Friday, June 27, 2014

I Believe I’ll Take Your Head: Part 3 of 3

12.  Why Not Stuff Him With Money?

Much ink has been spilled on the question of Baum’s possible influences.  I’ve mentioned a few already: feminism, theosophy, Lewis Carroll.  Another source sometimes suggested is Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “Feathertop” (1852), a satire on superficiality in which Mother Rigby, “one of the most cunning and potent witches in New England,” brings to life a scarecrow with a pumpkin head  and patchwork body (thus prefiguring three Oz characters for the price of one: the Scarecrow, Jack Pumpkinhead, and the Patchwork Girl).  When the newmade Scarecrow complains of “being without wits,” its creator tells it that it has “brains enough” to “babble like a mill-stream,” which is all that it needs in order to “go and play its part in the great world.”  When it swears by all its heart, the witch observes:  “thou didst put thy hand to the left side of thy waistcoat as if thou really hadst one” (thus throwing in a fourth prefiguring, this time of the Tin Woodman). Rigby moreover informs the pumpkin-headed scarecrow that it will turn back into its real self if it fails to puff ceaselessly on its pipe; this is presumably a three-way reference: to Ichabod Crane’s headless horseman leaving only a shattered pumpkin behind;  to Cinderella’s coach turning back into a pumpkin at midnight; and to God’s breathing life into Adam.  But as an instance of a humbug at risk of being exposed, it prefigures yet a fifth Oz character, the Wizard himself.

The Emerald City without green spectacles

A frequently-mentioned inspiration for the Emerald City in particular is the “White City” erected on the shores of Lake Michigan in 1893 as part of Chicago’s Columbian Exposition; visitors to the fair were even issued sunglasses to protect their eyes from the glare.  We know Baum was one of those visitors, and the vision of people in tinted spectacles walking around a fantastic cityscape obviously caught his imagination.  But it was not just the fair itself, but specifically the mythologised description of it in an 1895 book by Frances Hodgson Burnett – an author Baum admired that seems to prefigure the Emerald City most clearly:

There was a great Magician who was the ruler of all the Genii in all the world. They were all powerful and rich and wonderful magicians, but he could make them obey him, and give him what they stored away. And he said ... I will build a splendid City, that all the world shall flock to and wonder at and remember forever. And in it some of all the things in the world shall be seen, so that the people who see it shall learn what the world is like – how huge it is, and what wisdom it has in it, and what wonders! And it will make them know what they are like themselves, because the wonders will be made by hands and feet and brains just like their own. And so they will understand how strong they are – if they only knew it – and it will give them courage and fill them with thoughts.  (Two Little Pilgrims’ Progress, ch. 11; boldface emphasis added)

If you are looking for a plausibly definite influence behind the first Oz book, this passage – about a wonderful wizard who has a magical city built (a city which Baum on independent grounds would have associated with tinted glasses), and who thereby dispenses wisdom and courage to people by showing them that they have these qualities already – is about as close to a smoking gun as you could ask for.  (There are other features of the book that would have appealed to Baum as well:  the courageous and determined child protagonists; the unisex ethic (the brother and sister never care whether their toys are “those of a boy [or] girl”); the references to chicken-farming, a subject on which Baum had written a book; the imperious and dismissive Aunt Matilda, reminiscent of Baum’s mother-in-law of the same name; the gentle, lovable, but perpetually impecunious father, reminiscent of Baum himself.)

One of the most persistent interpretations of Wizard sees the book as a parable for the political and economic disputes of the 1890s, particularly over monetary policy.  On this reading the yellow brick road represents the gold standard, Dorothy’s silver shoes represent the silver that the Populists sought to combine with gold in a bimetallic standard, the Emerald City represents paper money (“greenbacks”), the Scarecrow represents the agricultural workers, the Tin Woodman represents the industrial workers, the Cowardly Lion represents William Jennings Bryan, Toto represents the prohibitionists (“teetotalers”) and so forth.  (Ranjit Dighe’s Historian’s Wizard of Oz provides a useful summary.)

This “Populist parable” interpretation, first broached in 1964 (so it’s as old as I am), has grown in popularity to the point that it has now become part of popular lore, even as historians and Baum scholars have grown increasingly skeptical of its merits.  I myself don’t find the Populist interpretation especially fruitful, either as a historical thesis about Baum’s intentions or as an analytical tool for thinking about his work. 

On the historical question, I’m perfectly prepared to grant that some allusions here and there to the contemporary political scene were likely among the associations Baum had in mind while writing Wizard; but I don’t think it’s plausible to read those concerns as informing Wizard in any systematic and thoroughgoing way.  Proponents of the Populist interpretation disagree as to whether Wizard is supposed to be a manifesto on behalf of the Populists or a hostile satire against them; but from what we know of his politics, Baum seems to have been neither friendly enough nor unfriendly enough toward the Populist cause to have been likely to devote so much effort either way.

On the analytical question:  the Emerald City with its mandatory green spectacles is, to be sure, a fitting symbol of fiat money; but if the yellow brick road also symbolises the gold standard, why would the yellow brick road lead to the Emerald City?  Moreover, for any bimetallist enthusiasts out there, in the book we already have a golden counterpart to the first witch’s silver shoes, namely the second witch’s golden cap (the two being nicely matched, as the former is intended for one end of the body and the latter for the other, and both provide magical transportation via a spell associated with the number three).  Do both the golden cap and the yellow brick road stand for the gold standard?  Given that the cap is explicitly described as “golden” while the road is not, the cap actually seems better suited to that role; but the cap is described as being able to be used for either good or evil, which makes it ill-suited for use in a polemic either for or against the gold standard.  Also, a woodchopper living alone in a cottage in the forest makes an odd symbol of an industrial worker.  And “Toto” was a common name for dogs in the late 19th century, and so probably not a reference to teetotalism.


13.  This Wonderful Queen Had Lived Thousands of Years

When possible influences on Baum’s Oz books are suggested, one name I can’t recall having seen broached is that of H. Rider Haggard.  Haggard’s influence on Baum’s pseudonymous adventure novels, like The Last Egyptian and The Boy Fortune Hunters In Yucatan, has of course been noted; and it’s also not hard to see the traces of Haggard’s 1893 Montezuma’s Daughter on Baum’s 1902 play Montezuma; or The Son of the Sun (rewritten in 1905 as The King of Gee-Whiz).  But the Oz books are so different that Haggard’s influence there is less obvious.   Consider, however, the following parallels.

In Haggard’s 1885 King Solomon’s Mines, the protagonists travel across an inhospitable desert in an uncharted region of Africa to find the lost civilisation of Kukuanaland, “a strange land yonder, a land of witchcraft and beautiful things; a land of brave people, and of trees, and streams, and snowy peaks, and of a great white road.”  (ch. 5)  This ancient road, “cut out of the solid rock, at least fifty feet wide, and apparently well kept,” leads to the capital city of Loo, “an enormous place, quite five miles round” (ch. 9), where the protagonists have an audience with the terrifying usurper who rules there – “Twala, husband of a thousand wives, chief and lord paramount of the Kukuanas, keeper of the great Road, terror of his enemies, student of the Black Arts, leader of a hundred thousand warriors, Twala the One-eyed, the Black, the Terrible” (ch. 12) – and who asks them from his throne, “White people, whence come ye, and what seek ye?”  (ch. 9)

In addition to these parallels with Wizard, there are also parallels with Land.  It turns out that the true ruler, Ignosi, has been with the protagonists all the time in disguise, like Ozma – though in Haggard’s book it is the visitors, not the ruler, who have been putting on a show as humbug wizards (making use of apparently detachable body parts – a monocle and false teeth – plus predicting an eclipse but pretending to cause it, perhaps the earliest use of this trope); and while a royal  child is hidden away by a wicked witch, as Mombi does with Ozma, this child is the usurper rather than the true ruler.  (The Anglo-Saxon protagonist’s awing the natives by blowing soap bubbles, in Baum’s The King of Gee-Whiz, is probably another nod to King Solomon’s Mines.)

In Haggard’s sequel, the 1887 Allan Quatermain, the protagonists travel to another lost civilisation somewhere in Africa – Zu-Vendis, or the “Yellow Country” (like the land of the Winkies) – so named for its plentiful gold deposits:  “In Zu-Vendis gold is a much commoner metal than silver, and thus it has curiously enough come to pass that silver is the legal tender of the country” (ch. 13), just as gold is “the most common metal in the Land of Oz.”  (Patchwork Girl, ch. 3)  Zu-Vendis’s capital city, Milosis, is thus a City of Gold rather than a City of Emeralds.  Zu-Vendis is ruled by two beautiful queens – one good and one wicked – and is “on every side cut off from the surrounding territory by illimitable forests of impenetrable thorn, beyond which are said to be hundreds of miles of morasses, deserts, and great mountains,” just as Oz is cut off from the rest of the world by a deadly desert.   The first syllable of “Zu-Vendis” is of course a reversal of the Biblical Uz, often cited as a possible inspiration for “Oz”; and a city ruled by two beautiful queens, one good and one wicked, features in Baum’s Enchanted Island of Yew.

In one of his newspaper editorials, Baum wrote concerning Haggard’s 1887 novel She:

To the “She” of H. Rider Haggard is attributable much of the popularity of mysticism in modern works of fiction. We doubt if Haggard realized how powerful his work was in occult suggestions. A Theosophical friend [perhaps Matilda Gage?] recently declared to the writer that this author was undoubtedly a reincarnation of some ancient mystic, and therefore throughout his brain lingered some latent and inexplicable knowledge which prompted the ideas from which “She” emanated. (Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer, 22 February 1890; quoted in Koupal, Baum’s Road, p. 117)

The “She” in question – short for “She-who-must-be-obeyed” – is Ayesha, a beautiful and youthful-looking but 2000-year-old sorceress who rules over the lost civilisation (perhaps we are sensing a trend here) of Kôr, somewhere in Africa.  At the end of the book the spell that has given Ayesha her eternal youth is undone, whereupon she ages and withers away all at once:

The smile vanished, and in its place there came a dry, hard look; the rounded face seemed to grow pinched, as though some great anxiety were leaving its impress upon it. ... I gazed at her arm. Where was its wonderful roundness and beauty? It was getting thin and angular. And her face – by Heaven! – her face was growing old before my eyes! ... [S]he was shrivelling up; the golden snake that had encircled her gracious form slipped over her hips and to the ground; smaller and smaller she grew; her skin changed colour, and in place of the perfect whiteness of its lustre it turned dirty brown and yellow, like an old piece of withered parchment. She … seemed to realise what kind of change was passing over her, and she shrieked .... Smaller she grew, and smaller yet, till she was no larger than a monkey. Now the skin was puckered into a million wrinkles, and on the shapeless face was the stamp of unutterable age. ... On the very spot where more than twenty centuries before she had slain Kallikrates the priest, she herself fell down and died.  (She, ch. 26)

Haggard’s depiction of Ayesha’s fate probably influenced Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, whose titular character, upon being stabbed through the heart, “before our very eyes, and almost in the drawing of a breath, crumbled into dust and passed from our sight.”

Both of the wicked witches in Baum’s Wizard die deaths similar to those of Ayesha and Dracula.  When Dorothy’s house lands on the Witch of the East, there are initially “two feet ... sticking out” from underneath; but soon these feet have “disappeared entirely,” leaving only the silver shoes.  The Good Witch of the North explains: “She was so old ... that she dried up quickly in the sun. That is the end of her.” (Baum, ch. 2)  A like fate befalls her sister, the Witch of the West, when Dorothy douses her in water:

Instantly the wicked woman gave a loud cry of fear; and then, as Dorothy looked at her in wonder, the Witch began to shrink and fall away. ... [Dorothy] was truly frightened to see the Witch actually melting away like brown sugar before her very eyes. ... [T]he Witch fell down in a brown, melted, shapeless mass and began to spread over the clean boards of the kitchen floor.  (ch. 12)

And while the title character of Queen Zixi of Ix does not age to death, she is like Ayesha in being a sorceress and ruler who conceals her great age behind a youthful appearance:

To mortal eyes Zixi was charming and attractive, yet her reflection in a mirror showed to her an ugly old hag, bald of head, wrinkled, with toothless gums and withered, sunken cheeks. For this reason the queen had no mirror of any sort about the palace. ... [S]he may be forgiven for wanting to see a beautiful girl reflected in a mirror instead of a haggard [ahem] old woman in her six hundred and eighty-fourth year.  (Zixi, ch. 11)

Zixi’s true age being revealed in a mirror might be a nod to Oscar Wilde’s 1890 Picture of Dorian Gray, but Wilde’s book too is likely indebted to Haggard’s She, since Dorian also ages all at once at the novel’s end.   (Wilde offers Haggard some backhanded praise in The Decay of Lying.)

Finally, there is Haggard’s portentously titled 1896 novel The Wizard.  That Baum should have published a book with “Wizard” in the title a mere four years after another such book by an author Baum regarded as significant seems unlikely to be a coincidence.  The plot of Haggard’s Wizard centers on a Christian missionary trying to convert an African tribe called the Amasuka – a religious theme foreign to Baum’s interests.   But the missionary’s method – matching the miraculous power of God against the supernatural powers of the local witch-doctor, Hokosa – is a bit closer to Baum’s wheelhouse.

Hokosa, whose name is reminiscent of “hocus pocus” (though it is apparently a genuine Zulu name), styles himself “I ... the chief of wizards; I, the reader of men’s hearts; I, the hearer of men’s thoughts! I, the lord of the air and the lightning; I, the invulnerable” (Haggard, ch. 4) – in a manner reminiscent of Oz’s bombast in greeting Dorothy.  In addition, Hokosa, like the Wizard in the later Oz books, plots to overthrow the rightful ruler but later reforms.  One character tells him:  “Truly, Hokosa, you are the best of wizards, or the worst” (ch. 4) – best in the sense of being most skilled in wizardry, worst in the sense of being most wicked.  This ambiguity anticipates the recurring concern in The Wizard of Oz as to whether Oz is a good wizard, a good man, both, or neither:

“Is he a good man?” inquired the girl anxiously.

“He is a good Wizard. Whether he is a man or not I cannot tell, for I have never seen him.” (Baum, ch. 2)

“I think you are a very bad man,” said Dorothy.

“Oh, no, my dear; I'm really a very good man, but I’m a very bad Wizard, I must admit.” (Baum, ch. 15)

The stone idol that the Amasuka worship has fallen from the sky (like Oz in his balloon), as a ball of fire (the form Oz sometimes takes on his throne).   
     

