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The Pea-Green Poodle

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"The Pea-Green Poodle" is a short story by L. Frank Baum. It is the sixth of his Animal Fairy Tales, and was initially published in the June 1905 issue of The Delineator.

Summary

Kaynyn Island is populated entirely by dogs, who are ruled by a dog king. Each year the king defends his crown against a challenger; but the current king, Herowag, has corrupted the system. He has instructed his three counsellors always to choose a challenger that he can beat. As Herowag grows older, the challengers grow more decrepit.

A dirty, chubby little poodle named Pippo-Tib is bold or foolish enough to laugh aloud at this; an angry Herowag designates the poodle as the next year's challenger. Things look grim for the little canine; but he finds a way to appeal directly to the dog fairies. Since Herowag is a corrupt tyrant, the dog fairy queen endows the poodle with the strength and wisdom to defeat the king in tests of body and mind. The queen imposes a condition: Herowag must not be killed.

Racing back to the capital on the appointed day of the challenge, Pippo-Tib falls into a lake surrounded by terebinth trees. Their pistashio nuts, falling into the water, have dyed the lake green; and the poodle's white coat has taken on the same coloration by the time he swims across. His appearance creates a sensation when he arrives at the challenge — for there is a prophecy that Herowag can only be defeated by a pea-green-colored opponent.

The two dogs fight. Pippo-Tib, with the fairies' power surging through him, overcomes the old king, dragging him around by his throat; the king begs for mercy. The poodle also wins the battle of wits that follows. Herowag slinks away to a life in retirement; the poodle assumes the crown, to become a better and more just and honorable monarch.

Background

The name of the story's poodle hero, Pippo-Tib, derives from Tippu-Tib, a ruler and military figure in East Africa in the later nineteenth century.

The idea of an animal king assisted by three counsellors appears again in Baum's work, in The Magic of Oz, in Gugu and his subordinates.

In 1910 Baum adapted this story into a play. The dramatized version was never produced onstage, and has not survived.

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