Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Psychology of John R. Neill's Oz

When I hear about a book that I should avoid, I will often seek it out. In college, I asked my Chaucer professor if there were any other good works from that time period. He told me to try Gower, but stay away from Lydgate. Of course I ran right out and read Lydgate's "Troy Book."

Within the universe of Oz, there are some books that are *ahem* less esteemed than others. John R. Neill's 3 or 4 contributions seem to fall into this category, so I just had to read them. Ah! I can say that I found them wonders of surreal and psychological phantasmagoria! Well, I do have odd taste, so I won't ask anyone else to like them. Just give them a chance.

Today I want to look at some aspects of "Lucky Bucky in Oz," published in 1942. Neill uses a type of character that I find exciting and numinous---the sentient enclosed space. The living houses of "Wonder City," and the scalawagons exemplify this to a degree, but Davy Jones, the wooden whale, is the best of them. And, Davy is the vehicle for Bucky Jones' rebirth as a citizen of Oz.

Here I must pause to thank the spirit of Erich Neumann (1905-1960), pupil of Carl Jung and author of "The Origins and History of Consciousness." I discovered this work at college some 30 years ago, and whenever I encounter a story that resonates with my soul (Xenogears and Evangelion spring to mind), I get out my Neumann. Joseph Campbell is all right, Julian Jaynes is a bit loopy, so I will stick with...Lacan! No....well....*cough*

Anyway, Bucky Jones arrives inworld when he lands on a dough volcano, a "Doughminion," as it were. This mountain is an unending source of nourishment, indeed the cupboards in the back of the wooden whale are filled with its products. Such is the power of the mountain that even invading pirates are turned into bakers. Hmmm...a metaphor for....well, I'm not using Neumann's "The Great Mother: An Analysis of an Archetype" today, so we'll give that a miss.

Bucky is cast off into the sea where he meets Davy Jones. The wooden whale is monstrous and fascinating to Bucky. It overpowers and befriends him by its swift, strong actions. Davy is older than Bucky, and they share a last name. The wooden whale protects, shelters, and nourishes Bucky, as well as providing him a map to his new life in Oz and the means to follow that map. Traveling inside Davy Jones, Bucky is carried through air and water to the Emerald City. There the boy is symbolicaly reborn as the hero, in that his actions are the catalyst for the transportation of the "Doughminion" to a place where its gifts can be shared by all.

I am wading in deep here, I realize. If Davy is the Good Mother archetype, then imago-Mombi may be the Terrible Mother.... I don't want to say that this is a true interpretation of Neill's work, but Neumann-interpretation has always added a dimension to my reading.


  1. L. Frank Baum argued with all he came into contact with. It is my belief he was at odds with those changing the opinion of his source. Wikipedia says published in 1904; (actually 1900) The Wonderful Wizard of Oz had been illustrated by W. W. Denslow, with whom Baum argued and lost contact afterwards. One thing about Neill I noticed was he was writing to please the audience, where as Baum was transposing from another source. Example: The first Dorothy has red hair, braids and wears blue and white because of the source explains her to be that. But we see Neill ignore and change it to a blonde with a fashionable trendy bob (appealing to the public rather than the source). I truly think that because Baum stayed true to the source, people valued that bottom line. Where as Neill was trying to just tell a good story, and lost the original source. We also see Neill did not have near the fame of Baum, and even then Baum's book was altered in the making of the movie by MGM. But the movie is still well worth the viewing because it holds the original symbols, that ring true to the heart of the reader, hence the great success. I find your blog fascinating, thank you for sharing your findings. This is certainly an area I didn't delve into much as the Oz Land is so vast, 1500 miles square to be exact, it will take an army to decipher all the hidden codes.

  2. Thank you for your support, Michele! I am writing here as I feel inspired to do so, and as a result there will be no over-arching theme or agenda. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is truly a wonderful book; I hope you have seen the Marvel edition by Eric Shanower and Skottie Smith. For me, it is the little moments that make the whole, such as any interaction between Dorothy and the Scarecrow. I can be a prodigious reader, so I am going through all of the Oz books by Baum, Neill, and Ruth P. Thompson. And I will give you a BIG "Thank You" for inspiring me with your fascinating book to give Oz another chance. I love the fact that Baum once had the largest and best equipped movie studio in Hollywood. He was always interested in trying new ways to get his story out. Finally, please don't judge John R. Neill too harshly (ooh..harsh is too harsh a word^^); anyone who writes puts a part of themselves "out there", and I find it a fascinating study to use writing to speculate about the inner lives of authors whom I, in most cases, will never meet.