|Roquat the Red or Ruggedo of the Rocks, deposed Nome King|
|First appearance||Ozma of Oz (1907)|
|Last appearance||Handy Mandy in Oz (1937) (canonical)|
|Created by||L. Frank Baum|
|Nickname(s)||The Metal Monarch|
|Nationality||Nome Kingdom, Land of Ev|
The Nome King is a fictional character created by American author L. Frank Baum. He is introduced in Baum's third Oz book Ozma of Oz (1907). He also appears in many of the continuing sequel Oz novels also written by Baum. Although the character of the Wicked Witch of the West is the most notable and famous Oz villain, (due to the iconic MGM musical movie of 1939, The Wizard of Oz) it is actually the Nome King who is the principal antagonist throughout the entire book series.
In the novels
The character called the Nome King is originally named Roquat the Red. Later he takes the name Ruggedo, which Baum first used in a stage adaptation. Even after Ruggedo loses his throne, he continues to think of himself as king, and the Oz book authors politely refer to him that way. Authors Ruth Plumly Thompson and John R. Neill used the traditional spelling "gnome" so Ruggedo is the title character in Thompson's The Gnome King of Oz.
In Baum's universe, the Nomes are immortal rock fairies who dwell underground. They hide jewels and precious metals in the earth, and resent the "upstairs people" who dig down for those valuables. Apparently as revenge, the Nome King enjoys keeping surface-dwellers as slaves—not for their labor but simply to have them.
Nomes' greatest fear is eggs. Upon seeing Billina, Roquat is terrified, declaring that "Eggs are poison to Nomes!" He claims that any Nome who contacts an egg will be weakened to the point that they can be easily destroyed. Baum, however, strongly hints that the fear of eggs is unjustified, as the Scarecrow repeatedly pelts him with eggs at the end of the novel, causing him no apparent harm beyond stress enough to allow Dorothy Gale to remove his Magic Belt. Sally Roesch Wagner, in her pamphlet The Wonderful Mother of Oz suggests that Matilda Joslyn Gage had made Baum aware that the egg is an important symbol of matriarchy, and that it is this that the Nomes, among whom no females are seen in any canonical text, actually fear.
In their first encounter with Roquat, in Ozma of Oz, Princess Ozma, Dorothy Gale, and a party from the Emerald City free the royal family of Ev from his enslavement and, for good measure, take away his magic belt. Roquat becomes so angry that he plots revenge in The Emerald City of Oz. He has his subjects dig a tunnel under the Deadly Desert while his general recruits a host of evil spirits to conquer Oz. Fortunately, at the moment of invasion Roquat tastes the Water of Oblivion and forgets everything, including his enmity and his name.
Tik-Tok of Oz reintroduces the Nome King with his new name, all the Nomes, Whimsies, Growleywogs, and Phanfasms having forgotten the old one, and old resentments. Using some personal magic, he has enslaved the Shaggy Man's brother, a miner from Colorado. Shaggy, with the help of Betsy Bobbin, the Oogaboo army, some of Dorothy's old friends, and Quox the dragon, conquer the Nome King again and Tititi-Hoochoo, the Great Jinjin expels him from his kingdom, placing Chief Steward Kaliko on the throne. (In Rinkitink in Oz, which is a revision of a lost 1905 novel titled King Rinkitink, which, had it been published, would have been the original character's debut, Kaliko behaves much like his former master.)
In The Magic of Oz, the exile Ruggedo meets the young enchanter Kiki Aru and plans to destroy Oz again. He gets into the country without Ozma's knowledge, creating havoc. However, he again drinks of the Water of Oblivion, and to stop him ever going bad again Ozma settles him in the Emerald City.
Soon after taking over the Oz series, Ruth Plumly Thompson brought back Ruggedo, his memory and rancor restored and living imprisoned under the city. Finding a box of mixed magic, in Kabumpo in Oz he grows into a giant and runs away with Ozma's royal palace on his head. He is placed on a Runaway Land which runs out to the Nonestic Ocean and strands him on an island.
In The Gnome King of Oz, he is helped off the island by Peter Brown, an athletic boy from Philadelphia, making his first trip to Oz. As in Ozma of Oz, Ruggedo is quite friendly when he thinks he is going to get his way. After threatening the Emerald City utilizing a Cloak of Invisibility, he is hit with a Silence Stone and immediately struck dumb.
In Pirates in Oz, the dumb Ruggedo finds a town in the Land of Ev called Menankypoo, whose people speak with words across their foreheads, and seek a dumb king. Peter, Pigasus and Captain Samuel Salt aid in his defeat and he is transformed into a jug.
In Handy Mandy in Oz, the Wizard of Wutz, the handsome but cruel King of the Silver Mountain, restored his proper form, but at the end of that book, Himself the Elf transforms both of them into cactuses, so that they can never make trouble again.
Ruggedo made no further appearances in the original Oz series, but his further adventures have been written in several later books (some of which harmonize with one another; others which are contradictory).
