We all know the chant in the MGM Wizard of Oz about lions and tigers and bears, and anyone who's either read the Oz books or my previous entries on them knows that a lion and a tiger are prominent characters in the series. It's a little while before we see a bear as a protagonist, though, and it's actually a plush toy bear stuffed with curled hair. In The Lost Princess of Oz, the Frogman and Cayke the Cookie Cook come across Bear Center, a town of toy bears who live in hollow trees in an isolated Winkie forest. Their king is known simply as the Lavender Bear, and he's somewhat embarrassed by the sillier aspects of his own composition, like the squeaker in his chest and the fact that he's merely lavender instead of royal purple in color. This carries over to some of the other bears as well, including their sentry Corporal Waddle, who is armed with a popgun. On the other hand, the king has some magical powers, the most prominent being a wand that allows him to project images of whatever he wants. Also, he is the keeper of the Little Pink Bear, a being that might or might not be alive. The Pink Bear operates by means of a crank, and can move on its own and correctly answer any question regarding the past or present. The Lavender and Pink Bears both join Cayke and the Frogman in their quest for the Magic Dishpan, and eventually join forces with Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz. The Little Pink Bear proves invaluable with its ability to answer questions, although Dorothy and her companions initially dismiss its weirder answers. More recently, Bill Campbell and Irwin Terry gave the king his own book, The Lavender Bear of Oz, in which some of his subjects are bear-napped by babies from Merryland.
Several other bears appear in the Oz series, including King Gugu's adviser Bru and a blue bear rug that's inadvertently animated with the Powder of Life. The story behind the latter is that a relative of Dr. Pipt's named Dyna had a pet bear that choked to death on a fishbone (another exception to the no-death rule, I suppose), and made a rug out of the body. When the Crooked Magician faked his own death, Dyna inherited some of the Powder of Life, but thought it was moth-powder. Sprinkling some of it on the bearskin rug made it come to life, but it was unable to speak. Kind of odd considering that other magically animated beings in Oz can talk with painted or carved mouths, but maybe it just took some time for the rug to figure out how to speak. When we see the rug again in dennisanfuso's The Astonishing Tale of the Gump of Oz, it can talk a little bit, but in a hoarse voice. Ruth Plumly Thompson doesn't reuse any of Baum's bears, but she does introduce two of her own ursine protagonists, Grumpy and Snufferbux. If all goes according to plan, we'll take a look at the two of them tomorrow.