Nor do the parallels end there.  Both Haggard’s Wizard and Baum’s Wizard feature plants with a deadly odor: 
Outside the circle of the tree he halted, and drawing a tanned skin from a bundle of medicines which he carried, he tied it about his mouth; for the very smell of that tree is poisonous and must not be suffered to reach the lungs. (Haggard, ch. 4) [S]oon they found themselves in the midst of a great meadow of poppies. Now it is well known that when there are many of these flowers together their odor is so powerful that anyone who breathes it falls asleep, and if the sleeper is not carried away from the scent of the flowers, he sleeps on and on forever. (Baum, ch. 8)

Haggard’s novel also includes the witch Noma, Hokosa’s apprentice, whose beauty “grew greater day by day, but it was an evil beauty, the beauty of a witch; and this fate fell upon her, that she feared the dark and would never be alone after the sun had set.” (Haggard, ch. 12)  Baum’s Wicked Witch of the West is not beautiful, but she shares one important characteristic with Noma: “The Witch was too much afraid of the dark to dare go in Dorothy’s room at night to take the shoes ....”  (Baum, ch. 12)  The incongruous idea of a wicked witch’s being afraid of the dark is unusual enough to make it plausible that Baum might have gotten it from Haggard.

Conceivably, Noma might have inspired more than this.  I’ve mentioned previously that only a slight twist separates Zixi’s “No-land” from “Oz-land.”  Exactly the same twist will take us from “Noma” to “Ozma.”  “Noma” also looks a bit like a cross between “Ozma” and “Mombi,” suggesting that these two very different but unhappily entangled magical women might both be developments of aspects of Noma.  And of course the similarity to "Nome" is obvious too.  (“Noma” is moreover the name of the Egyptian god Amon backward, so there’s that.)

Indeed, many Haggard characters and places have “Oz” lurking in their names:  Ignosi, Hokosa, Milosis, Umslopogaas, Rademas, Galazi, Macumazahn, Osiris, Ospakar, Ustane – even Ayesha, whose name Haggard tells us to pronounce “Assha.”  And the names of his (real-life) Amazulu and (fictional) Amasuka people contain not only “Oz” but the shadow of “Ozma.”  In addition, we’ve seen how the first syllable of “Zu-Vendis” is the Biblical “Uz” backward, and we might add that the first syllables of the names of Haggard’s rulers Solomon and Sorais are “Os” backward.  Baum will later give his Wizard the initials “O.Z.” from “Oscar” (containing a forward “Os”) and “Zoroaster” (containing a backward “Oz,” along with a backward “As” for good measure).

I don’t put too much weight on these etymological speculations; I still think Shelley’s Ozymandias is the likeliest inspiration for the name “Oz,” and that both Ozymandias and Anthony Hope’s Princess Osra are jointly the likeliest inspirations for the name “Ozma.”  The correspondences are interesting, however.  And I do think the comparatively substantive parallels are, at least in the main, more than coincidental.


14. The Natives of Other Planets Should Have Been Frightened

Turning from Baum’s influences to his legacy, we can find a number of later science fiction and fantasy authors who seem to be following in his footsteps. I want to focus briefly on six:  Edgar Rice Burroughs, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Dr. Seuss, Ayn Rand, and Iain Banks (which is about as odd a grouping as a little girl, a dog, an animated scarecrow, a tin man, and a talking lion). 

Now in saying that these authors are following in Baum’s footsteps, I don’t mean that they were influenced by him.  I do think the odds of influence are good in the case of Burroughs at least; not only was Burroughs working in the country and era of Baum’s greatest fame, but he and Baum were personal friends, the latter sponsoring the former for membership in the Uplifters club.  (See here and here.)  But as for the others, I have no idea whether they’d even read Baum; and none of the parallels I’ll be pointing to go beyond what could be explained by coincidence.  My point is simply that much of the territory these later authors were exploring had already been traversed by Baum, whether or not they noticed the signs of his passage.

A note of warning.  Edmund Burke writes of the difference between wit and judgment:

Mr. Locke very justly and finely observes of wit, that it is chiefly conversant in tracing resemblances; he remarks, at the same time, that the business of judgment is rather in finding differences. ... The mind of man has naturally a far greater alacrity and satisfaction in tracing resemblances than in searching for differences .... And it is upon this principle, that the most ignorant and barbarous nations have frequently excelled in similitudes, comparisons, metaphors, and allegories, who have been weak and backward in distinguishing and sorting their ideas.

In what follows I will be focusing so much on similarities, sometimes fairly strained and superficial ones, between very different authors, that you may be tempted to charge me with ignorance and barbarism.  But I just did it first, so you can’t.  This is called “lampshading,” and it is a mighty psychagogic technology.  (If I say that I’m lampshading, is that meta-lampshading?)


14a.  Great Novelists Have Written About the Martians and Their Wonderful Civilization (Burroughs)

The parallels between Baum and Burroughs are not only literary but biographical.  Both spent time in Chicago and the Western territories before settling in southern California; both tried their hand at a number of businesses before finding success as writers; and both founded companies (the 1914-1915 Oz Film Manufacturing Company and the 1934-1938 Burroughs-Tarzan Enterprises) to produce movies based on their books.  Both grew tired of writing their most popular series (Oz, Tarzan) but were compelled by popular demand to continue.  Both also ended up living in places named for their most famous creations (Ozcot, Tarzana).  Both sent their characters on picaresque quests across imaginary landscapes to visit one peculiar community after another.  And both were hostile to traditional organised religion – though Burroughs would probably have been more skeptical than Baum of the claims of theosophy and spiritualism.  (The best Burroughs biography is Irwin Porges’ amazing, copiously illustrated Man Who Created Tarzan, though Lupoff’s Master of Adventure is also worth a read.)

I feel some personal connections with both Baum and Burroughs:  I’ve lived in upstate New York, as Baum did (plus Baum’s wife attended Cornell, my second alma mater); in Arizona and Idaho, as Burroughs did; and in the San Diego and Los Angeles areas, as both did.  Plus I have family history in Chicago, where both lived; and my mother lived in Lanikai a little before Burroughs did.


The similarities with the Oz books are clearest in Burroughs’ Mars series:  John Carter, like Dorothy, is magically transported from the American frontier to another world whose principal city is a walled metropolis of lofty towers named after a physical substance (Helium rather than Emerald).  In this new world he befriends an odd assortment of characters (including a faithful sort-of-dog), fights murderous plant people, visits the Valley of Otz (ahem), exposes the feared mystic rulers (who are not supposed to be gazed upon directly) as frauds, and eventually becomes a prince himself – marrying the princess Dejah Thoris, who even has a shadow of “Dorothy” in her name.

Dorothy sat up and noticed that the house was not moving; nor was it dark, for the bright sunshine came in at the window, flooding the little room. ... The cyclone had set the house down very gently – for a cyclone – in the midst of a country of marvelous beauty. There were lovely patches of greensward all about, with stately trees bearing rich and luscious fruits. Banks of gorgeous flowers were on every hand, and birds with rare and brilliant plumage sang and fluttered in the trees and bushes. A little way off was a small brook, rushing and sparkling along between green banks, and murmuring in a voice very grateful to a little girl who had lived so long on the dry, gray prairies. ... While she stood looking eagerly at the strange and beautiful sights, she noticed coming toward her a group of the queerest people she had ever seen. They were not as big as the grown folk she had always been used to .... (Wizard, ch. 2) I opened my eyes in another world, beneath the burning rays of a hot sun, which beat through a tiny opening in the dome of the mighty forest in which I lay. ... I lay upon a close-cropped sward of red grasslike vegetation, and about me stretched a grove of strange and beautiful trees, covered with huge and gorgeous blossoms and filled with brilliant, voiceless birds. ... [A]t my right a mighty river, broad, placid, and majestic, flowed between scarlet banks to empty into the quiet sea before me. ... But it was not these inspiring and magnificent evidences of Nature’s grandeur that took my immediate attention from the beauties of the forest. It was the sight of a score of figures moving slowly about the meadow near the bank of the mighty river. ... Odd, grotesque shapes they were; unlike anything that I had ever seen upon Mars, and yet, at a distance, most manlike in appearance. The larger specimens appeared to be about ten or twelve feet in height when they stood erect .... (Gods of Mars, ch. 1)

Burroughs’ Lotharians (Thuvia, ch. 7) send out armies of imaginary bowmen just as Baum’s Mombi (Land, ch. 12) sends out armies of imaginary sunflower girls.  And the Gridley Wave, a discovery that enables travelers to Mars (as well as Pellucidar) to relay their adventures to Burroughs’ audience back home, recalls the wireless apparatus that enables Baum to receive updates from Dorothy on affairs in Oz despite Ozma’s having rendered her country inaccessible from our world.


Once you pay Kaldanegeld,
you never get rid of the Kaldane
Burroughs also shares Baum’s taste for body horror.  Burroughs’ aging Queen Xaxa, desperate to regain her youth, recalls Baum’s similarly-named and similarly-motivated Queen Zixi (just as the name of her country, “Phundahl,” is reminiscent of “Phunniland,” Baum’s original name for the Land of Mo); and her solution, the transplantation of her brain into the body of a younger woman, echoes Princess Langwidere’s quest to place Dorothy’s head on her own body – as do Burroughs’ Kaldanes, disembodied heads who have bred a race of headless humans that they ride like horses; the Kaldanes also recall Baum’s head-hurling Scoodlers.  (Of course Langwidere is in turn a nod to Carroll’s Queen of Hearts and her mania for decapitation – though Langwidere, unlike her Wonderland predecessor, has a practical use for the heads she acquires.) 

Just as a victim of “patching” in Baum’s Sky Island “looked as if he were made of two separate men, each cut through the middle and then joined together, half of one to half of the other” (ch. 7), so Burroughs describes the results of Martian biological experimentation as follows;

There was no symmetry of design about them. The left arm of one was scarce a foot long, while his right arm was so long that the hand dragged along the ground as he walked. Four-fifths of the face of one was above the eyes, while another had an equal proportion below the eyes.  (Synthetic Men of Mars, ch. 3)

Though Baum is willing to push the boundaries of body horror a bit further than Burroughs is:

I saw ... a billowing mass of slimy, human tissue creeping gradually toward me. Protruding from it were unrelated fragments of human anatomy – a hand, an entire leg, a foot, a lung, a heart, and here and there a horribly mouthing head. The heads screamed at me, and a hand tried to reach forth and clutch me .... (Synthetic Men, ch. 20)

There are Baum/Burroughs parallels to be found beyond the Mars series as well.  In the Tarzan novels, Burroughs’ lost city of Opar (first introduced in 1913), run by an imperious priestess who commands an army of brutish apemen, might be an echo of the Wicked Witch of the West and her army of winged monkeys, and Opar’s status as a lost colony of Atlantis laden with treasure could be a nod to Baum’s lesser-known 1910 Boy Fortune Hunters in Yucatan – though the common influence of Haggard is obviously primary.
   
I’m melting!  I’m melting in your arms, Tarzan!

One of Burroughs’ earliest stories, Minidoka, written around 1903 and subtitled “A Historical Fairy Tale,” does feature a winged monkey, as well as an island whose inhabitants chose to settle there “because of its color on their maps,” which was “a beautiful emerald green.”  There are creatures somewhat reminiscent of Baum’s winged monkeys in Burroughs’ later novel Out of Time’s Abyss too:
                                                              
The sky was darkened, and a low rumbling sound was heard in the air. There was a rushing of many wings; a great chattering and laughing; and the sun came out of the dark sky to show ... a crowd of monkeys, each with a pair of immense and powerful wings on his shoulders. ... The leader of the Winged Monkeys flew up to [Dorothy], his long, hairy arms stretched out and his ugly face grinning terribly .... [T]hey lifted Dorothy in their arms and carried her swiftly through the air.... (Baum, Wizard, ch. 12) [H]e heard the dismal flapping of giant wings overhead .... he felt clawlike talons of great strength seize him beneath his arms and sweep him off his feet; and then the thing rose swiftly with him, so swiftly that his cap was blown from his head by the rush of air as he was borne rapidly upward into the inky sky .... The thin lips drew back tightly against yellow teeth in a grimace that was nothing but hideous.  (Burroughs, Abyss, ch. 2)


In the same novel we learn that the inhabitants of Caspak recapitulate the evolutionary process in each individual:  “If an egg survives it goes through all the stages of development that man has passed through during the unthinkable eons since life first moved upon the earth’s face.”  Thus every human on Caspak has begun life as an ape and then “slowly developed into the lowest order of man,” and thus “by degrees” through higher orders until ending as a full-fledged human.  (Abyss, ch. 3)  This process is reminiscent of the scene in Rinkitink of Oz where Glinda transforms an enchanted prince from a goat back by degrees into his human form:

First she transformed Bilbil the goat into a lamb, and this was done quite easily. Next she transformed the lamb into an ostrich, giving it two legs and feet instead of four. Then she tried to transform the ostrich into the original Prince Bobo, but this incantation was an utter failure. Glinda was not discouraged, however, but by a powerful spell transformed the ostrich into a tottenhot – which is a lower form of a man. Then the tottenhot was transformed into a mifket, which was a great step in advance and, finally, Glinda transformed the mifket into a handsome young man, tall and shapely, who fell on his knees before the great Sorceress and gratefully kissed her hand, admitting that he had now recovered his proper shape and was indeed Prince Bobo of Boboland.  (Rinkitink, ch. 22)

Incidentally, recent editions of Rinkitink silently eliminate the Tottenhot from the following illustration, thus toning down the passage’s racist implications without exactly eliminating them:   
   

Admittedly, as I’ve mentioned before, starting with an intelligent goat and ending with a prince risibly named “Prince Bobo of Boboland” does complicate the suggestion of a straightforward movement from lesser to greater.

In his Venus novels, Burroughs introduces us to the Vooyorgans, a race of androgynous humanoids each of whom bears “a well defined reddish line that looks like a birth-mark ... [r]unning down the exact center of their face and body.”  While in the case of ordinary humans “the two halves of our faces and bodies are not identical,” this “lack of identicalness” is “more marked” in the case of the Vooyorgans.  (Escape on Venus, ch. 31)  The Vooyorgans’ mismatched halves are again reminiscent of the victims of “patching” in Baum’s Sky Island – and also of Mr. Split in Baum’s Dot and Tot In Merryland, whose “left side was dressed in a bright red suit while the right side wore white, so it was easy to see where he was joined together.”  (Dot and Tot, ch. 16)

In their reproductive cycle the Vooyorgans also recall Baum’s interest in bodily fission and gender ambiguity:

There are neither males nor females among them; but more or less periodically, usually after enjoying an orgy of eating and drinking, they divide into two parts, like the amoeba and other of the Rhizopada. Each of these parts grows another half during a period of several months, and the process continues. Eventually, the older halves wear out and die; sometimes immediately after the division and sometimes while still attached, in which case the dead half merely falls away, and the remaining half is carted off to make itself whole.  (Escape, ch. 33)

This too corresponds to Mr. Split, who when separated into his two separate halves, “as if he had been cut in two from the middle of his head straight downward,” comprises two animate half-men, each with “one ear, one eye, half of a nose and of a mouth, one arm and one leg.”   In addition, the Vooyorgans’ habit of capturing travellers and turning them into living statues to be displayed on their walls echoes the habits of Baum’s Nome King and Mrs. Yoop.


