It has been nearly four years since my last Ozblogging effort, but since Oz is a timeless fairyland we can pick up where we left off as if nothing had happened.
Tik-Tok of Oz (first published in 1914) has a rather complicated history: it's an Oz book based on a stage show written by L. Frank Baum, The Tik-Tok Man of Oz, which in turn was based loosely on the book Ozma of Oz. But over the course of two adaptations Baum made so many changes and threw in so many new story elements that Tik-Tok of Oz has only the faintest resemblance to its grandparent Ozma.
The chapter titles are charmingly alliterative, running from "Ann's Army" through "Tik-Tok Tackles a Tough Task" and "The Jinjin's Just Judgement" all the way to "The Land of Love." It is dedicated to Louis F. Gottschalk, who composed the music for the stage show The Tik Tok Man of Oz, and later was one of Baum's partners in the Oz Film Manufacturing Company. He wrote musical scores for several silent Oz movies made by the Oz company. Louis Ferdinand Gottschalk should not be confused with his more famous uncle Louis Moreau Gottschalk, the New Orleans-born composer who died in 1869.
Our story opens in the tiny mountain valley of Oogaboo, an isolated and quasi-autonomous province of the greater Land of Oz. Oogaboo is ruled by the ambitious and dissatisfied Queen Ann Soforth. She is ambitious because her kingdom has only 89 inhabitants, and is dissatisfied because she has to sweep the floor herself while her younger sister lazes in the hammock out in the yard.
So, in a grimly prophetic move (did I mention the book was published in 1914?) Queen Ann Soforth decides to go forth on a campaign of conquest and plunder. She intends to start by conquering Oz, then the rest of the world, and possibly the Moon as well, if she can figure out how to get there.
Of course, if you're going to conquer the world, you need an army. Ann recruits most of the male population of Oogaboo to be in her expeditionary force. She has to let most of them be generals and colonels in order to persuade them to join, but the equally ambitious and warlike Jo Files agrees to be the sole private in the Army of Oogaboo, so that he can win glory by doing all the fighting.
The imbalance in size between Oz and Oogaboo is offset by Oogaboo's superior military organization: both armies are top-heavy, but Ann actually has a private in her army, while Ozma's own military has none at all. Nattily turned-out in a green unform with gold braid and a purple plume, Queen Ann accompanies her army as it marches forth on a bid for interplanetary domination.
Queen Ann Soforth is of course making one of the classic blunders of grand strategy: convincing herself that the quality of her troops can overcome their numerical disadvantage. This happens over and over throughout history: some leader decides that bushido spirit or Nordic blood or the dialectical forces of history will allow a small army to beat a bigger one. It does sometimes happen, but it seldom lasts. Charles XII of Sweden's army routinely beat much bigger Russian forces during the Great Northern War of 1700. He beat the Russians and Saxons so soundly that eventually he ran out of Swedes and had to go home again.
Of course, even the biggest battalions are pretty much irrelevant given that Oz is defended by the might of Glinda the Good. In this novel her seat of power has inexplicably moved north of the Emerald City, but since the Good Witch of the North has dropped out of Baum's novels since the birthday party in Road to Oz, maybe Glinda has taken over her territory as well.
Glinda, of course, has magical intelligence-gathering systems in place which tell her everything going on anywhere in the world, so she's on top of the Oogaboo situation from the beginning. She uses her space-warping magic to bend the road out of Oogaboo away from the rest of Oz, depositing Queen Ann and her Expeditionary Force in some desolate land beyond the Deadly Desert which guards the kingdom. Glinda is so helpful she doesn't even bother to inform Ozma, the lovely Girl Ruler and her nominal sovereign. In modern parlance, Glinda is a rogue agency.
The Expeditionary Force does manage to acquit itself well in battle against a vaguely dragon-like creature called a Rak, which surrounds itself with a dark cloud of salt-and-pepper scented breath. Private Files blasts it out of the sky with his musket, and the Army of Oogaboo heartlessly ignores the Rak's polite requests to stay around until it recovers and can eat them properly. Cheered by their victory, the Oogabooans make camp.
I don't know if the Rak is Baum's take on the gigantic Roc of middle-eastern folklore, a bird so vast it hunts elephants to feed to its chicks. This one is big enough to lie atop the entire officer corps of Oogaboo, but isn't heavy enough to crush them. It is very polite, though.
Next time: Deja Vu!
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