[Above: A colorful, jubilant drawing by Dick Martin for the 1960 adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s stories about THE VISITORS FROM OZ. At the finale of the tale, six of Oz’s finest – the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, Jack Pumpkinhead, Professor Wogglebug, the Sawhorse, and the Gump – visit Santa Claus and provide him with toy miniatures of themselves, so that he can share them with the children of the world on Christmas Eve. A toy Scarecrow and Tin Man are visible as they peek over the dashboard of the holiday sleigh.]
For Christmas two years ago, this blog looked back at some of the holiday writings of those “Royal Historians of Oz,” L. Frank Baum and Ruth Plumly Thompson. Baum, of course, was the author of THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ (1900), plus thirteen full-length Oz sequels and numerous Oz short stories. After his passing, Miss Thompson continued the Oz book series from 1921-1939 with nineteen titles of her own – plus two additional Oz adventures that were issued in the 1970s by The International Wizard of Oz Club.
Just a few years after she began her Oz work, however, The Reilly & Lee Company of Chicago – who were the Oz publishers – asked Miss Thompson to also write a briefer, “novelette” for the 1926 holiday trade. It was configured as a non-Oz book, but (happily!) it’s very close to an Oz-styled adventure. In THE CURIOUS CRUISE OF CAPTAIN SANTA, that jolly and indefatigable soul sets sail on his ship, “The Chimneypot,” in search of new lands and new gifts for children. He’s accompanied by Huggerumbo the polar bear, Penny the pet penguin, and Jimmy, a little boy chimney sweep; in best Thompson fashion, their magical escapades never stop. Santa & Company eventually find themselves “beyond the sunset” in an exploration of The Lost Islands of live toys.
[Above: The covers of the 1985 International Wizard of Oz Club reprint of THE CURIOUS CRUISE OF CAPTAIN SANTA. At left: Santa is flanked by Penny and Huggerumbo. At right; the two tall chimneys that serve as masts are wonderfully apparent in this portrait of that worthy seagoing vessel, The Chimneypot. Thompson’s sprightly and joyous journalism is augmented throughout the book by the illustrations of long-time Oz book artist John R. Neill. As a result, the winning combination of RPT and JRN helps to make CURIOUS CRUISE its own merry Oz-offshoot.]
Beyond her professional work, Miss Thompson personally and fondly embraced the holiday spirit. Indeed, her appreciative niece Dorothy Curtiss Maryott once declaratively wrote “Christmas Was Every Day with Aunt Ruth”; her recollection appeared in the Winter 1985 issue of the Oz Club magazine, THE BAUM BUGLE.
Miss Thompson herself was a semi-regular contributor to the BUGLE, lending magic via poetry, prose, and reminiscence across the 1950s, 1960s, and into the 1970s. In keeping with the season -- and given Ruth Plumly Thompson’s long-time association with (and allegiance to) Santa Claus -- here is an original Thompson “sonnet” from the Christmas 1960 BAUM BUGLE. It answers the much-pondered concern:
WHERE SANTA SPENDS CHRISTMAS
By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Who fills Santa's sock? Well, I'll tell you -
And where does he spend Christmas Day-
And where is that very last chimney and stop
Of that jolly old gent and his sleigh?
Why where but the Emerald City of Oz
In Oz, that most magical land -
And you can be sure in the palace
The WHOLE crew will be right on hand.
Princess Ozma, and Dot and The Scarecrow,
Nick Chopper, the spry old Red Jinn,
Jack Pumpkinhead with his new pumpkin
Carved into a wide Christmas grin -
The Patchwork Girl, Glinda, Sir Hokus,
Captain Salt with AHOY and a HELLO,
The Sawhorse, the Cowardly Lion,
And Kabumpo that elegant fellow
To trumpet a thunderous welcome
To Kris and his tired out reindeer -
And where but in Oz could they ever enjoy
A Christmas so chock-full of cheer?
And close to the fire, in a comfortable chair
Santa rests from his arduous flight -
Eyes the sock in the line on the mantle
With honest surprise and delight,
For his name's on that sock in gold letters
And it's stuffed as a stocking should be.
"You Mean," sniffs Saint Nick with real tears in his eyes,
"You all filled this big stocking for ME?"
"Of course, it's for you, you old rascal!"
The Scarecrow cries, "And Christmas is here!
"The clock just struck one - and with all your work done
"You can rest for the rest of the year."
"Ho, not till I've filled all your stockings,"
Roars Santa, "I say now, stand back
"There's so much more to do, I've some presents for you,
"Oh, there's lots more stuff left in my sack!"
But before he does that, twenty footmen
Hand plum cake and Ozade around.
then the cheers, the gay singing and carols
Make the walls of the palace resound.
Yes, Christmas in Oz is most merry -
And after his work is all done
How grand to think Santa will be there
To have his full share of the fun!
With grateful appreciation to “RPT” for making a MOST Ozzy Message of this holiday blog! And with all good “wish-oz,” as ever, to one and all…for health, peace, and joy, as we keep in mind the message of Princess Ozma herself:
“The Land of Oz is love.”
Article by John Fricke