the sand, Candy Cats will sometimes use up their turns cleaning themselves and rolling around.

Don’t cats usually only roll onto their backs if they trust who’s around them? But you get experience from beating up these creatures, so I do it anyway. But one point the post’s author made was that, in DQ5, sometimes a monster will get up after being defeated and offer to join your party, which seems like it would be hard to do if they were dead. The monster-recruiting mechanic is said to have inspired Pokémon, where the monsters can’t die, just faint.

You can’t catch a Pokémon after they’ve fainted, however, while in DQ games, most notably the Monsters subseries (but not the Monsters: Joker games), you usually have to defeat them first. In DQ7, defeated monsters will sometimes get up and express interest in the monster sanctuary.

It’s traditional in video games for defeated enemies to just fade out of existence. Better graphics and more mature themes mean that isn’t always the case these days, but although it has discussed death rather seriously, the DQ series tends not to be gory. Baramos just says he’ll eat your intestines; you don’t see him do it. And while older games just had monsters disappear after they were defeated, newer ones have them fall over and THEN disappear. The way role-playing games often work, however, some of the more significant enemies will disappear on the battle screen, but then show up after that to deliver some more dialogue. In the case of the Slayer of the Sands in DQ11, Prince Faris’ entourage loads the knocked-out monster onto a cart and brings it back to town, where it wakes up and attacks him.

And sometimes you can get items that were presumably part of a monster’s body, especially with the alchemy ingredients in 9. I’m reminded of how, in Rick Riordan’s books based on Greek mythology, monsters will return to Hades when they’re defeated, but will sometimes leave something behind as spoils of war, like Medusa’s head or the Minotaur’s horn. In the DS version of DQ4, Aamon tells Psaro that Estark will see him in Hell, but I don’t know whether that’s an accurate statement on monster afterlives.

And there are spells that are specifically said to cause instant death, not just instant defeat or vanishing. On the other hand, if your characters can be brought back to life, maybe monsters can as well. There are monster priests, after all.

Demon Lords will often return in later games as legacy bosses, but whether that means they’re actually being resurrected or in-universe isn’t entirely clear. I wouldn’t think a being that’s essentially an evil god would be easy to keep down forever, but if it were that easy to revive them, it would make your victories against them rather more hollow.

The Mario series is another one where I’ve seen this topic discussed. Shigeru Miyamoto has apparently said before that Mario doesn’t kill, although he later clarified that this doesn’t mean he wouldn’t necessarily kill, say, a bug. Still, many of the monsters he meets in the games are sentient and capable of speaking, so that’s hardly the same.

There’s a line in Paper Mario: Color Splash that seems particularly relevant here, where a Goomba says he’s tired of being stomped on.

There are other lines like this that could probably be interpreted as just referring to Goombas in general, but here it definitely seems to be this one individual Goomba who’s been stomped on, perhaps multiple times, and survived.

And of course there are major characters who will disappear after a fight, but then show up again later no worse for wear. Extra lives could be an explanation, but it might also be the case that the enemies are knocked out instead of dying.

As Michael Palin might say, they’re not dead, just resting. And there’s always Bowser Jr. using magic to bring his father back to life from a skeletal form in New Super Mario Bros.

In the Nintendo Comics System, enemies would sometimes still talk and move around after being stomped on or otherwise attacked.

I’m also reminded of the old Legend of Zelda cartoon, where, probably due to network standards or something, Ganon’s minions wouldn’t die when zapped with Link’s sword but just disappear and reappear in a big jar in their boss’s lair. Even Ganon himself ended up there sometimes. I guess that could also be an in-universe way to explain respawning. On the other hand, I remember one of the Nintendo Adventure Books describing some monsters (Tektites, maybe?) oozing blood after being shot with arrows by Zelda, which seemed a little out of place.

Posted in Alchemy, Animals, Authors, Cartoons, Comics, Dragon Quest, Greek Mythology, Magic, Mario, Monsters, Mythology, Percy Jackson, Pokémon, Rick Riordan, Super Mario Bros. Super Show, Television, Video Games, Zelda | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Fact Within Fiction

It’s a strange thing to me that a world presented in a work of fiction can be basically just like ours, except without that work, and often related ones, existing in it, even if it’s very popular in the real world. There are some exceptions to this, of course. I understand Marvel Comics established early on that their comics do exist in-universe, although they aren’t quite the same. I have to wonder how this would work with a character like Spider-Man, where a lot of the conflict lies in his trying to maintain two separate identities, when the writers have no way of knowing he really is. And that’s not getting into characters like Deadpool and She-Hulk who can intentionally break the fourth wall, because that’s a different issue, and usually played for comedy. L. Frank Baum made it clear that the Oz books do exist within his stories, or at least they do in the Great Outside World that’s separate from Oz but sometimes interacts with it. His conceit was that he was the Royal Historian of Oz, and he wrote of events that actually happened. In The Emerald City of Oz, which he intended to be the last in the series, the final chapter actually says he received a note from Dorothy written on a stork feather, saying that Oz had been cut off from the rest of the world.

