Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz
Cover of Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz.
|Author||Ruth Plumly Thompson|
|Illustrator||John R. Neill|
|Series||The Oz Books|
|Publisher||Reilly & Lee|
|Media type||print (hardcover)|
|Preceded by||The Silver Princess in Oz|
|Followed by||The Wonder City of Oz|
Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz (1939) is the thirty-third in the series of Oz books created by L. Frank Baum and his successors, and the nineteenth and last written by Ruth Plumly Thompson. It was illustrated by John R. Neill.
The phrase "The Wizard of Oz" was included in the title to coincide with the MGM film The Wizard of Oz, which was released the same year the book was published. As such, the focus of the story is on characters who appeared in the first book. Thompson focuses the book most strongly on Jellia Jamb, though that character was unnamed in the first book and was absent from the film.
The story opens with a dinner party, attended by seven of the characters from Baum's inaugural book. Present are the famous foursome, Dorothy Gale, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion, along with the Wizard, Jellia, and the Soldier with the Green Whiskers. (Baum named the latter personage Omby Amby, but Thompson re-christened him Wantowin Battles.) The dinner is hosted by the Wizard, preparatory to his introduction of his newest invention. After a long session of reminiscence that fills the first chapter, the Wizard takes his guests to a glass-domed building that contains two gleaming silver aircraft, the newly created ozoplanes. The Wizard has named them the "Ozpril" and the "Oztober." The guests enthusiastically pile into the craft to inspect them.
The Soldier with the Green Whiskers ate twenty-nine pickles at dinner, and is suddenly overcome by a violent cramp. He slams into the control panel of the Oztober, depressing the up, south, fast, spin, spiral, zig, zag, slow, and circle buttons simultaneously. The Oztober zooms off into the sky, headed for parts unknown, with the Soldier, the Tin Man, and Jellia on board. The Wizard, startled and appalled, takes the Ozpril in pursuit and in search of the Oztober, accompanied by Dorothy, Lion, and Scarecrow.
Enduring a chaotic flight, the resourceful Tin Man eventually gets the ozoplane under control; he decides to teach himself to fly the craft, and then return to the Emerald City. In the dawn of the new day, he sights an unknown country in the sky, and lands the plane there. He enthusiastically but undiplomatically claims the place for Ozma as a colony of the Land of Oz. The country, however, has a name, and inhabitants, and a touchy, egotistical, and aggressive ruler: Stratovania is the domain of King Strutoovious the Seventh. (He calls himself "Strut of the Strat" for short.) This king quickly decides to turn the tables and conquer Ozma and Oz. He holds the new arrivals prisoner — though his hostility is somewhat mollified by his affection for Jellia; he likes her smooth brown hair, so different from the upstanding "electric hair" of the Stratovanians. Strut impulsively names Jellia his "starina" — a pun on "czarina."
Despite his affection for Jellia, Stratoovious assembles his army of Blowmen and sets out to conquor Oz, forcing the Tin Man to pilot the ozoplane back to the Emerald City. The other Ozites, left behind, try to find a way to counter this threatened invasion of Oz. Jellia tries to use her influence as starina — but faces the opposition of Strut's wife, Kabebe. Jellia and Wantowin are in danger on being thrown off the edge of Stratovania, when the Wizard and company arrive in the second ozoplane. But the plane is blown up by the Blowmen, and the Ozites have to leap off the edge of the skyland to save themselves, riding on winged staffs stolen from two Stratovanians.
The Wizard uses the magic in his "kit-bag" (it has green eyes and emits feline yowls) to cushion their fall. The Ozites land at Red Top Mountain in the Quadling Country. The place's rightful ruler, Princess Azarine, has escaped the clutches of the usurper Bustado (an even worse villain than Strut) who captures the Ozites. This villain sends the Wizard in search of Azarine, and holds the rest of the party hostage. Yet the hostages escape, and meet up with the Wizard, Azarine, and her protectors, the great stag Shagomar and his wife Dear Deer. The group reaches the palace of Glinda, though the sorceress is absent with Ozma; the Wizard is able to use Glinda's magic to combat the Stratovanian invasion.
