Ozma of Oz: 03/16/18
Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum is the third book in the Oz series and marks the second return of Dorothy Gale. It's also the first time Dorothy and Ozma meet. All of that, though, is tied up in discussions of gender, of life and death, and family. Each of these themes require further investigation through essays, the first of which is Gender in Ozma of Oz.
The Marvelous Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz are the two Oz books I've read the most times. It all began for me in 1985 with the release of Return to Oz, a live action Disney film that mashes together these two books into one visually stunning but narrationally illogical piece.
The film begins with Aunt Em and Uncle Henry not believing Dorothy's tale of her adventure in Oz. All of this comes to a head with Dorothy being sent off to an insane asylum. It is in the asylum that she gets her first glimpse of Ozma and is able to make her escape back to Oz.
The film has the Emerald City over-run by a witch who has a collection of different heads but goes by the name Mombi; essentially a mixture of the woman Tip runs away from and the princess left in charge of Ev after the Nome King tricked the royal family.
By making Dorothy's arrival key to saving Oz it removes Tip and Ozma's story arc. Tip with just the barest sense of who he's supposed to be and Ozma, having now lived as her true self for some time, is a capable, compassionate, smart — albeit still somewhat naive and somewhat impulsive person. Dorothy is not the messiah of Oz.
In all of the Oz books where Dorothy is a character, it is made abundantly clear that she loves her Aunt and Uncle, and they love her. Only in the films (1939 and 1985) is their status as a loving, trusting family put into doubt, and it's done to serve the three act nature of American photoplays.
So how does Dorothy get back to Oz in this book? She floats there in a chicken coop after being washed overboard. She and her uncle (for his health) are en route to Australia (Oz, if you will). While the book is titled, Ozma of Oz it's not her adventure exactly; it's the first meeting of Dorothy and Ozma, each having heard stories told of the other.
The road to that first meeting is not the Yellow Brick road. Instead, it's the forlorn remains of the Kingdom of Ev, it's lunch and dinner pail orchard over run with dystopian wheeled monsters called Wheelies. The only person remaining who knows what happened is a mechanical man named Tik-Tok, who was created by an engineering firm now long out of business.
Dorothy does what she does best. She fixes him. She's a farm girl. She knows how motorized machines work. She probably can drive a tractor and keep it and the other equipment running.
Dorothy also runs into the princess of Ev who wears a different head every day and wants to add Dorothy's head (in exchange for a used one) to her collection. This is the woman who blended with Mombi was the person in charge of the Emerald City (instead of General Jinjur).
It's here, though, that Ozma is first introduced to Dorothy and shown learning how to be the leader she is in later books. Ozma comes, effortless crossing the dessert using one of her many magic items. She brings a caravan of advisors and an army. She rescues Dorothy and vows to rescue the remaining members of the royal family of Ev.
In later books, this task would have been an easy one for Ozma. But here, she is new in all her forms of power. She is vulnerable. Dorothy, while a sensible, headstrong farm girl, isn't the perfect person for the job either, though she is good enough to at least save herself and one member of Ev.