|Written by||John R. Neill|
|Publisher||Books of Wonder|
The Runaway in Oz is a previously unpublished Oz book by long-time Oz illustrator and Royal Historian John R. Neill. It was originally written in 1943 and was meant to be the thirty-seventh book in the Oz series. However, Neill died before he could edit or illustrate the book. Oz publisher Reilly & Lee decided to shelve the book due to shortages caused by World War II. The book remained in the possession of Neill's family until 1995.
On the eve of an important ceremony in the Emerald City, the Patchwork Girl, makes a bigger nuisance of herself than usual. After confrontations with Jellia Jamb and Jenny Jump, Scraps runs away on her spoolicle (a bicycle made of thread spools). She goes to Jinjur's Munchkin Country farm, but Jinjur tries to put her to work, so Scraps leaves quickly.
At Prof. Wogglebug's Athletic College, Scraps falls in with a 12-year-old prodigy named Alexample. They marvel at the air castle the Professor has dreamed into existence for his upcoming vacation, as it hovers above the college. Through her unfortunate clumsiness, Scraps knocks the mooring line loose and the air castle floats away, with Alexample hanging onto the tethering rope. Scraps flees from the pursuit of the irate Wogglebug.
The exasperated Scraps longs to run away from Oz entirely, but doesn't know how to cross the Deadly Desert. She learns of a Weather Witch who lives on the highest mountain in Oz, and who makes weather for the entire Earth from a windmill there. Scraps wants the weather witch to blow her out of Oz on her winds, and sets out for the mountain. On her way Scraps meets Popla, "the one and only power plant...the most powerful plant in the world." (Popla looks like a large shrub, with the face of a beautiful young woman.) Popla longs for release from her bleak and stationary existence, and eagerly transfers herself into a flowerpot to join with Scraps; Popla's strength and resourcefulness prove to be important advantages in their coming adventures. Fanny the Weather Witch agrees to blast them across the Desert; but further clumsiness gets them stuck on one of the windmill's blades, which hurls them high into the atmosphere.
Scraps and Popla land on a friendly cloud, who takes them to a nearby star, which eventually leads them to the derelict air castle. They find Alexample there, and enjoy a few peaceful days in its palatial environment. They get to know the inhabitants of the upper air — sky fairies and air sprites, and cloud sheep herded by cloud-pushers and sky-sweepers. They also repel an attack from sky pirates.
Meanwhile, Prof. Wogglebug stomps toward the Emerald City to complain about Scraps. He encounters Jenny Jump and Jack Pumpkinhead, who are searching for the Patchwork Girl. The Bug decides to join them; he still hopes to recover his air castle. Things go badly for the party: they are caught in a storm, in which Jack loses his pumpkin head. Jenny and the Professor have to lead and drag the headless stick body along with them. They wander into an enchanted orchard, where they confront an army of rebellious quinces.
By this time, the week of the professor's planned vacation has expired, and the air castle's time is up: it cracks, melts, dissolves, shatters, and otherwise falls apart around its occupants. They come tumbling down upon the enchanted orchard and the search party and the quince army. In a final confrontation, the quince soldiers commit mass suicide by shooting their sooty stems at Scraps. She is so blackened by the soot that she wants to hide from the world.
The others convince Scraps to return with them to the Emerald City, where she can be repaired. Scraps agrees, but she hides herself under a sheet as she walks through the city streets (like Ojo in The Patchwork Girl of Oz); she causes a panic when she is mistaken for a ghost. Yet Ozma has no trouble restoring Scraps to normal with her Magic Belt. Popla and Alexample are welcomed into the ever-growing circle of Ozma's followers.
Neill's preliminary sketches for the book have survived, and were published in The Baum Bugle in 2001.
- Eric Shanower. "The Wicked Witch, the Runaway, and Me." The Baum Bugle, Vol. 45 No. 3 (Winter 2001), pp. 13-26.
- "John Neill's Sketches for The Runaway in Oz." The Baum Bugle, Vol. 45 No. 3 (Winter 2001), pp. 24-7.