Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Tik-Tok of Oz

And now, dear readers, it is time to review the ninth book in the Oz series: Tik-Tok of Oz (1914). In this book, Queen Ann Soforth, the ruler of Oogaboo, a very small and out of the way corner of Oz, decides to conquer the entire country so that she can rule over more people. First she gathers together an army of 17 of the 18 men in her kingdom (one refuses to go). All the men are officers except for the courageous and ambitious Jo Files, who volunteers to be the private. In civilian-life, Files is a farmer who grows a particularly intriguing crop:

Jo Files had twelve trees which bore steel files of various sorts; but also he had nine book-trees, on which grew a choice selection of story-books. In case you have never seen books growing upon trees, I will explain that those in Jo Files' orchard were enclosed in broad green husks which, when fully ripe, turned to a deep red color. Then the books were picked and husked and were ready to read. If they were picked too soon, the stories were found to be confused and uninteresting and the spelling bad. However, if allowed to ripen perfectly, the stories were fine reading and the spelling and grammar excellent.

Files freely gave his books to all who wanted them, but the people of Oogaboo cared little for books and so he had to read most of them himself, before they spoiled. For, as you probably know, as soon as the books were read the words disappeared and the leaves withered and faded--which is the worst fault of all books which grow upon trees.

The army heads out to conquer Oz, but quickly gets lost due to Glinda's benevolent interference. It doesn't take much time, though, before they run into the second group of voyagers in this story, led by Betsy Bobbins. Betsy is clearly our Dorothy stand-in: she is from Oklahoma, she got in a ship wreck and washed up near Oz, and along with her came her mule, Hank. Hank and Betsy soon run into the Shaggy Man, who is looking to rescue his brother from the Nome King (his brother was a miner in Colorado, who was captured by the King). To round things off, the group plucks a Rose Princess from a royalty tree tended by a bunch of rose-people. The rose-people, however, refuse to be ruled by a woman and so the Rose Princess comes with the gang to find The Shaggy Man's brother. Next they run into Tik-Tok, who was thrown into the bottom of a well by the Nome King, and after they wind him up and dust him off, he is ready to help. Plus Polychrome shows up too (remember her? The rainbow's daughter?).

The two groups meet up and decide to work together to defeat the Nome King and rescue the brother. Things are going rather well until the Nome King magically leads their path right into The Hollow Tube that slides them through the center of the Earth and out the other side into the kingdom of (get this): Tititi-Hoochoo. That's right: Tititi-Hoochoo. T-H is the ruler of a kingdom of fairies -- everyone in the kingdom is royalty except him, and since he is The Private Citizen, he gets to be in charge. T-H has already warned the Nome King that if he sends anything else through The Hollow Tube, he will regret it. With the help of a dragon named Quox, the Nome King gets his comeuppance, the brother is saved, and with the by now familiar deus ex machina of Dorothy, Ozma and their magic mirror, everyone comes to the Emerald City to have a final chapter of reunion.

Best of all, at the end of the book we find out why Toto never talks, even though all the other animals that come into Oz start talking right away:

"Do all the animals in Oz talk as we do?

"Almost all," answered Dorothy.... "but I've a little fuzzy black dog, named Toto, who has been with me in Oz a long time, and he's never said a single word but 'Bow-wow!'"

"Do you know why?" asked Ozma.

"Why, he's a Kansas dog; so I s'pose he's different from these fairy animals," replied Dorothy.

"...The same spell has affected Toto, I assure you; but he's a wise little dog and while he knows everything that is said to him he prefers not to talk."

"Goodness me!" exclaimed Dorothy. "I never s'pected Toto was fooling me all this time." Then she drew a small silver whistle from her pocket and blew a shrill note upon it. A moment later there was a sound of scurrying foot-steps, and a shaggy black dog came running up the path

Dorothy knelt down before him and shaking her finger just above his nose she said:

"Toto, haven't I always been good to you?"

Toto looked up at her with his bright black eyes and wagged his tail.

"Bow-wow!" he said, and Betsy knew at once that meant yes, as well as Dorothy and Ozma knew it, for there was no mistaking the tone of Toto's voice.

"That's a dog answer," said Dorothy. "How would you like it, Toto, if I said nothing to you but 'bow-wow'?"

Toto's tail was wagging furiously now, but otherwise he was silent.

"Really, Dorothy," said Betsy, "he can talk with his bark and his tail just as well as we can. Don't you understand such dog language?"

"Of course I do," replied Dorothy. "But Toto's got to be more sociable. See here, sir!" she continued, addressing the dog, "I've just learned, for the first time, that you can say words--if you want to. Don't you want to, Toto?"

"Woof!" said Toto, and that meant no.

"Not just one word, Toto, to prove you're as any other animal in Oz?"


"Just one word, Toto--and then you may run away."

He looked at her steadily a moment.

"All right. Here I go!" he said, and darted away as swift as an arrow.

And, as always, you can read the whole thing here.

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