The Magic of Oz

by L. Frank Baum
Series: Oz 13
Reviewed date: 2020 May 8
234 pages
cover art

Mixed Feelings
I have mixed feelings about this Oz book. It's not bad per se. Some of my favorite characters return: the Glass Cat and Ruggedo the Nome King. But overall the adventures didn't capture my imagination, and there's very little here to recommend.

Kiki Aru and Ruggedo
On top of Mount Munch in a far-off corner of Munchkin land, a boy named Kiki Aru discovers a secret word that gives him the power of transformations. He falls in with old Ruggedo, the deposed Nome king, and together they decide to conquer Oz and enslave the people. Kiki Aru doesn't trust Ruggedo, so he keeps the secret word to himself. Their plan is to enlist the help of the beasts of the forests of Oz: with the beasts as their army, they'll overthrow Ozma. Then Kiki Aru will use his magic word to transform all the beasts into people, and they will inhabit Oz. Finally, Kiki Aru will turn the people of Oz into beasts and send them to live in the forests.

Several problems occur to me: first, will the beasts wish to become people and live in houses? Second, why would Kiki Aru need the beasts for his army? He could just do the transformations right off. Third, why bother switching the beast and the people? If Kiki Aru and the Nome King wish to rule Oz, they'll have to keep the citizens in line somehow, and why should the beasts-become-men be any more likely to serve and obey them than the people of Oz? Fourth--ugh, that's enough. Let's just accept the story on its own terms and keep going.

Ozma's Birthday
In a barely connected plot line, everybody is wracking their brains trying to figure out what sort of birthday present to get for Ozma, given that she's a fairy princess and the ruler of Oz who already has every conceivable luxury. Dorothy decides to make her a surprise cake filled with tiny trained monkey acrobats, and asks the Wizard to help her locate and train some monkeys. Trot decides to procure an especially beautiful Magic Flower that the Glass Cat has told her about, and she enlists Cap'n Bill and the Glass Cat to help her.

Meanwhile, Kiki Aru transforms himself and Ruggedo into creatures with heads of a lion, bodies of monkeys, and the wings of an eagle. In this form they greet the beasts of the forest and attempt to convince them to join their scheme to overthrow Ozma. The beasts are reluctant. So Kiki Aru seeks to convince them by a demonstration of his magic. He uses the magic word to transform various beasts into other forms. About then the Wizard of Oz and Dorothy arrive, and feeling threatened, Kiki Aru transforms them as well. But later, the Wizard overhears the secret word, so he is able to turn the tables: he restores everyone's forms, and turns Kiki Aru and Ruggedo into nuts.

Meanwhile, Trot and Cap'n Bill are in trouble. They tried to get the Magic Flower, but when they approached it, they found their feet stuck to the ground. An enchantment has caused them to grow roots and as such, they're unable to move. The Glass Cat, not being made of meat, is immune and goes for help. She returns with the Wizard and Dorothy. The Wizard uses the magic word of transformation to turn Trot and Cap'n Bill into bumble bees, enabling them to fly to safety, then he transforms them into their proper shapes.

The Water of Oblivion
Back in the Emerald City, Ozma's birthday party goes off in fine fashion. But there's still the trouble of what to do with Kiki Aru and Ruggedo. The solution: transform them back into their own shapes, and trick them into drinking from the Forbidden Fountain. The Water of Oblivion from the fountain will wipe their memories and restore them to a state of innocence. They'll be unable to cause trouble ever again.

It was at this point that my son piped up and mentioned that this is the second time Rugeddo has drunk the Water of Oblivion and had his memory wiped. (How did he regain his identity after the first time. I can't precisely remember. I think it's because the first time, Ozma let him go back to the Nome Kingdom where he fell back into his old ways.) Ruggedo should always check before drinking anything, my son says, because it might be Water of Oblivion. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

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