Nathan (vovat) wrote,

The Clothing Kingdoms

In Oz, there are a few small countries with economies based on the making of clothing. The first one to feature in a book is Ragbad, in the deep southern Quadling Country near Jinxland. This kingdom is where various textiles grow, although it fell into ruin in the time of King Fumbo, who is presumably still the ruler. He was a well-read but lazy man who spent the majority of the royal treasury on books. Kind of an odd way for an author to devise for a kingdom to be ruined, but there you go. Actually, Ruth Plumly Thompson mentions Fumbo spending money on books AND TOBACCO, so maybe it's the latter that really bankrupted the monarch. Thomspon's Oz books contain a lot of smoking with no real value judgments on the subject, but perhaps Fumbo's plight is a subtle indication of how expensive the habit can be. (Quite frankly, I'm not sure how ANYONE can afford to smoke, especially nowadays.) Anyway, due to the economic collapse, nearly all of the workers, guards, and courtiers leave the kingdom. The only remaining inhabitants were the royal family (King Fumbo, his wife who goes by the nickname "Mrs. Sew-and-Sew," and their son Prince Tatters), twenty-seven families (reportedly about one hundredth of the original population), the wise man Pudge, the footman Scroggles, and the soldier Grampa. Oddly, Grampa isn't actually a grandfather, and it's never explicitly stated whether "Grampa" is a given name or a nickname. I suppose anything is possible in Oz. Anyway, when King Fumbo's head blows off in a storm, it's Grampa who accompanies Tatters in trying to find it, and his name (such as it is) that features in the book's title. Without giving too much away, I'll reveal that Tatters' new father-in-law provides Ragbad with a fortune, and the kingdom's prosperity is restored. Given what we're told in The Emerald City of Oz about the Ozian economy, I'm not sure how one of its kingdoms could become so destitute, but Thompson wasn't always one for following the rules when they interfered with the stories she wanted to tell.


The very next book, The Lost King of Oz, begins in a small Gillikin kingdom called Kimbaloo. Here, the main crop is buttons, which grow on trees. The rulers are King Kinda Jolly and Queen Rosa Merry, and their subjects 250 boys and 250 girls. The boys sell buttons for the king, while the girls sell bouquets from the queen's bouquet bush. While there might well be more children in Oz who hold down jobs than there are in the United States (hey, Ozma herself is a perpetual teenager), it still strikes me as kind of odd that there would be this many children living in a small kingdom with no parents. Are they orphans? We don't really know. While Kinda and Rosa are quite friendly, I doubt they really fill a parental role for 500 kids. And this story is centered around finding Ozma's long-lost father, who also becomes sort of a surrogate father to Snip, a button boy who leaves Kimbaloo when he accidentally stumbles on Mombi's evil plot. King Kinda, not realizing Mombi's past as a wicked witch, had hired her as the castle cook. When the witch leaves the kingdom with Snip and Pajuka, the royal bodyguard General Whiffenpuff goes in search of an invisible cook who lives near the Emerald City.


Finally, Gnome King introduces Patch, identified as the seven hundred fifth small country in Oz, although the order in which these places are organized is unclear. Patch is in the Winkie Country, but doesn't follow the typical yellow color scheme, instead laid out as a patchwork of many different colors. The people, known as Quilties, make patchwork quilts and mend clothing. Because of how hard they work, the Quilties tend to have cross attitudes, and they're prone to falling into pieces. As the country is in Oz, they don't die when this happens, but instead are swept into a scrap bag and left there for about ten years, after which they come back to life. The king or queen actually works harder than anyone else, and goes to pieces more quickly than any of the other Quilties. Rulers are chosen by the golden Royal Spool of Succession, which unravels to point out the next king or queen. As the story begins, the Prime Piecer and Chief Scrapper of the realm (who appear to be its actual leaders) follow the thread to the Emerald City and take the Patchwork Girl to be their queen. She is excited about this at first, but upon learning how much work it is, she escapes in the company of Peter Brown and the former queen's pet bear Grumpy. The Wizard of Oz eventually finds that the person actually indicated by the thread is actually a palace mender named Susan Smiggs. Ozma promises to reform the laws of Patch in order to make being queen less of an ordeal for Susan than it was for Scraps, but we never find out exactly what happens in that respect. Patch is actually another kingdom that Thompson introduced in another story before bringing it into Oz, the tale in question being called "Land O' Patch." According to this story, Patch is located in between the witch and fairy countries, and its king at the time (possibly the original ruler) is half witch and half fairy.
Tags: books, characters, oz
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