Nathan (vovat) wrote,

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Belting It Out

The most powerful magic item that we see in the Oz series is, of course, the Magic Belt. In fact, it's so powerful that I often find myself wondering why the characters don't use it in many situations. WE want there to be a plot, but do THEY? Anyway, the Belt first shows up as a possession of the Nome King in Ozma of Oz. He can use it to perform transformations and many other feats of magic. It also protects him from danger, although it apparently can't protect itself from being removed from the wearer's body, which is what Dorothy does while the King is distracted. And once she takes it, Dorothy is able to use it quite easily. Its only known weakness is that it doesn't work on wood.

Dorothy gives the Belt to Ozma, who uses it a lot in the next few books, but not in the books that Baum wrote after returning to the series, starting with Patchwork Girl. In fact, I can only remember two books in Baum's last eight that featured the Belt. Dorothy uses it to defeat Ugu the Shoemaker in Lost Princess, but it takes her a while to remember how it works, even though she had no trouble with it back in Ozma. While experimenting, she turns the Sawhorse into a potato masher and back, presumably breaking the rule about the Belt not working on wood. She also finds (or at least remembers) a way to make it grant one wish per day (with transformations not counting as wishes). In Glinda, Dorothy wears the talisman, but I don't think she really uses it at all, although its protective power is effective against the giant spiders. One popular fan explanation for why the Belt is rarely used in these books is that all the all the things Ozma did with it at the end of Emerald City (including transporting thousands of invaders back to their homes) drained its power. If so, the Ozites must have found a faster way to recharge it in the Thompson era, since it's used quite frequently in her books. In Handy Mandy, Ozma uses it to turn a mountain inside out and return many stolen items to their owners, without even knowing who those owners are. If her deeds at the end of Emerald City did a number on the Belt's power, then its magic must have been strained even more at the end of Handy Mandy. It's difficult to come up with a consistent model for how the item works, as its powers and limitations are different in pretty much every book.

The origin of the Belt is an idea that's inspired some apocryphal Oz works. Time Travelling credits it to the Nome magician Hitveoehun, while Kaliko says that it is a creation of the jewel magician Bel-Sor-t. (I guess one thing both books agree on is that the Belt was made by someone whose name was pretty much impossible to pronounce. {g}) Someone (I think it might have been Tyler Jones) suggested that it might have been the jewels that were made by Bel-Sor-t, while Hitveoehun manufactured the Belt itself. Another question that sometimes comes up in fan discussion is whether it was fair for Dorothy to take the Belt from the Nome King in the first place. What that be considered theft, or is it self-defense? Could it be defended as the spoils of war, or Roquat not deserving the Belt because he used it for immoral actions? It wasn't until Dorothy took the Belt and left it with Ozma that the Nome King became an enemy of Oz, but he had done some nasty (but legal, at least within Ev) things prior to that. The Nome, later known as Ruggedo, is also not an entirely unsympathetic character, although some books make him meaner than others.
Tags: books, oz
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