Nathan (vovat) wrote,

The Rebellious Dragon

Today's Oz character of focus is the dragon Quox, the Great Jinjin's Instrument of Vengeance in Tik-Tok of Oz. Dragons (or, more specifically, dragonettes) first appear in the Oz series in Dorothy and the Wizard, and make other appearances after that, but Quox is probably the dragon with the largest role. He comes from a land on the other side of the world from Oz, where dragons originated. At the time of the story, Quox is about a week shy of his 3056th birthday [1], which makes him more or less a teenager by dragon standards. As such, he lacks the respect for which most dragons are known, and had been insulting to his famous ancestor, the Original Dragon. [2] The Jinjin punishes Quox by making him travel to the Nome Kingdom and dethrone King Ruggedo.

L. Frank Baum uses Quox to detail the role of dragons in his fantasy universe. It's suggested that dragons are typically good and noble by nature, and it's misunderstandings by humans that cause the two groups to be at odds in much of the world. Baum's dragons also have fire inside of them, which keeps them alive. I'm not sure how well this fits in with the dragon of Spor from The Enchanted Island of Yew, who keeps on living when his flame is extinguished, but perhaps there are extenuating circumstances.

So where did the idea for Quox come from? Well, it's pretty common knowledge that Tik-Tok was a play before it was a book, and I believe that performances of Wagner's Ring Cycle in Baum's time often used a mechanical dragon for Fafnir. It's possible that Baum wanted to use this same device in his own play, but realized it wouldn't be practical, and later wrote the intended dragon character into the book version.

I often like to look up the names of Oz characters to see if they've been used in any other context, and I found a few uses of the word "quox" that have no obvious connection to dragons:

  • A computer virus, described as "a reasonably simple diskette and Master Boot Record infector." I've known some Oz fans to blame the old Nome King for computer troubles, so maybe he created this virus, and named it after the creature who drove him out of his own kingdom. {g}
  • Quox-1, a gene found in embryonic quails. (Does this mean that quails and dragons are related? If so, that could be bad news for Dick Cheney!)
  • Quox & Huong, a restaurant in New York's Chinatown.
  • According to the Urban Dictionary, it's also "[a] word describing a certain state of confusion."

Also, in a usage that IS Oz-related, Gregory Maguire identifies Quox as one of the countries bordering Oz in his own books. I have to wonder if Maguire got the name of the dragon confused with Quok, the setting of one of Baum's short stories.

[1] Quox tells his companions, "Mother was going to make me a birthday cake with three thousand and fifty-six candles on it." I wonder if dragon birthday celebrations involve trying to light all of the candles, rather than blowing them out.
[2] The Original Dragon has no name in Baum's work, but Onyx Madden's Mysterious Chronicles calls him Skanderbeg.
Tags: books, monsters, oz

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