Monday, March 12, 2007

Beware the Wheelers!

It was totally fun to read the next book in the Oz series, Ozma of Oz (1907), because this one, in combination with the second book, make up most of the plot of one of my favorite childhood movies, the wonderfully creepy Return to Oz (1985).

In Ozma of Oz our old friend Dorothy gets swept off a boat on her way to Australia with Uncle Henry, who is going there to recoup from an illness. During a horrible storm at sea, Dorothy hides in a chicken coop on the deck and she and the resident chicken (Billina) find themselves floating out on the ocean. Luckily for Dorothy, the chicken can talk. Eventually Dorothy and Billina end up on dry land in the Land of Ev -- a kingdom just across the deadly desert from Oz.

The two first find a great little wind-up mechanical man named Tik-Tok. After they find his key and wind him up, he explains a bit about his former master, The King of Ev:

"Don't mention it," answered Dorothy. And then, being very curious, she asked: "How did you come to be locked up in this place?"

"It is a long sto-ry," replied the copper man; "but I will tell it to you brief-ly. I was pur-chased from Smith & Tin-ker, my man-u-fac-tur-ers, by a cru-el King of Ev, named Ev-ol-do, who used to beat all his serv-ants un-til they died. How-ev-er, he was not a-ble to kill me, be-cause I was not a-live, and one must first live in or-der to die. So that all his beat-ing did me no harm, and mere-ly kept my cop-per bod-y well pol-ished.

This crazy king got so mad at his wife and ten children one day that he sold them to the Nome King, who promptly turned them all into enchanted knick-knacks for his castle. The King of Ev was so sad that he had sold his family that he drowned himself in the ocean, leaving Ev without a ruler.

A bunch of other great stuff happens, including a reunion with Ozma, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion; a local princess who keeps dozens of beautiful heads in her dressing room and changes her head with her mood; an army with tons of officers and only one private; and a climactic guessing game that helps to save the day.

The best part of all, though, are the scary scary Wheelers that terrorize Dorothy and Billina at the beginning of the book. I think these guys are way scarier than the flying monkeys:

It had the form of a man, except that it walked, or rather rolled, upon all fours, and its legs were the same length as its arms, giving them the appearance of the four legs of a beast. Yet it was no beast that Dorothy had discovered, for the person was clothed most gorgeously in embroidered garments of many colors, and wore a straw hat perched jauntily upon the side of its head. But it differed from human beings in this respect, that instead of hands and feet there grew at the end of its arms and legs round wheels, and by means of these wheels it rolled very swiftly over the level ground. Afterward Dorothy found that these odd wheels were of the same hard substance that our finger-nails and toe-nails are composed of, and she also learned that creatures of this strange race were born in this queer fashion. But when our little girl first caught sight of the first individual of a race that was destined to cause her a lot of trouble, she had an idea that the brilliantly-clothed personage was on roller-skates, which were attached to his hands as well as to his feet.

Now go read the whole thing here, because you know you want to.

And get prepared to be totally freaked out by The Wheelers:


Jane said...

I'm loving your Oz book series because I am a HUGE fan of the books and I still have all my childhood copies of them.

The Scissor Sisters have a song on their first album called "Return to Oz" that's based loosely on this book (or more likely, the movie, now that I think about it).

Mary P. from said...

I love this movie! And the wheelers also scared the crap out of me. That and all the heads in cases.