“But after all,” Pajuka sighed and gazed sadly into the fire, “after all, my boy, there is nothing like being yourself.”Ruth Plumly Thompson, The Lost King of Oz
I recently finished reading Ruth Plumly Thompson’s fifth Oz book, the nineteenth in the series, The Lost King of Oz. It has illustrations by John R. Neill. This book explores what happened to Princess Ozma’s father. In the second Oz book, The Marvelous Land of Oz, by L. Frank Baum, it is stated that the King of Oz was defeated and his baby daughter given to Mombi, the witch, but no real details of the King’s fate are given. To my recollection, he’s not mentioned again in the series until this book (I could well be wrong, but if he is, it’s not as a major plot element by any means).
The plot and the twists in this story are a bit predictable, but the characters are fun and make the journey interesting just the same. I appreciated that we got to see some genuine emotion and distress in Ozma in this book. She’s usually the perfectly serene and unflappable queen, a little girl, but one who is completely balanced and mature at all times. This frantic girl longing for her father is actually really nice to see and humanizes her a lot.
My least favorite part of this book was the oddly unnecessary visit to Hollywood and the living dummy from the movies who returns to Oz with Dorothy afterwards. He’s not that interesting and largely just annoyed me throughout the story. On top of that, the one particularly intriguing element of the journey – Dorothy beginning to suddenly grow up when she has been frozen as a child for so many years in Oz – was all but dismissed nearly as quickly as it was introduced and the characters never did figure out (or really even try to) what happened there. There’s so much story potential with that one little element, but Thompson pretty much just ignores it.
The tailor is one of the most intriguing characters that Thompson has created. He’s got an interesting story and the removable ears he uses to learn about the world beyond is an incredibly fascinating element that has so much potential for interesting stories!
Unfortunately, Thompson continues to not treat many of Baum’s characters, the “celebrities” of Oz, very well. She clearly dislikes Scraps and that disdain is impossible to miss since it even bleeds into the other characters’ reactions to the Patchwork Girl. The girls, Dorothy, Trot, and Betsy, are also less independent and less self-sufficient in Thompson’s stories. Dorothy fares a little better than the others simply because she seems to always need to be off on strange adventures alone, which is actually very odd and not something she ever did in Baum’s books. If there’s one thing that was always consistent about Dorothy’s adventures, it’s that she always had companions!
I enjoyed this book overall and I love that Thompson decided to explore one of the mysteries that Baum left hanging in his series – what happened to Oz’s former king. I might have wished for a more complex exploration of that question, but that kind of storytelling wasn’t Thompson’s style (at least with this series – I’ve never read anything non-Oz that she wrote). It’s a fun book, though.
- Ruth Plumly Thompson on Wikipedia
- John R. Neill’s Official Online Gallery
- The International Wizard of Oz Club