Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ozma and Ugu the Shoemaker

Deep in the shady sadness of a vale,
Far sunken from the healthy breath of morn,
Far from the fiery noon, and eve's one star,
Sat gray-hair'd Saturn, quiet as a stone,
Still as the silence round about his lair.

~Hyperion, John Keats

Ever since I read those lines more than 30 years ago, I have recognized and claimed the place of Saturn. It is far away from the "normal" world, the path of social expectations, a protected place of one's own in a world that seems at once hostile and uncaring. But a defined space that one can really belong, and be the unique person that you are. The place of an outsider, but not of self-pity. Rather, of self-definition, or the never ending attempts at such. A place not unlike the little rooms that are prepared for K in Kafka's The Castle. Rooms which are cozy and inviting, but rooms which he sadly rejects as he continues his futile search for the castle.

Ugu the Shoemaker, in L. Frank Baum's The Lost Princess of Oz, has created for himself such a saturnine space. But unlike K, Ugu does not want to leave it. He wants to strengthen it with all the magic that he can gather. But Ugu crosses a line. He begins to desire to impose his will on others. In the moment he impulsively kidnaps Ozma, his plan fails. He is not emotionally mature enough to deal with the introduction of this uncontrolable, random element into his lair.

Ugu has a great heritage in the city of Herku, his family had been users of magic for centuries. But he was cut off from this heritage, and forced to make a living as a shoemaker. We are all born with a fantastic heritage of art and literature, but life compels us to find a job, to make a living and be a productive member of society. Ugu discovers his heritage, and upon absorbing its implications, desires not to enrich his fellow citizens, but to flee and make an island unto himself.

In one night, Ugu gathers all the important magic of Oz, including one "item" not on his list, but probably the most important magical force in Oz, Ozma herself. He has planned for non-sentient magical items, what is he to do with a real magical being? He cannot deal with her, he cannot fit her in to his world-view, so he, being afraid, "disposes" of her.

At this point in the story, my imagination leapt into action. What should have Ugu done? What could have Ugu accomplished? So, for a brief time, I became a Ugu/Ozma shipper. a little three act play took shape in my mind.

Scene 1--Ugu's Study--Ugu reflects on his painful past as shoemaker, and on his recent accomplishments, obtaining the Magic Dishpan, various magic tools, Glinda's Book, and the Magic Picture. But there is also Ozma---what is he to do with her? He knows a rescue party is coming. Ozma is trapped. She sees that Ugu is a "bold and clever magician" but at this point can do nothing to oppose him. A typical Oz solution might occur to him--Ugu:"You will wash my dishes and clean my clothes!" Ozma:"Humph...I might as well be your wife!" Ugu:"AHA!"---and he goes off in the Magic Dishpan to gather a wedding party.

Scene 2--Ugu's Study--The kidnapped wedding party huddles together in fear. Carlo Luigi, the fat old Pontifex Maximus of Ev, is mopping his brow. Two inventors, William Ding XXI (whose ancestor invented the "Bill-Ding") and Arthur Q. Tillery, Esq. (who is working on a sort of tube-gun at the moment), cower behind a table. Then Ugu and Ozma enter in all their wedding finery. As the visitors gape in wonder at Ozma's beauty, Ugu lays out the situation. Carlo Luigi will perform the wedding ceremony and the two inventors will witness it. With much comic fumbling, the ceremony is performed, and the new couple withdraws from the assembled company.

Scene 3--Ugu's Study--The "guests" have been sent home and Ugu is back to work studying his magical books. But Ozma emerges in her nightgown, now strangely eager to assume her wifely duties. In fact, she just wont leave poor Ugu alone! Finally, the exasperated magician enchants his new bride into a peach and collapses on his chair.

Both in the canonical story and my frivilous contortion, Ugu cannot accept the physical manifestation of magic--Ozma--into his world view. Since he cannot come to terms with her, he is doomed to fail. There is something Jungian here, but I will not persue it. Just be careful with whom you bring into your lair.

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