When he returns to Oz with Patchwork Girl, his explanation is that the Shaggy Man managed to make contact with him through wireless telegraph.

It’s suggested that he was originally getting the stories directly from Dorothy. Of course, that raises some additional questions. There are parts of the plots where Dorothy isn’t present, and she’s not in Land at all. And the books are written in third-person omniscient style, but how would Baum know what everyone was thinking? He called himself the Royal Historian, not the Royal Psychic Reporter. The best explanation might be that he extrapolated and embellished the accounts without mentioning it, making them not very good history books. When I write about Oz as if it’s real, or my own stories about it, I tend to go with a very literal reading, trying to iron out the contradictions as much as possible. It’s how I often like to approach fiction, and the details make things feel more real to me. But in doing this, I’m largely ignoring Baum’s own way of lending credence to his writings. That’s not to say that he himself didn’t also go back and forth on this; the very same book that had him get the note from Dorothy had him admit in the introduction that he used a lot of his readers’ suggestions, which should be impossible if writing about true events. You could perhaps say that what he wrote BECAME true in Oz, but if that’s the case there’s no real need for the radio telegraph, except maybe for confirmation. We do have Shaggy, who’s supposed to be the one dictating the stories to Baum, saying in Tik-Tok, “No one knows that, except the person who’s writing this story.”

This seems to fit in with the even more heavy-handed than usual jokes in this book that bely its origins as a stage play (which in turn was based on a few earlier Oz books), but I don’t know what it means in terms of Oz lore. Ruth Plumly Thompson sometimes went along with the idea of being in radio communication with Oz, as in her notes in Gnome King and Ojo; but a promotional Ozmapolitan suggests she actually visited the Emerald City. John R. Neill wrote in Lucky Bucky that the tale came from a “special record” he “ran across.” Jack Snow says in Shaggy Man that he communicates with the Emerald City through a television set, while Rachel Cosgrove Payes cites a talking bird as her source.

The Proclamation Extraordinary promoting the Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz comics indicates that Baum and illustrator Walt McDougall would follow the visitors around wearing caps that made them invisible.

“Ozma gave us permission to stalk her friends.”

If the world in which these authors lived is the same one that Dorothy is from, does that mean visitors from there have read the Oz books? This generally seems to be the case. In Sky Island, when Button-Bright and Polychrome discuss having met in Oz, Trot has heard of it. And upon reaching Jinxland in Scarecrow, she rattles off a long list of Ozites. Betsy Bobbin has heard about Oz and knows about Ozma and Dorothy, but not Shaggy. In neither of these cases do we know for sure that these people read about Oz instead of just hearing about it from somebody else. In Gnome King, however, Peter Brown outright tells Ruggedo, “I read a book about Oz once, but I didn’t know it was really true.” He then says the former Nome King wasn’t in the book he read, and he doesn’t seem to know who the Patchwork Girl is. He does, however, know about Ozma, Dorothy, and the Wizard of Oz. He’s also read about gnomes, but not necessarily in an Oz book. Speedy makes a similar comment in Yellow Knight: “I’ve often read about Oz, but I never thought it was really true.” In fact, most of Thompson’s American protagonists have essentially the same reaction upon finding out they’re in Oz. Bucky Jones recognizes that Oz is “a wonderful and friendly place.”

Twink and Tom are aware of Oz and the Shaggy Man, while Jam and Robin Brown have apparently never heard of the fairyland before visiting there. Neither have Notta Bit More, Bob Up, or Jenny Jump, but they all seem to have lived fairly sheltered lives in the United States. Tompy Terry has read “several Oz books,” and knows enough to give Yankee a brief overview of the place and its history. He’s also “read a bit” about Kabumpo, but hasn’t heard of Jinnicky. When he gets home, he reads Purple Prince to Yankee. David Perry “had read many stories and strange adventures about the people in Oz.”
More recent authors have accounted for the fact that Americans these days are more likely to know about Oz from the movie, and there are occasions where they’re surprised by how the real Oz, the one of the books, differs from the MGM one. In David Hulan’s Glass Cat, Barry Klein is familiar enough with the books to ask a genie to teach him the magic word from Magic, but his sister Becky only knows the film. Aleda in Melody Grandy’s Tippetarius is familiar with both the first Oz book and the movie, but doesn’t read any others until she arrives in the land, where she reads some to the giant Orlando.

Oz books appearing in Oz itself is something that happens from time to time in more recent tales, although there’s some precedent for it with the illustration in Kabumpo where Glinda has several titles on her shelf.

Orlando’s books grow on a book tree, and include some of the same books from our world, but also other titles like The Four Wicked Witches of Oz and The Red Sorceress of Oz. While I suppose the books would be histories within Oz, it does seem unlikely that most Ozites would get their history from works by authors from another country, even if the Royal Historian title implies approval from Ozma. There are a few mentions of the Wogglebug having written Oz history books, but he might be an even less reliable narrator.

