Nathan (vovat) wrote,


Since the balloon had been a popular toy for some time by the period in which the Oz books were written, it's not too surprising that they would appear as characters in the series. The first example of living toy balloons (as opposed to the non-living hydrogen-filled balloon that the Wizard used to reach Oz in the first place) appears in The Tin Woodman of Oz, in which the main characters visit Loonville, a forest clearing in the Gillikin Country inhabited by the Loons. They're made of rubber and filled with air, aside from the king, who contains a lighter-than-air gas and is tied to his throne with a string. The king's name is Bal Loon, and he was appointed ruler because he had less common sense than any of his fellows. Other notable Loons are Panta and Til, the former of whom was an advisor with a rather inflated opinion of himself, and the latter the one in charge of mending and re-inflating punctured Loons. The jokes behind Bal and Panta are obvious, but what does "Til Loon" mean? Well, someone who read the original handwritten manuscript reported that it was originally "Sal Loon," but that didn't go over too well at the time. Because a kid reading a play on the word "saloon" will automatically want to shoot whiskey, right? Don't ask me what the logic is behind this. I guess Wal, the Loon from Belgium, didn't play a part in this particular story for whatever reason. {g} This video includes the Loonville portion of the recent computer-animated take on Tin Woodman, and gives King Bal a surfer dude kind of voice. I'm sure that wasn't what Baum was thinking of when writing the character, but it works pretty well.

While the Loons are the only balloon people in Baum's Oz books, Thompson introduced some of two of her additions to the canon. In Hungry Tiger, Ozma is kidnapped by a giant balloon man named Atmos Fere, an explorer from the Cloud Country who descends to the surface of the Earth using a pair of iron boots. Ozma punctures him in order to escape, but when the two get to understand each other better, they become friends. A blacksmith in Ev named Rusty Ore re-inflates Atmos, and he and Ozma eventually join Evered of Rash in his search for the missing Rash Rubies.

Finally, in Gnome King, Peter Brown encounters Sandaroo, the Lord High Bouncer of Balloona, on a street corner in Philadelphia. He is described as having a "dark and merry" face, and "his long pointed beard and slouch hat gave him the appearance of a merchant from some far country." He sells Peter a green balloon, which turns into a bird and tries to take Peter to Balloon Island, where he would serve Queen Luna as an airrend boy. As the balloon bird relates, the Queen's servants were always exploding, so she had Sandaroo search abroad for a more solid one. We never get to see Balloona, as Peter lets go of the bird's leg and lands in the Nonestic Ocean near Ruggedo's Island, but the descriptions given by the bird make it sound like not only the people are inflated like balloons, but so is the island itself. If there's some kind of link between these balloon countries, it's never explicitly stated, but maybe Loonville was settled by exiles from Balloon Island, or vice versa.

By the way, happy birthday to fellow Oz fan graycardinal!
Tags: books, characters, oz, toys

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