Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Web Secret 416: Intermezzo

By the time you will be reading this post, I will be in Italy.

So it seems especially à propos to offer an intermezzo.

In the culinary world, an intermezzo is a small dish of sorbet offered as a palate cleanser between courses during a fancy meal.

This is my attempt at a blog equivalent.

Most everyone in the US has seen "The Wizard of Oz," the great 1939 film based on a book by L. Frank Baum - most of us more than once.

But the true Baum aficionado has also read his other Oz books, the most remarkable of which is "The Marvelous Land of Oz."

The basic plot of the novel is as follows:

A little boy, Tip, escapes from his evil guardian, the witch Mombi, with the help of a walking wooden figure with a jack-o'-lantern head named Jack Pumpkinhead (brought to life with the magic Powder of Life Tip stole from Mombi), as well as a living Sawhorse (created from the same powder). Tip ends up on an adventure with the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman to help Scarecrow recapture his throne from General Jinjur's army of girls.

As an elementary school aged child, I devoured the book - until the end, when I was astonished to learn that Tip was actually a girl - the Princess Ozma and the true ruler of Oz. Tip was transformed into a boy to prevent him (her?) from exercising his power.

At first, Tip (and the reader) is utterly shocked to learn this, but his friends help him accept his destiny, and a spell is performed which restores him to her true self and to her rightful position as the child Queen of Oz.

As a 10 year old, I spent hours trying to wrap my mind around this stunning turn of events.

But as a 21st century adult, I think this is the first children's book ever written about a transgender person - and a metaphor for transformation.

Who knows the true intent of the author, but Baum was an ardent support of women's suffrage, and a friend of Susan B. Anthony.

A girl (Dorothy) was the hero of his first novel. And the Land of Oz features a female General - Jinjur - who leads the women of Oz in a revolt, armed with knitting needles. They succeed and make the men do the household chores. Jinjur proves to be an incompetent ruler, but Ozma, a female advocating gender equality, is ultimately placed on the throne.

Shouldn't "The Land of Oz" be made into a movie, and tout de suite?

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