Soldier with the Green Whiskers
|Captain-General Omby Amby, the Soldier with the Green Whiskers|
The Soldier with the Green Whiskers
art by W.W. Denslow
|First appearance||The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)|
|Created by||L. Frank Baum|
|Occupation||Body Guard to Princess Ozma and Police Force of the Emerald City|
|Family||a Munchkin family named Battles (questionable)|
|Spouse(s)||unnamed wife with terrible temper
Tollydiggle (possibly a mistake)
The Soldier with the Green Whiskers is a major character in the Oz books of L. Frank Baum and his successors. His name is Omby Amby, but this was so obliquely stated that he also became known briefly as Wantowin Battles.
He is introduced in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, to escort the four protagonists to the Emerald City palace, where he appears to be one of its tallest citizens, and is often described as "very tall" at any rate, and his long green beard flows nearly to the ground. He also is the one who tells King Scarecrow that Glinda is the most likely person to know how to get Dorothy Gale home.
His appearance is largely for show. When attacked by General Jinjur's Army of Revolt, he admits that his gun, which was usually drawn containing flowers, is not kept loaded for fear of accidents. He tells her to "wait right here" while he looks for the powder and shot that he has misplaced.
After his ineffectual attempts to save the Emerald City from invasion, which the Scarecrow chastizes, he vows to disguise himself by shaving his beard.
In Ozma of Oz, we are introduced to the Royal Army of Oz, consisting of twenty-six officers and one private. This private, Omby Amby, proves to be the only brave soldier in the Army, so Princess Ozma promotes him to Captain-General and makes him her personal Body Guard. He has a fierce moustache (not noted in the text until The Emerald City of Oz, but shown in the illustrations from the beginning), but is capable if gentle-natured, unlike the pompous officers, who come up with excuses not to fight and act very cowardly when facing the Giant with the Hammer. Omby Amby gets inadvertently flung onto the arm of the Giant and must jump down onto the soft body of the Scarecrow, and the officers more outwardly show their fear than the private. An officer mentions that they have a few other privates, but Omby Amby is the only one we ever see. He is cleaning the barracks when Ozma calls him into the banquet for his promotion.
As Omby Amby, he appears briefly in The Road to Oz and is tour guide to Aunt Em and Uncle Henry in The Emerald City of Oz. It is he who informs them of the "Defensive Settlements of Oz" such as Rigmarole Town and Flutterbudget Center, where people are exiled for talking too much or worrying too much, respectively.
In later books
When next we see him, in The Patchwork Girl of Oz, he is again referred to as the Soldier with the Green Whiskers; he is the only soldier in the Army, his beard is back to its normal length, and is now said to make him look taller than he really is. He is also referred to as the Emerald City Police Force. This may explain why Jack Snow described Oz's jailer, Tollydiggle, as his wife — in The Magical Mimics in Oz, Betsy Bobbin is shown giving Omby Amby flowers and asking them to give them to his wife, Tollydiggle. No indication of any such relationship is found in Baum's books. Indeed, Baum does state that the Soldier has a wife, but she is one with a "terrible temper" — at least according to Jinjur — something not in evidence in Tollydiggle. Two lines may indicate where this interpretation comes from — he addresses Tollydiggle as "my dear" (fairly commonly used with friends in Oz books, especially from the Wizard), and that he says, "I know that very well," when Tollydiggle says, "it is impossible for anyone to escape from this house."
While he continued to appear in most Oz books, his next major appearance was not until The Wishing Horse of Oz, in which his beard turning red was the first indication of the magic of Skamperoo in his bid to conquer the Emerald City. It is initially suspected to be the red magic of Jinnicky, but Gloma, the Witch of the Black Forest (implicitly the Good Witch of the West), assures Dorothy that it is green magic at work. With Ozma and many of her advisers, he is imprisoned at the bottom of Lake Lightning.
In Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz, author Ruth Plumly Thompson constructed an elaborate family history around him under the name Wantowin Battles. In this book, Thompson portrays Wantowin as a pompous coward with bad aim who loves to eat pickles. Jack Snow gave Wantowin, without a surname, his own entry in Who's Who in Oz as a result. John R. Neill's editor picked up on the name and used it once in the rewritten portion of The Wonder City of Oz.
Snow also described him as Keeper of the Gates and Royal Army of Oz, and omitted an entry from Who's Who in Oz of the Guardian of the Gates, who is clearly not the same person, as they speak to each other in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Marvelous Land of Oz, and The Patchwork Girl of Oz. In The Scalawagons of Oz, Omby Amby offers to take the Guardian's place so that he can take a Scalawagon to see his cousin, Oompa.
James Haff did a major analysis of the character in The Baum Bugle. He notes that he does not seem to have any real friends, although Haff does not note that he is shown playing checkers with Pastoria in The Yellow Knight of Oz, and in Neill's books he appears to be good friends with the Guardian of the Gates, and is even shown waltzing with him in The Scalawagons of Oz after getting up from a game of marbles when the music begins to play and having no one else around. Ironically, although Neill both wrote and illustrated, the Soldier is shown in illustration dancing with a woman in spite of the text.
The Soldier with the Green Whiskers appears in many adaptations, though he often lacks that description for a lack of green whiskers.
The following films have featured a version of the character:
- The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1914) - Frank Bristol as The Soldier with the Green Whiskers
- The Land of Oz, a Sequel to the 'Wizard of Oz' (1932) - Caryl Roberts as The Soldier with the Green Whiskers (also Glenna Vaughn as Jellia Jamb disguised as the Soldier)
- The Wizard of Oz (1939) - Frank Morgan as "The Doorman" (who leads Dorothy and her three companions to the Wizard's hall)
- Journey Back to Oz (1974) - Dallas McKennon as Omby Amby
- The Marvelous Land of Oz (1981) - Oliver Osterberg as Soldier of Oz
- Mago de Oz Cuento de Frank Baum (1985) - Jorge Rosette as the Guard
- The Muppets' Wizard of Oz (2005) - Sam the Eagle as "the Gate Guard"
The Guard also made a brief appearance in the musical Wicked. He first appeared in the Emerald City to inform Glinda and Elphaba that the Wizard has granted them audience, and is later seen at Glinda and Fiyero's engagement party.
- Jack Snow, Who's Who in Oz, Chicago, Reilly & Lee, 1954; New York, Peter Bedrick Books, 1988; p. 148.
- Who's Who in Oz, p. 235.
- Who's Who in Oz, p. 85.
- James E. Haff, "The Man Nobody Knows," The Baum Bugle, #63 (Winter 1978).