Posted in Characters, Comics, Eloise Jarvis McGraw, Humor, Jack Snow, John R. Neill, L. Frank Baum, Magic, Melody Grandy, Oz, Oz Authors, Rachel Cosgrove Payes, Ruth Plumly Thompson | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Sweets to the Sweet

CandymanWARNING! SPOILERS! I think it would be fair to say the original movie is one of Beth’s favorites, so she was cautiously optimistic about this one. We both liked it, although there were a few things that didn’t work so well. The first film takes place largely in Cabrini-Green, a rather infamous housing project in Chicago. Since then, it’s been demolished and the neighborhood gentrified. The two sequels bring the character to other locations, New Orleans and Los Angeles, but this one brings it back to Chicago and is even heavier on the social commentary, including gentrification and institutionalized racism in law enforcement. I looked on the IMDB for trivia on the film, and there were some reviews saying it was far-left propaganda, or something like that. I guess I am far-left in some ways, but I also hardly think “racism exists” is a radical political position, or one that wasn’t part of the franchise from the beginning (well, of the movies, anyway; I haven’t read Clive Barker’s short story, but I understand it was about class issues, but not racism per se). While the first movie centered around a white woman who stumbled upon the legend and was stalked by the Candyman, the main protagonist here is Anthony McCoy, a Black artist who hears the urban legend and gets more information from a guy at a laundromat who grew up with it, and he becomes obsessed with the story. People who have interacted with Anthony are brutally murdered, and the artist eventually learns of his own connection with an element of the original film. I will say it generally lacked the chaotic creepiness of the first one, where you really had no idea what Candyman was going to do next. Here, Candyman is more about revenge, killing obnoxious white people who were rude to him, which is rather more mundane as far as slasher motivations go. Tony Todd is in the film, but only towards the end, and the cloud of CGI bees surrounding him didn’t really look right. We saw him at a convention once, and he talked about how the earlier movies had a bee wrangler. His relative absence is explained to an extent by explaining that the legend changes somewhat over time and different people fill the Candyman role, which makes sense for an urban legend. But Todd’s voice, especially, was such an integral part of the supernatural killer’s effectiveness, so I would have liked more of him. Another thing of note is the use of shadow puppetry to illustrate the back stories, which was effective and looked pretty neat. I have seen it in other fairly recent movies, which isn’t a complaint, just a question of why it’s so much in vogue these days.

I was also thinking earlier on the day I saw this about how it would be amusing if they used the song from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in the film…and it was in the opening credits. I guess it WAS right there.

Posted in Monsters, Music, Politics, Prejudice, Urban Legends, VoVat Goes to the Movies | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wiggler Wednesday

I’ve discussed many enemies from the Super Mario franchise over the years, but I don’t think I’ve said that much about Wigglers, the giant caterpillars introduced in Super Mario World.

Their thing is basically that they’re normally cute, yellow, and peaceful, with flowers on their heads. If you jump on one, though, they turn red and get really angry. And they wear shoes, because that’s pretty standard practice in this world. At least some of them can also turn their front feet into hands when they need to.

They can’t be killed with fireballs, but Yoshi will gladly eat them.

They come in several different sizes, and some of them are bosses.

The much bigger ones often don’t react when jumped on, presumably because you’re too small for them to notice.

One especially big one can be ridden across a level in New Super Mario Bros.

Squigglers are a smaller variety of Wiggler.

The SMW cartoon had one Wiggler that was small enough to fit inside an apple, and the Princess misidentifies it as a worm.

She’s a schoolteacher in that episode, and she doesn’t even get the right phylum. The Wigglers in the series were always in enraged mode, perhaps because of the sloppy animation. They’re never called Wigglers either, probably because the enemy names hadn’t been officially translated when they made the show. In Japanese, they’re called Hanachan, which is “flower” plus an honorific suffix. Several games indicate that Wigglers often have a passion for gardening. In Bowser’s Inside Story, Bowser comes across a Wiggler-run family farm in Dimble Wood, where the caterpillars grow vegetables. The Koopa King has to fight one particular Wiggler after being scolded for eating the giant carrot that the caterpillar told him to eat in the first place. Not only do you have to get the Wiggler out of enraged mode, but he also grows plants to use against Bowser. He’s the last boss in this game I’ve managed to beat so far, but it took a long time. There’s just so much to watch out for, including Fly Guys who will attack from time to time.

In Mario Party DS, you have to defeat a Piranha Plant who’s wreaking havoc on a Wiggler’s farm.

And a Wiggler in Mario and Luigi: Dream Team dreams of starting a flower garden.

Seeing as how they’re caterpillars, Wigglers do have a butterfly form, Flutters, although they don’t show up that often and I don’t think you ever see a chrysalis. They first appear in Yoshi’s Island, and they also get angry when jumped on. I suppose I would be as well, especially if it knocked off the flower I was wearing. The Wiggler in Mario Power Tennis is capable of turning into a Flutter for a power shot.

Both Sticker Star and Paper Jam have Wigglers who turn into Flutters and will give Mario (and Luigi) a ride.

The one in the former is a simple fellow who lives in a tree and keeps an illustrated diary, but Kamek makes his segments move around separately in order to cause trouble.

Speaking of separated Wiggler segments, that’s what the Cataquacks in Super Mario Sunshine look like, except with duck bills on them. They also resemble Tony Millionaire’s Drinky Crow.

