by John Fricke
[Above: Although the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman don’t prominently figure in the search for THE LOST PRINCESS OF OZ, the celebrated duo makes a cameo appearance at the end of the book when they discover another missing item. It’s the gold, diamond-studded dishpan of Cayke the Cookie Cook, which possesses “marvelous powers of magic” – a fact unbeknownst to almost everyone throughout most of the eleventh Oz book.]
After a brief hiatus in 1911 and 1912, L. Frank Baum’s Oz Book Series successfully reestablished itself with his new titles for 1913, 1914, and 1915. (Please see our three preceding Blogs for the back stories of these.) Across those same years, the nonstop Baum also published six short tales about Oz (the LITTLE WIZARD STORIES) and three more volumes of his continuing AUNT JANE’S NIECES sagas for older children. He wrote the script and lyrics for the reasonably successful stage musical, THE TIK-TOK MAN OF OZ; began work on three other ultimately unproduced theatrical extravaganzas; and completed three more for performance by the Los Angeles Uplifters Organization. Finally, he co-created the Oz Film Manufacturing Company, writing scenarios for -- and overseeing production of -- four feature-length motion pictures and four short subjects.
An understatement: The author may have been somewhat weary when the time came to prepare the new Oz book for 1916. Perhaps gratefully, he turned to a vintage manuscript he’d written – circa 1905 -- in the style of an admittedly old-fashioned (though highly original) fairy tale. In late 1915, he stylishly reconfigured its ending by adding several chapters about Oz and the Oz characters; as a result, 1916 saw the successful publication of a revamped, imaginative, captivating adventure as the tenth installment in the “Oz Books” series: RINKITINK IN OZ.
Shown above are Prince Inga and his father, King Kitticut of Pingaree; the latter rules an island of pearl fishers in the Nonestic Ocean, which is across the Deadly Desert from Oz and surrounds its Borderlands. Kitticut here displays to his son three magic pearls, normally hidden away in a recess in the palace floor. He explains that it is their powers that have, for centuries, kept Pingaree safe from marauders and conquerors. Soon thereafter, however, a mass of rogue invaders from the twin islands of Regos and Coregos surprise-attack Pingaree undercover of a dense fog. Kitticut has no opportunity to retrieve the pearls; his country is ransacked, its buildings are torn down, and he, Queen Garee, and all the inhabitants are enslaved and carried away in the victors’ ships. Yet Inga (miraculously hidden in a tree-top) escapes, as does a corpulent but incessantly merry and singing King Rinkitink and his companion, a talking goat named Bilbil. At the time of the invasion, both are visiting Pingaree from Rinkitink’s own nearby kingdom of Gilgad, but the eternally surly Bilbil manages to evade the pirating bandits. Rinkitink – while blindly running from them – tumbles unnoticed into a well. With some effort, Inga and Bilbil hoist him back to the surface:
That night, as Rinkitink and Bilbil sleep, Inga secretly retrieves the three magic pearls. Counseled by the white gem, the prince waits to be mystically provided with a luxurious, oversize rowboat, and the blue pearl then provides him the needed strength to row the three of them across the ocean in pursuit of the Pingaree population. When they arrive in Regos, the boy, king, and goat are protected by the pink pearl from the hundreds of spears and arrows flung and shot by the massed army. The villains themselves are quickly terrified when witness to such magic, and they barricade themselves inside the city walls; it’s the blue pearl that again gives Inga the requisite power to shoulder the barred iron gate and “burst asunder the huge staples that held the bars in place”:
With unseeming and inherently cowardly haste, King Gos and all his legions flee to Coregos, ruled by Gos’ equally heinous wife, Queen Cor. Meanwhile, Inga, Rinkitink, and Bilbil are much feted in Regos, as the citizens are delighted to be out from under the abuse of their violent and despotic sovereign. An inadvertent act by Rinkitink, however (in whom Inga had not yet confided the secret of his magic) leads to the loss of both the blue and pink pearls:
As a result, the jolly-no-longer King and stalwart lad are soon captured and enslaved by Queen Cor. The white pearl meanwhile cautions Inga to be patient, and through the unwitting help of local woodsman Nikobob and his daughter Zella, the blue and pink pearls are unexpectedly returned to the prince. Meanwhile, Bilbil makes his own escape from Regos and temporarily dispatches the reinstated King Gos in the process:
The three travelers, once again magically enhanced, are joined by Zella as they undertake to liberate the captives from Pingaree. Though successful at rescuing the general citizenry, they’re thwarted when searching for Inga’s parents, as Kitticut and Garee have been swiftly carried away by Cor and Gos in a ship bound for a distant continent and the Nome Kingdom. A fine John R. Neill color plate from RINKITINK IN OZ shows the odious king and queen as they “pay off” the equally reprehensible Nome monarch, Kaliko, for his willingness to imprison the Pingaree monarchs. (It and other additional illustrations from the two Oz books under discussion here can be seen in the Vlog, via the December 22 link on the OZ Museum Facebook page.)
