The Marvelous Land of Oz (Oz, #2) - L. Frank Baum Read via Gutenberg.Oddly I know of this Baum book's plot thanks to a comic book. (Since this is back in the 70s it was definitely a comic book and not a graphic novel.) I was spending a typical summer vacation with my grandparents, and as usual had the typical need to root around in the various areas of her house that held interesting nicknacks. Tiny china collectables, buttons, costumes, books, etc. etc. There was a typewriter case which you'd think would contain a typewriter, but instead contained a stash of my uncle's old comic books. These weren't superhero comics (which I would have equally loved reading) - these were the cartoon versions of classic novels: Classics Illustrated. Offhand the only title I remember was Moby Dick - reading that version was helpful in future plot related discussions of Moby Dick in high school (where we read other Conrad, not Moby Dick, for which I was thankful). Anyway among all those comics was one of this Baum book: the Marvel Treasury of Oz Featuring the Marvelous Land of Oz, 1975 (here's the cover). Since it was newer comic I think I probably got someone to buy it for me at the time (comics were rare treats for me) - the other comics were from the 1940s. But that part I can't remember, so it was just one in the pile of comic books.Anyway it was the plot of this comic that kind of flummoxed me at the time, because of the twist. And that's where I get this need to read this particular one of the Oz books and try to figure out what's going on. There will be spoilers which I'll cover up, but I'm talking about one in particular that made my head spin because it's not your average plot twist, or not in any of the books I had around me as a kid of the 1970s. Peek into the spoilers and then decide if you want to read more of them. I should warn you that the short version of this may make the plot sound really edgy, when it's not really, or at least not as written by Baum. But it is a plot that comes from an old fairy tale or two, and one that I always makes me think "wait, what?" and feel confused when there are indeed happy endings without many questions. Because this is a plot twist that should lead to more questions.[More spoilers past this point, big twists hidden, but plot that's part of the known lore is shown. So if you want spoiler-free, here is where you should stop.]This twist is pretty far into the book, but I'll just hop to that point and catch you up (and assume you know some of the characters). It turns out that there was a ruler of Oz prior to the Wizard - a king, who died. And the Wizard somehow made off with that king's infant daughter - not by murder but somehow magically hid the child - and then was ruler in the girl's place. (Not that she could have ruled as an infant, but still. Not that this is a huge shock, since we knew the Wizard was a shifty guy.) The child is the true ruler of Oz, not the Scarecrow, who'd taken the throne after the Wizard left. (The people of Oz were totally ok with the Scarecrow's rulership by the way, so he had popular support.) Glinda (the Good) points out that this hidden child should be the true ruler, and Scarecrow and company agree. At this point in the book there are only two children we've met, and only one child that's been given enough screen time - er, book time - to make it the suspect. Except that the main child character, Tip, is a boy. So it couldn't be Tip... And then the twist comes. It is Tip. He was once a baby girl and was magically turned into a boy in order to hide his/her origins. Like I said this kind of switch has happened in a fairy tale or two, but in those you usually don't get much in the way of conversations or reactions when this sort of reveal happens. Magic usually does its thing and then everyone lives happily ever after with the consequences without discussion. In this book there's similarly not that much discussion, but there is some - and the point is that everything is way too quickly resolved and made happy. To my mind when I first read the comic was "wow, that went down way too easily with no one unhappy or curious or much confused." What gets me is that Baum could have gone with the "let's keep her a girl and just dress her and raise her as a boy" plot, which has been done over and over. But nope, he went full sex change, and then has another transformation sex change. To me that's a much bigger deal than just putting on a pair of pants and then later changing into a dress. But then, this is still a fairy tale of sorts, so everything goes down well to the happy ending and not many questions. Here are some quotes of this twist for those of you interested but not wanting to read the book immediately - I'm hiding them as being spoilers too.The reveal of the plot twist:"I transformed her into—into—""Into what?" demanded Glinda, as the Witch hesitated."Into a boy!" said Mombi, in a low tone."A boy!" echoed every voice; and then, because they knew that this old woman had reared Tip from childhood, all eyes were turned to where the boy stood."Yes," said the old Witch, nodding her head; "that is the Princess Ozma—the child brought to me by the Wizard who stole her father's throne. That is the rightful ruler of the Emerald City!" and she pointed her long bony finger straight at the boy."I!" cried Tip, in amazement. "Why, I'm no Princess Ozma—I'm not a girl!"Glinda smiled, and going to Tip she took his small brown hand within her dainty white one."You are not a girl just now" said she, gently, "because Mombi transformed you into a boy. But you were born a girl, and also a Princess; so you must resume your proper form, that you may become Queen of the Emerald City.""