Tag Archive | Dorothy/Ozma

Monday works roundup, 2/1 (Wizard of Oz, Hello from the Magic Tavern, Leif & Thorn)

Leif & Thorn
Montmere, cliffside (art | scenery | worksafe)
Hermosa in Pink (art | Hermosa | worksafe)
Unnamed Goose Girl (art | trickster | worksafe)
2020 in Leif and Thorn (art meme, worksafe)
Midnight snow (wallpaper | Leif/Thorn | worksafe)
Delphinium in gold trim (art | Del | worksafe)

Hello from the Magic Tavern
Hall Passes & Badgie Huggies (fic | Chunt/Arnie, Arnie/Sarah, Chunt/Twosidore, Usidore | T)

Wizard of Oz
Five Earth Gifts Dorothy Brought Home (fic | Dorothy/Ozma, Eureka, Jack | T)

This Week in But I’m A Cat Person:
Annotated reruns of the full series, currently on chapter 1!

This Week in Leif & Thorn:
This is not Hermosa’s beautiful house. This is not his beautiful spouse.

Erin Reads: The Last of the Ozicans

After putting it off long enough, I finally went through the last two of Baum’s Oz books. Both published posthumously, in case this wasn’t sad enough already.

Book 13 is The One With The Even Gayer Birthday Party, and Book 14 is Baum Breaks His Own Record For Unnecessary Cameos.

***

The Magic of Oz opens with a baby supervillain. Munchkin boy Kiki Aru discovers a magic word of transformation, and decides to fly over the Deadly Desert and visit other countries, then come back to Oz and maybe take it over.

(So of course the readers all had to figure out how to stumble through pronouncing “pyrzqxgl.” Wish some of them had thought to go back and distort the audio, so what the listener hears is something they genuinely can’t repeat back.)

Baum sure does have a thing for fantasy young boy protagonists vs. mundane young girl protagonists, huh? On the one side, Dorothy, Dot, Trot, and Betsy; on the other, Ojo, Woot, Inga, and Kiki, plus I’ll throw in Tip, who considers himself male for the bulk of the book in which he’s the focus of the adventure.

Mundane boys: Tot, Button-Bright. Fantasy girls: Ozma, and…is that it? There are Polychrome and Ann Soforth, but they both feel like young adults to me.

Anyway.

Didn’t even plan this: Kiki Aru drops in on exactly the non-Oz countries from my last review. Hiland, Loland, Merryland, Nol, and Ix.

He ends up in Ev, where he tries to crash at an inn for the night, only to realize that — worldbuilding! — Ev uses money, and he doesn’t have any. You’d think he could turn into a bird in order to sleep in a tree, but as a baby supervillain he decides to turn into a bird in order to steal someone else’s coins.

The ex-Nome King just happens to be in the area, and approves. “I like you, young man, and I’ll go to the inn with you if you’ll promise not to eat eggs for supper.”

***

It’s almost Ozma’s birthday again! Look, it was a serviceable plot device the first time around, no reason not to bring it back.

Dorothy is stuck for gift ideas, which is bound to happen when you’ve been living with someone for, what is it, 30 years now? The Scarecrow is providing a straw-themed gift, and the Tin Woodman a tin-themed gift, but Dorothy doesn’t exactly have a theme.

Scraps wrote a song! The title begins “When Ozma Has a Birthday, Everybody’s Sure to Be Gay…” (“I am patched and gay and glary / You’re a sweet and lovely fairy.”)

Toto’s advice:

“Tell me, Toto,” said the girl; “what would Ozma like best for a birthday present?”

The little black dog wagged his tail.

“Your love,” said he. “Ozma wants to be loved more than anything else.”

“But I already love her, Toto!”

“Then tell her you love her twice as much as you ever did before.”

“That wouldn’t be true,” objected Dorothy, “for I’ve always loved her as much as I could, and, really, Toto, I want to give Ozma some PRESENT, ’cause everyone else will give her a present.”