Two years after the release of the MGM Wizard of Oz movie, Burroughs wrote the novella The Wizard of Venus, the culmination of his Venus series, in which a hypnotic wizard named Morgas (perhaps a reference to Frank Morgan, who played the wizard in the film?) greets visitors from his throne with “I am Vootogan Morgas, the wizard of Gavo .... Who are you?” and holds power by hoodwinking his subjects until he is exposed by the heroic Carson Napier.  Interestingly, in this story Napier makes frequent use of a power of psychic projection that had been established in the previous novels, but never actually used (except to narrate his adventures telepathically back to Earth); might the 1939 film have inspired Burroughs to explore his protagonist’s “magical” side more thoroughly?

On issues of gender, Burroughs is much more reactionary than Baum, insistently reinforcing traditional gender roles.  Several of his stories feature matriarchies, and end with the hero teaching the males of such societies to reassert the “natural” order of masculine dominance, a result which the women of course are generally shown to end up welcoming.  (See, e.g., Tarzan and the Ant Men and Land of Terror.) Yet on the other hand, his play You Lucky Girl contains some remarkably pro-feminist passages.

Burroughs’ record on race, like Baum’s, is a very mixed bag, with godawfully racist passages mixed in with firm antiracist ones.  In Tarzan at the Earth’s Core, for example, we are treated to Robert Jones, a jolly, lazy, deferential, dimwitted black cook whose “simple, good-natured face” wears “a puzzled expression not untinged with awe,” who says things like “Lawd-a-massy! ... Ah allus thought some o’ dem gem’n in dat dere Adventurous Club in Bummingham could lie some,” and who never manages to grasp that it is always daylight in Pellucidar and so keeps checking his watch with bewilderment.

On the other hand, Burroughs could pen a bitter parody of Kipling’s “White Man’s Burden,” warning that the “Liberty” of the white man will make blacks “free in name; / But in her heart your color / Will brand you ‘slave’ the same”; and in another story of Pellucidar he could have his protagonist observe that “the blacks treated us with far greater toleration here than our dark-skinned races are accorded on the outer crust.” 

Burroughs also seems to beat Baum on the “Indian question,” in his mostly-sympathetic take on Indians’ relations with whites in The War Chief and its sequel Apache Devil – even if he can’t resist making his Apache hero a secret white man.  Place a doughty Anglo-Saxon white man anywhere – among Indians as in The War Chief, among Martians as in the Mars books, among apes as in the Tarzan books – and he will soon rise to the level of chief over the rest; or so Burroughs invites us to imagine.


14b.  The Dragon’s Big Eyes Were Like Headlights On an Automobile (Tolkien)

Tolkien’s published stories grew in part, as did Baum’s, from stories he told his children; and the first publishers for The Wizard of Oz and The Hobbit each gave the manuscripts to children for a test reading.  Baum and Tolkien both wrote very pagan stories about Santa Claus (or, in Tolkien’s case, Father Christmas), incorporating him into their own personal mythologies.  And Oz’s odd utopian mix of hierarchy and anti-hierarchy is mirrored in Tolkien’s preference for anarchy and unconstitutional monarchy as his two favoured political systems.

Tolkien agreed with Baum on the virtues of contentment:  “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold,” he has Thorin admit to Bilbo, “it would be a merrier world.”  (Hobbit, ch. 18)  The two men also shared a common aversion to militarism and war, and a common unease at the pace of industrialisation.  Baum’s description of “the old days, when the world was young,” and “there were no automobiles nor flying-machines to make one wonder,” nor “mechanical inventions of any sort to keep people keyed up to a high pitch of excitement,” so that the human race “lived simply and quietly,” “breathed fresh air into their lungs instead of smoke and coal gas,” and “tramped through green meadows and deep forests instead of riding in street cars” (Enchanted Island of Yew, ch. 1), prefigures Tolkien’s scene-setting in The Hobbit, which he tells us take place “one morning long ago in the quiet of the world, when there was less noise and more green” (ch. 1), as well as his characterization of hobbits as suspicious of “machines more complicated than a forge-bellows” (Lord of the Rings, Prologue).  

The simple, rural Munchkins (originally described as being of small stature, though this seems to be forgotten in later books) anticipate the Hobbits, and Dorothy’s quest from the Munchkins’ country via the Emerald City to the castle of the Wicked Witch resembles Frodo’s quest from Hobbiton via Rivendell to Mordor.  The Witch herself, who “had but one eye, yet that was as powerful as a telescope, and could see everywhere” (Wizard, ch. 12), is described much as Tolkien describes Sauron:  “There was an eye in the Dark Tower that did not sleep.  ... [A]lmost like a finger he felt it, searching for him.”  (LOTR II.10) And like Tolkien’s Saruman, Baum’s Wicked Witch sends wolves and crows out after the protagonists.
  
Sauron is not the only Tolkien character with a searching eye.  When Bilbo confronts the dragon in his lair, Tolkien describes the “sudden thin and piercing ray of red from under the drooping lid of Smaug's left eye,” and adds:  “Whenever Smaug's roving eye, seeking for him in the shadows, flashed across him, he trembled, and an unaccountable desire seized him to rush out and reveal himself and tell all the truth to Smaug.”  (Hobbit, ch. 12)  Tolkien’s dragon resembles the Alligator God in Baum’s short story “The Stuffed Alligator”: 

The cavern was not lighted; but ... she could dimly perceive an immense dark form lying outstretched before her.  The mighty magician was asleep.  Then a red light glowed in the dusk, flooding her with its rays. And now another light flashed beside it. The Red-Eyed One had unclosed his eyelids. ... She felt the terrible gaze full upon her, reading her every thought. ... [H]e moved slightly his great body, so that the reflected light rippled from scale to scale until it died away at the far tip of his tail.


And another of Baum’s dragons has “scales ... set with rubies and emeralds” (Yew, ch. 9), prefiguring Smaug’s being “armoured above and below with iron scales and hard gems.”

Tolkien’s Ring of Power has its antecedent in Baum’s short story “The Tiger’s Eye,” concerning a magic eyeball that passes from owner to owner, corrupting whoever possesses it, unless the possessor has enough moral strength to reject it; and attempts to crush the eye, or burn it in the fireplace, have no effect.  And LOTR’s theme of the refusal of power has as its predecessor Rob’s refusal of the gifts of the Demon of Electricity in The Master Key:

Nice thing for a decent person to own, isn’t it?  Anyone who would take advantage of such a sneaking invention as that would be worse than a thief!  Oh, I’ve used them, of course, and I ought to be spanked .... I’ll have none of your magical contrivances. ... I’m not wise enough .... to use such inventions as yours unselfishly .... I’m just a common boy, and I don’t want to be anything else .... (ch. 20)

This last sentiment is echoed by the similar refusals of Tolkien’s Galadriel, who chooses to “diminish ... and remain Galadriel” (LOTR II. 7), and Sam Gamgee, who recognizes that “one small garden of a free gardener was all his need and due, not a garden swollen to a realm.” (LOTR VI. 1)  Oddly,  Laura Miller complains that in Baum’s books evil is “certainly never a temptation to any of the heroes” – though admittedly the tools of power that Ozma and Glinda choose to use are almost identical in function with those that Rob rejects.  (But then Baum does regard women as more reliable custodians of power than men.)

Baum’s Watch-Dog of Merryland, a “shaggy-looking creature” with “the form of a man” but “covered with long, thick hair, which made Dot decide it must be a bear” (Dot and Tot, ch. 5), prefigures Tolkien’s Beorn, who is “sometimes ... a huge black bear” and “sometimes ... a great strong black-haired man with huge arms and a great beard.”  (Hobbit, ch. 7)  Baum’s description of the Nome King’s realm – “A vast cave extended for miles and miles under the mountain, and in every direction were furnaces and forges glowing brightly and Nomes hammering upon precious metals or polishing gleaming jewels” (Ozma, ch. 11) – reads like a first draft of Tolkien’s Erebor or Moria – and both “kings under the mountain,” Ruggedo/Roquat and Thorin, are undone by their greed for gems (though their culpability is not of equal degree).   The underwater kingdom in Baums The Sea Fairies equally anticipates Tolkiens in Roverandom (whose inhabitants are likewise called sea-fairies).  And Baum’s story “The Wond’rous Wise Man” is like Tolkien’s “Riddles in the Dark” in featuring a riddle game in which the loser tries to kill the winner.

Both Wizard and Hobbit feature unlikely protagonists who are far from the stereotype of the swordslinging action hero.  But in The Hobbit, instead of being thrust by a storm into a quest to confront a wizard, as Dorothy is, the protagonist is thrust by a wizard into a quest to confront a storm (or so Smaug describes himself:  “the shock of my tail a thunderbolt, my wings a hurricane”).   Bilbo cowering before and yet challenging Smaug is reminiscent of Dorothy and her friends cowering before and yet challenging the Wizard; and although Smaug is no humbug, he is nevertheless dubbed an “old fool” by Bilbo for overestimating his own invulnerability.  Bilbo also resembles the Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion, in that the dwarves think he lacks courage and wisdom but he turns out to have more than they do.

In the course of their journey, both Dorothy’s and Bilbo’s companies pass through a dark forest – which also resembles the somewhat more benign forest in Baum’s Adventures of Santa Claus

Toward evening they came to a great forest, where the trees grew so big and close together that their branches met over the road of yellow brick. It was almost dark under the trees, for the branches shut out the daylight; but the travelers did not stop, and went on into the forest. ... After an hour or so the light faded away, and they found themselves stumbling along in the darkness. Dorothy could not see at all, but Toto could, for some dogs see very well in the dark; and the Scarecrow declared he could see as well as by day. So she took hold of his arm and managed to get along fairly well. .... The road was still paved with yellow brick, but these were much covered by dried branches and dead leaves from the trees, and the walking was not at all good. ... But now and then there came a deep growl from some wild animal hidden among the trees. These sounds made the little girl’s heart beat fast, for she did not know what made them; but Toto knew, and he walked close to Dorothy’s side, and did not even bark in return. ... They found the forest very thick on this side, and it looked dark and gloomy. After the Lion had rested they started along the road of yellow brick, silently wondering, each in his own mind, if ever they would come to the end of the woods and reach the bright sunshine again. (Baum, Wizard, chs. 4-7) Have you heard of the great Forest of Burzee? Nurse used to sing of it when I was a child. She sang of the big tree-trunks, standing close together, with their roots intertwining below the earth and their branches intertwining above it; of their rough coating of bark and queer, gnarled limbs; of the bushy foliage that roofed the entire forest, save where the sunbeams found a path through which to touch the ground in little spots and to cast weird and curious shadows over the mosses, the lichens and the drifts of dried leaves. The Forest of Burzee is mighty and grand and awesome to those who steal beneath its shade. Coming from the sunlit meadows into its mazes it seems at first gloomy, then pleasant, and afterward filled with never-ending delights. For hundreds of years it has flourished in all its magnificence, the silence of its inclosure unbroken save by the chirp of busy chipmunks, the growl of wild beasts and the songs of birds. Yet Burzee has its inhabitants – for all this. Nature peopled it in the beginning with Fairies, Knooks, Ryls and Nymphs. As long as the Forest stands it will be a home, a refuge and a playground to these sweet immortals, who revel undisturbed in its depths. (Baum, Santa, ch. 1) The entrance to the path was like a sort of arch leading into a gloomy tunnel made by two great trees that leant together, too old and strangled with ivy and hung with lichen to bear more than a few blackened leaves. The path itself was narrow and wound in and out among the trunks. Soon the light at the gate was like a little bright hole far behind, and the quiet was so deep that their feet seemed to thump along while all the trees leaned over them and listened. As their eyes became used to the dimness they could see a little way to either side in a sort of darkened green glimmer. Occasionally a slender beam of sun that had the luck to slip in through some opening in the leaves far above, and still more luck in not being caught in the tangled boughs and matted twigs beneath, stabbed down thin and bright before them. But this was seldom, and it soon ceased altogether. ... There were queer noises too, grunts, scufflings, and hurryings in the undergrowth, and among the leaves that lay piled endlessly thick in places on the forest-floor; but what made the noises he could not see. ... It was not long before they grew to hate the forest as heartily as they had hated the tunnels of the goblins, and it seemed to offer even less hope of any ending. But they had to go on and on, long after they were sick for a sight of the sun and of the sky, and longed for the feel of wind on their faces. (Tolkien, Hobbit, ch. 8)


In both Wizard and Hobbit this path leads to a river (just after the forest, for Baum; in the forest, for Tolkien) that the protagonists cross with difficulty, as one of their number (the Scarecrow, Bombur) gets stuck; shortly thereafter (for Baum), or immediately thereupon (for Tolkien), an enchantment sends one of the party (Dorothy, Bombur) to sleep; thus “they made a chair with their hands for the seat and their arms for the arms and carried the sleeping girl between them through the flowers” (Baum), or “they were burdened with the heavy body of Bombur, which they had to carry along with them as best they could” (Tolkien).

Later in their journey (chs. 19-20), Dorothy and her party are attacked by animated trees (prefiguring both Old Man Willow and the Ents in LOTR; of course Baum and Tolkien had each read Macbeth) and are also forced to dispatch a giant spider (prefiguring both the Mirkwood spiders in The Hobbit and Shelob in LOTR).  And even the Scarecrow’s walking song, “Tol-de-ri-de-oh!” (ch. 8), anticipates Tom Bombadil’s “Hey come merry dol! derry dol!”

The very name “Bilbo” is in a way prefigured in Rinkitink of Oz, one of whose protagonists goes alternately by the names Bilbil and Bobo.  But Tolkien’s influence is more likely to have been Shakespeare, for whom a “bilbo” is both a sword of a kind made in Bilbao (Merry Wives of Windsor I.1 and III.5) and a comical French mispronunciation of “elbow” (Henry V III.4).

Before the Oz books, one of Baum’s most popular works was his 1897 Mother Goose In Prose, which purported to tell the real stories behind various nursery rhymes – in effect a fanciful “reverse-engineering” of the latter.  Tolkien’s tales of Middle-Earth were part of a very similar project:  to create an authentic Anglo-Saxon mythology by fancifully reverse-engineering surviving English folklore, thus explaining why, e.g., the Saxons called the morning star “Earendel” or referred to ancient ruins as orthanc enta geweorc (literally “the cunning work of giants,” but also susceptible of the translation “Orthanc, fortress of the Ents”).  As it happens, Baum and Tolkien applied their reverse-engineering skills to two of the same nursery rhymes: “Hey Diddle Diddle, the Cat and the Fiddle” (Baum’s version)(Tolkien’s version) and “The Man in the Moon Came Down Too Soon” (Baum’s version)(Tolkien’s version). Tolkien’s giving the Man in the Moon “silver shoon” for his journey from the moon to Earth could be a nod to Dorothy’s using Silver Shoes to travel from Oz back to our world – though on the other hand Walter de la Mare had also given the personified moon “silver shoon” in his 1913 poem “Silver.”