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!""Never mind, old chap," said the Tin Woodman, soothingly; "it don't hurt to be a girl, I'm told; and we will all remain your faithful friends just the same. And, to be honest with you, I've always considered girls nicer than boys.""They're just as nice, anyway," added the Scarecrow, patting Tip affectionately upon the head."And they are equally good students," proclaimed the Woggle-Bug. "I should like to become your tutor, when you are transformed into a girl again.""But—see here!" said Jack Pumpkinhead, with a gasp: "if you become a girl, you can't be my dear father any more!""No," answered Tip, laughing in spite of his anxiety. "and I shall not be sorry to escape the relationship." Then he added, hesitatingly, as he turned to Glinda: "I might try it for awhile,-just to see how it seems, you know. But if I don't like being a girl you must promise to change me into a boy again.""Really," said the Sorceress, "that is beyond my magic. I never deal in transformations, for they are not honest, and no respectable sorceress likes to make things appear to be what they are not. Only unscrupulous witches use the art, and therefore I must ask Mombi to effect your release from her charm, and restore you to your proper form. It will be the last opportunity she will have to practice magic." I'd like to note at this point the positive qualities there are in that about girls (especially when you remember this is 1904). But more on that in a bit.Post magical act after the big reveal (4 paragraphs after previous quote):Glinda walked to the canopy and parted the silken hangings. Then she bent over the cushions, reached out her hand, and from the couch arose the form of a young girl, fresh and beautiful as a May morning. Her eyes sparkled as two diamonds, and her lips were tinted like a tourmaline. All adown her back floated tresses of ruddy gold, with a slender jeweled circlet confining them at the brow. Her robes of silken gauze floated around her like a cloud, and dainty satin slippers shod her feet.At this exquisite vision Tip's old comrades stared in wonder for the space of a full minute, and then every head bent low in honest admiration of the lovely Princess Ozma. The girl herself cast one look into Glinda's bright face, which glowed with pleasure and satisfaction, and then turned upon the others. Speaking the words with sweet diffidence, she said:"I hope none of you will care less for me than you did before. I'm just the same Tip, you know; only—only—""Only you're different!" said the Pumpkinhead; and everyone thought it was the wisest speech he had ever made.And that's all anyone has to say about that, and characters go on as usual into the next plot point of getting the city back to normal. And I would like to note that we read a LOT more here about clothing and hair than that character previously ever had described, so yeah, things are different.Now how to read this? Frankly I like to see the good in it, though you could call me simplistic. A huge change has taken place, but the friends still care about each other just the same, and value each other just the same. And agree that in the important ways, no matter the change, this friend is still the same to them, no matter what seems different on the surface. If you want to read this as a story about transgender, that's a happy aspect to see it in. Of course I'm sure Baum was NOT thinking of transgender here. I'm pretty sure that at most he saw it as a way to show that boys and girls were equally worthy of adventure and friendship. Though it does seem odd to be that when Tip assumes he can't have adventures as a girl no one brings up Dorothy, especially since the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodsman are standing there. (They did have more than one mention of Dorothy in earlier conversations, so maybe it would have seemed too repetitive?) ...At worst you could say this twist was a way to put a male child in for part of the book so little boys wouldn't huff over having a second Oz book with a girl lead - and also have a hidden princess story.I can't really go looking for realism here - this is Oz after all. Speaking of the rest of the plot...The rest of the plot is very similar to that in most Baum books - we meet the characters, we see how they meet up with each other, we learn the little quirks and oddities of each, and then the journey starts and the quests appear.Here the Big Problem is General Jinjur - a girl who didn't like staying home and helping her mother do chores, so she gathers an army of girls and they arm themselves with knitting needles and march to the Emerald City to conquer it. I should mention that in both the book illustrations and the comic these girls aren't children - they look like young women in their late teens/early 20s. And this whole Problem