The “cat” part of their name comes not from any feline trait, but from their habit of catapulting anyone who touches them into the air. I guess it could also be due to their connection to caterpillars.

There are both blue and red Cataquacks, but there really should be pink ones, for when you want to go riding on the Freeway of Love.
The similar Plungelos have parrot beaks and plungers for feet.

I don’t know whether either of them are actually related to Wigglers, but the space bees of Super Mario Galaxy apparently keep Cataquacks as pets.

Another variety is the Tropical Wiggler you can find in the Lost Kingdom in Super Mario Odyssey. These caterpillars have spiked bodies that they have a habit of expanding and contracting. The brochure for the kingdom compares them to traffic lights, and a biologist to accordions.

They don’t attack anybody, but they can unintentionally hurt you if you run into them. Capturing them provides an interesting mechanic and a temporary way to avoid the poison that’s all over the tropical islands. They also seem to have a butterfly form, but you only see one of them.

This game also has a robotic Mechawiggler that’s trying to suck the power from New Donk City. You have to shoot all the segments, sort of like in Centipede.

And Fuzzlers in Super Mario 3D World are a sort of cross between Wigglers and Fuzzies (not the Yoshi’s Island kind that make dinosaurs dizzy).

I’m also interested in the Wiggler Wagons, which are long, segmented buses that show up in Mario Kart: Double Dash!

Mario Party 9 has a smaller sort of car that’s also called a Wiggler Wagon.

Posted in Animals, Art, Cartoons, Mario, Monsters, Television, Video Games | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Shave and a Haircut, Two Squits

Jenny Jump might well be the foremost stylist in Oz, but there are other mentions of hairstyling being a thing in Oz even before her arrival, if perhaps less creative. There’s a pun in The Patchwork Girl of Oz when Bungle says Unc Nunkie needs a haircut, and Dr. Pipt replies that, while the forest he’s been living in “is a barbarous country, there are no barbers there.” For what it’s worth, the two words are not etymologically related; “barber” derives from the Latin for “beard,” while “barbarian” was a Greek insult that implied foreigners stutter, or at least that’s the common explanation. There’s a barber character in Ruth Plumly Thompson’s Hungry Tiger, a resident of Rash who is thrown to the Tiger for accidentally cutting the Pasha’s cheek while shaving him. As expected, the Tiger isn’t the sort to eat a person, and the barber escapes the country for Down Town with him and some others. He and a singer decide to stay there and make some money. There’s no illustration of this character as far as I know, but there is one accompanying his profile in Who’s Who in Oz. This picture is from Purple Prince, of Jinnicky‘s barber.

The Jinn’s Advizier, Alibabble, is constantly advising his master to get a haircut, and his response is to order his barber to cut Alibabble’s hair off and the head with it, although he later relents on the latter.

At this point, the Jinn is still a rather unpredictable character who makes casual threats that are PROBABLY jokes, but we don’t know for sure. The Advizier, however, apparently has been through this before and is totally unconcerned. The thing is, there’s no reason why this barber COULDN’T be the same as the one from Rash, although there’s nothing in the text of any of the three books to indicate that. I like the idea, though.

Karyl Carlson and Eric Gjovaag talked about their book, Queen Ann, at the most recent Virtual OzCon, and this one has a town of barbers. Eric’s original idea was to call it Seville, but then changed it to Barberville after Garberville in northern California. It’s a Thompson-inspired, pun-filled episode where the inhabitants initially come across as friendly and eager to practice their trade, but end up insisting on changing people’s hairstyles whether they want them to or not, and are willing to keep them prisoner to do so. Our heroes get away when Jo Musket scares the barbers away with one of his guns, and then hide behind mirrors. The main street is black-and-white checkered; and scissors, razors, combs, mugs, and other haircutting equipment grow on bushes in this town. The ruler is King Harold. According to Karyl’s follow-up, Jodie, the inhabitants later decide to spread out of their community and give haircuts elsewhere in Oz.

Another hair-themed place is Tonsoria in the Gillikin Country, which shows up in Edward Einhorn’s Paradox and Living House. It’s ruled by the young Princess Ayala, who has an even younger sister named Talia. They are assisted by Lady Twist, Chief Minister of Hair Curling, and Sir Dye, Chief Minister of Hair Coloring.

The closest they have to a guard is the Shampoo Brigade. The population is only 218, but that might still be more than live in Barberville. A barber named Brussle was rewarded by Princess Ayala with a law that he had to cut the hair of anyone in the kingdom who didn’t cut their own, but he wasn’t allowed to if they did. As such, there was a resulting paradox over whether or not he could legally cut his own hair, so he just let it keep growing.

This is based on a paradox devised by Bertrand Russell, hence the barber’s name. Glinda solved the problem by magically making his hair stop growing entirely, but he got so used to it being floor-length that it remained that way. Since pretty much everyone in Tonsoria cuts their own hair, he’s basically limited to cutting that of the two princesses. Also living there are two wigmakers, Old and Young Wolliwag, who are actually twins but the latter is proud of being three minutes younger. Nobody else cares for Old Wolliwag’s wigs, while Young Wolliwag just uses food items, tastier but even less practical.