Two orders of fairies that pop up in many of Baum’s stories are knooks and ryls, guardian spirits in charge of animals and plants respectively.  Baum often refers to knooks and ryls in such a way as to suggest that they belong to an older mythology independent of his own work;  for example, in his 1909 essay on “Modern Fairy Tales,” purportedly a nonfiction discussion of an existing literary tradition, Baum writes:

[W]e know the family of immortals generally termed “fairies” has many branches and includes fays, sprites, elves, nymphs, ryls, knooks, gnomes, brownies and many other subdivisions.

There is no blue book or history of the imaginative little creatures to guide us in classifying them, but they all
have their uses and peculiar characteristics; as, for example, the little ryls, who carry around paint-pots, with which they color, most brilliantly and artistically the blossoms of the flowers.

But to all evidence these knooks and ryls are Baum’s own invention.  Baum is subtly attempting to give his creations an aura of antiquity and authenticity by backdating them – a kind of gentle hoax.

There nevertheless is a tradition on which Baum is drawing for his knooks and ryls.  But it is not a tradition about fairy creatures; instead it is the tradition of the phrase “nooks and rills,” meaning “secluded spots and small streams.”  As early as 1618, John Taylor in his Penniless Pilgrimage was writing “of brooks, crooks, nooks; of rivers, bournes and rills”; and by Baum’s day the phrase “nooks and rills” or some close variant thereof had become so common as to be hackneyed.  Constantine Rafinesque, in his 1836 New Flora and Botany of North America, speaks of interesting plants to be found in “every rock, nook, rill.”  Percy St. John, in his 1865 novel Paul Peabody, speaks of searching “through every rill and nook.”  Andrew Beveridge, in his 1881 poem Clydesdale, writes: “His teachers had been sylvan nooks and rills.”  Frank Hodgman’s 1891 poem “The Wandering Singer” invites us to consider “winding rills and babbling brooks ... meadows green and shady nooks.”  In Oliver Wendell Holmes’ 1892 “After a Lecture on Wordsworth,” we find the lines “A thousand rills; they leap and shine, / Strained through the shadowy nooks.”  Other poems to place rills and nooks in close conjunction are Richard Polwhele’s 1815 Fair Isabel of Cotehele, Elizabeth Wolferstan’s 1824 Eugenia, Alvin Snow’s 1892 Songs of the White Mountains, and L. E. Holmes’ 1895 “Sportman’s Song.”  Looking further ahead, the Idaho State Song, composed in 1917, contains the line “We love every nook and rill.” 

My suggestion, then, is that Baum with his knooks and ryls is working the same kind of reverse-engineering revisionism on the common phrase “nooks and rills” that Tolkien is working on phrases like orthanc enta geweorc, not only exploiting the aural familiarity of “nooks and rills” to create the impression of established tradition, but also implicitly suggesting that our phrase “nooks and rills” is an echo of an older phrase with a different meaning.  (The fact that knooks and ryls are like Ents in being nature-spirits  adds an extra dimension to the parallel.)  One suspects that Baum had a secret chuckle over his own strategy of influence in this regard when he wrote, in his 1901 short story “The Enchanted Types,” that “[m]ortals seldom know how greatly they are influenced by fairies, knooks and ryls, who often put thoughts into their heads that only the wise little immortals could have conceived.”  

This might also explain why Baum calls his underground spirits Nomes rather than “gnomes not, as sometimes suggested, to simplify the spelling for the kiddies (no one who offers his young readers the incantation Pyrzqxgl is going to be worried about their ability to pronounce “gnome), but rather to suggest that he is offering us a more authentic etymology.


14c.  The Great Inner Circle, Where Resided the Mighty Lion (Lewis)

C. S. Lewis’s Narnia books are thoroughgoingly Christian, just as the Oz books are thoroughgoingly pagan.  Some people take this as a reason to discourage children from reading one or the other, depending.  Why anyone would think it a good idea to keep children ignorant of either of the two main traditions of Western civilisation I can’t imagine.  (By the way, editions of the Narnia books without the original Pauline Baynes artwork are as much a sacrilege as Oz books without Denslow and Neill, or The Hobbit without Tolkien’s own illustrations.  The Narnia books should also be read in the original publication order, not diegetic chronological order, regardless of what numbers the publishers are putting on the spines these days.  Get off my lawn.) 

The parallels between the first Oz book (Wizard) and the first Narnia book (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) are striking:  a young girl is magically transported to a fairy-tale kingdom, where she and her friends overthrow a wicked witch with the help of a talking (though in the Narnian case not exactly cowardly) lion, who in turn is at one point rescued by friendly mice.  (The idea of a lion being rescued by mice might have a common origin in Aesop.)  

The second Narnia book (Prince Caspian), like the second Oz book (Land), focuses on a young boy native to fairyland who gets caught up in a civil war and ends the book as the country’s ruler.  

 And the fourth Narnia book (The Silver Chair) parallels the canonically third – but arguably fifth – Oz book (Ozma), inasmuch as it involves a journey to a subterranean realm to rescue a kidnapped and enchanted prince from a wicked ruler – a green witch, in Lewis’s version – and her army of gnomes.  (But the name of Lewis’s subterranean realm, “Underland,” is an obvious nod to Lewis Carroll – as, surely, is the dreaming king whose waking will mean the end of the world.)



The underwater kingdoms that Lucy glimpses from the deck of the Dawn Treader are reminiscent of those in Baum’s Sea Fairies; and the White Witch’s turning her enemies into statues could be a nod either to the Nome King’s transforming his captives into bric-a-brac or to Mombi’s threat to turn Tip into a marble statue.  Both the Oz and Narnia series even include cameos from Santa Claus (in The Road to Oz, ch. 22, and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, ch. 10).  And Lewis’s whimsically various ways of transporting his protagonists to Narnia – stepping through a wardrobe, stepping through a disused gate, falling into a painting, touching a magic ring, being summoned by a magic horn – echo Baum’s similar ways of getting his protagonists to Oz:  being carried by a tornado, being washed overboard by a storm, sailing in a runaway balloon, falling through a crack in the ground, taking a wrong turn on a familiar path, being summoned by a magic belt.



Baum and Lewis also share a common debt to Hans Christian Andersen (whom Baum called “the one great author of fairy tales”), and especially to Andersen’s story “The Snow Queen.”  Blinkie, the witch who freezes Gloria’s heart in Baum’s Scarecrow, and Jadis, the White Witch who freezes all of Narnia while corrupting Edmund’s heart in Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, both appear to be inspired by Andersen’s Snow Queen, who freezes Kai’s heart in order to keep the splinter in it that corrupts him.  The fragment of Morgul-blade working its way toward Frodo’s heart to turn him into a wraith. in Tolkien’s LOTR, probably takes inspiration from Andersen also.  Polly and Digory, in Lewis’s Magician’s Nephew, meeting via the roofs of adjoining houses likewise recall Andersen’s Kai and Gerda.

Moving beyond Narnia, Lewis’s Out of the Silent Planet owes more to Burroughs and Tolkien than to Baum, but there is a slight parallel.  A human arriving on Mars he is told to travel to the home of Oyarsa, the ruler of the planet; although Lewis borrowed the name from “Oyarses” (a medieval Latinisation of Ousiarkhēs), it does still ring of “Oz.”   In a sequel, Perelandra, Lewis describes a pair of angels as resembling, initially, “pulsations of flame, talons and beaks”; subsequently, “concentric wheels moving with a rather sickening slowness”; and finally, “human figures ... thirty feet high” and “burning white like white-hot iron.”  (ch. 16)  This is reminiscent of the Wizard’s various manifestations as an “enormous Head,”  a “Ball of Fire,” a “most lovely Lady” with “flowing green locks “ and “wings ... [g]rowing from her shoulders,” and a “most terrible Beast,” with “a head like that of a rhinoceros,” “five eyes,” “five long arms,” “five long, slim legs,” and “[t]hick, woolly hair” – though there is nothing humbug about Lewis’s angels.


14d.  It Sings a Song That’s Quite Absurd (Seuss)

When I was about seven I sent a fan letter to Dr. Seuss – and he answered it!  But I haven’t seen his letter for years; I hope it’s not another of the many things lost forever from my childhood.

The most obvious parallel between Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel) and Baum, other than their shared connection to the San Diego area, is in artwork, which of course is not Baum’s but Neill’s.  Neill’s and Seuss’s styles were very different, but there is something similar in their whimsy and mad inventiveness.

Neill’s Woggle-bug (left); Seuss’s Cat in the Hat (right)

Aquatic fauna: Neill (left and middle); Seuss (right)

There are some textual parallels between Baum and Seuss, however; I’ll focus on just three cases.  First, in Seuss’s I Had Trouble In Getting to Solla Sollew, the protagonist undertakes an arduous journey to a marvelous city where all his problems will be solved:  “I’m off to the City of Solla Sollew ... Where they never have troubles!  At least, very few.”  But the city’s promise turns out to be hollow; and in the end, rather than seek out another even more magical city, he decides to rely on his own abilities: “Now my troubles are going / To have trouble with me!”  The parallels with Wizard are striking enough already; but reverse the letters of “Solla Sollew,” and change the S’s to Z’s, and you get:  “well, Oz; all Oz.”

Second, there’s Seuss’s Yertle the Turtle, about a turtle king who complains that “the kingdom he ruled was too small.”

“I’m ruler,” said Yertle, “of all that I see.
But I don’t see enough.  That’s the trouble with me.
With this stone for a throne, I look down on my pond
But I cannot look down on the places beyond. ...”

So Yertle forces the other turtles to form a tower out of their bodies, with himself on top.  At first he is pleased with his greater altitude – until he notices the moon in the sky:

“What’s THAT?” snorted Yertle.  “Say, what IS that thing
That dares to be higher than Yertle the King?
I shall not allow it!  I’ll go higher still!
I’ll build my throne higher!  I can and I will! ...”


Likewise, in Tik-Tok of Oz, Ann Soforth, ruler of the tiny country of Oogaboo, is tired of merely being “Queen over eighteen men, twenty-seven women and forty-four children,” so she decides to “conquer the Land of Oz and set herself up as Ruler in Ozma’s place,” then “go out into the world and conquer other lands,” and finally “find a way to the moon, and conquer that.”  (ch. 1)  But Glinda notices the approach of her army and causes them to become “hopelessly lost” in a “barren country” that is “not very pleasant to travel in.”  There they plant “a flag bearing the royal emblem of Oogaboo,” in order to ”show that the country they were in had been conquered by the Queen of Oogaboo.  So far, no one but themselves had seen the flag, but Ann was pleased to see it flutter in the breeze and considered herself already a famous conqueror.”  (ch. 3)  Yertle, for his part, is toppled from power by turtles father down in the tower, and plunges into the muck:  “And today the great Yertle, that Marvelous he, Is King of the Mud, that is all he can see.”  Being King of Mud is of course rather like being Queen of an empty wasteland.  In the end, Queen Ann comes to recognise that the world is “too big for one person to conquer,” and that she would be “happier with my own people in Oogaboo” (ch. 24); no such revelation seems to be in the offing for King Yertle.
  
Third, there is some similarity between Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Baum’s short story “A Kidnapped Santa Claus” (a sequel to his better-known Life and Adventures of Santa Claus). Baum’s story features a group of Daemons who, like the Grinch, “live in the mountain caves,” and who “hate Santa Claus very much” because “he made children happy.”  So they decide to kidnap Santa in order to deprive the children of gifts, in the hopes that this deprivation will “make the children selfish and envious and hateful.”  The Daemons’ taunts to their captive on Christmas morning – “The children are waking up, Santa! ... They are waking up to find their stockings empty! Ho, ho! How they will quarrel, and wail, and stamp their feet in anger!“ – are similar to the Grinch’s exulting:  “They’re finding out now that no Christmas is coming! ... They’re just waking up! I know just what they’ll do! ... Their mouths will hang open a minute or two, / Then the Whos down in Whoville will all cry Boo-Hoo!”  In Baum’s version, however – somewhat more realistically than in Seuss’s – this catastrophe is averted, not (as in Seuss) because the children care more about the Real Meaning of Christmas than about the presents, but rather because Santa’s helpers have managed to deliver them all in Santa’s absence.   (But in a somewhat closer parallel, Santa is released because one of the Daemons repents.)

Before he became famous as the author of The Wizard of Oz, Baum was famous instead as “Father Goose” for his early books of nursery rhymes; he even lived in a house called “Sign of the Goose,” and was known to his neighbours as “The Goose Man.” Here too there’s a (minor) parallel:  Dr. Seuss originally pronounced his pen name (derived from his real middle name) to rhyme with “voice,” and changed it to rhyme with “goose” in the hope that it would invoke Mother Goose.

Less happily, Seuss is also like Baum in his mixed record on race.  His books The Sneetches and Horton Hears a Who are brilliant condemnations of racism and marginalisation respectively.  But Seuss’s World War II editorial cartoons are viciously racist, and he supported Roosevelt’s internment of Japanese-Americans.


14e.  A Cold Day on the Railroad (Rand)

Of all the authors I’m discussing in this section, Rand is the one least likely to have been familiar with the Oz books.  As far as I can determine, none of them had been translated (or “translated”) into Russian until 1939, by which time Rand was an adult and had come to America.  This might make any parallels here especially likely to be coincidences – yet of course Rand would have known about the MGM movie, whether or not she saw it.  Indeed she had a slight personal connection to the movie:  Mervyn LeRoy, the producer for MGM’s Wizard of Oz, was originally attached as director to the movie version of The Fountainhead, before being replaced by King Vidor – who had reputedly directed the Kansas scenes (without screen credit) for Wizard of Oz.

Just as Baum strove to Americanise the tradition of the fairy tale, so Rand sought to Americanise whatever tradition Les Misérables and The Brothers Karamazov belong to – a tradition of massive, sprawling romantic epics filled with essay-length philosophical and sociological digressions.  (Of course this tradition was arguably a thoroughly American one already, as Moby-Dick is an earlier instance of the same genre; but it was Hugo and Dostoyevsky, not Melville, that Rand grew up reading.)  Readers who complain about the long speeches in which Rand’s characters indulge tend to forget in what tradition she was working.  But in Atlas Shrugged Rand transposes the tradition of Hugo and Dostoyevsky to the streets of Manhattan and the mountains of Colorado, to railways and steel mills, and the novel’s theme is, in part, the meaning of America.

