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, including the castle-housemaid Jellia Jam. After the dinner, 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 is suddenly overcome by a violent stomach cramp from eating too many pickles. He slams into the control panel of the Oztober, causing it to take off. 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 lands in a previously unexplored sky-country called Stratovania. He enthusiastically but undiplomatically claims the place for Ozma as a colony of the Land of Oz. The ruler, Strutoovious the Seventh, also called "Strut of the Strat" for short, is outraged, and decides to turn the tables and conquer the land of Oz. He forces the Tin Woodman to fly him and his army to Oz, leaving Jellia and the Soldier behind in Stratovania.
The Wizard and company arrive at Stratovania in the second ozoplane. But the plane is blown up by the Stratovanians, and the Ozites have to leap off the edge of the skyland to save themselves, riding on winged staffs stolen from two Stratovanians. (The Stratovanians all own winged staffs and use them for transportation.)
The Wizard and his party land at Red Top Mountain in the Quadling Country. The place's rightful ruler, Princess Azarine, has escaped the clutches of the usurper Bustabo (an even worse villain than Strut) who captures the travelers. This villain sends the Wizard in search of Azarine, and holds the rest of the party hostage. 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 transports Strut's army home and ends his bid for conquest. She turns the usurper Bustabo into a red squirrel, so that Azarine can resume her rightful place.
Thompson gives her protagonists some odd adversaries, including sky creatures called Spikers that are something like iridescent spiked blow-fishes, and a large fierce bugbear that is half insect and half bear. 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.
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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."
- 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