Glinda suggests Dorothy bake Ozma a cake. Then suggests she put something surprising inside the cake. When asked for specific ideas, she says that has to be up to Dorothy. HMMMM.

Everyone ships it, is what I’m saying.

(Her eventual big plan for the surprise: tiny monkeys that do tricks! She decides to ask the Wizard for help, because she has no idea how to (a) hire monkeys, (b) make them tiny, or (c) teach them tricks.)

***

Worldbuilding update: they’ve decided they aren’t sure whether immigrants to Oz are affected by the “can’t be killed” rule, so Dorothy et al are carefully protected.

Trot, Cap’n Bill, and the Glass Cat head out on their own sidequest: to bring Ozma a magic flower that only grows on a secluded island. As with The Scarecrow of Oz, Trot is missing a lot of the personality she had in her own books. Sigh.

I was going to say “at least she gets a quest,” unlike Betsy, whose only adventuring since moving to Oz has been her bit part in Lost Princess — but on second thought, Betsy being a homebody who didn’t care for her first adventure and would rather avoid having more of them is a nice way to distinguish her from Trot and Dorothy. Let the girl have a quiet, uneventful life at the palace for a few more decades. She’s earned it.

About that island: it turns out to be creepily bare (“How funny it is, Cap’n Bill, that nothing else grows here excep’ the Magic Flower”). Turns out it’s because any living creature that sets foot on the island puts down roots.

***

Ruggedo and Kiki Aru take on some chimera forms, fly back to Oz, and land in a Gillikin forest with an animal kingdom.

Kiki Aru provides the transformations — he’s smart enough not to let Ruggedo in on the magic word — while Ruggedo does the planning and the talking. He spins a tale that the people of the Emerald City are plotting to invade the forest and enslave the animals, so clearly they need to attack first and enslave the people instead. Based on hearsay from some creatures they’ve never seen or heard of before. Yep.

The animals are…admirably skeptical. Kiki Aru transforms a couple of them, backing up the “we’re magicians” part of the story, but nothing more.

And this is the point where Dorothy and the Wizard just walk in. Or rather, ride in on the backs of a giant frickin’ lion and tiger, while the transformed Ruggedo is all ::sweats nervously:: in the background.

The Lion introduces himself: “I am called the ‘Cowardly Lion,’ and I am King of all Beasts, the world over.” The response boils down to “I didn’t vote for you.”

Dorothy and the Wizard are just here to hire some monkeys, but baby supervillain Kiki panics and does a rapid round of transformations on them. Plus on Ruggedo — who gets to be a goose, which terrifies him, because what if he lays an egg?

Eventually the Wizard (as a fox) catches up with them, overhears Kiki saying the magic word, and uses it to turn Kiki and Ruggedo into nuts.

***

Honestly, it’s kinda refreshing how fast the invasion subplot peters out. The animals realize the “magicians” were full of it, and immediately drop their halfhearted sense of grudge. A bunch of monkeys even agree to come join them for the party.

The Glass Cat catches up with them to explain what’s happened to Trot and Cap’n Bill, they take a detour to wrap up that subplot too, and everyone goes home for the party.

“You will have noticed that the company at Ozma’s banquet table was somewhat mixed.” Heh.

Character apparent-age update:

When Dorothy and Trot and Betsy Bobbin and Ozma were together, one would think they were all about of an age, and the fairy Ruler no older and no more “grown up” than the other three. She would laugh and romp with them in regular girlish fashion, yet there was an air of quiet dignity about Ozma, even in her merriest moods, that, in a manner, distinguished her from the others. The three girls loved her devotedly, but they were never able to quite forget that Ozma was the Royal Ruler of the wonderful Fairyland of Oz, and by birth belonged to a powerful race.

It isn’t until the last chapter that the Wizard finally remembers about the nuts in his pocket.

I’ve complained about the protagonist-centered morality before, and the ending here might be the most head-desky example on the whole series. Ozma, Dorothy, and the Wizard talk about not knowing how powerful the mystery magicians might be…but unlike with the invading armies from book 6, they’re not facing a concrete threat of overwhelming force. It’s just a guess. And we, the readers, know for a fact that Kiki Aru is just a kid who knows one trick, while the other nut is Ruggedo, nobody they can’t handle.