Rand also shared Baum’s preference for understanding over faith, his rejection of original sin, and his conviction that “reason revolts from the blind and superstitious faith upon which rests the structure of the Christian religion” – though she would have dismissed Baum’s interest in theosophy and spiritualism as irrational twaddle.  Baum sent his children to an Ethical Culture Sunday School; the Ethical Culture movement held that morality is, and should be taught as, independent of theology.  Rand likewise complained that “Religion’s monopoly in the field of ethics has made it extremely difficult to communicate the emotional meaning and connotations of a rational view of life.”  (Fountainhead, Introduction)   And Rand echoes Baum’s judgment that the “age of Faith is sinking slowly into the past” when she writes that “mysticism, as a cultural power, is dead” (Philosophy: Who Needs It, p. 63) – though Rand no doubt had a more famous remark of Nietzsche’s in mind.


While best known for their novels, Baum and Rand both wrote short stories, plays, and screenplays, including adaptations of their own works; and both experimented with traditional play structure.  In the middle of his play The Maid of Athens, a campus football comedy, Baum inserts “a genuine football game ... showing kick-off, scrimmage, etc.”  The game is to be “earnestly and fairly conducted,” i.e., there is no guarantee on any given night as to which side will win, a move intended to “add the element of uncertainty to every contest” and thus “arouse enthusiastic interest in the audience.”  Baum suggests recruiting college students to serve as players, and offering “a slight premium” to “ensure their best efforts.”  Likewise, Rand’s play Night of January 16th is “a murder trial without a pre-arranged verdict,” with “jurors ... to be selected from the audience,” a feature which Rand expects to “heighten the public’s interest by leaving the decision in its own hands,” and to “add to the suspense by the fact that no audience, at any performance of the play, can be sure of its outcome.”  (p. 17)

Baum deplored the tendency to “force ‘nice’ and ‘gentle’ tales” upon children, and particularly upon girls, rather than “giving them the exciting stories their natures demand.”  There is “little excuse,” Baum wrote, “for giving namby-pamby books to girls and adventurous ones to boys”; while “maiden ladies and reverend grandmothers write many ‘sweet’ stories for girls,” such authors would receive a rude surprise “if the little girls could only tell in print what they think of these stories.”  Little girls, he thought, “as eagerly demand and absorb the marvelous as their brothers,” and “need it as much.”

Dact I on the loose
Rand was the sort of little girl Baum was talking about.  One of her biographers tells how Rand as a child was bored with the bland pabulum she was usually given to read, but lit up with excitement when discovering a story about “a heroic French detective in pursuit of a dangerous jewel thief,” or “English officers in India, kidnapped by an evil rajah” and escaping through “secret corridors and a pool filled with crocodiles.”  (Barbara Branden, Passion of Ayn Rand, pp. 11-14)  From a second biographer we learn that one of Rand’s favourite childhood books concerned a young Catherine the Great’s encounter with a fortune-teller who “sees Catherine’s future greatness in the shape of an invisible crown engraved on her brow.”  (Anne C. Heller, Ayn Rand and the World She Made, p. 12; cf. Robert Mayhew, ed.  Essays on Ayn Rand’s Anthem, p. 115)  And a third biographer adds that the young Rand and her sister nicknamed themselves “Dact I and Dact II, after the winged dinosaurs of Arthur Conan Doyle’s fantastic adventure story The Lost World  (Jennifer Burns, Goddess of the Market, p. 12; see my review), suggesting that this was yet another book she liked.  (Pedantic aside:  pterodactyls are not technically dinosaurs, however.)   

The Lost World was of course a major influence on Burroughs also, especially his Pellucidar and Caspak series; and Tolkien may have been a fan as well, given his description of the Witch-King’s winged steed, with its vast pinions ... as webs of hide between horned fingers bearing neither quill nor feather, as a “creature of an older world ... whose kind, lingering in forgotten mountains cold beneath the Moon, outstayed their day.

Alida Valli as Kira in the best Rand film
Rand herself writes:  “At the age of seven, I refused to read ... stories about the children of the folks next door.  They bored me to death.”  (Romantic Manifesto, p. 167)  Clearly Rand was one of those girls who, in Baum’s words, “eagerly demand and absorb the marvelous” and are impatient with “namby-pamby books.”  Rand dramatised her own childhood experience in her semi-autobiographical novel We the Living, where she describes the protagonist Kira Argounova discovering, as a young girl, a story about “a Viking who walked through life, breaking barriers and reaping victories,” after which she “did not remember the books she read before that legend” and “did not want to remember the ones she read after it.”  (WTL I.3)  We also catch a glimpse of the young Kira at play, exploring a wild realm of imagined dinosaurs on her own.

Both We the Living and Atlas Shrugged feature strong female protagonists.  In the former, Kira as a child “had played with mechanical toys, which were not intended for girls,” and had spoken of “the houses she would build of glass and steel, about a white aluminum bridge across a blue river,” and “about men and wheels and cranes under her orders, about a sunrise on the steel skeleton of a skyscraper” (WTL I.3), despite being told that engineering is not “a profession for women” and that she would be “much more useful to society in a more feminine capacity.”  (WTL I.2)  Kira is prevented by Soviet oppression from realising her dreams, but Dagny Taggart, the protagonist of Rand’s 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged – “a woman whose head was lifted eagerly as at a sight of distance, whose steps were a restless substitute for flight” (AS II.1) – becomes the hyper-competent chief operating officer for a transcontinental railroad, despite charges that “a woman acting like a grease-monkey and posing around like a big executive” is “unfeminine,” “disgusting” (I.4), and “unheard of” (I.3), and that instead of running a railroad she should be “practicing the beautiful craft of the handloom and bearing children.”  (I.6)

Taylor Schilling as Dagny in not such a good Rand film

In one of his Aberdeen editorials, comparing gender norms in different parts of the country, Baum comments on the “superiority of western women.”  In the eastern states, he says, it is “still considered a disgrace for young ladies to engage in any kind of regular occupation, and even a married woman loses her social status by engaging in business or following any pursuit which brings her monetary returns.”  The women of the western states, by contrast, “cannot brook idleness when they see before them work to be done which is eminently fitted for their hands”; and such women’s “active brains and good judgment are responsible for the success of many a man’s business which without their counsel to direct it would be irretrievably involved in ruin.” (Pioneer, 15 March 1890; Koupal, Baum’s Road, pp. 118-119)  A woman who cannot brook idleness, and whose brains and judgment are crucial to the survival of a business nominally headed by a man, is a fairly precise description of Dagny Taggart.  She may be a New Yorker, but she is a western woman by Baum’s criteria.

Rand’s genuine feminist impulses unfortunately coexisted with a romanticisation of male dominance that led her in some horribly antifeminist directions, most notoriously in the glamourised rape scene in The Fountainhead.  For a discussion of the feminist and antifeminist strands in Rand’s work, see the anthology Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand.  (And for a ghastly downplaying of a rape attempt in Baum’s work, see his Daughters of Destiny.)

Don’t want to stay forever young
While Rand wrote for adults rather than for children, childhood is nevertheless one of the central themes of her fiction.  (This will come as news to those critics who claim that childhood is nonexistent in Rand’s literary universe.  I assume these are the same critics who claim to find nothing scary or disturbing in Baum’s books. One trait that Rand and Baum have in common, apparently, is a flair for rendering critics unable to read what is on the page in front of them.)  Rand’s novels often feature extensive flashbacks to the main characters’ childhoods, to a far greater degree than is common in mainstream fiction.  This is not because she regarded childhood as an idyllic period; quite the contrary.  When, as a schoolgirl, she was assigned to write an essay on “why being a child is such a joyous thing,”  Rand instead turned in a “scathing denunciation” of childhood, arguing that children “couldn’t think as clearly as they would be able to once they had grown up and learned more,” and that in the meantime it was a bore to “play boring games and read silly books while waiting.”  (Anne C. Heller, Ayn Rand and the World She Made, p. 9) 

The value in childhood, for Rand, lay not in what it contained but in its promise and potential.   Kira, in We the Living, feels that something great was “promised to her, promised in a memory of her childhood” (WTL I.3); and in the introduction to The Fountainhead, Rand notes that “at the dawn of their lives” most people begin with a “sense of enormous expectation, the sense that one’s life is important, that great achievements are within one’s capacity, and that great things lie ahead” – an expectation that frequently ends up being lost or betrayed.  Rand places great stress on early psychological development:

[A child's] mind is in a state of eager, impatient flux; he is unable to catch up with the impressions bombarding him from all aides; he wants to know everything and at once. ... Observe ... the intensity, the austere, the unsmiling seriousness with which an infant watches the world around him. ... If you ever find, in an adult, that degree of seriousness about reality, you will have fond a great man.  (Anti-Industrial Revolution, pp. 54-55)

And just as Baum maintains that “fairy tales are of untold value in developing imagination in the young,” and that the “imaginative child will become the imaginative man or woman most apt to create, to invent, and therefore to foster civilization,” so Rand likewise holds that heroic, imaginative literature plays an important role in fostering a child’s cognitive development, and so should be encouraged rather than disparaged:

It is easy to convince a child ... that his desire to emulate Buck Rogers is ridiculous: he knows that it isn’t exactly Buck Rogers he has in mind and yet, simultaneously, it is – he feels caught in an inner contradiction – and this confirms his desolately embarrassing feeling that he is being ridiculous.

Thus the adults – whose foremost moral obligation toward a child, at this stage of his development, is to help him understand that what he values is an abstraction, to help him break through into the conceptual realmaccomplish the exact opposite.  They stunt his conceptual capacity, they cripple his normative abstractions, they stifle his moral ambition ...  They arrest his value-development on a primitively literal, concrete-bound level: they convince him that to be like Buck Rogers means to wear a space helmet and blast armies of Martians with a  disintegrator-gun, and that he’d better give up such notions if he ever expects to make a respectable living. (Romantic Manifesto, p. 149)

To those who dismiss Buck Rogers and the like as “escapist” forms of entertainment, Rand responds:

If the projection of value-goals – the projection of an improvement on the given, the known, the immediately available – is an “escape,” then medicine is an “escape” from disease, agriculture is an “escape" from hunger, knowledge is an “escape” from ignorance, ambition is an “escape” from sloth, and life is an “escape” from death.  (p. 167)

This last passage is reminiscent of Tolkien’s response to the same sort of critique:

In what the misusers [of the term “escape”] are fond of calling Real Life, Escape is evidently as a rule very practical, and may even be heroic. ... Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?

As we’ve seen, Baum declares that children’s literature should focus on the “well and strong” rather than on the “crippled” or “maimed,” on the grounds that “a normal child should not be harassed with pitiful subjects” – yet Baum defies his own advice by including disabled characters like Cap’n Bill.
           
Artistic styles:  Rand-approved (left); Rand-disapproved (right)
Rand’s aversion to a concern, literary or otherwise, with the disabled is still more extreme – presumably reflecting in part the residual influence of Nietzsche and his contempt for the weak.  In We the Living, Kira is portrayed positively for refusing to “play with a crippled relative of whom the family’s compassion had made a general idol.”  (WTL I.3)  In The Fountainhead the inmates of the “Hopton Stoddard Home for Subnormal Children” are described in mocking terms (II.15) – even though The Fountainhead in many ways represents her declaration of independence from Nietzsche and his cult of strength.  And in an interview with Phil Donahue, Rand accuses “kneeling buses” of being an “attempt to bring everybody to the level of the handicapped.”

Rand offers a philosophical justification for at least the literary side of her aversion to concern for the disabled.  An artist, she holds, “selects those aspects of existence which he regards as metaphysically significant – and by isolating and stressing them, by omitting the insignificant and accidental, he presents his view of existence.”  Thus an artist who “presents man as a god-like figure” is aware that “men may be crippled or diseased or helpless,” but “regards these conditions as accidental, as irrelevant to the essential nature of man,” as not being “important enough to include.”  Thus such an artist “presents a figure embodying strength, beauty, intelligence, self-confidence, as man’s proper, natural state.”  By contrast, an artist who focuses on a “deformed” subject, while aware that “there are men who are healthy,” does so because he regards health as “accidental or illusory,” and so “presents a tortured figure embodying pain, ugliness, terror, as man’s proper, natural state.”  (Romantic Manifesto, pp. 36-37)

Here Rand once again shows the influence of Nietzsche, who writes of the “preachers of death,” with a reference to the sights that led the Buddha to the realization that life is suffering:

They encounter a sick man or an old man or a corpse, and immediately they say, “Life is refuted.” But only they themselves are refuted, and their eyes, which see only this one face of existence.  (Zarathustra I.9)

In similar vein, Rand complains that modern literature focuses on “dipsomaniacs” and “drug addicts,” and chooses such subject-matter as “a married couple whose child was born with six fingers on her left hand,” the “hopeless love of a bearded lady for a mongoloid pinhead in a circus side show” (Manifesto, p. 125), or the “torment of a young man whose prominent Adam’s apple makes him an outcast to his classmates.” (p. 131)

Jennifer Jones in Love Letters realising that life is suffering
Yet, again like Baum, Rand did not consistently follow her own advice.  One of the central incidents in her play Think Twice (collected here and here) concerns reestablishing the relationship between an alcoholic father and his wheelchair-bound son, and both characters are presented positively.  One of her movie scripts, Love Letters, is about a woman suffering from amnesia and related mental disturbance, and another, You Came Along, focuses on a terminally ill man’s final days.  Moreover, her favourite play was about the hopeless love of a playwright whose prominent nose renders him unattractive to his beloved, and two of her favourite novels were about a man with a disfigured face and a hunchback.

Rand goes on to argue not only against a literary focus on the disabled, but against any comparable focus on the psychologically weak.  Only heroic, larger-than-life characters can provide the reader with moral and emotional fuel:

Inspired by James Bond, a man may find the courage to rebel against the impositions of his in-laws – or to ask for a deserved raise – or to change his job – or to propose to the girl he loves – or to embark on the career he wants – or to defy the whole word for the sake of his new invention.

Rand offers in contrast Paddy Chayefsky’s Marty, which she describes as “an extremely sensitive, perceptive, touching portrayal of a humble man’s struggle for self-assertion.”

One can feel sympathy for Marty, and a sad kind of pleasure at his final success.  But it is highly doubtful that anyone – including the thousands of real-life Martys – would be inspired by his example.  No one could feel:  “I want to be like Marty.”  Everyone (except the most corrupt) can feel:  “I want to be like James Bond.”  (Manifesto, p. 140)

Rand’s argument is also closely analogous to Baum’s when he writes that while “[d]oubtless many crippled children have derived a degree of comfort” from books like The Little Lame Prince, “even the maimed ones prefer to idolize the well and strong.”

All this is, of course, nonsense.  To be sure, the highest fulfillment of an ideal is inspiring in virtue of its perfection; but lesser, partial, or more proximate realisations of that ideal are likewise inspiring, in virtue of their greater achievability and more immediate relevancy.  Surely we need both. 

