Nathan (vovat) wrote,

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A Crew Worth Its Salt

In Pirates in Oz, Ruth Plumly Thompson introduces the former pirate captain Samuel Salt. The crew made him captain because of his skill at navigation and piloting, but he was too kind-hearted to be an effective pirate. Hence, his crew deserted him, leaving him with only one ship, the Crescent Moon. With the help of a small makeshift crew, he thwarts the plans of Ruggedo and his former shipmates to conquer Oz, and is rewarded by Ozma with a knighthood and an appointment to Royal Explorer and Discoverer of Oz. In Captain Salt (incidentally the only one of the Famous Forty in which no action whatsoever takes place within Oz itself), Sir Samuel makes good on this, indulging his passion for collecting specimens along the way. He comes across as rather overzealous in his land-claiming and collecting, planting the flag of Oz on islands that are ignorant of his intentions, and capturing creatures with their own civilizations. We never learn what happens when he meets up with Ozma afterward, however, so maybe she sorts out some of his greater infractions. Or maybe she starts ruling her overseas empire with an iron fist, but I'm not sure that's really in character for her. Anyway, let's look at some members of the captain's crew.

King Ato VIII - The ruler of the Octagon Isle, a small island near Pingaree with a population of only 180 and an obsession with the number eight. His subjects desert him due to his lack of ambition, and join up with Ruggedo and the pirates in their attempt to conquer Oz. When he joins forces with Captain Salt, he is pretty much forced into the role of cook, and he eventually becomes quite skilled at it. Even after the restoration of his kingdom, he spends much of his time on board the Crescent Moon. According to brief references in the books in which he appears, Ato is about 1000 years old, weighs 250 pounds, and has only eight hairs remaining on his head.

Roger the Read Bird - Ato's Royal Reader is sort of like a parrot with a duck's head and a fan for a tail. Although living in an area where talking animals are rare, Roger talks quite well, and is fluent in eight different languages. His main job is to read books to Ato, his personal favorite being Maxims for Monarchs, a book of rather Machiavellian advice for kings. He tends to be more ambitious than his king, often recommending violent action to his companions. He generally serves as lookout on board the ship.

Peter Brown - This baseball-obsessed boy from Philadelphia was an established character well before he joined up with Captain Salt. When he was nine, he was taken to the Nonestic Ocean by a balloon bird, and escaped with Ruggedo from Runaway Island. He eventually hit the Nome King in the head with the Silence Stone, thwarting his attempt to send everyone in Ozma's palace to the bottom of the Nonestic. He was rewarded with two bags of gold from an old pirate ship, and the last piece of gold turned out to have the magical power to send him back to Oz two years later. In Jack Pumpkinhead, Peter and the title character join forces with Baron Belfaygor of Bourne in saving his fiancee Shirley Sunshine from the nasty Baron Mogodore of Baffleburg. Pirates takes place five years after Ruggedo had been beaned with the Silence Stone, which means that Peter should be fourteen, right? Well, he actually says in the text that he's eleven, but also that he's a Boy Scout, which wouldn't have been possible at that age. The prevailing theory seems to be that the publisher made Thompson reduce Peter's age, but we don't know for sure. The American boy's third visit to Oz occurred when he was blown off his grandfather's friend's yacht at Cape Hatteras, and he somehow ended up at the Octagon Isle. He served as cabin boy on the Crescent Moon, and returned home at the end of his adventure, never to be seen again in the canonical books. Why Thompson leaves his fate up in the air isn't entirely clear, but Eric Shanower's short story "The Two Peters" suggests that he grew up and had a family of his own in the United States.

Breakfast - King Ato discovered this Bananny Goat on the island of Nowhere, and brought her on board the ship so that the crew could have fresh bananas to eat. The goat's horns are bananas, which grow back when the old ones are plucked or fall off. She lives on banana skins, which sounds like a violation of the law on entropy, but who are we to question the workings of a magical goat? She doesn't last long on board the Crescent Moon, as her shed bananas quickly fill the entire ship, so the crew trades her to the Duke of Dork for the flying pig Pigasus. And since I've already written about him, I don't see the need to do so again in this post.

Sally - When Captain Salt and his crew use a cannon to return an infant prince to the volcanic island of Lavaland, the inhabitants of the volcano send over a salamander (the fire lizard kind, not the amphibian), whom Samuel adopts as a pet. She comes in handy for keeping his pipe lit, and while she doesn't talk, I have to wonder if she gains that ability upon the visit to Oz that the crew is planning at the end of Captain Salt.

Tazander Tazah - Known as Tandy for short (although he has no affiliation with Radio Shack's old computer line, as far as I know), this boy from Ozamaland on the long continent of Tarara is, in his own words, "a king and son of a king's son." When the Ozamandarins seek to take the power in the kingdom for themselves, they hire a giant jungle magician named Boglodore to kidnap the boy and leave him on the wild Patrippany Island. Captain Salt's crew finds him there, and takes him back to Ozamaland on the Crescent Moon. He starts out being rather stuck up and insufferable, but with some help from Roger, he eventually becomes quite friendly and helpful, and takes Peter's old place as cabin boy. His main skill is drawing, which comes in handy in making visual records of the flora and fauna that the captain can't collect. Upon reaching Ozamaland, Tandy and his friends overthrow the Ozamandarins, with a little help from the betrayed Boglodore. Tandy is officially crowned king, but he decides to remain on board the Crescent Moon, leaving Chunum the Sheik to rule Ozamaland in his absence.

Nikobo - I always thought it was kind of interesting that Baum's Rinkitink, which had little to do with Oz and took place primarily on the Nonestic, had a character named Nikobob (he was a charcoal burner on Regos, the father of Zella, and later the Chancellor of Pingaree). Then along comes Thompson with her own Nonestic adventure that only touches on Oz, and she introduces Nikobo. I wonder if Thompson had the earlier character's name in mind when naming her own. Anyway, Nikobo is a hippopotamus who lived in the Biggenlittle River on Patrippany. When Boglodore brought Tandy to the island, he wanted to keep the young king alive to serve as insurance against the untrustworthy Ozamandarins. So he magically gave Nikobo the power of speech and the desire to protect Tandy. Since Tandy refuses to leave Patrippany without the hippo, the crew builds a raft for her.

Mo-fi - While not exactly part of the crew, he DOES have a name, so I might as well include him. In Tazander Forest, which is made up of trees that grow in the ocean and is inhabited by flying fish, Roger managed to capture a monkey-fish, which is sort of like a monkey with scales and spikes. Tandy names him Mo-fi, and Roger teaches him how to say certain phrases. As with Sally, if he's able to speak fluently in Oz, I'd like to know what he would have to say.
Tags: books, characters, oz

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