Nathan (vovat) wrote,

Shoemaker, Magic-Maker, Troublemaker

Today we focus on a foe in the Oz series, namely Ugu the Shoemaker, a former resident of the city of Herku. He worked there as...well, you can probably figure that out from his name. But he was unhappy and restless in this position, and he knew that his ancestors were magicians, dating back to a figure whom Vig identifies as "the greatest wizard and sorcerer who has ever lived--in this or any other country." We're never told the identity of this wizard, but it might make for an interesting story. Anyway, when Ugu discovered the books of his ancestors, which had been hidden in his house by his father when he left Herku in Ugu's youth, he immersed himself in the study of magic. His goal was to become the greatest magician in Oz, and its ruler besides. In his attempt to achieve this, he stole all of the most powerful magic in the country, aside from the Magic Belt, which wasn't mentioned in his books. (L. Frank Baum's explanation for this is that the Belt came from outside Oz, which is true, but it's been in Oz pretty much as long as some of the things Ugu DID steal.) The shoemaker-turned-magician also kidnapped and enchanted Ozma herself, and the plot of The Lost Princess of Oz involves Glinda sending out search parties to look for the missing ruler and magic items. It's Dorothy and the Wizard's party that locates Ugu in his wickerwork castle, and Dorothy uses the Belt to turn him into a dove. At the end of the book, Ugu apologizes to Dorothy for his misdeeds, and admits that he prefers being a bird.

That's the last we see of Ugu in the Famous Forty, but he's been pretty cleverly used in some later stories. Phyllis Ann Karr's Gardener's Boy has the former shoemaker, still in the form of a dove, helping the former Queen of Jinxland in her well-intentioned but illegal magical attempts to find her lost husband King Kynd. Ugu also has a major role in Time Travelers, which sees him accompanying Ojo and Button-Bright back in time [1] in a misguided attempt to stop himself from turning to villainy in the first place. He regains his human form for a while within the course of the tale, but he ends up as a gray dog. Jay Delkin's Oziana story called "The Mystery of the Missing Ozma" puts forth the unlikely and amusing premise that Ugu had a twin brother, also named Ugu, whose mode of operations was almost identical to his brother's, except his castle was made of grass instead of wicker. I'd actually like to do something expanding on some of these ideas, but even though Ugu himself is in the public domain, these stories are not.

[1] Button-Bright is a popular choice of character for Oz time travel tales, featuring in this story, Atticus Gannaway's Wonderful Journey, and Jeremy Steadman's Emerald Ring. I guess his habit of getting lost makes him an obvious candidate for being misplaced in time as well as space.
Tags: books, characters, oz

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