TO WISH YOU THE OZZIEST . . . !

TO WISH YOU THE OZZIEST . . . !

by John Fricke

 

How to celebrate December in an Ozzy fashion for those who read here? (Well, there are a couple of suggestions to put forward!)

How about pictorially? The artwork above provides detail from one of Dick Martin’s ebullient illustrations for THE VISITORS FROM OZ and shows some celebrated Ozians in a friendly — but futile! — race with Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. The 1960 picture book (now a collector’s item) was adapted by Jean Kellogg from L. Frank Baum’s original 1904-05 weekly newspaper serial/comic page, “Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz.” In Kellogg’s storyline, a jubilant climax is reached when the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, Sawhorse, Woggle-Bug, and Jack Pumpkinhead visit Dorothy on Uncle Henry’s farm in Kansas – and then stop off at the North Pole to leave toy images of themselves for Santa to distribute to boys and girls world-wide. As can be seen, those Ozzy visitors traveled in the Magic Flying Gump, whom fans remember was an integral part of the saga in which “rightful ruler” Princess Ozma was brought to the throne of the Emerald City in another Baum title, THE LAND OF OZ.

 

[Above: Our old friends, The Tin Woodman, The Scarecrow, Jack Pumpkinhead, and Professor Woggle-Bug are announced upon arrival at the castle of Santa Claus in the Laughing Valley of HoHaHo. They’re carrying the self-created toys they conjured as gifts for the children of the world – although even the magical VISITORS FROM OZ couldn’t provide enough such souvenirs to answer the demand. Artwork by Dick Martin.]

Of course, there’s another way to honor the season – and for that bit of journalistic joy, we turn to Baum’s successor as “Royal Historian of Oz,” Ruth Plumly Thompson. Ms. Thompson was specifically and especially selected by publishers Reilly & Lee to carry on the Oz Book Series after Baum passed away. To his fourteen “official” Oz titles, she added nineteen of her own – one per year between 1921 and 1939. In later years, she contributed two more, published by The International Wizard of Oz Club in 1972 and 1976, which means she penned more Oz histories than any other author.

“RPT,” as she often signed herself, was a masterful, inventive, inspired story-teller – and a champion of children, imagination, and fantasy. In addition to a nonstop schedule of writing assignments, she personally answered thousands of Ozzy fan letters between 1921 and 1976. A tireless, creative advocate for the magical land and its unforgettable characters, Ms. Thompson produced timeless work that has been (and is continued to be) cherished by millions.

 

[Above: A grateful and gleeful Santa holds a toy Scarecrow and toy Tin Woodman in Dick Martin’s 1960 drawing for THE VISTORS FROM OZ. Two years later, “Royal Historian” Ruth Plumly Thompson depicted – in rhyme! – the Scarecrow’s puzzlement over a proper gift for Princess Ozma of Oz: What DOES one get for the supreme potentate of a country at Christmas time in 1962? (Please see the poem below!)]

Ruth wrote from childhood until her own passing in 1976, and several of her blithest and brightest epistles – including the 1926 novelette, THE CURIOUS CRUISE OF CAPTAIN SANTA — honored Christmas as a treasured holiday of childhood. One such piece, a poem, was fashioned for THE BAUM BUGLE (journal of the Oz Club) and appeared in its final edition for 1962. In these verses, Ms. Thompson details a shopping problem for the beloved Scarecrow. To wit:

A CHRISTMAS PRESENT FOR OZMA

The Scarecrow was thinking

His broad cotton brow

In furrows and wrinkles,

No wonder, for HOW

Was he ever to find

The right gift to delight

And please Princess Ozma

On Christmas Eve night?

A present for Ozma

Was hard to decide on

Something to wear –

Something to ride on?

Something she does not have

But what could that be?

She has everything now

Sighed the Straw Man, Oh me!

He toured the whole castle

And then sat him down

His brow still screwed up

In that deep thinker’s frown.

Then all of a sudden

He leapt in the air,

He had found what was missing:

Not a one anywhere.

That’s what I’ll give Ozma –

A fine rocking chair!

So he did, and this year

When state matters grow pressing

Like Kennedy, Ozma

Will find it a blessing!

— RUTH PLUMLY THOMPSON

Historians, “baby boomers,” and many of those of a certain age will doubtless catch the rationale behind the solution to the Scarecrow’s avowed dilemma! Those unfamiliar with United States hierarchy at that specific time may have to do a bit of research to ascertain the “home remedy” our then-President utilized to combat his chronic back problems. (They’d begun with a college football injury and were exacerbated by events during his service in World War II.)

[Above left: The incomparable Ruth Plumly Thompson, with Taffy. Above right: As a holiday greeting to all the MGM movie fans out there: here’s the most famous incarnation of the Scarecrow of Oz, as portrayed by Ray Bolger. This pose was selected, as he looks as if he might JUST have thought of providing Ozma with a rocking chair!]

So, here are season’s greetings in an Ozzy manner! I want to send my heartfelt appreciation “over the rainbow” to L. Frank Baum, Ruth Plumly Thompson, and Dick Martin for their invaluable contributions and inspirations for this month’s blog. And to any and all of you who read here — whatever your respective ages, holiday celebrations, or Ozzy preferences — may I gratefully extend the very best of healthful and happy wishes to each and every individual . . . and to all of those you love and cherish. It’s a privilege to honor Oz with you in these reminiscences and histories, and I hope our association and mutual joys will continue for a long time to come.

Many thanks for the pleasure of your company — and here’s to a blessed new year . . . and way, way beyond!