My friend and colleague Jim Cambias (who, energetically, has two blogs, one with his wife Diane, Science Made Cool, one on his own, on literary topics, at Just the Caffeine Talking), has been Ozblogging, and recently did a series of posts on the second book in the Oz series, The Marvelous Land of Oz.
Reading Jim's entries got me to thinking about how affected I was when I read the book as a young boy, probably about ten years old. It was in an old green volume on the shelves in my house, and I think it was the first Oz book I read--in fact, I don't think I read the actual Wizard of Oz until I was reading them to my children, as an adult.
Marvelous Land is distinctive for two main reasons: the wonderful General Jinjur, and the psyche-scarring fate of Tip, a boy I followed throughout the narrative to his incomprehensibly weird end. It came as a shock I still remember.
First, the babe: Jinjur. She is described as being dressed in brightly colored silks in a "splendor...almost barbaric", and, more importantly, as "pretty enough...but [with] an expression of discontent coupled to a shade of defiance or audacity". She has promoted herself General and wants to seize control of the Emerald City. She has simply decided to do this, because the Scarecrow is a miserable administrator. She has no hereditary office. In a world where authority is either inherited or simply granted by Glinda, Jinjur's ambitions are rare.
The artist, John R. Neill, went to town on her. Here is her glamor headshot:
But to truly appreciate her, you have to see her in action. Here she is on a giant emerald commanding her army of knitting-needle-armed women to seize control of the Emerald City:
Despite the multicolored beauty of her outfit, Jinjur is underappreciated and gets only a single color panel in the book. Here, the team of characters who we've been following, Tip, Tin Woodman, Scarecrow, Wogglebug, and Jack Pumpkinhead, try to oust her from her palace. Jinjur, as you can see, can do languid as well as she can do frenetic:
(An actual, and accurate, quote from Jinjur in the book)
But all good things come to an end. After several conflicts, the heroes finally call in the big guns: Glinda. And Glinda invades with her army of Stormtrooper Rockettes, and wins the day, as we know she will. Jinjur, the only person in the book (or in most of Oz, for that matter) with ambition and goals, is deposed. Fortunately, our fascination with this mercurial, high-maintenance, easily bored usurper is rewarded with an image of her held in bondage by Glinda's Rockettes:
Oz turns out to be way more fun than you remember.
The concept of a media tie-in is far from new, and all these gals are ready for an "authorized performance" kickline somewhere in the sticks. Most Oz books, in fact, read like musical comedies without the songs, and got modified in a variety of ways for the stage. The final movie version had the advantage of almost four decades of road-testing. While Arlen and Harburg wrote original songs, they benefited from knowing what concepts had worked on stage in the past.
But Jinjur, delectable though she is, is only a side issue, particularly here at the dramatic conclusion, because it is here that we learn that Tip, the spunky, interpid young lad we've been following, is actually....
Let's wait until tomorrow to find out the horrible truth about Tip's hidden identity.