The Royal Book of Oz is the fifteenth volume in the Oz book series, and the first written by Ruth Plumly Thompson. While the book was originally credited to series creator L. Frank Baum (who died in 1919), it was in fact written entirely by Thompson.
The book's subtitle is In which the Scarecrow goes to search for his family tree and discovers that he is the Long Lost Emperor of the Silver Island, and how he was rescued and brought back to Oz by Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion.
Prof. Wogglebug announces his plan to create a genealogy of the important people in Oz, a "Royal Book." In so doing, he inadvertently insults the Scarecrow as a person of no family, no ancestry. The abashed Scarecrow goes home to the Munchkin Country to look into his roots. He digs at the base of the beanpole where he hung when Dorothy first found him; he breaks through to a cavity and falls deep through the earth to another country, a place called the Silver Island. There, his arrival is seen as fulfilling a prophecy, and he is hailed as the return of the people's lost Emperor.
Suddenly, the Scarecrow has gone from having no background to having almost too much. He enjoys being Emperor at first; he even defeats an invasion from the King of the Golden Islands. He makes a good friend in a palace servant named Happy Toko (The Scarecrow calls him Tappy Oko). Yet his situation soon becomes complicated and uncomfortable; as Emperor Chang Wang Woe, he has three princely sons who quickly start planning his overthrow, and fifteen unpleasant grandsons.
Back in Oz, Dorothy begins looking for the Scarecrow; she is worried over his hurt feelings. She and the Cowardly Lion go to his corncob-shaped house in the Winkie Country but find him absent; searching for him, they fall into strange adventures with odd beings. At the somnambulistic city of Pokes, they meet a knight in armor called Sir Hokus; they help each other to escape the place, and venture forth together. They fight a candy giant, encounter Fix City, and meet the Comfortable Camel and the Doubtful Dromedary. At a place called Wish Way, Dorothy wishes they could join the Scarecrow, wherever he is — and they are quickly whisked by magic to Silver Island.
The evil princes have concocted a plan to disenchant their "father" from his scarecrow form and return him to his 85-year-old body. The Scarecrow and Happy Toko are planning their escape, when Dorothy and company drop in on them. In the confrontation that follows the next day, things look grim at first; but Dorothy finds some unexpected magic in a flying parasol that allows her to turn the tables on the scheming princes. The formula that was intended to turn the Scarecrow human turns the princes into animals instead; and Sir Hokus of Pokes fulfills his dream by slaying a dragon (a small one, but a dragon nonetheless). The Scarecrow abdicates his throne in favor of Happy Toko; Dorothy and friends use the flying parasol to return to Oz, where Sir Hokus and the Comfortable Camel and Doubtful Dromedary find a welcoming new home.
- Jack Pumpkinhead
- Dorothy Gale
- Patchwork Girl
- Tin Woodman
- Glass Cat
- Cowardly Lion
- Wizard of Oz
- Cap'n Bill
- Betsy Bobbin
- Hungry Tiger
- A-B-Sea Serpent
- Jellia Jamb
- Slow Pokes
- Sir Hokus of Pokes
- Chief Poker
- Grand Chew Chew
- Emperor Chang Wang Woe
- Happy Toko
- General Mugwump
- Tsing Tsing
- Grand Gheewizard
- Doubtful Dromedary
- Comfortable Camel
- Princess Orange Blossom
Silver Island, as described by Thompson and portrayed in John R. Neill's illustrations, is a parody of traditional Chinese culture. The book exploits a type of ethnic humor that was popular in its time but has gone very much out of fashion since.
The location and setting of the Silver Island is never clearly established. At first it seems a country within the Earth, yet it has a sky above and an ocean surrounding it. If Thompson's concept is that the Scarecrow has fallen straight through the Earth to an alternative China on the opposite side, she never makes this explicit; Silver Island does not seems to be upside down in relation to Oz.
Thompson introduced characters in this book that she re-uses later; Sir Hokus of Pokes will be the protagonist of her The Yellow Knight of Oz. He also turns up in Kabumpo in Oz and The Cowardly Lion of Oz. In the latter book he is joined once again by the Comfortable Camel and Doubtful Dromedary.
Thompson's novel reveals the influence of Lewis Carroll's Alice books. In Chapter 18, Dorothy quotes Carroll's parody poem "You are old, Father William" from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 5. Sir Hokus of Pokes resembles the White Knight in Through the Looking Glass, Chapter 8. The walking and talking furniture in Fix City also has a Carrollian touch, recalling the animated playing cards and chess pieces of the Alice books.
As noted, the authorship of The Royal Book of Oz was assigned to Baum on the first edition's title page, which also included the ascription "Enlarged and Edited by Ruth Plumly Thompson." In her private correspondence, Thompson called this "a pleasant little fiction invented by the publishers" to smooth the transition from Baum's series to hers.
- Katharine M. Rogers. L. Frank Baum, Creator of Oz: A Biography. New York, St. Martin's Press, 2002.
|Ruth Plumly Thompson's Oz books|