Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Characters in John R. Neill's Oz

I wish we knew more about Neill's life. His family has custody of his legacy, and that is as it should be. Some elements of Neill's personality do shine through to me in the characters he created for the four Oz books that he is credited with: The Wonder City of Oz, The Scalawagons of Oz, Lucky Bucky in Oz, and The Runaway in Oz.

Jenny Jump is Neill's premiere character creation. With her red hair, green eyes, fiery temper, and willingness to help others and be a part of Oz, she is quite unforgettable. In New Jersey she is a misfit with a gift for seeing fairies. She arrives suddenly in a new place, but soon fits in due to an unexpected gift and a talent for fashion. In Jenny, I see a young John R. Neill in the 1890s, going to the big city and using his artistic talent to make a living.

Lucky Bucky is Neill's male version of the newcomer to Oz. He works for his uncle in the USA, and it is no coincidence that he encounters the "Land of Uncles" in Oz. Davy Jones, a wooden whale, is the catalyst for Bucky's "rebirth" into Oz. The boy is secure on his uncles well-run boat, but in the background lurks a fear of prison and the sound of hungry boys begging for bread. Through sheer accident of fate, Bucky Jones becomes a benefactor to the Oz community. Again, I see echoes of the strggles of a young man in the 1890s, one who reached success almost be accident, because he has a talent that he can use to escape the harsh fate of others of his generation.

Number Nine is the Munchkin boy who becomes Jenny Jump's office boy. He leaves his large family to follow the path blazed by his uncle and seek his fortune in the Emerald City. By chance he meets Jenny, and this is his making. Through her, he meets the celebrities of Oz and establishes himself there. Just as Neill become the "assistant" to L. Frank Baum and his legacy, Number Nine becomes the assistant to the great Wizard himself.

Popla the Power Plant becomes a good friend to Scraps when she runs away from her life in the Emerald City. She has to be uprooted, but has the ability to put down roots wherever she finds soil. Popla is very strong, and willing to help her friends however she can. I like Popla almost as much as Jenny because of these qualities. But Jenny reminds me so much of my grandmother that I will state unequivocally that I like her best of all.

1 comment:

  1. Jenny Jump is one of my favorite characters, too. She's so strong-willed that it's hard not to like her, at least when she's not doing something stupid like letting wild animals loose on the Emerald City.