is a kind of interesting metaphor for women wanting to more than just keep house - in other words, this could be seen as a women's suffrage scenario, only in this story the women, once freed of their housework, don't do anything much with their freedom in the brief glimpse we have of the average Emerald City women. Of course because this is 1) Baum (who's writing for kids and usually goes for simple, nice stories), and 2) published in 1904, there are oodles of stereotypes in it. Such as Jinjur wanting to sit around and eat chocolates and read novels and not help her mom with the housework - as opposed to, for example - character who wanted to got to college, become a politician, diplomat, etc. But! Women in this world can't complain about not getting to have adventures - because Dorothy exists, right? However, against this heroine we have the average everyday beings in the towns of Oz, who have the same family setup as 1904 American families: men doing the work outside the home, women staying home and working there. So this women's revolt is all about the boat being rocked for a bit, and not much more - when it's over, it's over and all is back to normal/the way things were.At this point it helps to know that Baum's mother in law, Matilda Joslyn Gage, was an active feminist/suffragette, and thus Baum's wife was raised around this concept. That bit of backstory makes you take even more notice of the very active roles there are for women in Oz books.Who Was Matilda Joslyn Gage?via The Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation websiteCarey Graeber: Rediscovering Dorothy for All of UsElizabeth Willse, Women's Voices for Change, September 22, 2009"L. Frank Baum became friends with Matilda Joslyn Gage when he married her daughter, Maud. Baum was the secretary for the South Dakota suffrage organization; he and Gage had a mutually respectful, intellectually stimulating friendship, rare between a man and a woman for that time."In this particular book not only is there a rebellion by women, but it's a female ruler, Glinda the Good, and her army that come to the aid of the adventurers, and fight by wit, by Glinda's magic, and by the force of Glinda's soldiers. It's also made clear that there are both men and women who are armed soldiers in Glinda's army. It's Glinda who steps in and actively moves the plot into "who is the true heir to the throne" territory, and then the true ruler of Oz turns out to be female, and the next Queen.It's that sort of thing that has me rereading Baum, despite how eyerollingly silly things get at time, and how hideously punny the humor can be. If you read other children's books from the period Baum's stand out for imagination and for gender roles. And for the damn weird details.So there is weird, weird stuff in Baum. Seriously. The illustrated works are the best because a lot of it feels like you've accidentally bumped into someone's really strange acid trip, only the odd creatures are still within this children's book world, so everything is very tame and friendly. So there you are in a scene where an animated wooden skeleton (with clothes over it) with a pumpkin head is chatting with a living scarecrow and a living tin man, and a human-sized insect (a Wogglebug, who later gets his own book) is joining in the conversation. Both the pumpkinhead man and the giant insect are extravagantly dressed, of course. And even with these weird creatures the book has its dull moments when you forget exactly how completely freaky (and potentially nightmareish) these sort of characters can be, if the whole thing were illustrated as horror. I think the reason Baum fascinates me is that he can make such things seem mundane (and sometimes dull), and it's only when you sit back and really think about a living reality of those sorts of beings that the stories are more vivid. In other words, a lot of how much others will like this sort of thing will have to do with how much you can enjoy the setup and then make it through some of the duller bits of plot. I've never heard anyone tell me that "I just couldn't put it down" of a Baum book. But then I've also not had anyone ask what the hell this man was smoking/drinking either, and honestly, it's something I can't help but wonder.Other quotes from the book:51% in:"But - pardon me if I seem inquisitive - are you not all rather - ahem! rather unusual?" asked the Woggle-Bug, looking from one to another with unconcealed interest."Not more so than yourself," answered the Scarecrow. Everything in life is inusual until you get accustomed to it.""What a rare philosophy!" exclaimed the Woggle-Bug, admiringly."Yes; my brains are working well today," admitted the Scarecrow, an accent of pride in his voice.57% in:"Why, we've had a revolution your Majesty as you ought to know to well," replied the man; "and since you went away the women have been running things to suit themselves. I'm glad you have decided to come back and restore order, for doing housework and minding the children is wearing out the strength of every man in the Emerald City.""Hm!" said the Scarecrow, thoughtfully. "If it is such hard work as you say, how did the women manage it so easily?""I really do not know" replied the man, with a deep sigh. "Perhaps the women are made of castiron."