Saturday, February 20, 2016

This Week's Oz Short Story

As I near the end of The Purple Dragon and Other Fantasies by L. Frank Baum, I finally get a chance to reread what may be my all-time favorite Baum short story, "The King Who Changed His Mind". The unnamed king of the City of Erol is a tyrant who doesn't like much, never changes his mind, and flies into a rage at the smallest provocation. For some reason, he especially hates children, so when a little girl frightens his horse, he decrees that every child in the city is to die. The queen, seeking to protect her young son, pleads for the prince to be spared, but this only sharpens the king's resolve, and the prince is selected to be the first child to be executed. But the queen has her own resources, and seeks help from a strange new resident of Erol. What follows is a simple but effective solution, and all turns out well in the end—but not before a whole mess of tense events pass! This is the only story in the collection to have not originally been published in an anthology. Editor David L. Greene puts it in with the stories from American Fairy Tales and calls the section "Worldly Fairy Tales", but the only known copy of "The King Who Changed His Mind" is an undated clipping from Baum's personal scrapbook, so nobody is exactly certain as to when and where it first appeared. But it is a tightly-plotted little tale with a lot of heart and characters learning about themselves.

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