|Written by||Ruth Plumly Thompson|
|Illustrator||John R. Neill|
|Publisher||Reilly & Lee|
Captain Salt in Oz is the thirtieth volume in the Oz book series, and the sixteenth Oz novel written by Ruth Plumly Thompson. It is a sequel to her earlier Pirates in Oz, and employs some of the same characters and settings.
King Ato the Eighth and Roger the Read Bird are at home on Octagon Island; Roger reads to his master while Ato scans the horizon, looking for Captain Samuel Salt and his ship the Crescent Moon. The Captain was supposed to return for them six months after their last adventure; but three years, eleven months, and 26 days have passed, before the Captain finally shows up.
Changes have occurred in Salt's situation. He is a pirate no longer, but now the official Explorer and Discoverer Extraordinary to the Crown of Oz. And he has replaced the troublesome crew of his ship with magical mechanisms that allow him to sail it virtually on his own. He can still use a cook, though; and Ato is happy to take up his old job. Ato, Roger, and the Captain sail off for discovery and adventure.
They visit an erupting volcano before reaching the "jungly" island of Patrippany. There they find an unusual situation: the local Leopard Men were holding a little boy prisoner in a cage. The Leopard people have been exterminated in a hurricane, and the boy has been fed and cared for by a matronly talking hippopotamus named Nikobo. The boy informs the new arrivals that he is Tazander Tazah, the son of the king of Ozamaland; they free him from his confinement, nickname him Tandy, and take him aboard their ship. Nikobo refuses to leave the boy, so they build a raft for her and take her along too.
The crew then proceeds through a string of fabulous escapades. They reach Peakenspire Island, the Sea Forest, and Seeweegia in turn. Captain Salt collects specimens of plants and animals: a salamander named Sally, a monkey fish, a jellyfish boy. The ship is attacked and pierced by a giant narwhal; but the crew drive it off and keep its horn. They encounter an incredible hole in the ocean that comes close to doing them in.
As these adventures progress, Tandy comes out of his shell, and learns to accept his new friends and to embrace fun and excitement and work. He grows strong and fit with shipboard life.
The voyage's last stop is Tandy's home of Ozamaland. There, the boy king has to face the dangerous conspiracy of Didjabo and the Ozamandarins. Yet the Captain, Ato, Roger, and Nikobo help him to triumph over his enemies. Tandy appoints an honorable and capable regent, then returns to sea to complete his "education."
Captain Salt in Oz was the first Oz book to be issued without color illustrations.
In several of her later books, Thompson largely abandons Baum's Oz for her own characters, settings, and stories. Captain Salt in Oz marks an extreme in this tendency: not one of Baum's characters appears in the book, and Thompson's characters never reach Oz or get particularly close to it.
Thompson maintains a general correspondence between real-world durations and Oz time in her books — though it is not always a perfect match. As noted above, nearly four years pass between King Ato's first voyage with Captain Salt and his second; the books in which the two voyages are recounted were actually published five years apart.
In this book, Thompson employs the fantastic and imaginative language she displays elsewhere in her Oz work. Nikobo is a "pachydermatous talking aquatic." Tandy's old tutor was called Woodjabegoodja. An attacking sea serpent is a "marine ophidian."
Death and injury
There reportedly is no death in Oz, yet there remains the potential for pain, injury, and suffering. Two passages in Captain Salt in Oz provide perspective on this irony. When the travelers confront the exploding volcano early in the book, Ato notes that
- "We mayn't be killed, being of magic birth, but we can be jolly well singed, fried, boiled and melted." (Chapter 3)
At the book's end, Didjabo and his fellow conspirators are defeated and entwined in tangling vines. Their fate is not enviable, for they are to be tossed into the sea:
- "The vines will keep these rogues afloat for two days, then haply they will sink — not to die, as death comes not to the people of my country, but to lie for long, forgotten ages at the bottom of the sea, harmless and sodden and unable to do any more harm to the country they have so dishonorably served and betrayed!" (Chapter 19)
One extreme difference between the outlooks of L. Frank Baum and his successor is flaunted through this book. Temperamentally, Baum had no sympathy with imperialism, and if anything leaned more toward isolationism. Famously, he tried to end his Oz series with the sixth book, by sealing Oz off from the rest of the world with a barrier of invisibility.
Thompson, in contrast, gives Oz an imperial dimension. For her, "Oz is overpopulated and needs new territories and seaports" (Chapter 4). Captain Salt and friends sail about the Nonestic Ocean, landing on islands and claiming them for Ozma, and planting the flag of Oz as they go. Admittedly it is a benign and voluntary sort of colonization: would-be client states join by their own "wish, agreement, and consent" and can decline the offer without serious repercussion. Yet things do not always go smoothly in this imperium: the Tin Woodman sparks the basic conflict in Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz with a clumsy venture in Ozperialism.
Chris Dulabone wrote a sequel to this Thompson novel, titled A Queer Quest for Oz.
Captain Salt and Tandy also feature in The Royal Explores of Oz, a trilogy by Marcus Mebes, Jared Davis and Jeff Rester.
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