Easter vs. Wester
There have been several Oz stories featuring Santa Claus, but as far as I know the Easter Bunny has only been a bit player in Merry Go Round in Oz
. As such, I thought he deserved his own story, so I wrote one. It's pretty short, and there are some ideas I sort of wanted to incorporate that I really couldn't fit in. Part of the inspiration for the story is that Tim Hollis' "Santa Claus in Oz," which was published in the 1986 Oziana
, ends with the Easter Bunny asking if he can set up shop in the Emerald City, as Santa Claus did during the events of the tale. Other ideas came from word association, like the visit to Easter Island and the villain being the Wester Bunny. I believe the words "east" and "Easter" really do share a common root, both being associated with dawn. If Wester is the opposite of Easter, I'm not sure whether it would be associated with the last full moon before the autumnal equinox, the first full moon after the equinox, or what. Before Teutonic Christians co-opted the term, Easter Month was basically equivalent to April. I've also read that there was a tradition that Jesus died on 25 March, quite possibly to tie it in with the vernal equinox. If the Gospels are correct, we know Jesus died around Passover, but we don't know the year. Many neopagans celebrate Ostara at the vernal equinox and Mabon at the autumnal, but the latter has no actual historical basis as far as I can tell. Fall holidays are generally linked with the harvest, and in the United States both Halloween and Thanksgiving derive in part from harvest festivals, but they're both later in the year. Any suggestions for what a Wester celebration might entail are welcome; I'll admit to being a bit stumped when it came to that part of the story. Also, the Easter Bunny says that his given name is Paschal, which is what Easter is called in many non-Germanic languages. I'm wondering if this works, or if it would work better for his name to be Peter, as in "Here Comes Peter Cottontail." Any suggestions are welcome, but these are a few points on which I'm particularly unsure. Anyway, here's the story:THE EASTER BUNNY OF OZ
By Nathan M. DeHoff
When the Easter Bunny sought to have his underground kingdom in the Munchkin Country of Oz flood-proofed, he brought his retinue of workers to the Emerald City. Once there, Ozma was assisted by Wag, a rabbit who had been enlarged by magic, in setting up his headquarters in a vast cavern below the palace. There, they set to their work of dyeing eggs, making candy, weaving baskets, and growing Easter grass. Everything went well for about a week, until one night when a gang of weasels sneaked into the city. They were able to escape with a good many of the eggs that the rabbits had painstakingly collected and colored before being noticed by Jack Pumpkinhead, who was out on a walk with the Scarecrow and the Patchwork Girl.
“Is weasels taking the eggs part of a traditional Easter celebration?” asked Jack.
“Why do you ask, Jack?” questioned the Scarecrow.
“Because I see some right down the alley.”
When Scraps heard this, she ran into the nearby alley, and was able to grab one of the escaping weasels. The animal promptly dropped its egg and began yelling, “Put me down, ya overgrown rag doll!”
“That’s one of the Easter Bunny’s eggs,” said Scraps, noticing it was dyed red. “Would you mind telling us what you were doing with it?”
“Bringing it back to the North Pole for repairs, of course!”
“That makes sense to me,” observed Jack, nodding his pumpkin head.
“No, Jack, we discussed this,” stated the Scarecrow. “It’s Santa Claus who works at the North Pole. The Easter Bunny is not an Arctic hare.”
“Is he the one who makes the menorahs?”
“I think your friend could use a new head,” observed the weasel.
“It’s difficult to get pumpkins at this time of year, even in Oz. Not like the time when everybody carves pumpkins to celebrate St. Valentine slaying the dragon.”
“No, that’s St. George who—“ began the Scarecrow.
“You can set Jack straight later on, dear,” said the Patchwork Girl. “For now, we have to find out why this weasel has been stealing eggs.”
“Stealin’ eggs is what weasels do!”
“Yes,” said the Scarecrow, “but in Oz most weasels have taken to eating eggs from egg plants. Besides, isn’t there an enchantment that stops predators from getting at the eggs here in the city?”
“There is for Billina’s family, but perhaps that doesn’t extend to the Easter Bunny’s operations,” put in Scraps. “Now, Mr. Weasel, who sent you here?”
“I’m not tellin’, you yarn-haired freak!” The weasel attempted to bite Scraps’s finger, but as she was incapable of feeling pain, this just made her annoyed. He then bit harder, ripping her fabric and scurrying away as soon as he had hit the ground.
“I knew I should have held tighter.”
“Scraps dear, you’re stuffed with cotton. Even your tightest isn’t that tight,” replied the Scarecrow. “We had better tell Ozma about this, though.”
Half an hour later, both Ozma and the Easter Bunny had been awakened, as had several other prominent Ozites. At an impromptu meeting in the council chamber, the Bunny expressed his consternation. “Those eggs were a significant part of our output,” he said, adjusting his monocle. “We can probably make up for it before Easter, but not if more thieves arrive.”