I suppose I should also mention the Wash & Brush-Up Company from the MGM movie, where the employees cut the Cowardly Lion’s hair and give him a permanent, as well as style Dorothy’s. In response to Dorothy’s question, they say they could dye her eyes to match her gown, but they don’t. The Dorothy of the books already has blue eyes, at least according to Thompson. The Lion’s mane bow comes from W.W. Denslow’s illustrations, and first appears in the Emerald City, although I don’t think it’s mentioned in the text.

Ozma does say he “had a big bow of blue ribbon fastened to the long hair between his ears.”

The men restuffing the Scarecrow in this scene are apparently wearing some of the first T-shirts with logos on them, at least according to Wikipedia.

Posted in Animals, Characters, Edward Einhorn, Etymology, Humor, Jack Snow, John R. Neill, L. Frank Baum, Language, Oz, Oz Authors, Places, Ruth Plumly Thompson | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Death and Transformation

WARNING! SPOILERS for all four movies!

Tickled – This is a weird movie directed by David Farrier, a New Zealand filmmaker who stumbled upon sites about competitive endurance tickling for young men. Further investigation revealed that this whole thing came down to one guy with a huge trust fund who has a fetish for young men tickling each other. He’d pay for videos, but if anyone tried to get out or just generally find out what was going on, he’d harass them with legal threats. While it was difficult to find out about the guy, he was careless and allowed personal information to leak online, revealing that he had actually served time for a misdemeanor related to his computer fraud. Obviously the guy had some kind of skill for organizing, or paid someone who did, because he had connections all over the world. He died in 2017, about a year after the film’s premier. I don’t know the cause of death, and he was only fifty-five, which is pretty young when you have the money for medical treatments. The film ultimately ended up not really being about tickling, but I have to say that I personally hate it. It’s not kinky, just aggravating.

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father – This is a very depressing film, originally intended by Kurt Kuenne as a gift for his murdered childhood friend Andrew Bagby’s son Zachary. The main suspect in Andrew’s murder was his girlfriend, mother of the then-unborn Zachary, who kept harassing him after they broke up, and was in town on the day of the killing. The courts went easy on her, though, and a lengthy custody battle between her and Andrew’s parents ensued. Eventually, we find out that the mother killed both herself and Zachary before the movie had been completed, but Kuenne kept making it as a tribute to his friend.

My Girl – I remember when this movie came out, and I occasionally saw parts of it on TV, but this is the first time I’ve seen it all the way through. Beth recommended it because it’s a summer film. Dan Aykroyd is a widowed funeral director in western Pennsylvania raising a daughter named Vada. She comes across as smart-alecky, but has a lot of unresolved trauma and fears that she feels she can’t discuss with her father, and it comes out in ways like pretending she has a lot of serious ailments. Jamie Lee Curtis, fortunately not followed by Michael Myers, is a cosmetologist who takes a job at the funeral parlor doing makeup, and she and Aykroyd eventually start dating. Macaulay Culkin plays Vada’s best friend, who for some reason can’t stop messing with a beehive even though he’s allergic, and ends up dying from the stings. Beth remembers hearing something about how that was controversial for his fans back in the day, but couldn’t find any actual evidence of that. There was a sequel a few years later, and Anna Chlumsky, the girl who played Vada, quit acting for a while not long after that, although she started again in 2005.

Ladyhawke – Even though I was a kid who liked fantasy movies when this came out, I didn’t hear about it until much later. Our friend Tavie said it seemed like something I would like, and I did, although I will say that it’s rather slow-paced. That was pretty common with movies of this sort from that time. Matthew Broderick stars as the thief Phillipe Gaston, and this Gaston is not roughly the size of a barge, but instead able to squeeze into tight spaces, hence his nickname of the Mouse. After escaping the dungeons of the corrupt Bishop of Aquila, he reluctantly teams up with the former captain of the Bishop’s guard, Etienne Navarre. Over the course of their travels, and with some help from an old monk who lives in a decaying castle full of traps, he learns Navarre’s tragic story. He was in a relationship with a woman named Isabeau of Anjou, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, but since the Bishop also wanted her, he cursed the two of them. Navarre turns into a wolf at night, and Isabeau a hawk in the daytime (hence the name of the movie), so they can never truly communicate. On the monk’s suggestion, they manage to break the curse during a solar eclipse, and Navarre kills the Bishop in the process. It’s interesting that the main character is more the comic relief sidekick than the romantic hero, but it’s hardly the only case of that happening. From what I’ve read, back when the movie came out, promotional material claimed it was based on an old medieval European legend, and the screenwriter successfully sued for the claim that his work was unoriginal. There are certainly elements of old legends in the story, but as far as I know, the lovers turning to animals at different times of day wasn’t an idea that had been used before. As such, I have to wonder if there’s a specific reference to the movie in Dragon Quest III, where in Portoga, a curse from the Archfiend Baramos results in a man named Carlos turning to a horse during the day, and his lover Sabrina becoming a cat at night. It’s also worth mentioning that the film uses a pop-rock soundtrack that’s very eighties, although in-universe music is the medieval stuff you’d expect.

