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The Yellow Knight of Oz

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Yellowknightofoz
Written by  Ruth Plumly Thompson
Illustrator  John R. Neill
Published  1930
Publisher  Reilly & Lee

The Yellow Knight of Oz is the twenty-fourth book in the Oz book series, and the tenth Oz book written by Ruth Plumly Thompson.

Summary

Sir Hokus of Pokes has grown restive with Emerald City routine, and longs to set out on a knightly quest. He makes the mistake of confiding his plans to Dorothy Gale and the Patchwork Girl, and soon half the denizens of Ozma's royal palace are planning to accompany him. To avoid the crush, Sir Hokus sneaks off one evening after dinner, with no provisions and no mount.

He blunders into Marshland, where he almost becomes the unwilling groom of the witch-queen Marcia. He escapes with the help of a new friend, a giant turtle called Ploppa. He is joined by his old friend the Comfortable Camel (the two met in The Royal Book of Oz), who saw Sir Hokus sneak away from the Emerald City and followed after. They find a great golden castle that is mysteriously deserted and decrepit.

The Camel, in turn, is being sought by the Sultan of Samandra, a small land located in the far north of the Winkie Country. Actually, it is the mysteriously contents of the Camel's saddlebags that the Sultan actually covets.

Speedy, an orphan boy from Long Island, New York, is working with his Uncle Billy on the uncle's invention, a rocket ship. A disorderly attempt at a take-off for Mars leaves Speedy alone on the craft as it careens through the atmosphere, out of control. The rocket plunges into and through the Earth without stopping, eventually landing Speedy in the underground realm of Subterranea. There he finds a golden statue, of a young woman called Marygolden, which comes to life at his touch. Together they escape the unfriendly inhabitants of Subterranea and reach the Earth's surface for more adventures.

Speedy, who seems to have a knack for such things, performs another disenchantment: he turns a horse chestnut into a chestnut horse, a war charger called Stampedro. The horse is looking for his missing master, a golden knight. The three join together for the quest. Sir Hokus, meanwhile, performs a disenchantment of his own, turning a funnysuckle vine into Peter Pun, a royal jester. Gaining one companion, he loses another: the Comfortable Camel is captured by the Samandrans and taken back to the Sultan. Hokus and Peter meet up with Stampedro and the young people; they all join together to rescue the Camel.

They confront the Sultan, though he is in no mood to yield, and the heroes have to split up and flee or fight as they can. Speedy begins to unravel the puzzle of the multiple enchantments surrounding him; he learns to manipulate magic dates and their pits to free two entire kingdoms, Corumbia and Corabia, from the Sultan's magic. Whole forests are transformed from plants back into people. The graying Sir Hokus turns into the young and handsome Yellow Knight, the crown prince of Corumbia; Marygolden is revealed to be a Corabian princess. The Yellow Knight, regaining his memory after five centuries of enchantment, wins Marygolden as his bride.

Ozma and Dorothy magically arrive, and act to neutralize the Sultan and his magic and confine him to his own dominions. The freed Corumbians and Corabians are happy to be alive again. After a celebration, Speedy in sent home with the Magic Belt.

Background

Time

In this book, Thompson states that "most of the Samandrans are more than seven centuries old" and that Sir Hokus himself is 700 years old. Some readers have taken these statements to indicate that Lurline enchanted Oz into a fairyland sometime in the early thirteenth century (by Thompson's dating).

Technology

Thompson's means of conveying her young protagonist to Oz in this book is more overtly technological than usual. The idea of a rocket ship that can plow though the Earth may seem intolerably silly to many modern readers; yet the great and wildly-imaginative science fiction writer A. E. van Vogt uses the same concept in his fiction published in the 1940s. On this point, Thompson anticipates van Vogt by a decade.

Thompson also furnishes her rocket with an escape function, rather like that possessed by the real Mercury capsules that would come in the 1960s. Thompson calls her escape device a parashuter, but does not give a clear description of its nature; she also calls it a "steel umbrella," and it seems to resemble the Magic Umbrella of Baum's books. The parashuter is rocket-powered, and can also move its users through the Earth. Speedy has to strap himself and Marygolden to its handle and be dragged along by it.

Adaptation

L. Frank Baum adapted several of his Oz stories for stage and film versions; but The Yellow Knight of Oz is the only one of Thompson's Oz books that was adapted for the stage. In 1962, Sacramento theater manager Richard Fullmer obtained permission from Thompson, publisher Reilly & Lee, and the Baum estate to adapt the book. (Fullmer had previously produced his own adaptation of Baum's original The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.) Fullmer's version of Yellow Knight premiered at the Sacramento Civic Theater in February 1963; it blended live actors with puppets for non-human characters like the Comfortable Camel.

Fullmer's adaptation was later revised by Christopher Sterling; this version was regularly acted at the annual conventions of The International Wizard of Oz Club.

References

  • Andrea Kelman Yussman. "The Yellow Knight Goes to the Theater." The Baum Bugle, Vol. 39 No. 1 (Spring 1995).

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