Nathan (vovat) wrote,

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Slanted and Enchanted

Lurline's enchantment was obviously an important event in the history of Oz. Unfortunately, it's not entirely clear what it actually did, and not at all clear when it occurred. When L. Frank Baum first writes of the enchantment in The Tin Woodman of Oz, he claims that it prevented all death and aging, but not the possibility of being "totally destroyed" (which is never clearly defined). She also left one of her fairies to rule the land, and Glinda offers a strong suggestion (although not an unambiguous confirmation) that this fairy was Ozma herself. When the Supreme Dictator of the Flatheads talks to Ozma, he says, "I have heard that Lurline left one of her own fairies to rule Oz, and gave that fairy the name of Ozma." Jack Snow makes an attempt to tie various Baumian references together in his Magical Mimics, which reports that Lurline left Ozma as a baby with the King of Oz (presumably Pastoria) when she enchanted the country. So this enchantment must have been fairly recent, right? After all, Ozma was not considered the heiress to the throne until after Pastoria's disappearance, and there are several occasions of aging and death in the early Oz books. Nick Chopper's parents both die (although I guess it's possible they were "totally destroyed"), and the Wizard ages from "a young man" to "a very old man" (in his own words). But if Pastoria had been king during the enchantment, it must have already been in effect by the time of the Wizard's reign. And the way Baum speaks of the enchantment in Tin Woodman suggests that it was an event in the distant past, passed down in legend rather than true history (although, if no one in Oz died after the enchantment, you'd think a lot of people would still remember it). And while I can't recall any references in Baum to ordinary Ozites being older than an Outside Worlder could ever hope to live, Ruth Plumly Thompson gives us some, most prominently in Yellow Knight. Here, we're told that "most of the Samandrans [inhabitants of a desert sultanate in the Winkie Country] are more than seven centuries old," and the book elsewhere gives seven hundred years as Sir Hokus' lifespan thus far. [1] The fact that Thompson specifies the figure of seven centuries suggests that she thinks something significant happened around the early thirteenth century to expand these people's lives. Could this have been the enchantment? Thompson doesn't say so (in fact, while Thompson does mention Lurline, I don't think her enchantment is even referred to in Ruth's books), but some researchers have taken it as a logical conclusion. If so, though, I don't see how it could very well have been concurrent with Ozma's own arrival in Oz, unless she was a baby for hundreds of years. Even though the account in Tin Woodman says that Lurline "passed on and forgot all about it" after enchanting Oz and leaving one of her fairies there, I think it might be more likely that she paid several visits, seeing how things were getting along, and possibly changing things that were not.

Did the enchantment have any other effects? The accounts don't specify, but it's certainly possible that it was responsible for animal speech, and some of the more unusual types of flora and fauna. Robert R. Pattrick, a pioneer in the field of Ozian research, somehow had the idea that it was responsible for ALL magic in Oz, but I find that unlikely. The books have some references to magic-workers living there in the distant past, and the general suggestion in Baum's fantasy works is that civilization is what halts the use of magic (or at least severely hampers it; he does have a few stories in which there are active witches and wizards in the civilized world, one of them being John Dough and the Cherub). [2] Perhaps the enchantment, together with the desert isolating Oz from the rest of the world, is what prevented the encroaching of civilization, and hence allowed magic to continue to be practiced there. Many of the lands immediately across the desert from Oz have at least some magical properties, and some (Mo, for example) seem to be even MORE magical. Did Lurline also enchant some of these other lands? I think that's an issue that can be saved for a later post.

[1] His stay in Pokes is reported to have been around 500 years, however, which suggests he was already 200 by the time he set out from his father's castle to get married. Seems like a long time to wait, even in a deathless fairyland.
[2] The differences between Oz, its surrounding fairylands, and fully mundane lands like our own comprise a topic that I'll almost certainly be discussing in a future entry.
Tags: books, oz
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