Posted in Animals, Conspiracy Theories, Dragon Quest, Fairy Tales, Families, Magic, Music, Relationships, Video Games, VoVat Goes to the Movies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Drawn Into Divine Drama

I’ve had some of these book reviews already written for a while, and I’ve finished a few more books, so I think it’s time to put the finishing touches on this post.

City of the Plague God, by Sarwat Chadda – Both the author and editor Rick Riordan note that it was a coincidence how a book where the villain causes a pandemic came out during an actual pandemic. Not that COVID affects all living things the way the plague here does, but the public does blame immigrants, if not from the same part of the world. Our hero, Sikander Aziz, works at the deli owned by his Iraqi family, and finds himself the target of ancient Mesopotamian demons when the god Nergal comes looking for something Sik’s late brother Mohammad had taken from Iraq. Plague spreads throughout New York City, and Sik teams up with his classmate Belet, the adopted daughter of Ishtar, to fight Nergal. They meet up with Gilgamesh, who didn’t die after all, and has become a pacifist with a garden in Central Park. Sikander also journeys to the world of the dead by subway (an idea I’ve seen elsewhere), and finds his late brother, as well as the goddess Ereshkigal. It makes good use of the mythology, mixing in other legends as well. Chadda also tries to strike a balance between his (and Sikander’s) Islamic faith and the appearance of ancient gods, going with the frequently used explanation that Riordan also uses, that the God of the major monotheistic religions is a different sort of being than the classical deities, perhaps the best way to go with books for young readers. There’s also an inside reference to the Percy Jackson series, when Sik suggests that Belet could turn the shape-shifting sword Kasusu into a pen.

The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water, by Zen Cho – A group of bandits runs into a nun of a magical order in a coffee shop, and she joins them despite their objections. They then try to sell some holy relics. I found it to be a pretty good read, with some good interactions between characters, but it never really built up to anything, either in plot or character development. I’ve seen other reviews saying it might have worked better as a full novel than a novella. It has a Malaysian setting and some fantasy elements.

Huon of Bordeaux, translated by Catherine M. Jones and William W. Kibler – I had heard that this thirteenth-century French romance used Oberon as a character, and since I’m interested in his development, I figured I should read it. It’s about a lord named Huon, who, when he kills Charlemagne‘s son in self-defense, is disinherited by the Emperor unless he can fulfill some seemingly impossible tasks at the court of the Emir of Babylon. This is not the historical Babylon in Mesopotamia, which would have been long destroyed by then, but the fort on the Nile in Egypt. Charlemagne here is kind of a jerk who lets himself be swayed by treacherous advisors, but since he’s described as being almost 200 years old, that’s not too surprising. (Historically, he was probably between sixty-five and seventy-one when he died.) On his journey, he meets and befriends Oberon, the very handsome three-foot-tall son of Morgan le Fay and Julius Caesar. (This apparently means he’s far too young to be Theseus’ contemporary like Shakespeare made him, but also that Morgan was around centuries before King Arthur. I don’t think there was any real attempt at consistency with this stuff.) The fairy gives Huon a horn that will summon him and a goblet from which only the virtuous can drink, and sets a series of conditions on his help that Huon keeps breaking for no particular reason; but fortunately for him, Oberon’s entourage is on his side. I can see Huon lying about his religion to get out of being killed, but not so much his raping his fiancée. She’s willing to have sex with him, but only after they get married, so that’s still rape. The writer criticizes Islam without having done even the most basic research on it, calling Muslims pagans and having so many of them say Muhammad created the world that it almost seems like an intentional joke, but I think it just reflects general European ignorance of the time. But then, the Emir’s daughter converts to Christianity just because she has feelings for Huon, which doesn’t exactly show it in the best light either. Our hero kills two giants, coincidentally meets up with some old acquaintances who have been lost for years, and thwarts his treacherous brother’s attempts to steal his lands.

Aru Shah and the City of Gold, by Roshani Chokshi – The usual team of resurrected Pandavas, this time accompanied by a girl named Kara, seek out Kubera, god of wealth and brother to the infamous Ravana, to ask if they can borrow his army and world-destroying weapon to fight the Sleeper. Kara, like Aru, is a daughter of the Sleeper, but unlike her she was raised by him. Kubera decides to test the Pandavas, and one of the trials involves a visit to Goloka, the world of cows ruled by Krishna, and initially see it as a tacky souvenir store. That’s the sort of humor I’ve come to expect from these books, as are things like Aru’s constant pop culture references and the chapter titles that sarcastically comment on the end of the last chapter. For instance, after Brynne saying the ocean can’t stop her, the next one is titled “The Ocean Stops Brynne.” We also find out that Kara has a Sal and Gabi book on her bookshelf, even though Aru is apparently fictional in that series. While I don’t want to give too much away, the story ends with a significant change in the Pandavas’ powers. I probably should actually try to read the Mahabharata, since there are a lot of references to it in these books.