The boat of Cor and Gos is quickly followed by the enchanted craft bearing Inga, Rinkitink, and Bilbil, but Kaliko refuses to release the prisoners and offers only false hospitality to the three new arrivals. In short order, Inga is unexpectedly trapped in the Nome’s “Three Trick Caverns,” and as he temporarily gave the pink pearl to Rinkitink to protect him and the goal from all danger, the boy has now only the strength-providing blue pearl to save himself. Yet the ingenious youngster manages to escape chained imprisonment, break down another steel door, avoid sinkholes and chasms in the floors, and devise the means to escape both a long corridor covered with burning coals and a hairy man monster:
Had he kept the pink pearl, Inga could have withstood all of these challenges with no effort. But it’s best that he left that stone with Rinkitink; while the prince manages, as noted, to save himself by strength, the king in turn – thanks to the pink pearl -- withstands Kaliko’s further trickery: falling rocks, magical strangling thread, flying knives, and a bottomless gulf:
Kaliko is dumbfounded by the magic possessed by his “guests,” but the overall situation remains at an impasse: he continues to hide and incarcerate the King and Queen of Pingaree. Fortunately, Dorothy -- across the Deadly Desert in the Emerald City -- is following the events of Inga’s trials in both Glinda’s Great Book of Records and Ozma’s Magic Picture. When the Kansas girl becomes fully aware of the situation in the Nome Kingdom, she and the Wizard travel there by means of the Sawhorse, Red Wagon, and Magic Carpet. Kaliko, of course, can neither risk nor withstand the potential wrath of Ozma of Oz -- or the eggs Dorothy carries with her. Eggs, as Oz readers are aware, possess destructive power over any Nome.
Thus, the girl, the Wizard, the prince, the queen, the two kings, and the goat depart in relief and triumph for the Emerald City. Once there, the Wizard is joined by Glinda in disenchanting Bilbil, as the goat is discovered to be the long-missing ruler of Boboland. The conclusion of RINKITINK IN OZ finds Pingaree restored and flourishing, its prince a hero, its pearls returned to their secret space, its king and queen back on their thrones, and Rinkitink and Bobo safely shipbound to their own kingdoms across the Nonestic Ocean.
As may be surmised, Baum’s story is a wondrous fantasy, even without the more-or-less, tacked-on Ozzy rescue and finale. Meanwhile -- and not surprisingly -- the author’s legions of fans have wondered for decades how the original manuscript of RINKITINK concluded, circa 1905, without the “help” of Dorothy. It’s an in-vain consideration, however; Baum’s widow, Maud, rather cavalierly incinerated all of his handwritten manuscripts and typescripts after the “Royal Historian” died.
For his Oz book in 1917, the author returned to the merry old land itself. His new entry had been in the works for a couple of years under such preliminary titles as THREE GIRLS IN OZ, ADVENTURES IN OZ, PRINCESS DOROTHY OF OZ, and THE LOST RULER OF OZ. Ultimately, the writer and publishers settled on THE LOST PRINCESS OF OZ, with some of its story purportedly provided by one of the juvenile Oz fans. She had written to Baum and ruminated, “I s’pose if Ozma ever got lost, or stolen, ev’rybody in Oz would be dreadful sorry.”
