Saturday, February 09, 2019

This Week's Oz Short Story

Did you know that the events in The Lost Princess of Oz were not Ugu the Shoemaker's first attempts to conquer Oz? Eleanor Kennedy discovered an earlier attempt, which she wrote about in "The Braided Man of Oz", the final full story from the 1997 issue of Oziana. Ozma's birthday is coming up, so as everyone is getting ready, Ugu realizes that he can stop all the major magic workers at once. Since so much magic is invoked with the spoken word, he remotely puts a silence spell over the Emerald City during the party so that he can then come in and take over. His plan is foiled by the Braided Man, who comes to Ozma's party every year but nobody takes seriously because nobody understands his rustles and flutters. But under the blanket of silence, the only sound that can now be heard are those same rustles and flutters that the Braided Man has just released from his gitt to Ozma! Just about everyone is so concerned about what they can't hear that they aren't listening to the only sound out there—except Button-Bright. The flutters in the flags and the rustles in Scraps' dress make him laugh, which causes him to hear everything else again. He makes Scraps laugh, who then can hear, too. They go on and cause others to laugh, gradually breaking down the spell until Glinda and the Wizard can remove it entirely. Ugu, listening in from a distance, decides that Ozma and the others may be more powerful magic workers than he thought, and vows to try something else. In gratitude, the Braided Man is offered citizenship in Oz and his own shop in the Emerald City. He almost turns it down, as he likes the quiet and it helps him work, until Glinda offers to put a blanket of silence over his shop. He naturally accepts.

At first, I was worried about Ugu, since we all know what happens to him at the end of Lost Princess. However, the revelation that he has other plans for later and that he's doing all his magic from a distance preserves later events and makes it all work. The Braided Man is handled sensitively and very Ozzily, and it's good to see he has a place in Oz now, even if we never see him again. And both Button-Bright and Scraps handle the situation very much in character, which allows them to start solving the problem. I was especially tickled (pun very much intended) by how Scraps made the worried Ozma laugh.

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