Posted in Animals, Arthurian Legend, Authors, Babylonian, Book Reviews, British, Christianity, Families, French, Hinduism, History, Holy Roman Empire, Humor, Islam, Magic, Malaysian, Monsters, Mythology, Percy Jackson, Poetry, Relationships, Religion, Rick Riordan, Semitic, William Shakespeare | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

You Oughta Be in Pictures

When I wrote my review of The Wonder City of Oz, Marc Berezin mentioned that he thought John R. Neill had written some of it to make use of pre-existing art. Repurposing his art is definitely a thing Neill did; Baum Bugle article from earlier this year showed a few such drawings that ended up in Glinda of Oz. With Wonder City in particular, it’s also worth noting that his original manuscript was heavily rewritten, adding some new stuff and rearranging the old. Jenny Jump is shown throughout with different hairstyles, which makes sense for her character, as she’s very stylish. But there are a few where she has the same style, but the pictures aren’t anywhere near each other in the text.

The early chapters where Jenny meets Ozma and the Wizard of Oz for the first time show her with the short, curly hair and flowers she wears again in the final chapter, and Chapter Four includes two where her hair is the same as during the Ozoplane flight and when she frees the animal-plants.

This probably indicates where Neill originally intended these illustrations to go. The picture at the beginning of the first chapter shows her with braids, and you don’t get a very good look at her.

I understand Neill originally meant for her to be older than fifteen before growing younger, and this could be a somewhat obscured older Jenny. It’s also not clear why the leprechaun is holding sacks when, according to the text, he’s supposed to be eating pepper-cheese. This incident was probably different in the original. Eric Shanower acknowledges the changing hairstyles in Runaway by giving Jenny different hair in almost every illustration, even when there’s no time in between for her to change it. She actually has the same hair throughout Scalawagons and Lucky Bucky (although that’s not saying too much for the latter, as I think she’s only in three pictures there), however, the same one as in the opening picture for Chapter 11 of Wonder City.

Another picture that shows Jenny talking to the firefly fairies could have been drawn for some other project, and these fairies weren’t even in Neill’s manuscript.

And one that doesn’t particularly look like an Oz drawing at all appears in the story when Number Nine‘s mother disables the two Nomes Umph and Grumph, but none of the three look like they do elsewhere.

I’ve already talked about the Wizard and the mysterious broom man, and I really don’t know what Neill’s original intentions were there. Did the Wizard make himself taller, or was this originally a different person?

Regarding the endpapers, the boy simply labeled “Munchkin” looks a lot like Number Nine again, but I guess a lot of his boys are pretty similar. Maybe it’s one of his siblings. The bear called “Sniffer” doesn’t appear in the finished story, but I suspect it’s Snufferbux from Ojo. I’ve also heard that Neill’s manuscript spells the leprechaun’s name “Psychopompus,” while the published version goes with “Siko Pompus,” but here it’s spelled a third way as “Sico.”

In this picture (I only scanned part of it), Ozma is on the palace balcony with Dorothy and Glinda on her right, the Wogglebug and Sir Hokus on her left, and several people who aren’t readily identifiable. Someone once suggested that the person two behind the bug is Peg Amy in wooden doll form, even though that doesn’t make sense. The woman next to the knight is wearing a hat like his mother does in Yellow Knight, and could also potentially be his wife Marygolden, except that Neill never mentions either of these characters or Hokus’ change in situation in that book. The long-nosed man right behind the Professor resembles the soldiers from Hiland in John Dough and the Cherub.

Another picture in Scalawagons includes some unidentified royals chatting in front of Kabumpo, the Comfortable Camel, and some other animals.

It looks like Neill made an effort to make the one guy distinct, with his buck teeth and platform shoes, but as far as I know he isn’t a specific character from this or any other Oz book. It just seems weird to me because there are so many established L. Frank Baum and Ruth Plumly Thompson characters who could be filling out these scenes, but unless he’s drawing them very differently, he’s instead going for total unknowns.

Most of the Scalawagons pictures are pretty consistent with the text, although there are a few oddities. The kelpies are described as having “horse-shaped bodies,” but this is never shown in the illustrations. Then again, kelpies are traditionally shape-shifters. We also have this indication that Tik-Tok doesn’t know how to spell his own name (or else it’s the authors who have been getting it wrong).

A two-page spread near the end shows various people dancing in couples, including the Soldier with Green Whiskers with a generic girl. unless it’s supposed to be Betsy Bobbin.

It does look like Trot with Tik-Tok, but nobody in particular with Captain Salt. The thing is, the text says that the Soldier and the Guardian of the Gate hear the infectious music and start dancing with each other, so there’s a contradiction. Lucky Bucky has a picture showing, according to the text, Dorothy, Betsy, Trot, and Jellia Jamb (spelled without the B in this book) running into the Council Chamber, but there are six girls shown and only Dorothy is easily recognizable, although that’s probably Trot in the hat. The one right behind Dorothy looks kind of like how Jellia is drawn in Ozoplaning, with the curly hair and rolls in the front.

I believe Jellia is in another illustration in this book, with the celebrities meeting Davy Jones and the uncles from Wise Acres.

