Monday, October 10, 2016

This Week's Oz Short Story

Continuing with my reading of A New Wonderland, I reread "How the King Lost His Temper". This was an amusing little slice-of-life story about how a dog came to Phunnyland, met the king, and had a little adventure. Two things struck me. One is that the dog mentions, “…and I have come from a country beyond the mountains and the desert.” We already know about the mountains, of course, since Phunnyland is in a valley. But a desert? This is the first mention of it, and maybe it's the desert that surrounds Oz. (Unlikely, of course, since the writing of Tales from Phunniland predates The Emerald City—the story that would eventually be published as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz—by about three years, but it's fun to speculate about. I know Martin Gardner made the same guess in his introduction to the Dover edition of The Magical Monarch of Mo. On the other hand, Toto is described as being the only dog anyone in Oz had ever seen. Plus, Prince, the dog in Phunnyland, ran away because of all the boys who tied tin cans to his tail, which I don't think could have happened in Oz because there don't appear to be tin cans there. But I appear to be wildly veering away from the point now…)

The other thought that struck me is that, had he been born a few years later, L. Frank Baum would have been a superb writer and creator for animated cartoons. The poor dog gets flattened, then rolled up thin, then squashed back into his original shape. I would love to see what Chuck Jones or Tex Avery or Ub Iwerks or some of those other early animators could have done with a series of shorts set in Phunnyland/Mo.

This is also the story where we really get to see what Phunnyland is made of— literally. The king walks on taffy and all kinds of candy, then wallows in the jelly mud. Sure, we had a taste (pun only partially intened) of this in the introduction, but here it's made very clear just how it all works, and what it means to live in Phunnyland.

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