The Road to Oz is paved with L. Frank Baum’s cruel intentions. Much like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle could barely restrain his murderous tendencies toward Sherlock Holmes, Baum hates Oz, and his desperate need to wipe out the land is manifest in “The Emerald City of Oz,” the sixth book in the series, published in 1910.
There’s two stories here.
On the one hand, you have the Nome King, Roquat the Red, who is recruiting an army of discontents to tunnel his way to Oz in order to destroy the city. (Roquat’s need to put an end to the land for no real reason other than “its presence bugs me” parallels Baum’s own urge.)
On the other hand, you have Dorothy’s symmetrically-opposed journey, one in which Baum displays one outburst of creativity, not unlike that of the supposed re-gathering of energy that precedes death. Wonder follows nonsensical wonder as we meet living paper dolls and pastries; kangaroos without mittens; zebras that argue geometry with crabs; Rigmaroles and Flutterbudgets; jigsaw puzzles that attempt to assemble themselves. One utters this admirable bit of wisdom:
“Madam, you have perhaps noticed that every person has some peculiarity. Mine is to scatter myself. What your own peculiarity is I will not venture to say; but I shall never find fault with you, whatever you do.”
Baum unleashes a barrage of painful puns as we get to the land of Utensia, where kitchen utensils live as if in anticipation of future Pixar movies. Sample:
“Why is the colander the High Priest?”
“He’s the holiest thing we have in the kingdom.”
None of the encounters add anything to the plot; the author is simply unloading every half-formed, Oz-related ideas on the way to a conclusion of intense finality, one that shuts off all possibility for sequels:
“YOU WILL NEVER HEAR ANYTHING MORE ABOUT OZ, BECAUSE WE ARE NOW CUT OFF FOREVER FROM ALL THE REST OF THE WORLD. BUT TOTO AND I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU AND ALL THE OTHER CHILDREN WHO LOVE US.
Of course, after a three-year hiatus, L. Frank Baum said: “Screw it. Papa needs a brand new Ford Model T. Oz, here we go again!” 8 more books followed.