Kent Smith as Peter Keating
In any case, here again Rand disobeys her own advice, as her fiction contains sympathetic portrayals of alcoholics (Leo Kovalensky in We the Living, Harvey Fleming in Think Twice, Henry Cameron and Steven Mallory in The Fountainhead), as well as of people who are simply psychologically weaker, less talented, and less self-confident than her chief protagonists:  for example, Alexander Argounov and Marisha Lavrov in We the Living; Fraternity 2-5503 and Solidarity 9-6347 in Anthem; Catherine Halsey in The Fountainhead; Jeff Allen, Cherryl Brooks, Dan Conway, Eddie Willers, and Tony the Wet Nurse in Atlas Shrugged; and most of the characters in Think Twice.  Even Guy Francon and Peter Keating, two of the dishonest second-handers in The Fountainhead, have moments of sympathetic portrayal (Francon in IV.17 and Keating passim, but e.g. at II.13 and IV.10 – though those two passages are of course linked by Keating’s monstrous betrayal of both Catherine and himself in II.14).  Heck, even Ellsworth Toohey, Rand’s ultimate archvillain, has his sympathetic moments (see, e.g., II.9 and IV.14).

The relationship between human beings and machinery is, as we’ve seen, a central one in Baum, and one he was somewhat ambivalent about – sometimes worrying about the evils of industrialisation, while at other times treating modern technology as our equivalent of the glorious wonders of Fairyland.  Rand is less equivocal in her attitude; she gives one of her villains in Atlas Shrugged the line:  “Machines have destroyed man’s humanity, taken him away from the soil, robbed him of his natural arts, killed his soul and turned him into an insensitive robot.”  (I.6)  Atlas’s chief protagonist, Dagny Taggart, by contrast muses:

Why had she always felt that joyous sense of confidence when looking at machines? ... In these giant shapes, two aspects pertaining to the inhuman were radiantly absent: the causeless and the purposeless. Every part of the motors was an embodied answer to “Why?” and “What for?” – like the steps of a life-course chosen by the sort of mind she worshipped. The motors were a moral code cast in steel.

They are alive, she thought, because they are the physical shape of the action of a living power – of the mind that had been able to grasp the whole of this complexity, to set its purpose, to give it form. For an instant, it seemed to her that the motors were transparent and she was seeing the net of their nervous system. It was a net of connections, more intricate, more crucial than all of their wires and circuits: the rational connections made by that human mind which had fashioned any one part of them for the first time.

They are alive, she thought, but their soul operates them by remote control. Their soul is in every man who has the capacity to equal this achievement.   (AS I.8)

And Toto too.
The greatest Baum/Rand parallels are between Wizard and Atlas (two works that also have in common the fact that their movie versions radically fail to do them justice).  Like Dorothy, Dagny has a first name beginning with D and ending with Y.  Like Baum himself, she hails from upstate New York (her childhood home is on the Hudson river).  Dagny shares Dorothy’s direct, assured manner; Rand tells us that she “looked like a young girl,” apart from “dark gray eyes ... direct and disturbing, as if they cut through things, throwing the inconsequential out of the way.”  (AS I.1)  Rand likewise describes her earlier female protagonist, We the Living’s Kira, as having eyes “the gray of storm clouds from behind which the sun can be expected at any moment,” that “looked at people quietly, directly,” with “a deep, confident calm that seemed to tell men her sight was too clear and none of their favorite binoculars [or green spectacles?] were needed to help her look at life.”  (WTL I.3)  Unlike the Scarecrow, she is not searching for a brain, for herself at least; on the contrary, she is described as “the only one who's got any brains in this rotten outfit.”  (AS I.4)  But she is searching to find a mysterious inventor who is “draining the brains of the world.”  (AS II.3)

Dagny’s first two lovers, Francisco d’Anconia  and Hank Rearden, are both tin woodmen, of a sort.  Both are devoted to metal: Francisco to copper (his mines) and silver (his family crest), and Rearden to steel (his mills) as well as to the green-hued alloy he calls Rearden Metal.  Rearden in particular is described in ways that make him sound metallic himself:

The glare cut a moment’s wedge across his eyes, which had the color and quality of pale blue ice – then across the black web of the metal column and the ash-blond strands of his hair – then across the belt of his trenchcoat and the pockets where he held his hands. His body was tall and gaunt; he had always been too tall for those around him. His face was cut by prominent cheekbones and by a few sharp lines .... Ever since he could remember, he had been told that his face was ugly, because it was unyielding, and cruel, because it was expressionless. It remained expressionless now, as he looked at the metal. (I.2)

Significantly, Rearden is emotionally repressed, and thus lacks a heart, or thinks he does:  “If his family called him heartless, it was true.”  (AS I.6)  Like Nick Chopper, he has made himself inhuman by (metaphorically) chopping off parts of himself, under the influence of his wife Lillian, the wicked witch who has been manipulating him for years; as Rearden himself later says:  “I had cut myself in two.”  (III.3)  Francisco is not repressed in the same way, and is not described in such metallic terms; but he has stifled or sacrificed his love for Dagny in order to further a higher cause, and so in a sense has cut his own heart out – though in his case the influence at work is a good wizard, John Galt, rather than an evil witch.

Ouray, Colorado:  Rand’s model for Galt’s Gulch
Atlas Shrugged is likewise dominated by a vision of a kind of Fairyland, initially called Atlantis until in its concrete reality it is revealed as Galt’s Gulch.  Before being shown it is described as being, if not precisely over the rainbow, then at least “at the end of the rails beyond the horizon” (II.9), a “place where hero-spirits lived in a happiness unknown to the rest of the earth,” located perhaps “underground, hidden in the heart of the earth,” or perhaps a on a “radiant island in the Western Ocean,” where its sunken towers may still be seen “shining on the bottom” – “a sight of such kind that when one had seen it, one could no longer wish to look at the rest of the earth.”  (I.7)  It is also a place where “artificial choices, such as soul or body, mind or heart” have no place.  (III.7)  Indeed, a central creed of Galt’s Gulch is the rejection of such dichotomies:  “They have cut man in two, setting one half against the other.”  (III.7)  This idea too seems an echo of one of Baum’s:

They cut two of us in halves and mismatch the halves – half of one to half of the other, you know – and then the other two halves are patched together. It destroys our individuality  .... and there you are, patched to someone you don’t care about and haven’t much interest in. If your half wants to do something, the other half is likely to want to do something different .... (Sky Island, ch. 7)

The path to Rand’s Atlantis is even paved with gold:  not golden paving stones, but the gold bars that Ragnar Danneskjöld offers, and the gold dollar-sign cigarettes that Galt’s followers smoke.  This path is even linked, as in Baum, to the realisation that what one needs must be found within and cannot be a gift from without:  “I wish I could spare you what you're going to go through,” Francisco tells Dagny, “[b]ut I can’t. Every one of us has to travel that road by his own steps. But it’s the same road .... [t]o Atlantis.”  (II.9)  And just as Dorothy has all along unknowingly had the ability to get back home, and just as her companions have all along possessed the qualities they seek, so Galt tells Dagny:  “through all the years of your struggle, nothing had barred you from Atlantis and there were no chains to hold you, except the chains you were willing to wear. ... Remember that you can reach it whenever you choose to see. Remember that it will be waiting and that it’s real, it’s possible – it’s yours.”  (AS III.3)

What is usually seen as a strength of Wizard – this very message of self-reliance, emphasising that its protagonists already have within themselves the gifts they mistakenly look to external authority to grant them – is condemned by Agnes Curry and Josef Velasquez as “self-containedness.”  Wizard’s protagonists, they charge, are “not fundamentally in need of anyone else”; none of them needs to make a “radical move towards another person ... in order to reach completion.”  (“Dorothy and Cinderella,” p. 33; in Durand and Leigh, Universe of Oz, pp. 24-53)  Rand, by contrast, sees independence and self-sufficiency as the precondition for, not an obstacle to, genuine connectedness to others; as she writes in another work, “To say ‘I love you’ one must know first how to say the ‘I.’”  (Fountainhead II.14)

Despite the uneasy relationship between Rand and feminism, there is a natural convergence between Rand’s critique of altruism and feminist critiques of patriarchy and heteronormativity.  After all, the idea that women should be fundamentally oriented toward others is a specific, patriarchal version of the altruist ethos that Rand critiques for either sex.  The link between altruism and heteropatriarchy can be seen in the swiftness with which Curry and Velasquez pass from a general critique of self-sufficiency to a specific insistence on traditional gender norms.  Even if Dorothy’s friendships do exemplify “relatedness in a general or communitarian sense,” they complain, she fails to move on to “relatedness in the sense of sexual pair bonding” (p. 50), or “giving herself to Princes” (p. 32); as a model for young girls she thus contrasts unfavourably, they opine, with the “radical self-donation involved in Cinderella’s relation to the Prince.” (p. 33)  The notion of “self-donation” should give both Randians and feminists an itchy trigger finger.

Curry and Velasquez moreover maintain that Dorothy’s love for Toto is narcissistic, since as a pet Toto is really “part of” her and “a sort of doll,” making her concern for Toto yet a further instance of “closed-off, atomistic self-containment.”  (pp. 31)  To this I can only say that anyone who thinks that a beloved animal is simply an extension of its human owner either has never had a pet or else should not be allowed to have one.  Judging by the stories about Rand and her cats, along with her now-famous letter to Cat Fancy, I suspect she would not have been on board with Curry and Velasquez’s dismissive attitude toward animals either.



Shortly before her transportation to Rand’s version of Fairyland, Dagny is trapped on a Western prairie – though in Nebraska rather than Kansas.  And like Baum – who writes of the “great gray prairie on every side,” where “[n]ot a tree nor a house broke the broad sweep of flat country that reached to the edge of the sky,” with “the same gray color to be seen everywhere,” leaving both the house and Aunt Em’s eyes “as dull and gray as everything else” – Rand emphasises the prairie’s bleakness and drabness:

[T]he train seemed lost in a void, between a brown stretch of prairie and a solid spread of rusty, graying clouds. The twilight was draining the sky without the wound of a sunset; it looked more like the fading of an anemic body in the process of exhausting its last drops of blood and light. ...  (AS II.10)

And just as Dorothy, whirling around and around, crashes to Oz in a house, so Dagny, “circling and dropping lower,” crashes to Galt’s new Atlantis in a silver plane, to wake in a paradise of “sunlight” and “green leaves,” “flaming with glass panes and green lawns.”

Arriving in Fairyland
 Here she meets her third lover, John Galt, who in addition to being the elusive brain-draining wizard turns out to be yet another tin woodman, albeit with emerald eyes: 

[H]is body had the hardness, the gaunt, tensile strength, the clean precision of a foundry casting, he looked as if he were poured out of metal, but some dimmed, soft-lustered metal, like an aluminum-copper alloy, the color of his skin blending with the chestnut-brown of his hair, the loose strands of the hair shading from brown to gold in the sun, and his eyes completing the colors, as the one part of the casting left undimmed and harshly lustrous: his eyes were the deep, dark green of light glinting on metal.  (AS III.1) 

Galt is also a tin woodman in the further sense that he, like Francisco, has been sacrificing his love for Dagny, in order to advance the cause.  (Baum’s Tik-Tok is also “made out of burnished copper,” and “where the light struck upon his form it glittered as if made of pure gold.”  (Ozma, ch 4)  It’s safe to say that Galt’s body is not “round as a ball,” however.)  Galt’s discovery of a new, fantastic, and secret source of electricity is also reminiscent of Rob in The Master Key hitting upon the eponymous key to the demon of electricity; and Galt’s refusal of power at the end of Atlas likewise aligns him with Rob (as well as with Tolkien; the refusal of power is of course a central theme of both Atlas and LOTR).

In Atlas it is not the regime of Fairyland but rather that of the real world that turns out to be humbuggery, a fraud whose persistence depends on its victims’ willingness not to remove their distorting spectacles:

If you choose to deal with men by means of compulsion, do so. But you will discover that you need the voluntary co-operation of your victims, in many more ways than you can see at present. And your victims should discover that it is their own volition – which you cannot force – that makes you possible.  (AS II.4)

I saw that evil was impotent – that evil was the irrational, the blind, the anti-real – and that the only weapon of its triumph was the willingness of the good to serve it. … The evil of the world is made possible by nothing but the sanction you give it. Withdraw your sanction.  (III.7)

This theme of power’s dependence on popular belief and acquiescence was pioneered by La Boétie, Hume, and Godwin, and is a commonplace in anarchist thought.  Baum’s stories likewise repeatedly feature figures of authority whose power stems solely from people’s mistaken belief in that power.  The Wizard himself is the most obvious case, but there are many others.  One example is Kwytoffle (“quite awful”), a tyrannical humbug sorcerer in The Enchanted Island of Yew:

“If you resist the sorcerer, you will be turned into grasshoppers and June-bugs,” declared the man, staring at them in wonder.

“How do you know that?” asked Marvel.

“Kwytoffle says so. He promises to enchant every one who dares defy his power.”

“Has any one ever yet dared defy him?” asked Nerle.

“Certainly not!” said the man. “No one wishes to become a June-bug or a grasshopper. No one dares defy him.”

“I am anxious to see this sorcerer,” exclaimed King Terribus. “He ought to prove an interesting person, for he is able to accomplish his purposes by threats alone.”  (Yew, ch. 20)

Kwytoffle’s soldiers turn out to be as much a humbug as his magical powers:

Kwytoffle yelled at the captain:

“Why don’t you go on? Why don't you capture them? Why don’t you fight them?” ...

“The fact is,” said the captain, woefully, “we simply can’t fight. For our swords are only tin, and our axes are made of wood, with silver-paper pasted over them.”

“But why is that?” asked Wul-Takim, while all the party showed their surprise.

“Why, until now we have never had any need to fight,” said the captain, “for every one has quickly surrendered to us or run away the moment we came near. But you people do not appear to be properly frightened ....”  (Yew, ch. 21)

In the same book, another tyrant, the Red Rogue of Dawna, has transformed himself into a giant, but has a secret – he “had never been able to gain the strength to correspond with his gigantic size, but had ever remained as weak as when he was a puny boy,” and so had to rely on “the terror his very presence usually excited to triumph over his enemies.”  (Yew, ch. 23)

In Dot and Tot, the Watch-Dog of Merryland is similarly ineffective at securing obedience to his commands:

“I’m placed here to keep everyone from passing through the archway that spans the river into the fair and happy valleys of Merryland.”

“How can you keep them from passing through?” asked the girl.

“Why, tell them they mustn’t, of course.”

“But suppose they won't mind you, what will you do then?”

The old man looked puzzled, and shook his head slowly.

“I’m sure I don’t know what I could do in that case,” he answered.  (Dot and Tot, ch. 5)

And the Queen of Merryland has soldiers who are similarly unable to back up her, and their, directives:

“The Queen has commanded me to shoot any stranger who tries to open the gate.”