In spite of this, the characters repeat the “manipulate the attackers into drinking the Water of Oblivion” trick. They recognize Ruggedo, but have no idea who Kiki is, and don’t bother to ask before he takes a drink. So the kid loses his identity…and all memory of the family he left at the beginning of the book. Now they’ll never find out what happened to their son.

Dammit, Baum, magically lobotomizing characters you don’t like is not a happy ending!

—-

Which brings us to Glinda of Oz, another of those books where the title character isn’t the focus, and in fact is only around for half of the story.

It starts as a Dorothy-and-Ozma quest, kicked off when they visit Glinda, read in her Magic Book about a war brewing between two isolated communities, and decide to go intervene.

At Glinda’s place: “Ozma took the arm of her hostess, but Dorothy lagged behind, kissing some of the maids she knew best, talking with others, and making them all feel that she was their friend.” I’ve joked about Ozma’s harem, but whoo boy, Dorothy isn’t doing so bad herself.

Some final retconning: people in Oz can’t die *or* suffer “any great bodily pain.” So even if you get put through the torn-to-pieces-and-scattered-across-the-world horror show, at least it won’t hurt!

***

The warring communities are the Flatheads, who have no room for brains in their heads but compensate by carrying some around in cans, and the Skeezers, who live on a sinkable island in a lake.

Both of them have fairly terrible, selfish, dictatorial rulers…but both of them make the point that they’ve never heard of Ozma, didn’t know their lands had been declared within the borders of a country called Oz, and so why should they acknowledge her as their ruler the moment she shows up on their doorstep?

Oh, goody, marriage-is-awful jokes:

“I’m sorry we couldn’t have roast pig,” said the [Supreme Dictator of the Flatheads], “but as the only pig we have is made of gold, we can’t eat her. Also the Golden Pig happens to be my wife, and even were she not gold I am sure she would be too tough to eat.”

The Skeezers’ island sinks while Dorothy and Ozma are on it, and the ruler gets turned into a swan before she can bring it back up, so they’re stuck for a while. Baum indulges in some pretty description of the undersea environment. Reminds me of The Sea Fairies.

A bunch of reviews claim this is one of the darker Oz books. It’s really not! Remember the first book, where Dorothy and her companions went through multiple fights to the death, and for a while Dorothy was in forced servitude to the Wicked Witch and spent her nights crying alone in the dark? Now here, Dorothy is imprisoned in a place with gorgeous scenery, the company of her best friend, and total confidence they’ll get rescued sooner or later. Her biggest fear is getting bored while they wait.

***

Glinda resurfaces (hah!) in chapter 13 of 24. She sinks a model island in a pond near her home, for the purpose of testing various island-raising magics.

I was just thinking how comparatively nice it was to have a stripped-down party, just Dorothy and Ozma…and then in chapter 15 it seems like half the Emerald City heads out to rescue them. The Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, the Lion, Scraps, Button-Bright, Ojo, the Glass Cat, Tik-Tok, Jack Pumpkinhead, the Woggle-Bug, the Shaggy Man, Cap’n Bill, Trot, Betsy, the Frogman, Uncle Henry (but for some reason not Aunt Em), the Wizard, AND Glinda.

That’s eighteen people! Tik-Tok, the Woggle-bug, the Lion, and Jack don’t get any lines once the quest is underway. Shaggy, Cap’n Bill and Uncle Henry get one line apiece. One!

Gratuitous magical gizmo for the Wizard: a skeropythrope. He never leaves home without one.

***

All this is doubly superfluous because most of the conflict gets solved by the Rightful Rulers of the Flatheads, working together with a Plucky Skeezer Lad. Also, another magic-user (a Yookoohoo, same type as Mrs. Yoop) who gets talked into helping via reverse psychology.

