Glinda of Oz is L. Frank Baum's fourteenth and last contribution to his series of Oz books before his death. It's subtitle is In Which Are Related the Exciting Experiences of Princess Ozma of Oz, and Dorothy, in Their Hazardous Journey to the Home of the Flatheads, and to the Magic Isle of the Skeezers, and How They Were Rescued from Dire Peril by the Sorcery of Glinda the Good.
The Great Book of Records reveals that the Flatheads and Skeezers, two obscure peoples of Oz, have gone to war. Princess Ozma decides that it is her duty to stop this, and Dorothy is eager to accompany her.
The Flatheads and Skeezers live at the far northern edge of the Gillikin Country, near Oogaboo and the Deadly Desert. There are just 100 Flatheads, and 101 Skeezers. Both groups practice magic; little else is known, or discoverable, about them.
On their way north, Ozma and Dorothy have to escape capture by giant purple spiders. More pleasantly, they encounter a group of beautiful Mist Maidens. When they arrive at the mountain home of the Flatheads, they learn that the name is literally true: the Flatheads are flat-headed, wearing their brains externally, in canisters in their pockets. Their leader, the Su-Dic (for "Supreme Dictator"), enhances his power by stealing brains from his people. He has gone to war with the Skeezers over a fishing dispute: the Skeezers prevent the Flatheads from fishing in their lake, and have magically transformed the Su-Dic's wife, the witch Rora, into a golden pig. The Su-Dic is hostile to Ozma and Dorothy; they escape his control by turning invisible.
On to the Skeezers, who live in a glass-domed submersible city in a nearby lake. They are ruled by Queen Coo-ee-oh, another dictatorial personality. Once Ozma and Dorothy arrive, the queen retracts the steel bridge connecting city to shore; the girls are trapped. The queen's chambermaid, the Lady Aurex, befriends the "girl prisoners" and informs them of local conditions. Queen Coo-ee-oh learned her magic from three Adepts; she quickly betrayed them and turned them into lake fish. The queen uses her magic to spy on her own citizens, and punishes dissent.
The next moring, Coo-ee-oh submerges her city and leads her men in submersible boats to fight the Flatheads. But the Su-Dic surprises Coo-ee-oh and transforms her into a swan; she is so enraptured by her beauty that she forgets other concerns. The Su-Dic is so pleased that he accidentally spills the poison he intended for the lake; this would have killed the three Adepts, a remaining threat to his rule. Yet he departs triumphant: without the queen, the city cannot return to the surface, and the Skeezer soldiers are stuck on the lake's surface.
Things seems to be getting out of hand; Ozma twists a magic ring that Glinda gave her, sending a call for help. At home, Glinda summons a grand council and organizes a rescue party that includes most of the well-known prsonalities of Oz — Glinda herself, the Wizard, The Scarecrow and Tin Woodman and Patchwork Girl, the Cowardly Lion, Tik-Tok, Jack Pumpkinhead, Prof. Wogglebug, the Shaggy Man, Uncle Henry, Cap'n Bill, the Glass Cat, Betsy Bobbin, Trot, Ojo, even the largely useless Button-Bright, all head north toward Skeezer country.
The three Adepts, still in fish form, contact a young Skeezer named Ervic. He takes them to Reera the Red, a Yookoohoo living in the area. Through cleverness and reverse psychology, the Adepts get the powerful witch to restore them to their rightful forms. Glinda and party arrive, but their first efforts to raise the city and rescue Ozma and Dorothy are frustrated. Working together, the rescue party outside, and Ozma and Dorothy inside, figure out the secrets of Coo-ee-oh's magic, and return the city to the lake's surface.
Aurex is selected as the new queen of the Skeezers, with Ervic as her prime minister. The Adepts and Ozians force the Su-Dic to restore the extra brains he'd appropriated, leaving him harmless. Glinda enchants the Flatheads so that their heads grow round over their brains. Flatheads no more, they are called Mountaineers and accept the rule of the Adepts. Peace is made between the two communities, who pledge loyalty to Ozma. The Su-Dic's wife Rora is rescued from being a pig; but Coo-ee-oh is forgotten about, and left a swan.
Psychologically, Glinda of Oz has an aspect of naturalism that earlier Oz books lack. When the two heroines set out on their mission, the animated mannikins and talking animals are left behind like the toys of childhood; Ozma and Dorothy are two girls venturing into a fascinating but risky world. They get themselves into a situation they cannot quite resolve on their own; they need the help of an older and wiser woman. In the end, it is through co-operation among them that success is achieved.
It is an often-observed truism that Baum's Oz is dominated by powerful attractive females. This is most blatantly true in Glinda of Oz; consider Glinda, Ozma, Dorothy, the Mist Maidens, the three Adepts, and Lady Aurex. Even the dangerous Red Reera, who first appears as an ape, transforms herself into a "quite attractive" woman.
The novel, with its submersible city and submarine boats, has more of a technological and science-fiction aspect than Baum's other Oz books. (Baum may have based the submarine city of the Skeezers on the semi-submerged Temple of Isis at Philae in Egypt, which he had seen on his European and Mediterranean trip in 1906.)
The Flatheads live isolated in a depression at the top of a mountain. This is a favored setting for Baum. Mount Munch , in The Tin Woodman of Oz and The Magic of Oz, is the same type of place. The home of the Yips in The Lost Princess of Oz is similarly situated.
Glinda of Oz is a rare instance in which Baum's manuscript of the book still exists. There is one significant divergence between manuscript and printed text. In Baum's original, Red Reera the Yookoohoo fist appears as a skeleton, its bones wired together like an anatomy model, but with glowing eyes in the sockets of its skull. In the published version, Red Reera first appears as a gray ape in an apron and lace cap — a comic image rather than a frightening one. The change was likely made by Baum at the suggestion of his editors. Other changes in the text, made by an anonymous editor at Reilly & Lee, are relatively trivial, and do not always improve the book.
There is abundant negative magic in Baum's Oz, and plenty of evildoers — Phanfasms and Growleywogs and others. Evil is often comical, as with the Nome King; but sometimes it is serious. Yet Baum rarely if ever suggests anything of an infernal or satanic extreme.
One rare exception can be found in Glinda of Oz. Coo-ee-oh has her own "private suite" that is "entirely devoted to the practice of witchcraft...." This is not unusual in itself; the Wizard has his laboratory, and both Glinda and Ozma have magic workrooms. Yet Coo-ee-oh's contains "pickled toads and snails and lizards, and a shelf of books that were written in blood" in an unknown language. (Chapter 12)
A walking skeleton, and books written in blood: it seems that Baum, in this novel, was more than usually open to dark tones. His own approaching death — he was already in his final illness when he wrote Glinda of Oz — may have been a factor.
Eric Shanower's 1996 story "Dorothy and the Mushroom Queen" bears a relationship with this novel. David Hardenbrook borrowed the three Adepts from this book and adapted them for his own use in The Unknown Witches of Oz.
- Katharine M. Rogers. L. Frank Baum, Creator of Oz: A Biography. New York, St. Martin's Press, 2002.
|L. Frank Baum's original Oz books|