Well, it happened! -- with John R. Neill, as ever, to humorously/entertainingly/beautifully (pick any three . . .) and pictorially accompany Baum’s determinedly return-to-Ozzy prose.
The “three girls in Oz” still launch the story and remain from the onset among a cavalcade of protagonists throughout. The youngsters are one and all Baum’s earlier “transplants” from the United States: Dorothy Gale of Kansas (top center), Betsy Bobbin of Oklahoma (bottom left), and Trot Griffith of California (bottom right):
Baum immediately propels his well-plotted mystery for the readers. Literally overnight, the majority of the classically important magical devices of the kingdom of Oz are stolen, all of them the property of Ozma, Glinda the Good, or the Wizard of Oz himself. At the same time, Ozma -- ruler of the entire kingdom -- disappears as well. Four search parties are dispersed to seek the missing princess (one group sent to each of the four principal realms of Oz), and Dorothy, Betsy, Trot, and the Wonderful Wizard lead the group that travels to the Winkie Country. Their party is the largest of all on the prowl, for it ultimately includes the splendid mix of The Cowardly Lion, Dorothy’s dog Toto, Betsy’s mule Hank, Ozma’s stalwart wooden steed The Sawhorse, Scraps the Patchwork Girl, the Woozy, and Button-Bright.
Furthermore – and at that juncture unrealized by the travelers -- another theft has occurred in the Winkie Country. The gold, diamond-studded dishpan of Cayke the Cookie Cook is also among the suddenly missing, and the simple lass is beside herself with grief. That gaudy utensil magically makes her a superlative cook; without it, she’s unable to bake the delicious treats that provide her name and fame.
Driven by that realization, Cayke impulsively leaves her home on the tableland of the Yips to try to find it, and she’s accompanied by Baum’s latest discovery, the gigantic Frogman. Once a regulation-size amphibian, this new addition to the oddities of Oz has expanded to man-size after feeding for years “on the magic skosh which is found nowhere else on the earth except in . . .one pool” near the Yip village.
Subsequently, the search parties from both the Emerald City and the Yip Country travel for miles and days across the Winkie Country, each having Ozian adventures and encounters along the way. Dorothy and Company first come upon a deep, impassable gulf that surrounds “for miles and miles” a vast area of rapidly spinning hills: the Merry-Go-Round Mountains. The Patchwork Girl, however (as is her custom), suggests a solution to the seeming dead-end: One of the Sawhorse’s harness pieces should be attached to an overhanging tree limb, and then each member of the party could hang from it and swing across the gulf. They’d land on a mountain which would whirl them to the next mountain, which would whirl them to the next . . . until they all completely pass the range of the Merry-Go-Round Mountains to continue the search for Ozma. In the three Neill achievements below, Scraps is the first to demonstrate the efficacy of her idea. In the next, Dorothy cradles Toto in her arms; protected by the Nome King’s Magic Belt, she soars – as planned -- from hill to hill. Once reunited on the far side of the range, the entire troupe visits two previously unknown Oz communities: Herku, with its skin-and-bones but miraculously strong citizens (who are able to keep actual giants as servants) and Thi, whose countrymen possess diamond-shaped heads and heart-shaped bodies -- and ride around their town in chariots pulled by mechanical dragons. The Thists (so named because they eat thistles) appear in the third of these three pictures:
Meanwhile, the Frogman and Cayke have happened upon Bear Center – a population of pint-sized, hair-stuffed, plush bears who live in hollow trees and are ruled by a huge, lavender-hued toy bear. This King possesses a modicum of magic, plus a wind-up Little Pink Bear, who will truthfully answer any question asked him. (Please see the drawing of them just below.) Between the two, they’re able to tell Cayke that her dishpan was stolen by a non-gentleman known as Ugu the Shoemaker, and the big and little bear join the Cookie Cook and Frogman to set out for Ugu’s near-by castle. (By this time, the Frogman has become a much more agreeable and humbler companion. His inflated size had, for years, given him a commensurate ego, and he boasted of his supreme intelligence to one and all – while really not knowing more than those around him. In another side adventure in search of the dishpan, however, he’d taken an innocent swim in the famous Truth Pond of Oz; as the plaque on the side of the pond indicates -- and as can be seen in the second picture below -- “Whoever bathes in this water must always afterward tell THE TRUTH.” The Frogman then honestly confesses to his inadequacies and compensates by becoming a valiant addition to the quest.)