“But your gun is only wood,” said Dot, who was annoyed at the soldier’s interference. ...

The soldier seemed somewhat embarrassed at this and Dot thought he blushed a little.  (Dot and Tot, ch. 10)

(Though some of the Merryland soldiers turn out to have wooden swords that are a bit more effective.)


Somebody call CopBlock

Back in Oz itself, the Cowardly Lion’s status as King of Beasts depends on others’ false belief in his fierceness:

All the other animals in the forest naturally expect me to be brave, for the Lion is everywhere thought to be the King of Beasts. I learned that if I roared very loudly every living thing was frightened and got out of my way. Whenever I’ve met a man I’ve been awfully scared; but I just roared at him, and he has always run away as fast as he could go. If the elephants and the tigers and the bears had ever tried to fight me, I should have run myself – I’m such a coward; but just as soon as they hear me roar they all try to get away from me, and of course I let them go. (Wizard, ch. 6)

Even the Emerald City under the Scarecrow’s rule turns out to have defenses as hollow and illusory as its green colour was under the Wizard’s rule:

Followed by her Army the General now rushed to the gateway, where she was confronted by the Royal Army of Oz – which was the other name for the Soldier with the Green Whiskers.

“Halt!” he cried, and pointed his long gun full in the face of the leader. ...

General Jinjur bravely stood her ground and said, reproachfully:

“Why, how now? Would you shoot a poor, defenceless girl?”

“No,” replied the soldier; “for my gun isn’t loaded.”

“Not loaded?”

“No; for fear of accidents. And I’ve forgotten where I hid the powder and shot to load it with. But if you'll wait a short time I'll try to hunt them up.” ...  (Land, ch. 8)

Jinjur’s army is of course unwilling to wait, and so the Emerald City is “captured without a drop of blood being spilled.”  (This trope is partly instantiated and partly subverted in Emerald City of Oz, wherein Ozma refuses to use force against the invading army of the Nome King and his allies, but manages to defeat them through magic and trickery instead.)

Over the desolate earth he traced in space the sign of the Bitcoin
Baum may or may not have intended the Emerald City as a satire on greenbacks, but Rand’s novel contains a definite blast against such fiat money:  gold, Francisco says,  is “an objective value, an equivalent of wealth produced,” while paper money is “a mortgage on wealth that does not exist” and “a check drawn by legal looters upon an account which is not theirs.”  (AS II.2)  Yet of course gold too retains its value only so long as people believe in it.

While the Emerald City (pre-Ozma, at least) has some parallels with the corrupt power structure of the world outside Galt’s Gulch, it also has parallels with the Gulch itself.  Just as the Wizard tells Dorothy that she has “no right to expect me to send you back to Kansas unless you do something for me in return,” since “[i]n this country everyone must pay for everything he gets” (Wizard, ch. 11), so when Dagny asks Galt “Did I understand you to say that Mr. Mulligan – who’s worth about two hundred million dollars, I believe – is going to charge you twenty-five cents for the use of his car? ... Good heavens, couldn’t he give it to you as a courtesy?” Galt replies:  “there is one word which is forbidden in this valley: the word ‘give ….’” (AS III.1) 

Both Baum’s fairyland and Rand’s are hidden from mortal eyes.  Ozma tells Dorothy:  “It won’t affect us at all; but those who fly through the air over our country will look down and see nothing at all. ... In other words, the Land of Oz will entirely disappear from the knowledge of the rest of the world.”  (Emerald City, ch. 29:  )  Galt similarly tells Dagny: 

The valley bottom that you saw is a mountain top eight thousand feet high, five miles away from here. ... A mountain top that no flyer would ever choose for a landing. What you saw was its reflection projected over this valley. ... [T]his place is private property intended to remain as such.   (AS III.1)

Just as, in Emerald City, the narrator receives a last message from Dorothy “written on a broad, white feather from a stork's wing” (ch. 30), so in Atlas “the screen split open for one brief break – for the length of a letter she received a week after he vanished.” (III.7)  And just as Ozma, in Dorothy and the Wizard, keeps a watch on Dorothy via her magic picture in order to be ready to help her return to Oz when she desires to do so, so Galt keeps a like watch (if somewhat riskier for himself) on Dagny to be ready to help her return to the Gulch.  
   
“That’s all right,” said Dorothy, cheerfully. “You may make Oz invis’ble as soon as you please, for all I care.”
“It is already invisible,” Glinda stated. “I knew Ozma’s wishes, and performed the Magic Spell before you arrived.”

If Dagny is an echo of Dorothy, the character of Cherryl Brooks is too, since Cherryl is Dagny’s doublet – her tragic, weaker counterpart. Cherryl, like Dagny, is from upstate New York (Buffalo, in this case), and Dagny describes herself and Cherryl as spiritual sisters.  Like Baum’s Dorothy, who loves to “wander out into the country and all through the land, peering into queer nooks and corners,” and who “always laughed at [the Wizard’s] fears for her and said she was not afraid of anything that might happen” (Little Wizard Stories, ch. 2), Cherryl has a “look of alertness, of eager interest, a look that expected the world to contain an exciting secret behind every corner” (AS I.9), and “the courageous trust of a kitten when it sees a hand extended to play.” (II.2)  But Cherryl, instead of meeting a benevolent copper revolutionary, has the misfortune to be hoodwinked by a humbug wizard, in the form of Dagny’s slimy brother James, whom Cherryl initially admires because she mistakes Dagny’s achievements for his:   “He had never had the experience of seeing his presence give color to a place he entered: the girl looked as if she was not tired any longer, as if the dime store had become a scene of drama and wonder.”  (I.9)  When she asks him, “Mr. Taggart, how does it feel to be a great man?” he replies, “How does it feel to be a little girl?” – an exchange reminiscent of “Dorothy, the Small and Meek” telling “Oz, the Great and Terrible”:  “you are a Great Wizard and I am only a little girl.”  (Wizard, ch. 11)  One of James’ first gifts to Cherryl is even an emerald bracelet.

When, early in their relationship, James takes Cherryl to a fashionable party for which she is inappropriately dressed, in order to humiliate her, she mistake his act for “the gesture of a courageous man defying their opinion,” and so is “willing to match his courage by serving as the scarecrow of the occasion.”  (AS II.2)  Such verbal echoes of Wizard, whether intentional or coincidental, recur throughout the text.  The morality of duty is described as “a phantom scarecrow .... standing in a barren field, waving a stick to chase away your pleasures” (AS III.7), and one of the villains refers to another as an “old scarecrow,” while  the latter replies by calling the first “brainless.” (III.9)  James Taggart tells Cherryl, “They have the brain, but I have the heart” (II.2); Francisco tells Dagny that “[a] city is the frozen shape of human courage” (II.5); and Dagny is referred to as “the little girl who’s such a wizard at railroading.” (III.3)

When the Wizard is unmasked in Baum’s tale, he claims to be a good man though a bad wizard – though it is hard to see what is good about him considered apart from his humbug wizardry, since impersonating a wizard is pretty much all he has been doing.  Likewise, once Cherryl find out the truth about James, she confronts him:  “I loved you for your courage, your ambition, your ability. But it wasn’t real, any of it.”  To this, James responds:  “I don’t want to be loved for anything. I want to be loved for myself – not for anything I do or have or say or think.  For myself – not for my body or mind or words or works or actions.”  And Cherryl responds:  “But then ... what is yourself?:  (AS III.4)  The question of how one’s identity relates to one’s attributes is, as we’ve seen, a recurring them in Baum’s work as well. 

The same I did to them,
baby, I can do to you
James Taggart is not the only humbug wizard in Atlas.  An even closer parallel is Mr. Thompson, the “Head of the State,” who is described as someone who “will bring light into the darkness of the world and will show us the way out of our tragic problems.” (III.7)  But the real Thompson (for whom Rands inspiration was Harry Truman) is nothing but a “little man in a wilted linen suit, who looked like a shyster” (III.3), and who “possessed the quality of never being noticed.”  The great secret of his career is that “he was a product of chance and knew it and aspired to nothing else.”  (II.6)  When he tries to bribe Galt, Galt replies:  “What have you got to offer me that I couldn’t get without you?”  (III.8)  Like Baum’s Wizard, Thompson is a con man who can give people only what they already have.

Ellsworth Toohey, the chief antagonist in The Fountainhead, is another Wizard figure, though a more complex and formidable one than either James Taggart or Mr. Thompson in Atlas.  When Toohey is first introduced, speaking at a public meeting, we hear him without seeing him:

It was not a voice, it was a miracle. It unrolled as a velvet banner. It spoke English words, but the resonant clarity of each syllable made it sound like a new language spoken for the first time. It was the voice of a giant.

Keating stood, his mouth open. He did not hear what the voice was saying. He heard the beauty of the sounds without meaning. He felt no need to know the meaning; he could accept anything, he would be led blindly anywhere. ...

Keating looked at Catherine. There was no Catherine; there was only a white face dissolving in the sounds of the loudspeaker. ... It was something cold and impersonal that left her empty, her will surrendered and no human will holding hers, but a nameless thing in which she was being swallowed.  (Fountainhead, I.9)

This description is incidentally reminiscent of Tolkien’s description of Saruman’s voice:

Suddenly another voice spoke, low and melodious, its very sound an enchantment. Those who listened unwarily to that voice could seldom report the words that they heard; and if they did, they wondered, for little power remained in them. Mostly they remembered only that it was a delight to hear the voice speaking, all that it said seemed wise and reasonable, and desire awoke in them by swift agreement to seem wise themselves. When others spoke they seemed harsh and uncouth by contrast; and if they gainsaid the voice, anger was kindled in the hearts of those under the spell. For some the spell lasted only while the voice spoke to them, and when it spoke to another they smiled, as men do who see through a juggler’s trick while others gape at it. For many the sound of the voice alone was enough to hold them enthralled; but for those whom it conquered the spell endured when they were far away, and ever they heard that soft voice whispering and urging them. But none were unmoved; none rejected its pleas and its commands without an effort of mind and will, so long as its master had control of it.  (LOTR III.10)

In our next encounter with Toohey, we see him only as an enormous shadow in Catherine’s living room:

I couldn’t hear a thing, not a sound in the living room, and there was that paper rustling, so softly, like somebody being choked to death. And then I looked around and ... and I couldn’t see Uncle in the living room, but I saw his shadow on the wall, a huge shadow, all hunched, and it didn’t move, only it was so huge! ... That’s when it got me. It wouldn’t move, that shadow, but I thought all that paper was moving, I thought it was rising very slowly off the floor, and it was going to come to my throat and I was going to drown. That’s when I screamed. And, Peter, he didn’t hear. He didn’t hear it! Because the shadow didn’t move. Then I seized my hat and coat and I ran.  (Fountainhead I.13)

No one will ever suspect I’m the villain
But just as with the Wizard, who turns out to be an unprepossessing little man behind a screen (or for that matter like Tolkien’s Saruman, who ends up reduced to a two-bit con man), this menacing figure with the hypnotic voice and towering shadow is revealed to be rather less impressive in person:  “At a first glance upon Ellsworth Monkton Toohey one wished to offer him a heavy, well-padded overcoat – so frail and unprotected did his thin little body appear, like that of a chicken just emerging from the egg, in all the sorry fragility of unhardened bones.”  (II.3)  Rand goes on to describe Toohey’s “long, thin neck,” the “concavity of the narrow chest,” and his “wedge-shaped face” with “ears that flared out in solitary nakedness, like the handles of a bouillon cup.”  All that is visually impressive about Toohey is his eyes, which “held such a wealth of intellect and of twinkling gaiety that his glasses [not green, alas] seemed to be worn not to protect his eyes but to protect other men from their excessive brilliance.”  And just as Baum’s Wizard “smiled to think of his success in giving the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman and the Lion exactly what they thought they wanted,” and asks himself, “How can I help being a humbug ... when all these people make me do things that everybody knows can’t be done?” (Wizard, ch. 16), so Toohey likewise boasts that his own power depends on people’s self-deception:

Why should I help you lie to yourself? I’ve done that for ten years. That’s what you came to me for. That’s what they all come to me for. But you can’t get something for nothing. Ever. ... Why don’t you throw me out of here? Why don’t you take me by the throat and choke me? You’re much stronger than I am. But you won't. You can’t. Do you see the nature of power, Petey? Physical power? Muscle or guns or money?  ... God, how you make me sick, all you hypocritical sentimentalists! You go along with me, you spout what I teach you, you profit by it – but you haven’t the grace to admit to yourself what you’re doing. ... That’s what I have to put on an act for all my life – for mean little mediocrities like you. To protect your sensibilities, your posturings, your conscience and the peace of the mind you haven’t got. That’s the price I pay for what I want – but at least I know that I’ve got to pay it. ... If you learn how to rule one single man's soul, you can get the rest of mankind. It’s the soul, Peter, the soul. ... Drive a wedge in, get your fingers on it – and the man is yours. You won’t need a whip – he’ll bring it to you and ask to be whipped.  (Fountainhead IV.14)

Toohey, like the Wizard, holds that “In this country everyone must pay for everything he gets” – but with a very different meaning from John Galt’s.

Chicago’s 1893 Columbian Exposition, Baum’s probable inspiration for the Emerald City, shows up in The Fountainhead too – but in a negative light heavily influenced by Louis Sullivan’s strictures on the architecture:

The Rome of two thousand years ago rose on the shores of Lake Michigan, a Rome improved by pieces of France, Spain, Athens and every style that followed it. It was a "Dream City" of columns, triumphal arches, blue lagoons, crystal fountains and popcorn. Its architects competed on who could steal best, from the oldest source and from the most sources at once.  It spread before the eyes of a new country every structural crime ever committed in all the old ones.

It was white as a plague, and it spread as such.

People came, looked, were astounded, and carried away with them, to the cities of America, the seeds of what they had seen. The seeds sprouted into weeds; into shingled post offices with Doric porticos, brick mansions with iron pediments, lofts made of twelve Parthenons piled on top of one another. The weeds grew and choked everything else.  (Fountainhead I.3)

This is a far cry from Burnett’s  evaluation (though not really from her description) of the “splendid City, that all the world shall flock to and wonder at and remember forever.”

There are also Baumian parallels with another of Rand’s works, her 1937 Anthem (about which more here), concerning a future dystopia in which the concept of individuality has been lost, along with the word “I.”  (This linguistic alteration is a deliberate strategy on the part of the society’s rulers to suppress undesirable thoughts – an anticipation of Orwell’s “Newspeak.”)  A similar idea occurs in Baum’s Enchanted Island of Yew, in which the protagonists visit the land of Twi where every person has an identical double – or, perhaps, every person is a pair of such doubles – and the pairs act and speak in unison.

“Are none of your people single?” asked Prince Marvel.

