Yesterday we went into my boyhood crush on General Jinjur, in probably more detail than you wanted.
Today we deal with the most searing element of Baum's The Marvellous Land of Oz: the revealed real identity of Tip.
Tip, or Tippetarius (his full name is given only once, and then simply to be dismissed as too long--this is one of those things that starts obsessive exegetes speculating about hidden narratives, since it is never mentioned again) starts the book, and is its main point of view character. He is apparently orphaned, and being raised by a mean old witch named Mombi. The neighbors dislike her, and so Tip is left all alone. He does his best, eventually stealing some magic, bringing a pumpkin-headed mannikin to life, and fleeing old Mombi.
We follow him through many adventures, until, at the end, Mombi confesses a terrible thing: he is actually a girl, Ozma, the rightful heir to the throne.
Tip's response is completely natural:
"Oh, let Jinjur be the Queen!" exclaimed Tip, ready to cry. "I want to stay a boy, and travel with the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman, and the Woggle-Bug, and Jack--yes! and my friend the Saw-Horse--and the Gump! I don't want to be a girl!
I'm with you, Tip. But, desperate for a legitimate heir, and buffaloed by the charismatic Glinda, all of his supposed friends instantly tell him to...dissolve his identity and become someone he does not remember being.
Comforting words, Nick, coming from someone who chopped himself up with his own ax and is now made of tin. Fine role model you turned out to be.
They all pile on, like Job's miserable comforters (Job never had a problem like this one). No one has any interest in "Tip". They've been imprisoned together, and shared dramatic escapes and adventures. None of that matters. Tip does not exist, as far as they are concerned. He is a figment. All of his needs and ambitions are merely the chrysalis for a royal butterfly. Who cares if he thinks he has a right to existence?
Stunned by the universal betrayal (remember, he was raised alone and has no other friends or relatives), Tip first waffles, wanting to try the girl thing temporarily. Glinda snapishly dismisses this attempt to straddle the issue, and Tip gives in.
As a result, he disappears and is replaced by
Holy....! At least she could have been revealed as someone charismatic and compelling, like Jinjur, but, instead she's a female version of the Infant of Prague. And Tip is gone, with no one to mourn his passing. It would at least be appropriate for Mombi to do so, since she is, in effect, his mother. I feel an alternative narrative coming on...more news as it happens.
I can't express the gut grip this ending gave me as a boy. Tip is a girl? Nothing made any sense. Charming feminine rulers who, beneath their lovely veneer, were absolutely ruthless (Glinda: "We must lay siege to the city, and starve it into submission.") would do their best to crush me. And maybe my sense of myself was a complete illusion.
And if you think bookish ten-year-old boys aren't anxious about issues like that, think again. But the turnabout has, in the end, the effect of great literature: it affected me, and I still remember it.
I'd like to say that the ending causes you the reavaluate the book the precedes it, but it does nothing of the sort. It's like one of those "twist endings" in a Hollywood suspense movie, where the main character is revealed to really be someone else, making a mockery of all previous events. It's just desperate plot doctoring by the fifth pair of screenwriters hired to do something about the miserable script, not something organic to the conception.
Somewhere, the wraith of Tippetarius still wanders, weeping for all the Jinjurs he will never get to meet. Spare a moment of thought for him.