(The Yookoohoo, Red Reera, is another shapeshifter, and apparently Baum’s original manuscript had her appear as a wired-together skeleton with glowing eyes. Okay, that’s appreciably dark. In the published book, she spends most of her time as an ape.)

Dorothy has a good moment where she figures out how to raise the island. The magic was designed by one person, the Skeezers’ usurper queen, so all she has to do is apply the psychology of the individual. Well done.

In a nice reversal, the end sees the Flatheads all transformed to have round heads, with space to safely store their brains. So they’re much less likely to get lobotomized now.

And the Skeezers get to elect their new ruler! They pick Lady Aurex, a sweet, subversive courtier who took care of Dorothy and Ozma while they were prisoners. Good choice.

The moral of the story, according to Ozma, is that it’s always important to do your duty — meaning her royal duty to step in when a war is brewing, and bring the diplomacy.

The moral of the story, it seems to me, is that you shouldn’t send twenty characters to do a quest that needs, like…six, max.

Especially since it really seems like the locals had this covered! Which is, to be fair, not a bad note to leave the series on. Oz is in good hands.

Erin Reads: Shoehorned in Oz, and Continuity in Oz

Rinkitink in Oz…sure is a book.

This is Baum at peak “desperately trying to be allowed to write non-Oz things.” First chapter opens with “look, ravenous fandom, you’ve seen a map of Oz, right? Okay, zoom out until you’ve got a view of the surrounding countries. See these islands? We’re going there now. Still totally an Oz book, so stay with me! And bring your money.”

The eponymous Rinkitink shows up to visit the island nation of Pingaree just in time for it to be invaded by the evil nation next door. The evil islanders kidnap all the locals except Prince Inga, who goes to the rescue, along with Rinkitink and a talking goat.

Things only start to get Ozzy toward the very end, when the evil king and queen try to get Inga off their backs by passing his captive parents on to the Nome Kingdom. And then Dorothy sees the whole thing in the Magic Picture, and deus-ex-machinas a rescue with the help of the Wizard and a basket of eggs.

Wikipedia says Baum wrote most of the story in 1905, before Oz book 3 was published, and you can tell there wasn’t a lot of revising. The writing doesn’t have the wit and charm that was so good in books 7 and 8. The fantasy countries have the same blandness that dragged down book 9. At this point in the timeline the Nome Kingdom is ruled by Kaliko, but this book was originally written with Ruggedo — and it’s painfully obvious. I bet Baum didn’t change anything beyond find-and-replacing the names.

There isn’t a single girl in the party, which is grating. And this is the book with the wince-worthy scene about a transformed human being turned back in stages, with one of those stages being a Tottenhot (last seen in book 7).

Entirely skippable.

***

On to Book 11, Lost Princess of Oz, and FINALLY, Baum has accepted his lot in life and gotten into a groove. It’s familiar Oz characters with an Oz-centric conflict that we’re guaranteed to care about from the first sentence — Ozma is missing.

Dorothy is the one who confirms Ozma isn’t just sleeping in. You see, she’s the only one who’s always allowed into Ozma’s chambers, no matter how early, or late, the hour. Draw your own conclusions.

The kidnapper has also managed to disappear all the MacGuffins that would have made the rescue too easy. The Magic Picture is gone. When the Wizard takes a speedy Sawhorse-back ride all the way to Glinda’s castle, he learns that the Magic Book is gone — and so are all her spellcasting ingredients and equipment — and, when he gets back, so is his.

Awkwardly, the Magic Belt is still here…but somehow Dorothy has forgotten how to use it. It’ll protect her while she’s wearing it, and that’s all. I wish Baum had at least tried to shoehorn in an excuse. (Maybe it’s been so many years that Dorothy’s forgotten? Maybe its automatic spell-understanding power has run down, like Tik-Tok when he can only speak nonsense because his thoughts have run down?)

There’s a bunch of lovely setting description — of Ozma’s rooms, of Glinda’s magic book, of other scenery. Reminiscent of the time in book 6 when Baum slowed down to give us a bunch of national statistics about Oz: we’ve been here before, but this time he’s thinking about it.