Strut and his forces reach the Emerald City; the residents flee or hide. Strut tries to obtain Ozma's Magic Belt from her safe, but is frustrated; the Wizard has united with Ozma and Glinda to rescue the Belt, the most powerful magical talisman of Oz. Once in possession of the Belt, Ozma sends Strut's army home and ends his bid for conquest. She turns the usurper Bustado into a red squirrel, so that Azarine can resume her rightful place after enjoying an Emerald City vacation.
Thompson gives her protagonists some odd adversaries, including sky creatures called spikers that are something like iridescent octopuses, and a large fierce bugbear that is half insect and half bear in form. And she indulges in extravagant nonsensical tech talk, as with the Wizard's "elutherated altitude pills" and Glinda's "triple-edged, zentomatic transporter." She also misuses the word "entomophagous" to mean insect-like; it actually means something that eats insects.
The stereotypical idea of landscapes in the clouds, "castles in the air," cities and countries in the sky, can be found repeatedly in imaginative literature. Baum used it, most prominently in his Sky Island. Thompson included several sky countries in her Oz books, and later Oz authors employed comparable materials (see Hightown in Jack Snow's The Shaggy Man of Oz for a pertinent example). Thompson's "splendid cloud mountains and cities" in this book shares in this established trope.
In Ozoplaning, Thompson exploits current interest in developments in aeronautics and atmospheric science. She plays with the new terms "stratosphere" and "troposphere." (Similarly, the Wizard refers to "the outer stratosphere" in the 1939 MGM film.) Instead of lemonade, people in Stratovania drink "air-ade" (a pun on "air raid"), as well as "liquid air."
As the Tin Man struggles to control the Oztober on its wild first flight, he spies, in the light of dawn, what looks like a land in the clouds —
- "far ahead, between a bank of fog and an arch of platinum sun rays, loomed a long, lavender crescent. Nick even fancied he could see people moving about its glittering surface."
Yet when he tries to land there, the plane crashes through a "frozen cloud."
Stratovania proves more substantial when they reach it; Thompson refers to the place as an "airland" or "skyland," while the Tin Man calls it an "airosphere." Its altitude is 101,867 feet; the controlled climate is so benign that the people live under canopies rather than in houses. The locale is described in brilliant terms —
- "Jellia saw a country of such dazzling beauty, she was almost afraid to breathe lest it vanish before her eyes. The trees were tall and numerous, with gleaming, prism-shaped trunks and a mass of cloudlike foliage. Some bore fruit that actually seemed to be illuminated — oranges, pears, and peaches glowing like decorated electric light bulbs! Moon and star flowers grew in great profusion, and in the distance caves and grottoes of purest crystal scintillated in the high noon sun."
The Stratovanians themselves are comparably impressive —
- "The Airlanders were a head taller than even the Tin Woodman. Their hair grew straight up on end, sparkling and crackling with electricity in a really terrifying manner. Their eyes were star-shaped and shaded by long, silver lashes; the noses and mouths were straight and firm, the foreheads transparent. Some shone as from a hidden sun, while across the brows of others tiny black clouds chased one another in rapid succession. Watching their foreheads would be a good way, decided Jellia Jam, to find out whether they were pleased or angry. Strut and his subjects wore belted tunics of some iridescent, rainbow-hued material, and silver sandals laced to the knee."
Their silver footwear recalls the silver slippers of the Wicked Witch of the East in Baum's first Oz book. Thompson's puns maintain the skyey theme: the newspaper Strut reads is a "morning star." His people live the "high life."
- Thompson spells the name "Jam," rather than Baum's "Jamb."
- Jack Snow, Who's Who in Oz, Chicago, Reilly & Lee, 1954; New York, Peter Bedrick Books, 1988; pp. 46, 58-9, 186-7, and 214.
- Who's Who in Oz, pp. 107-8, 148, and 238-9.
- As with the Skyle of Un in The Cowardly Lion of Oz, or Atmos Fere's kingdom in The Hungry Tiger of Oz.
- Webster's Dictionaries assign the earliest uses of both terms to 1909.
- Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz, Chapter 4.
- Ozoplaning, Chapter 6.
|The Oz books|
The Silver Princess in Oz
|Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz
The Wonder City of Oz