The Scarecrow of Oz

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The Scarecrow of Oz
Cover of The Scarecrow of Oz.
First edition cover
Author L. Frank Baum
Illustrator John R. Neill
Cover artist John R. Neill
Country United States
Language English
Series The Oz books
Genre Children's novel
Publisher Reilly & Britton
Publication date
1915
Media type Print (hardcover)
ISBN NA
Preceded by Tik-Tok of Oz
Sky Island
Followed by Rinkitink in Oz

The Scarecrow of Oz is the ninth book set in the Land of Oz written by L. Frank Baum. Published on July 16, 1915, it was Baum's personal favorite of the Oz books and tells of Cap'n Bill and Trot journeying to Oz and, with the help of the Scarecrow, overthrowing the cruel King Krewl of Jinxland. Cap'n Bill and Trot (Mayre Griffiths) had previously appeared in two other novels by Baum, The Sea Fairies and Sky Island.

Plot summary[edit]

Cap'n Bill, a sailor with a wooden peg-leg, and his friend, a little girl named Trot, set out from California on a calm day for a short ride in their row-boat. The calm day suddenly turns dark and stormy and Cap'n Bill and Trot are washed overboard and are carried by mermaids (referred to but not seen) to a cave where they meet an ostrich-like flying creature called an Ork. Flying on the Ork's back, the Ork, Cap'n Bill and Trot strain to arrive at an island where a grim man calling himself Pessim the Observer points out that the Ork should not have eaten the light lavender berries growing on the island. The light lavender berries cause a person to shrink, and the dark purple berries cause a person to grow. Once the Ork resumes normal size, Cap'n Bill and Trot leave the island to escape the Observer's negative attitude—which drove the people in his homeland to exile him here in the first place. To reduce the load on the Ork, Cap'n Bill and Trot each eat a light lavender berry so they are small enough to carry in Trot's bonnet.

Flying away from the island, Cap'n Bill, Trot, and the Ork alight in the land of Mo, one of Baum's non-Oz creations. They meet the Bumpy Man, who specializes in serving sugar and molasses and has some of their appearance too. After dining on Mo rain (lemonade) and Mo snow (popcorn), they run into Button Bright, the boy from The Road to Oz who has gotten lost again. Cap'n Bill calls down some of the native birds (who, like all birds in fairy countries, can talk back) and offers them the dark purple berries to make them grow large enough to carry himself, Trot, and Button-Bright (for the Ork can fly) to the land of Oz across the Deadly Desert to the north of them. When they make it across the desert, Button-Bright, Cap'n Bill, and Trot are set down in a field and the Ork leaves them to find his own country, which he got lost from on a routine flight.

The place Button-Bright, Cap'n Bill, and Trot have arrived in, Jinxland, has had a turbulent recent history. The rightful king of Jinxland, King Kynd, was killed by his prime minister Phearse, who was in turn killed by his prime minister Krewl. Now King Krewl rules over the land and seeks to marry King Kynd's daughter, Princess Gloria, to legitimize his claim to the throne. However, she wants nothing to do with him or another suitor, Googly-Goo; she is in love with Pon, the current gardener who is the son of the first usurper Phearse. King Krewl and Googly-Goo decide that if neither of them can have Gloria, no one can, and hire a witch named Blinkie to freeze her heart so she can love no one. Cap'n Bill happens on this plot, and to keep him from interfering, Blinkie turns him into a grasshopper.

The Scarecrow is at Glinda's palace in the Quadling Country and learns about these events from reading Glinda's Great Book of Records, a magical volume which transcribes every event in the world at the instant it happens. The Scarecrow wants to help Cap'n Bill, Button-Bright, and Trot, and Glinda sends him to Jinxland with some of her magic to aid him. The Scarecrow uses a magic thread to cross the gorge separating Jinxland from the rest of the Quadling Country, and before he meets Cap'n Bill and Trot, he encounters the Ork, who has found his homeland. The Scarecrow attempts to depose Krewl and is captured, with Googly-Goo suggesting the Scarecrow be burned, but then the Ork arrives with fifty others who attack the Jinxlanders and turn the tables on Krewl. The victorious party then arrives at Blinkie’s and makes her undo her magic on Cap'n Bill and Princess Gloria by using a magic powder to shrink her in size. When she has undone her evil spells, the Scarecrow stops Blinkie's shrinking, but she remains at a small size and loses all her magic powers.

Gloria takes the throne of Jinxland and elevates Pon to be her royal consort, and the Scarecrow, Button-Bright, Cap'n Bill, Trot, and the Orks return to the Emerald City for a celebration.

Background[edit]

The novel is dedicated to "The Uplifters" of Los Angeles. The Lofty and Exalted Order of Uplifters, a select subgroup of the elite Los Angeles Athletic Club, was a social and fraternal organization of prominent southern California businessmen and public figures. Baum had been active in the group since he first moved to Los Angeles in 1909; he served among the Excelsiors, the group's governing board, he wrote and acted in their shows, and he played the bass drum in their band.[1]

A small group of Uplifters were the key investors in The Oz Film Manufacturing Company, organized to make movies of Baum books and stories. The investors put up $100,000; Baum was named president, and received a block of stock in the company in payment for the cinema rights to his works. The company's first project was a film of The Patchwork Girl of Oz; and its second, released in October 1914, was His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz, produced at a cost of $23,500, and with a cast (according to the not-always factually reliable Baum) of 130.

Baum hoped that the movie would be a success, and provide a big publicity boost to the Scarecrow novel to follow in 1915. Things did not quite work out as the optimistic author hoped; the film did not earn enough to cover its costs. The first edition of the novel sold around 14,300 copies, only a couple hundred more than its predecessor, Tik-Tok of Oz—though in the long run The Scarecrow of Oz would be one of the more popular installments in the Oz series.[2]

Like Tik-Tok, Scarecrow contains a significant romantic element—the Rose Princess and Private Files in the former, and Gloria and Pon in the latter—that was not typical of the earlier Oz books.[3] Perhaps this was a factor in the books' limited reception.[citation needed] In adapting his children's stories for stage and film versions, Baum had to compromise between appealing to children and to adults. His films suffered with audiences because of this conflict in audience expectation. Perhaps this confusion affected the sales of the books as well, to some degree.[citation needed]

Although the journey of an American child to Oz had long been a favorite plot for Baum, this work represented its last appearance: no more children would be inducted into Oz for the duration of his work on the series.[4]

The Ork, voiced by Peter MacNicol, appeared in an episode of The Oz Kids.

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ Rogers 2002, pp. 182–3, 202
  2. ^ Rogers 2002, pp. 203–4, 210–12
  3. ^ Riley 1997, p. 196
  4. ^ Riley 1997, p. 191
Bibliography
  • Rogers, Katharine M. (2002). L. Frank Baum: Creator of Oz. New York: St. Martin's Press. 
  • Riley, Michael O. (1997). Oz and Beyond: The Fantasy World of L. Frank Baum. University Press of Kansas. ISBN 0-7006-0832-X. 

External links[edit]

The Oz books
Previous book:
Tik-Tok of Oz
The Scarecrow of Oz
1917
Next book:
Rinkitink in Oz