***

The B-plot involves an isolated mesa-top community in the Winkie Country, where Cayke the cook’s magic diamond-studded dishpan is gone too. She and the Frogman, local respected oracle and literal giant frog, set out to find it.

In general, this is painfully less interesting. Although the way average Ozites react to them is pretty funny:

“Tell me, my good man, have you seen a diamond-studded gold dishpan?”

“No, nor have I seen a copper-plated lobster.”

And here’s what happens when they stumble into the country of the teddy bears (yeah, it’s a thing), get arrested for trespassing, and are brought before the king for sentencing:

“I condemn you to death merely as a matter of form. It sounds quite terrible, and in ten years we shall have forgotten all about it.”

So, a few good snappy lines. Too few. Even now that Baum is writing a fresh new plot instead of harvesting earlier manuscripts, he’s slid pretty far from the high point of cleverness we got in books 7 and 8.

***

The familiar characters, meanwhile, set off for a manual, boots-on-the-ground search. They split up into four parties to search the four Oz countries; Dorothy’s party is the one we follow.

It is, unfortunately, much too big. In spite of the excellent plot-based excuse to split people up, we end up with Dorothy, Betsy, Trot, Button-Bright, the Wizard, Scraps, the Woozy, the Cowardly Lion, Hank the mule, the Sawhorse, and Toto. That’s 11 characters! We’re doubling up on roles, and there aren’t nearly enough good lines to go around.

The distinctions between the American girls have pretty much collapsed. Trot and Betsy never get anything useful or plot-relevant to do that separates them from Dorothy, and their lines are all interchangeable.

Button-Bright isn’t much better in the beginning. At least his propensity for getting lost becomes a plot point. (Dorothy scolds him for wandering off when they’re on an important mission! She’s come so far.)

The Wizard seems to feel pretty useless without his magic, though he does get a few good tool-using moments, recalling his resourcefulness throughout book 4. Would’ve been nice if this was a more explicit character arc — from “uh-oh, what do I do without supernatural powers?” to “wait, I’m a clever and resourceful guy, I just have to get my groove back.” I mean, this is the man who once took over the country with nothing but bluff, stage magic, and elbow grease.

Scraps is great. As sharply-characterized as ever. Gets to demonstrate that she’s just as good at coming up with clever plans as the Scarecrow, though she’s more mischievous about rolling them out. When the party gets stymied by an illusion, she’s the one who susses it out — a nice payoff for the time she learned how to deal with illusions in book 7.

The Woozy, Sawhorse, and Hank are, eerily, not much better differentiated than the girls. The Lion isn’t much better, though his characteristic cowardice still pops up. Should’ve only brought one of these, maybe two.

There’s a whole chapter when the beasts are discussing what physical features are best, and of course they all have wildly different bodies and capabilities…but each one has exactly the same level of pride in his own appearance, and expresses it in the same way as the next one. There’s no individual personality coming through.

Toto manages to stand out, partly because of his relationship with Dorothy, partly because he has a mini-arc about “losing his growl.” (You’d think this would be a great opportunity for the Woozy to be sympathetic….)

Apparently Toto has gotten more comfortable talking since his last appearance. He’s having whole conversations now, and wasn’t communicating nonverbally even before the growl-loss. I guess it’s nice that he’s already chatty, instead of being forced by circumstances to do something he isn’t comfortable with…but this feels like another missed opportunity for a character arc.

***

The most substantial character arc in the book is actually from the other party.

At first the Frogman is hugely-respected in his little corner of Oz, assumed to be wise and thoughtful because he’s so unique, and he goes along with this because he likes the attention. He joins Cayke on her quest because he expects to find new¬†people to fawn on him. The indifference of the average Winkie is pretty jarring.

Then they wander past the Truth Pond — last seen in book 5 — and the Frogman goes for a splash, only to discover that, whoops, now he can’t lie. Maybe not even to himself. He comes clean with Cayke about not being as smart or venerable as he put on…and ends up doing some genuinely heroic things, putting himself in danger to help others, now that he can’t just coast along on bluff-based admiration.