“Single,” returned the men, as if perplexed. “We don’t understand.”

“Are you all double? – or are some of you just one?” said the prince, who found it difficult to put his question plainly.

“What does ‘one’ mean?” asked the men. “There is no such word as ‘one’ in our language.”  (Yew, ch. 13)

This difficulty of expressing individuality in an anti-individualist language is dramatised in Anthem also:

They were silent, then they spoke slowly, and their words were halting, like the words of a child learning to speak for the first time:

“We are one ... alone ... and only ... and we love you who are one ... alone ... and only.”

We looked into each other’s eyes and we knew that the breath of a miracle had touched us, and fled, and left us groping vainly.

And we felt torn, torn for some word we could not find.  (Anthem, ch. 9)

And Rand would certainly endorse Prince Marvel’s comment that it is “better each person should think her own thoughts and live her own life, rather than be yoked to another person and obliged to think and act as a twin, or one-half of a complete whole.”  (Yew, ch. 19)  But in Baum’s land of Twi, unlike the society depicted in Anthem, such doubling is natural rather than the product of a collectivist ideology, and Baum suggests that Twi’s inhabitants are accordingly better off as they are, even if their doubled lives are no model for others to follow.

The idea of two people each thinking as “one-half of a complete whole” shows up in another of Baum’s works, Dot and Tot in Merryland, with the aforementioned Mr. Split:

Hopping toward them with wonderful speed was the queerest man the children had seen in all this queer kingdom. He was not, in fact, a complete man, but just half of a man, as if he had been cut in two from the middle of his head straight downward. This left him one ear, one eye, half of a nose and of a mouth, one arm and one leg. ...

“Even—, Your Maj—,” he cried out, as he drew near. “Hap—see!” 
He meant to say: “Good evening, your Majesty, I’m happy to see you,” but there being only half of him he spoke but half of each word. ...

Just then the Queen exclaimed: “Here comes Mr. Right Split,” and the children looked up and saw the other half of the split man .... hopping toward them, saying in his jerky voice “—Ning,—jesty!—Come our—ley.” By which he meant to say: “Good evening, your Majesty! Welcome to our Valley.” But being the right half of the man he spoke only the right half of each word.   (Dot and Tot, ch. 16)

When the two halves (Mr. Left Split and Mr. Right Split) are hooked together, the resulting person (Mr. Split) appears to speak normally.

Mr. Split represents a whimsical dramatisation of an idea Rand elsewhere condemns as incoherent:

An idea, simple or complex, cannot be held in half by two men, working together as a Siamese-twin unit or collective.  A man cannot say in reference to his ideas:  “I’ve only got the nouns and adverbs – my brother Joe’s got the verbs and adjectives – we think kinda like a team.”  An idea is not a jig-saw puzzle whose pieces can be scattered among various participants, while a mystical super-entity – the collective – puts the picture together …. An idea, an intelligible mental conception, is held in its entirety in the mind of one man.  Another man may hold the same idea – in its entirety and in his own mind.  (Journals of Ayn Rand, p. 306)

A more recent fictional representation of individual minds contributing to the thought of a collective person  is Vernor Vinge’s “Zones of Thought” series (the Tines).

Rand’s negative evaluation of collectivism extends to racism, which she regards as a symptom of a concrete-bound, anti-conceptual mentality.  (Chris Matthew Sciabarras Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical has an especially interesting discussion of her views on racism.)  Unfortunately, her views on European settlers’ dispossession of Native Americans, and her defense of the ethnic-cleansing policies pursued by whites in North America, suggest that she did not always practice what she preached:

Since the Indians did not have the concept of property or property rights – they didn’t have a settled society, they had predominantly nomadic tribal “cultures” – they didn’t have rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights that they had not conceived of and were not using.   It’s wrong to attack a country that respects (or even tries to respect) individual rights. ... But if a “country” doesn’t protect rights – if a group of tribesmen are the slaves of their tribal chief – why should you respect the “rights” that they don’t have or respect. ...

What were they fighting for, in opposing the white man on this continent?  For their wish to continue a primitive existence; for their “right” to keep part of the earth untouched – to keep everybody out so they could live like animals or cavemen.  Any European who brought with him an element of civilization had the right to take over this continent, and it’s great that some of them did. ... The Indians were savages, with ghastly tribal rules and rituals, including the famous “Indian Torture.”  Such tribes have no rights.  Anyone had the right to come here and take whatever they could, because they would be dealing with savages as the Indians dealt with each other – that is, by force.  (Ayn Rand Answers: The Best of Her Q & A, pp. 103-104)

(As Robert Campbell has documented, the materials in Ayn Rand Answers have been heavily edited by Robert Mayhew, and are not the faithful transcripts they purport to be.  But there is no reason to doubt that the passages I’ve quoted give the general tenor of Rand’s position.)              


Rand’s remarks are reminiscent of Baum’s Aberdeen editorials asserting that whites “by justice of civilization ... are masters of the American continent” – though without Baum’s admission that whites had treated the natives with “falsehood and treachery.”  (And by contrast with Baum’s case, there is no chance that Rand was being satirical.)  Her remarks are also such a shameful farrago of historical inaccuracies and moral absurdities that it’s hard to know where to start.  But here are at least some of the highlights:

1.  Native American society comprised a wide variety of different nations, tribes, and cultures.  Some were nomadic; others, sedentary and agricultural.  Some practiced collective or communal property, others – many – private property, and others a mix.  So even if it were true that nomadic and communal societies have no just land claims, that would justify dispossessing only some Indian communities, not all of them.

2.  In any case, there is nothing inherently illegitimate, even by Rand’s own libertarian standards, about communal or collective property; see here and here.

3.  As for nomadic cultures, even when habitual use is not transformative enough to secure an exclusive property right, it at least grounds easement rights, which European settlers had no right to violate.

4.  Degree of hierarchy is another factor that varied from one community to another; but few, in the territory of the future U.S. at least, had anything like so great a degree of hierarchy as to license the claim that “tribesmen are the slaves of their tribal chief.”  (Perhaps this description is defensible for some of the native societies of Mexico and Central and South America; but those societies, with their vast empires and towering pyramids, could hardly be described as primitive or nomadic.  It’s difficult to name an Indian tribe that was both nomadic and highly autocratic.) 

Benefits of enlightened European civilisation
5.  Failure to acknowledge rights is not sufficient for loss of those rights; that’s why we don’t have the right to cook and eat act-utilitarians. 

6.  A group’s failure to practice the correct version of property rights does not license massacring that group; in particular, a failure on the part of the adults in a group to practice the correct version of property rights does not license massacring their children.

7.  When contracts between European settlers and Indians were made in clear terms, and respected by the former, Indians proved perfectly willing and able to respect European-style property rights.

8.  The European settlers were not exactly great respecters of individual rights themselves; most of them practiced slavery, for example.  And torture by Europeans was common as well, primarily against slaves.  So why do rights-violations by Indians deprive them of rights, but rights-violations by Europeans don’t have the same effect?

It’s hard to see how to explain Rand’s inconsistency and incoherence on this issue except in terms of racist attitudes.  Her remarks on the Indians are also flatly inconsistent with her own stated principles:

To interpose the threat of physical destruction between a man and his perception of reality, is to negate and paralyze his means of survival; to force him to act against his own judgment, is like forcing him to act against his own sight. ... When you declare that men are irrational animals and propose to treat them as such, you define thereby your own character and can no longer claim the sanction of reason .... (AS III.7)

In insisting that Indians adopt property norms alien to their own experience or be forcibly driven from their homes, what is Rand doing if not interposing the threat of physical destruction between the natives and their perception of reality?  And in asserting that the Indians lived “like animals,” that they had “no rights,” and that Europeans “had the right to come here and take whatever they could, because they would be dealing with savages,” how is Rand not, contrary to her own strictures, “declar[ing] that men are irrational animals and propos[ing] to treat them as such”?


14f.  Did You Suppose We Are So Vulgar As To Use Money Here? (Banks)


The ultra-capitalist Rand and the ultra-socialist Banks would doubtless have despised each other’s works; but from my own individualist anarchist standpoint, with its pro-freed-market but anti-capitalist orientation, the ideological distance between the two writers, while genuine and important, naturally looks less significant to me than it would have to them.   The main parallel between Banks and Baum is found in his series of novels and stories dealing with the “Culture,” a high-tech interstellar anarchist utopian civilisation.  The two series are not similar in style or sensibility; Banks’ stories are darker, more cynical, and often gut-wrenching.  But with its extended lifespans, bodily fluidity (both transgender and transhuman), and post-scarcity economy, the Culture bears more than a passing resemblance to Oz; in one Banks novel, Inversions, one of the protagonists, self-exiled from the Culture to a primitive earthlike planet, even tells stories of his home society in the form of fairy tales.   

Where Oz is a benevolent despotism that appears at closer inspection to have characteristics of an anarchy (inasmuch as the rulers at least sometimes seem disinclined to enforce their edicts) the Culture is an anarchy that appears at closer inspection to have characteristics of a benevolent despotism (with AI equivalents of Ozma, Glinda, and the Wizard pulling the strings from behind the scenes).  Where Rand holds that “money is the root of all good” – meaning not the having of money, which Rand was largely indifferent to, but the idea of money as a symbol of voluntary rather than forcible exchange – Banks’ characters repeatedly observe that “money is a sign of poverty,” echoing Baum’s remark that “[t]here were no poor people in the Land of Oz, because there was no such thing as money.” (Emerald City, ch. 3)  Banks point is that reliance on monetary exchange is a sign that one has not yet achieved a technological level where most goods are rapidly reproducible at minimal cost.  (As a synthesis of the Randian and Banksian antitheses, we may note Bastiats point that the natural tendency of monetary exchange is to render ever smaller the range of cases in which it is needed.) 
 
Many of the Culture novels feature the team of an intrepid female protagonist and a snarky mechanical familiar, recalling Tik-Tok’s pairing first with Dorothy and later with Betsy Bobbin.  The Culture, despites its anarchic nature, has a highly interventionist foreign policy, meddling with less advanced cultures to nudge them in the right direction, just as Ozma does in Ev or in the Gillikin borderlands.  The plot point where one of Banks’ protagonists (Zakalwe in Use of Weapons) ends up as a severed head and has to wait for his body to grow back is a typically Baumian bit of body horror.  In addition, one of Banks’ non-Culture novels (I won’t say which one, to avoid spoilers) features an apparently male protagonist who, like Tip/Ozma, doesn’t discover until the end of the book that he was born female.

Perhaps the closest Baum/Banks parallel is between Emerald City of Oz and Look to Windward.  (Spoiler alert for both.)   The main plot of Emerald City concerns a plan by foreign hostiles to invade Oz and enslave and/or destroy its inhabitants, out of revenge for a previous intervention on Oz’s part; the story cuts back and forth between the antagonists’ gradual accumulation of forces, and the protagonists’ blithely wandering around Oz having adventures with no awareness of their peril.  But in fact Ozma has all along been magically, if somewhat absent-mindedly, monitoring the invasion plans in her spare time, and when the enemy army arrives it is quickly and somewhat anticlimactically dispatched with the help of some magic dust.  This description, with minimal alteration, would summarise the plot of Look to Windward also; there’s even an “E-dust assassin” to correspond to Ozma’s magic dust.  The effects are rather different, however; Ozma’s dust makes her enemies thirsty so they’ll drink from a fountain of amnesia, while the E-dust assassin rips the Culture’s enemies to shreds in especially nasty ways.

           
14g.  Our Next Life, Being a Spiritual One, Will Not Be Advanced By Practices of Economy

Another feature common to all of the writers (except Seuss) that I’ve been discussing – theists and atheists alike – is that their version of Fairyland doubles as an afterlife.  Oz does this (Dorothy’s aunt and uncle dress in mourning while she is in Oz; and Baum’s own last words on his deathbed were supposedly “Now I can cross the Shifting Sands”), as do Lewis’s Narnia (reached by railway crash in The Last Battle), Tolkien’s Valinor, and Burroughs’ Mars (as well as his Poloda and, in one incident, his Pellucidar).   Banks’ Culture has its own (somewhat less pleasant) virtual afterlife in the form of the Sublime.  And Rand describes her Atlantis a.k.a. Galt’s Gulch as a metaphorical afterlife, a “place which only the spirits of heroes could enter, and they reached it without dying, because they carried the secret of life within them” (AS I.6), whose inhabitants are nonetheless “dead – as far as you're concerned.” (II.9)  And going right back to the beginning, when the protagonists of Burnett’s  Two Little Pilgrims’ Progress reach the Columbian Exposition (a visit that I’ve argued served as Baum’s inspiration for the Emerald City), their first reaction, dazed and delighted, is “perhaps we are dead.”  (ch. 11)


15.  The Scholars Followed After Him In a Wild Mob

Here ends my rather rambling three-part introduction to this blog.  What lies ahead?  My plan is to blog my way through all of Baum’s fiction, work by work, both Oz-related and not (the “not” outnumbers the Oz material by something like two to one).  My focus will continue to be on the “bodily,” including material utopianism, physical identity, and questions of race, gender, and class.

Baum’s fictional works encompass his fourteen official Oz novels; additional Oz stories (such as Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz and Little Wizard Stories of Oz); stories taking place in the same universe as Oz (such as The Sea Fairies and Queen Zixi of Ix); and a variety of other works (at least when I can get my hands on them), many of which are not fantasies at all.  The latter group includes the works Baum published while employing a variety of pseudonyms: he wrote books for younger children as Laura Bancroft; books for teenage girls as Suzanne Metcalf and Edith Van Dyne; books for teenage boys as Capt. Hugh Fitzgerald and Floyd Akers [FAkers?]; and books for adults as Schuyler Staunton and John Estes Cooke.

Beyond that I’ll be more selective.  I’ll certainly cover the 26 “official” follow-ups by Ruth Plumly Thompson and her immediate successors (including Eloise McGraw, the first post-Baum Oz writer I read – plus I later ended up going to grad school with her grandson); and I’ll cover the 1939 movie and its silent predecessors.  I don’t plan to cover every single sequel, adaptation, or spinoff; that would take forever, and much of the material I would probably find annoying.  For example, I admittedly don’t know anything about the project that the following picture is from, but while it looks like a parody of how modern comic books would handle The Wizard of Oz, I have the sinking feeling it’s probably played straight:


(Now someone’s probably going to contact me and tell me that this comic I’m making fun of is actually great.  Well, fine, I’m willing to be convinced.)  But certainly I will cover a fair number of the later films and books – whichever ones look most interesting to me.  That’s a while away yet, though.

Follow my yellow brick blog!

Next up:  The Marvelous Landlady of Oz!

3 comments:

  1. I believe you meant "witch of the west" just befor the block quote when discussing the evaporation of the sisters...

    ReplyDelete
  2. That comic was not great in my opinion, but tastes differ.

    ReplyDelete