The Nome King and the Gnome King
Much fan discussion has revolved around the identity of The Gnome King in Baum's The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, a jolly rock dweller who does not believe in giving, but only in even exchange. His gnomes make sleighbells for each of Claus's ten reindeer that he gives in exchange for toys for his children. An editor's note to Judy Pike's article "The Decline and Fall of the Nome King" conjectures that the Gnome King is the Nome King's father.
In other media
The Nome King was first played by Paul de Dupont in The Fairylogue and Radio-Plays (1908). John Dunsmure played Ruggedo, the Metal Monarch in the stage play The Tik-Tok Man of Oz (1913), by Baum, Louis F. Gottschalk, and Victor Schertzinger, produced in Los Angeles by Oliver Morosco. In the play, he sings a duet with Polychrome titled "When in Trouble Come to Papa". As in the novel, the lack of females among Nomes causes Ruggedo to be willing to take her as wife, sister, or daughter so long as she remains to brighten his kingdom, and the song has him trying out the father option.
Over the summer of 2007, South Coast Repertory performed a play called Time Again in Oz, featuring many familiar Oz characters, such as Roquat the Nome King, Tik Tok, Uncle Henry, and, of course, Dorothy. Instead of being portrayed as an old man that looks like a mineral, Roquat is identified as being tall, rock-like with a boulder-like mass for his torso, and wears a large crown upon his rocky head. He controls the Nomes at will, headed by his lead Nome, Feldspar, who is very similar to Chistery, the flying monkey character from the Broadway adaptation, Wicked.
The Nome King was portrayed on film by Nicol Williamson in 1985's Return to Oz which was based loosely on the books Ozma of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz. In that film, his rock-like nature was taken to the extreme via Will Vinton's Claymation. His personality and characterization largely stays true to how he is portrayed in the original novels, being seemingly fair and courteous to Dorothy and her companions under the belief that they will fail a game he sets up for them (in which they touch an ornament from his collection and say "Oz" simultaneously, having three chances each to do so) in order to give them a chance to locate the Scarecrow, whom the Nome King transformed into an ornament shortly after their entering of his domain. Of the group, all but Dorothy fail and are subsequently transformed also. As this occurs the Nome King progressively becomes more organic looking in appearance, and would have most likely became fully human should Dorothy failed on her last guess (why the Nome King so desires this is never elaborated upon). It is only when she successfully locates the Scarecrow and her friends, subsequently reverting the Nome King to his original form, does he reveal a more sadistic and threatening side to his character (hinted at throughout the film in his earlier exchanges with Princess Mombi and also his messenger). Hungry for revenge, he grows to an enormous size and tries to eat the protagonists in a scene inspired by Georges Méliès's Conquest of the Pole (1912). He is eventually destroyed by ingesting a chicken egg, since eggs are poisonous to Nomes.
Roquat, having regained his original name, is the villain of The Oz-Wonderland War, published by DC Comics and starring Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew. Much of the story retreads material from Ozma of Oz, as he has also regained the Magic Belt, and it must be seized again. He uses Nomes that parody the Fantastic Four and the Incredible Hulk that get pelted by Easter Eggs, again to no apparent harm, as in the book.
Michael G. Ploog, who was a conceptual artist of Return to Oz, wrote and illustrated a graphic novel based on The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus in which the Gnome King looked like the Nome King's likeness in the film, but whose function was greatly expanded from the novel to be the ruler of all the Immortals.
In Bill Willingham's Vertigo comic book series Fables, the Nome King has sided with the Adversary and is now the ruler of Oz. He is later deposed in an uprising led by former Fabletown resident Bufkin, one of the winged monkeys native to Oz.
In the comic book The Oz/Wonderland Chronicles #1 (2006), Ruggedo is coerced by a new Witch to bring the Jabberwocky creature to life.
In the novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, the Nome King is alluded to once, along with other underground threats believed by the citizens of Wicked's Oz to be mere legend. It is not officially stated whether the Nome King, or other figures undeniably real in Baum's Oz such as Lurline, actually exist in Maguire's Oz.
In Blade: Trinity, Zoe is read the Oz books by her mother, and she later compares Drake to the Nome King in that he is bad simply because he has never tried to be good.
In Emerald City Confidential, the Nome King is now a bartender and is mostly reformed (although he is not above using illegal magic to gain back his fortune).
The Nome King appears in Dorothy and the Witches of Oz played by professional wrestler Al Snow. He is among the villains that accompanies the Wicked Witch of the West in her attack on Earth. During the climax of the film, the Nome King fights the Tin Man and is defeated by him.
- Jack Snow, Who's Who in Oz, Chicago, Reilly & Lee, 1954; New York, Peter Bedrick Books, 1988; . 145.
- The unpublished Bucketheads in Oz, which features author surrogates for each of its authors, features co-author Melody Grandy as a female Nome
- The Baum Bugle, Christmas 1969
- The Tik-Tok Man of Oz
- Willingham, Bill (w), Buckingham, Mark (p). Fables 52: 17/4 (October, 2006), Vertigo Comics
- Fables #149