At this juncture in the recounted history -- and by happy coincidence -- Scraps meets the Frogman, as each climbs opposite sides of a hill to ponder their next nomadic direction:
Both parties then align to compare stories, as the group from the Emerald City has also been warned about Ugu the Shomaker during their meeting with the Czarover of Herku. The Lavendar Bear’s magic is brought into play once again, and it finally confirms that Ugu is the robber and kidnapper sought by all. By dint of the stolen Magic Picture and Great Book of Records, however, Ugu also knows that the avowed rescuers are now aware of him and are enroute for reprisal; he is preparing for their arrival.
In a nifty (and, at this point, necessary) flashback, Baum then reveals that the outlaw himself is, in reality, a dissatisfied Herku shoemaker who craves to be “master of all the Land of Oz.” Self-trained from books once used by his sorceristic ancestors, Ugu is furthered in his ambitions when he makes a discovery long hidden by time: the diamond-studded dishpan, passed down to Cayke the Cookie Cook by her own antecedents, is indeed a remarkable creation. It can – via spoken magic word – enlarge and fly anywhere in Oz. Thus, under cover of night, Ugu steals the dishpan, expands it, flies to Glinda’s palace and the Emerald City, commandeers all the other magical instruments about which he’s learned, and places them in the dishpan. Just as he is about to fly back to the Wicker Castle he’d built for himself in the Winkie wilderness, Ozma wakens and discovers him. Before she can scream, he captures her as well, binds her, tumbles her into the dishpan, and departs:
Once at home, Ugu transforms Ozma so as to hide her away from all who would attempt to liberate her, and he proceeds to further study and master his ill-gotten, supernatural goods. When our assemblage of indignitaries advances on him, he is ready to receive, rebuff, and conquer them, as well.
There’s much more to the story – both simultaneous to the quests already described and contributing to those escapades that occur from this narrative point onward and into the finale. For example: Compounding all the “missing” elements of the tale, Toto loses his bark. The Frogman, with his supercilious attitude – pre-Truth Pond – is repeatedly dismissed by unimpressed Ozians. There’s a chamber room in Ugu’s castle that revolves to an upside-down position, taking most of our Oz characters with it; they’re finally clustered around the chandelier on what was formerly the ceiling. Further protecting that castle, there’s a massive and (figuratively) transparent army of girls – a raging barrier of fire – and a steel wall topped off with upright daggers. Meanwhile, where is Ozma? Can she be found, even after Ugu disappears? What happens to him? Is he conquered? Utterly destroyed? Reformed? (There’s a VERY obscure hint in the Neill color plate at the top of this Blog . . ..) And what is Button-Bright doing at the bottom of a hole in the ground – and in a fruit tree? Why are both those locales and occasions so pivotal to the story? Why does the “always right” Little Pink Bear fall out of favor – and what redeems him?
As they used to say at the end of the episodic ROCKY & BULLWINKLE cartoon segments: “These and other questions will be answered . . .” by what we guarantee will be a fulfilling and gleeful reading of THE LOST PRINCESS OF OZ. 😊 Additionally: for a first-rate, traditional, and intriguing fairy tale – with a brave boy-prince hero, a daffy adult king, and a bewitched goat -- one can’t do better than RINKITINK IN OZ. There are countless black-and-white and color delights by John R. Neill in both volumes . . . and, between the two books, an equally fine sampling of Frank Baum’s versatile storytelling. It's flavorfully old-fashioned in the case of RINKITINK and buoyantly Oz-bound in THE LOST PRINCESS.
(I guess it won’t hurt to tell you: they DO find her!)
As ever, many thanks for reading!
Article by John Fricke