***

“Search for Ozma” stumbles into being “search for a magician evil and powerful enough to have stolen Ozma,” and the parties converge when they both start aiming for Ugu the Shoemaker. Your standard megalomaniac sorcerer.

Turns out Cayke’s magic dishpan has teleporting powers, because why not. Ugu stole that first, used it to zap himself into Glinda’s and Ozma’s homes to steal their stuff, and then — when Ozma caught him in the act — had to hastily kidnap her as an afterthought.

One of the souvenirs from the teddy-bear country is a new MacGuffin: a tiny wind-up bear that can give true answers to any question. Not always specific-enough answers, unfortunately. They ask for Ozma’s location, it points them to a hole in the ground not far from Ugu’s castle, but all they see when they get there is Button-Bright.

And apparently none of them know how to play Twenty Questions. Or remember a whole lot of their own continuity, because we get lines of speculation like this:

“Perhaps Button-Bright is Ozma.” / “And perhaps he isn’t! Ozma is a girl, and Button-Bright is a boy.”

Yeah, and the last time Ozma was kidnapped, the villain’s whole plot was to hide her by transfiguring her into a boy, so your point is…?

Button-Bright also scornfully insists, “Nothing ever enchants ME.” Kid, on your first adventure you got turned into a fox-person. Dorothy was there!

You would think, considering that three separate characters in this party were on the expedition to Ev, one of them would remember where the missing Tin Woodman was eventually found, and start turning down Button-Bright’s pockets.

(Once the Wizard finally thinks to ask narrowing-down questions, our heroes find Ozma pretty quickly. They recover all the magical tools and ingredients. They even finally track down Cayke’s dishpan, and send her home happy.)

***

But listen, all Plot-Enforced Stupidity aside, I love the way this book ends, and here’s why:

How do they defeat Ugu? This terrifyingly strong evil wizard? The villain who managed to imprison Princess Ozma, de-power Glinda the Good, and generally get the best of all good magic-users in Oz?

Dorothy beats him in a magical showdown.

She’s been secretly practicing with the Magic Belt. (“I transformed the Sawhorse into a potato masher and back again, and the Cowardly Lion into a pussycat and back again.”) Now she breaks it out and gets her magical-girl on, complete with an “I’ll punish you” speech. Saves the rest of the crew from Ugu’s traps, and, with transfiguration power that rivals the Nome King’s, turns Ugu himself into a dove. I would make a “he got better” joke here, but…he does not. The very last denouement scene is dove!Ugu asking Dorothy for her forgiveness.

Dorothy Gale has gone from “sweet, simple Kansas child, who was a meek and tearful prisoner for the Wicked Witch of the West” to “most formidable magic-user in all Oz.”

And boy, she will wallop you if you mess with her girlfriend.

Monday Works Roundup, 6/20/16

But I’m A Cat Person
Vigil (art | Jany | worksafe)

Leif & Thorn
As many as… (comic | Rowan/Birch/Violet/Thorn/Juniper | NSFW)
This is a public sparring arena (comic | Clover/Violet | worksafe)
Fancy Holly (art | Holly | worksafe)
Hanging from the ceiling (comic | Hyacinth, Thorn | worksafe)

Fake News
Vintage fake news sketchpile (sketches | Jon, “Stephen”, Steve, Lewis, Sweetness | worksafe)

Oz books
Rainbow’s Daughter (art | Polychrome | worksafe)
Dorothy through the ages (art | Dorothy, /Ozma | worksafe)

Phineas and Ferb
Completely Peccable (art | Doof, Perry | worksafe)

Pretty Cure
Hope and Coconuts (art | Nozomi/Coco | worksafe)

General/Miscellaneous
Capitol Roses (photo, worksafe)
Rocks in the water (photo, worksafe)

This Week in But I’m A Cat Person:
Jany meets the Wolf.

This Week in Leif & Thorn:
Holly appears to be sneaking out of a battle. Hyacinth isn’t going to stand for it.