“Who do you think sent the weasels?” inquired Dorothy.
“I don’t know, Princess, but they are clearly in violation of the accord I signed with the Weasel King.”
“Then let’s bring the King here, and have him answer for his crimes!” shouted Scraps.
The Weasel King lived in the jungle of Africa, having migrated there many years earlier, but Ozma was able to contact him and transport him to the palace with her Magic Belt. When he arrived, with a cigar in his mouth that filled the room with smoke, he looked around the room and pointed at the Wogglebug. “You I remember. You paid a visit to my kingdom years ago. Nice to see you again, Sullivanthauros.”
“If I recall correctly, the last time we met, you tried to have me killed,” said the bug.
“Merely a formality, I assure you. It’s all water under the bridge now. Hey, do you have anything to eat here?”
“There will be time for refreshments later,” said the Easter Bunny. “The question is, why did your subjects invade the city and steal my eggs?”
“They certainly weren’t acting on my orders. We can’t police all the weasels in the world, you know.”
“If only I had the protective spell that we had cast on my own kingdom.”
“Whoever it was who sent the weasels must have known you were going to be out of your own country,” observed the Scarecrow.
“Yes. I had thought the enchantment on Billina’s family would also apply to us, but apparently not.”
“Could we cast the spell here?” questioned the Wizard of Oz.
“I suppose we could, but we’d need another egg from the Guarda Bird, and I do believe they’re now extinct. We had another one preserved, but it was stolen years ago.”
“If the eggs have protective powers, how could anyone steal ‘em?” asked Scraps.
“All protective magic has its weak spots,” answered the Wizard.
“Like how the Magic Belt has protective powers, but it can still be taken off the wearer, like Dorothy did to the Nome King,” said the Scarecrow.
“So who stole the egg?” asked Dorothy.
“It wasn’t me!” said the Weasel King, even though no one was looking at him.
“No, no, it was my counterpart,” explained the Bunny.
“Your counterpart? What do you mean?” inquired the Scarecrow.
“My opposite, the Wester Bunny.”
“I remember asking my governess if there was a Wester Bunny,” put in Button-Bright. “She told me not to ask foolish questions.”
“He’s not very well known at this point, but he caused a lot of trouble back in the day. He really started the tradition of the Easter egg hunt, you know. He stole a lot of eggs with magical properties and hid them. My grandfather, who was the Easter Bunny then, recruited some children to help find them, and they enjoyed the search so much that it became an annual event.”
“How long ago was this?” asked the Wizard. “Back at the beginning of Easter?”
“Oh, no. Easter is a very old holiday, predating even the Christian associations that it has today. The egg theft only occurred around four hundred years ago.”
“And you never found all the eggs?” questioned Button-Bright.
“My grandfather says they found most of them. All but one, in fact, which the Wester Bunny told us was in a place that was obvious from his name.”
“What was your grandfather’s name?” asked Ozma.
“Paschal. It’s my name, too. Everyone just called him the Easter Bunny, though.”
“Could it be in Bunnybury?” suggested Button-Bright.
“Is there an East Bunnybury?” added Dorothy.
“What about Easter Island?” said Jack Pumpkinhead.
“Is that a real place?” asked Scraps doubtfully.
“Oh, yes, I’ve been there,” stated Cap’n Bill. “It’s off the coast o’ South Americky, and known for its giant stone heads. ‘Course, it’s only been called that for two hundred year or so. Had another name before that.”
“I believe the generally accepted name is Rapa Nui,” said the Wogglebug.
“Aye, that’s it. When I was there, I thought one o’ the stone heads was a-talkin’ to me, but I put it down to a hallucernation. Now that I’ve seen talkin’ scarecrows and giant bugs, though, I’m not so sure anymore.”
“Do you remember what it said?” asked Trot.
“Somethin’ about the egg bein’ in…Moto-new?”
“Back in the days before European settlement, there was a tradition of retrieving a tern egg from the nearby island of Motu Nui,” said the Bunny. “I learned about this from my father, along with the method of calculating when Easter falls.”
“How DO you calculate when Easter falls?” asked the Scarecrow. “My brains have always been unclear on that.”
“I can’t always remember myself. The first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox, I believe. It’s different in Russia, though, which means I usually have to make a later trip there. Fortunately, I have a calendar that has the dates clearly indicated for the next million years. Anyway, I’d say we might as well try Easter Island.”
“I’d go,” said Dorothy, “but the last time I returned to the Outside World, I grew to the age I would’ve been if I’d never come to Oz. If I tried it now, I’d prob’ly be in my nineties.”
“I’ll go, but how are we going to get there?” inquired the Wogglebug.
“My Bunny Trail should be able to get us there.”
“I might as well go too,” volunteered the Weasel King. “I have a sense for finding eggs.”
