As I mentioned in yesterday's blog posting, I had acquired 3 Oz books by Ruth Plumly Thompson, who served as the 2nd Royal Historian of Oz following L. Frank Baum's death in 1919.
It thus seemd appropriate to talk about her 3rd book, The Cowardly Lion of Oz, which she wrote in 1923 and is the 17th book about Oz overall, including Baum's 14 books previously.
In particular, I wanted to show off some of the most incredible color plates drawn by John R. Neill that are found inside this fine Oz book.
The story involves the adventures of a circus clown named Notta Bit More, and 7-year-old Bobby Downs, an orphan from Stumptown, U.S.A., both of whom are compelled by Mustafa, the Ruler of Mudge in a far-off corner of Munchkin Country to capture the last lion in Oz, the Cowardly Lion (of course).
During the course of the story, we encounter the circus clown, Notta Bit More as he finds himself blown out of his big top tent. I'm glad my son Halley hasn't read this story as he has a mortal terror of clowns.
Later, we meet the Featherheads of Un, a strange race of bird people.
At some point during the story, Notta Bit More disguises himself as a fish and we see the young orphan, Bobby Downs with their new friend, the Cowardly Lion. So much for kidnapping the big cat!
Finally, the Wizard of Oz shows up to add in his two cents worth! Hmmm. He doesn't look anything like Oscar Diggs in Oz the Great and Powerful, does he? I wonder if Oscar knows he'll eventually go bald?
Naturally, as part of the story, the Cowardly Lion finds himself turned to stone, kinda like he did in Disney's Return to Oz film of the mid-80's. We even get to see Dorothy, who is quite sad at her dear friend's predicament.
But of course, there's always a happy ending in Oz... as it should be, and we find the Cowardly Lion conversing with some kinsmen of the Tin Woodman.
Now, these are only about half of the color plates included in the book and there are many black and white drawings throughout.
Also, this is a fine story, but it is clear to the reader that this is not L. Frank Baum doing the writing. This brings up a personal picadelo of mine.
Most people consider Ruth Plumly Thompson, John R. Neill (the 3rd Royal Historian), Jack Snow (the 4th Royal Historian), Rachel Cosgrove Payes (the 5th Royal Historian), and Eloise Jarvis & Lauren Lynn McGraw (the 6th Co-Royal Historians) as representing the Founding Forty books that are the canon of Oz while anyone who follows is non-canonical and more often called fan fiction.
I consider this a load of rubbish! If it ain't L. Frank Baum, it's just someone else's vision of Oz and my own vision of Oz is just as good and just as canon as any of the other Royal Historians that followed in L. Frank Baum's penstrokes. Some like to point out the very few minor inconsistencies in my writings... but then again, L. Frank Baum suffered similar inconsistencies in his own work. Go figure?
I look at it this way... If The Baum Bugle, an International Wizard of Oz Club publication reviews my work and calls it "in the true Baum tradition," then I must be doing something right.
I know Princess Ozma is very pleased with my work... and that is all that matters to me!
James C. Wallace II
Royal Liaison of Oz