Sunday, November 13, 2016

This Week's Oz Short Story

I think this week's story, "Timtom and the Princess Pattycake", may be my favorite of the Phunnyland/Mo stories. It's not just a little day-in-the-life piece like many of the stories, but a true epic quest, where the poor but stouthearted Timtom goes on a journey to find the sorceress Maëtta who can cure the terrible temper of the beautiful Princess Pattycake, whom the royal family do not know what to do with. When Timtom first talks to Pattycake and professes his love for her, even as she's yelling horrible things at him you can sense that she knows what's going on, but powerless to do anything about it. Timtom goes in search of the sorceress to help him, and along the way promises various creatures additionall gifts from Maëtta when they help him overcome obstacles. Once Timtom finds Maëtta, she easily grants his requests, but complications ensue on the journey back when he loses the gifts for the animals. Of course, and everyone lives happily ever after (except perhaps for a kindly rabbit), and all works out in the end, but the path is never a straight one!

There is enough going on in this story that it could have easily been expanded to a short novel, and you can really see a lot of what L. Frank Baum would become as a writer. Maëtta is very much the template for Glinda in the Oz books (Glinda was even renamed Maëtta in the stage adaptation of The Marvelous Land of Oz when it turned out The Woggle-Bug couldn't use any characters in the then-still running play version of The Wizard of Oz), and the scene of Timtom crossing the River of Needles on a spider web is later reused in The Scarecrow of Oz. Animals coming to the hero's aid is also something that frequently happens in Baum's other works.

One thing struck me is Baum's use of people's tempers. In an earlier story, the king lost his temper because it fell out of his pocket. Well, could they do the same with Pattycake, I thought to myself? But I justified it by saying Patty already has her temper, it was just faulty. Losing that temper may not have made a lot of difference, and maybe made things even worse. Alternatively, she may not have even had a temper. If she'd already lost it, and unlike what happened to the king she never recovered it, that would go a long way towards explaining her disposition. Whatever the reason, Maëtta provided a replacement, so she's happy now.

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