The Bunny, the Professor, and the weasel made a few preparations, and then the rabbit unrolled an object he had in his vest pocket. It expanded into a road, which the two followed until the palace suddenly changed into an island. The enormous stone heads for which Rapa Nui is famous towered over the visitors.
“So where do we look for the egg?” inquired the Professor.
“Well, Motu Nui is to the south, across the water,” answered the Bunny.
“I wish we had transported directly there. Wogglebugs cannot swim, you know. I once had to lie at the bottom of a river for three days before a fisherman rescued me.”
“The Bunny Trail isn’t that specific in following directions. Anyway, can YOU swim, Your Majesty?”
“Don’t call me that! There’s nothing majestic about me. But yes, I can swim. Just hope the water doesn’t put out my cigar.”
“It’s a silver egg, not very big, but you should hear it humming.”
The king swam out to Motu Nui, and how he found the protective egg, buried under years of mud, is beyond my knowledge. He did, however, and managed to swim back to Rapa Nui, all with his cigar still above water. He was about to hand the egg to the Easter Bunny when they heard a gruff voice behind them yell out, “Hand over the egg, you pitiful polecat!”
“While I appreciate the lack of respect, I am not, technically speaking, a polecat,” said the weasel, as all three visitors turned around to face the gruff-voiced individual. It turned out to be another rabbit, about the same height as the Easter Bunny, but with mangy gray fur. His ears were different lengths and one hung down over his face. He had a patch over one eye, and held a pair of pistols out toward the Easter Bunny and his companions.
“The Wester Bunny!” exclaimed the white rabbit.
“Yes. I’d introduce myself to your friends, but I don’t have the time just now. Hand over the egg, or I’ll use my patented wither-guns. They’ll make you wither away like the flowers in autumn, my favorite season.”
While the two bunnies were talking, the Wogglebug quickly drew the two extra limbs he usually kept hidden out from his coat and grabbed the guns. When the Wester Bunny noticed, he tried to scratch the insect, only for the bug to remove his high hat, revealing another white rabbit. This lagomorph promptly jumped on the gray rabbit and pinned him to the ground.
“How did you do that?” asked the Wester Bunny, as he struggled to get back to his feet.
“It’s one of the tricks of the Wizard of Oz,” explained the Wogglebug. “Surely you’ve seen a rabbit pulled out of a hat before?”
“But how did it fit? This rabbit is huge!” Which was accurate, as the Easter and Wester Bunnies were both about four feet tall, while the other was fully six. It was, in fact, Wag.
“A good magician never reveals his secrets.”
“Now, come ashort. We’re going back to the Semerald Itty,” said Wag, in his typical mixed-up fashion. The others helped Wag to drag the Wester Bunny back along the Bunny Trail and into Ozma’s council chamber.
After the rabbits, the bug, and the weasel explained what had happened, Ozma asked the Wester Bunny why he wanted to steal the egg. “I just wanted to ruin this bunny’s holiday like his ancestors ruined mine,” was the reply.
“How did his ancestors ruin your holiday?” asked the Ruler of Oz.
“When the scribes were copying the official list of holidays, his ancestor chewed up the page that described Wester!”
“I apologize, but our race was not as civilized back then,” admitted the Easter Bunny. “Bunnies like to chew things. I’m sure it was nothing personal.”
“But we needed it for balance! Now there are no holidays around the autumnal equinox!”
“Prob’ly ‘cause that’s when school starts again, and nobody much feels like celebratin’,” suggested Trot.
“Ozma, why can’t we just start celebrating Wester here in Oz?” inquired Dorothy. “We’re always looking for more reasons to have parties.”
“I believe we will, and the Wester Bunny can remain here as well, as long as he apologizes for his actions.”
The Bunny agreed to this, but still wanted to know how the Ozites had managed to find the egg so easily. “Was it that talking Moai?”
“You know ‘bout that?” asked Cap’n Bill.
“Yes, it was the work of that rascally Ryl Tango-Monkey.”
“You must mean Tanko-Mankie,” said the Easter Bunny. “We had a run-in with him before, when he made our jellybean vines grow nothing but the black kind.”
“But those are the best ones!” exclaimed Betsy Bobbin.
That was how Wester, celebrated in early autumn, became an official holiday in the Land of Oz. The backwards dance around the Septemberpole grew to be a popular tradition, as were the snacks of apples and nuts, and a game involving picking seeds from pomegranates. Easter also went off quite well, with the Easter Bunny himself presiding over the annual egg hunt on Ozma’s palace grounds. There was also a parade, in which Dorothy made quite a hit in her Easter bonnet with all the frills upon it. And Professor Wogglebug is still trying to puzzle out how the Wester Bunny would have known to identify Rapa Nui as Easter Island before it received that name in 1772. THE END Current Mood: exhausted