Erin Reads: classic Oz, full-of-queer-people edition

Even knowing what it actually means in context, I get a smile every time these books go on about Oz being “full of queer personages.”

~*~*~*~

Here’s something I didn’t think about until I listened to book 3 (Ozma of Oz) and book 4 (Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz) back-to-back:

Book 3: Dorothy’s adventure starts when she gets swept off a boat, which she’s on because she’s in the middle of a boat trip with Uncle Henry.

Book 4: Dorothy’s adventure starts when she falls into the ground during a California earthquake, where she is because she’s traveling back to Kansas from the same trip.

She’s gone on vacation once here, and gotten sidetracked for magical adventures on both ends of the journey. Henry and Em must be thinking “good lord, kiddo, you can’t travel anywhere without mysteriously vanishing along the way, can you?”

(Of course, in the next book she’s walking down a normal Kansas dirt road when it goes all magical. Can’t win.)

~*~*~*~

And another thing! During this mundane-world vacation (it’s a trip to Australia, which is supposed to be good for Uncle Henry’s health), Dorothy and Henry meet “some friends.” They’re never described in any detail, we just know Dorothy is traveling alone at the start of Book 4 because her uncle went on ahead, while she stayed with these friends for a few days.

In San Francisco.

This book was published in 1908. The history of the SF gay scene goes back pre-1900, with its firs “notorious” gay bar founded in…1908.

I’m not saying Dorothy definitely hung out with cool grown-up lesbian mentors in San Francisco, I’m just saying…historically speaking, it’s a serious possibility.

~*~*~*~

Okay, getting back to the (non-figurative) fairy-country content here…

Book 4 marks a huge shift for the series, in that it’s a really blatant case of “wow, no overarching plot here at all, they’re just wandering from set piece to set piece until the author gets bored.”

Of the previous volumes, Book 3 had the most cohesive plot, without any random detours. This one is all detour. Then they hit a dead end — literally, they get stuck in a cave with no way out! — and Dorothy signals Ozma to teleport them safely to Oz. Princess ex machina.

Book 5 (The Road to Oz) is The One Where Everyone Gets Genre-Savvy.

When things initially go weird, Dorothy’s reaction is “eh, this happens a lot, I’ll probably end up in Oz eventually.” And then she literally adds “Uncle Henry and Aunt Em have told me they’re used to this by now, so they won’t be too worried.” Her party keeps running into magical towns where the leaders say “oh, hey, it’s the famous Dorothy! We’ve read about you.”

And when they finally make it to the Emerald City, Ozma reveals¬†she’s the one who started their journey by making things go weird in the first place. Sure, she could’ve just transported Dorothy instantly to the palace, but apparently she thought Dorothy would have more fun getting there via adventure.

What a good girlfriend.

I mean, good platonic friend.

Everything about Ozma attracted one, and she inspired love and the sweetest affection rather than awe or ordinary admiration. Dorothy threw her arms around her little friend and hugged and kissed her rapturously.

I mean, good platonic friend with rapturous kissing that I am going to sit here and enjoy no matter how Baum meant it.

~*~*~*~

Speaking of Baum, the poor guy’s author’s-notes get a little more strained with every book. “Welp, the children keep asking for Oz so I’m giving them more Oz, the little tyrants, haha! No really, I love children and only want to make them happy, aaaaand apparently what makes them happy is not buying any of my other books.”

He really pushes it in book 5, where the big glittery finale of book 5 is Ozma’s birthday — involving a fifty-cameo pileup referencing every non-Oz book Baum had written. It…did not help their sales the way he was hoping for. (You know what I would have read? A spinoff series about Ev. We spend time there in book 3, see the royals as cameos in book 5, and then never visit the place again. Why didn’t you ever write that, L. Frank?)

Honestly, I’ve read a lot of Baum’s non-Oz books, and none of them clicked the way the Oz ones did. But it’s been long enough that I couldn’t tell you why. Maybe that’ll be the next re-listening project.