The person behind her looks like a younger version of Jinjur, and the one behind her probably isn’t supposed to be anyone in particular but reminds me of Cayke the Cookie Cook.
As mentioned here, there is a Neill drawing that looks like it could be from Scalawagons, with a guy who looks like the Wizard getting into a self-driving car with a turret on top.

Apparently it’s actually for an unfinished story called “The Voice of Bong,” with the illustrations drawn in 1939. Since the picture also shows a guy with a bell on his head, Neill might well have incorporated some of his ideas for it into Oz.

One piece of art that definitely looks to be repurposed is the first one of the outlaw sorcerers of the Winkie Country, the original purpose of which I really don’t know. It does look like many of the people on the right are town officials instead of sorcerers, and there’s a guy with butterfly wings doffing his three-cornered hat in front of them. It’s followed by another two-page spread that actually includes the characters from the story, and is quite different in style.

It’s not like the text mentions the grasshopper people or mushrooms with arms, however. I guess the stalk with six eyes might belong to one of the “huge prowling spy-ders.” There are a few oddities surrounding the castle wall paintings in Lucky Bucky. One illustration shows the Wizard examining a picture of a small, skinny person sawing the nose from a mushroom with a face.

I have no idea what’s supposed to be going on there, and I don’t think the text gives any indication. It’s a little disturbing. Is it somehow related to the mushrooms from the picture of Davy passing the evil magicians? And the part where Davy sails into the Emerald City is confusing in both text and art.

The whale, leaving Lake Quad, somehow takes the Scarecrow’s river with him, and the water solidifies so that no one can sink into it. When they get close to the city, we’re told, “They could even make out the details of the brightly colored pictures on the city walls,” even though the Wizard said earlier that the Ozites were painting the CASTLE walls. I don’t think it would be the first time in the series the two walls were confused, though. That does, however, raise the question as to whether the new river runs right up to the city, or THROUGH part of the city; and how the latter would work without blocking one of the gates. And it’s even more confusing when Davy is said to have “continued on his way gaily, encircling the wall.” I think I would need a diagram, not just an illustration.

Posted in Animals, Art, Bill Campbell and Irwin Terry, Celtic, Characters, Eric Shanower, John R. Neill, L. Frank Baum, Magic, Mythology, Oz, Oz Authors, Ruth Plumly Thompson | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Wedding Thief

Super Mario Odyssey – I bought this once I heard the price had come down somewhat, as I’ve been interested in it. I’m a Mario fan, but I’m generally really bad at the games, so I’m kind of relieved that I’ve actually been able to get somewhere in this one. We’ll see how long that will continue. Don’t get me wrong, as I’ve still died a lot, but you can immediately try again at the cost of a few coins, with no game over. Apparently the rate for extra lives has gone down quite a bit. The plot starts with Bowser…well, you can probably guess, even if you haven’t played this one. But he also decides to steal a bunch of priceless artifacts from around the world to use as wedding accessories, and hire a family of rabbits to serve as wedding planners.

Apparently he thinks the problem isn’t that Peach doesn’t want to marry him, but that his wedding plans haven’t been fancy enough. He’s probably been reading magazines about this. The story starts out in the middle of the action, with Mario fighting his nemesis on an airship above the Mushroom Kingdom. Bowser trounces his opponent and knocks him down to Bonneton, capital of the Cap Kingdom, also ripping his hat in the process. Fortunately for him, a ghostly hat named Cappy agrees to team up with him, and he has a stake in the adventure as well, as King Koopa also kidnapped his sister Tiara. Cappy not only serves as a projectile weapon that you can use pretty much anytime, but also gives Mario the ability to possess living beings, a twist on the power-up concept. He also helps the hero find an old airship, the Odyssey, in order to chase after Bowser and the Princess. It runs on Power Moons, and a lot of the game consists of trying to find these. How challenging this is varies considerably, with some being really straightforward and others requiring a lot more effort.

I’ve gathered enough to proceed from the Cascade Kingdom to the Sand, Lake, and Wooded Kingdoms; and I last left off before a battle with Bowser in the Cloud Kingdom. But there were extra moons on which I gave up after a few tries, like the one where you have to ride a really fast Jaxi around a maze, and another with invisible bridges.

Each country has its own environment, culture, and inhabitants, with information given on brochures you can access in-game. The boss fights so far have mostly been against individual Broodals, plus a giant stone head and a UFO. That last one, the Torkdrift, took me several tries. I’m never very good at jumping over expanding energy rings, and the way the Uproots work means the timing has to be even more accurate than usual.

There’s a lot of emphasis on exploration; the explorable areas aren’t all that big just to get across, but there’s stuff hidden all over. So far, I’ve been playing in handheld mode with the JoyCons connected, so I haven’t been able to use any of the special motion controls, but I’m afraid I might have to eventually. I’m still not really used to that kind of thing. At least there’s an easy way to see all possible moves. I have memories of when I played Super Mario RPG, which I bought used without a manual, and getting stuck at Booster’s Tower just because I didn’t know you could hold down a button to jump higher.

Posted in Animals, Magic, Mario, Monsters, Video Games | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment