Saturday, November 28, 2015

This Week's Oz Short Story

After a hiatus, it's time to start this up again. I don't have any new stories to read, however, so the plan now is to go back and reread some other ones. To start, I am going through The Purple Dragon and Other Fantasies by L. Frank Baum, a 1976 collection of some of Baum's short stories edited by David L. Greene. This was a book I decided I didn't really need when it first came out, and so I didn't get it then. (Cut me some slack, I was only ten at the time!) I regretted that decision in later years, and tried for many years to track down an affordable copy. I finally managed to get one at the Winkie Convention a few years ago, and finally decided the time was ripe to dig in.

Perhaps the biggest reason I wanted this is that some of the stories are from the first fantasy book Baum wrote, which he originally titled Tales from Phunniland. After the success of some of his other books, this was finally published in 1900 as A New Wonderland with the name of the country changed to Phunnyland. Three years later, the name of the country was changed again and a new introduction written for The Magical Monarch of Mo, under which the book is now generally available. I always wanted to read the original printing, however, and The Purple Dragon does indeed have the original introduction and spelling of the country. (It is certainly more affordable than the original printing of A New Wonderland, which now sells for thousands of dollars.) Baum's introduction is nice, as are David Greene's foreword. The first story is, naturally, the first one in the original book, "The King's Head and the Purple Dragon", all about the king's misadventures after his head is bitten off by the purple dragon. The king manages to get by with a variety of other heads until an enterprising woodcutter manages to set everything straight. I've known this story for decades now, but it's still fun, once you buy into the absurdity of how things work in Phunnyland. While reading it, I couldn't help wondering if Ruth Plumly Thompson has access to Baum's non-Oz books not published by Reilly and Lee, because there are a lot of similarities between the king's head here and what happens to Fumbo's head in Grampa in Oz.

1 comment:

Eric said...

From Ruth Berman:

"RPT enjoyed Baum's work, with assorted mentions of it scattered through her "For Boys and Girls" page in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, before she became Baum's successor in writing the Oz books. The direct mentions are to the Oz books, but one of her short stories in the "For Boys and Girls" page, about a bored fairy queen who temporarily kidnaps a human boy (who solves the fairies' problem of boredom by teaching them football) seems very much like a riff on "Queen Zixi of Ix" -- and of course she mentioned Ix and Merryland in one of her later Oz books, "Wishing Horse." Her mention of Merryland is slightly inaccurate in a way that suggests she was describing it from memory, not looking it up as part of the research specifically for "Wishing Horse." She doesn't mention Mo in her stories, unless you count the inclusion of Mo on the map in "Enchanted Island" -- but that's one of the illos, by Dick Martin, and probably his choice, rather than a mention in by RPT in the text. Still, it's likely enough that she read "Mo," either in her childhood when it came out, or in later years as part of preparing her own Oz books with scenes set in the "borderlands" kingdoms that Baum had included as part of the world of Oz. (He didn't include Mo on his map, but he did include a scene set there in "Scarecrow," so RPT would certainly have known of it as a place that she could refer to as part of Oz-world.)"