This is Princess Ozma of Oz. She is the ruler of all Oz. She first appeared as the hero (yes, HERO, not heroine) of L. Frank Baum’s second Oz book (The Land of Oz) and over the complete book canon (Baum’s 14 books plus the 26 authorized sequels) she is the second most important character in the series - after Dorothy Gale.
Ozma was handed over to the Witch Mombie as a baby by none other than the Wizard of Oz as part of his attempt to consolidate power (Baum later retconned this when he wanted to absolve the Wizard in later books). Mombie transformed the baby girl Ozma into a BOY and Ozma was basically raised and thought of herself as a boy (“Tip”) into her teens when she ran away from Mombie with Jack Pumpkinhead (who she created as Tip - so she is Jack’s mother and father!) and the Gump, both of which she gave life to with magic. Later when the Scarecrow (who had taken over as king after the 1st book) was toppled by an all-female army (seriously!) Glinda the Good revealed that Tip was really Ozma, rightful GIRL ruler of Oz and she was transformed back into a girl. Yes that’s right - the ruler of Oz has one of the most complex transgender-ish backstories in all of children’s lit - one that has never been shown on film.
Ozma’s return to the throne was reminiscent of the Fisher Kings of ancient lore. In the original “Wizard of Oz” people could die and age and evil was always around the corner. With Ozma on the throne, no one in Oz could ever die (though they could be cut into little pieces) and no one aged - unless they wanted to (which is why Dorothy and Ozma forever remained young girls - in one book -post-Baum - Dorothy returned to the “real world” and found herself aging rapidly into what would have been her real age).
Ozma turned Oz into a female-led magiocracy (all the more startling when you remember Baum was writing at the turn of the 20th century) with Glinda the Good from her power base in Quadling Country being the only person other than Ozma herself allowed to use magic (this was later amended to include the Wizard when he returned in book 4 and Glinda taught him real magic for the first time). Ozma herself has a magic belt (taken from the Nome King by Dorothy) and a magic picture of Oz (where she can literally see anything that’s happening in the land if she wants) which makes her a powerful sorceress in her own right (or Big Brother always watching you if you want to look at it another way). Ozma banned the use of money, banned the use of outsiders coming in Oz (though that never stops them), and (unlike her snarky persona as Tip) as the books move along she becomes more and more of a pacifist (when the Nome King invaded she did not at first fight back). She became more and more complex as the series moves along.
Did I mention that she is Dorothy’s very best friend? Because starting with their first meeting in the 3rd Oz books (Ozma of Oz) she and Dorothy totally became BFF’s (and Dorothy became a blonde because John R. Neill liked drawing Ozma as a brunette.) After the 6th book (The Emerald City of Oz) when Dorothy finally moved (with Uncle Henry and Aunt Em) to Oz permanently, Ozma made her a princess and moved her into rooms adjoined to her own (Dorothy’s Aunt and Uncle moved to an Ozian farm WITHOUT Dorothy).
And oh yeah, Ozma is a FAIRY! Fairies created Oz and the Fairie Queen Lurline left Baby Ozma to ruler over the land (this was part of Baum’s retcons of his own work to make the Wizard not take any blame for Ozma’s dethroning). But it’s still cool!
Now you might remember Ozma as literal figure in the mirror in the 1980s Disney film “Return to Oz” (which for all its good parts, explains next to nothing about who Ozma is supposed to be, still plays with the idea from the 1938 MGM film that it’s all in Dorothy’s head/a dream, and even has Dorothy getting electroshock treatment!). Interestingly Walt Disney had purchased the right to all the post-Wizard of Oz books and wanted to make a film series with them. He never did though. Shirley Temple (the original choice for Dorothy in 1938) in her 1960s TV show played Ozma in a TV adaption of Land of Oz, but aside from that Ozma has been never seen in any recent live-action treatments of Oz. Not “Tinman”, not “Wicked” (the musical, Tip does pop up in Maguire’s books), not the new Disney movie on the Wizard (how about a movie based on Baum’s original treatment of the Wizard - that he was a not-so-benevolent humbug that dethroned and kidnapped a baby). Why do we keep getting these pre-Dorothy prequels to Oz, or these visions of a “Dark Oz” made into film when there is a whole world already created about what happened to Oz when Dorothy left (and came back)? And it’s not a “dark” Oz or a “conflicted” Oz but a socialistic monarchy run on magic ruled by a girl fairy who used to be a boy and her best friend, a girl from Kansas.
In the last Baum book (Glinda of Oz), Ozma and Dorothy notice in Glinda’s Big Book of Knowledge that two countries (Oz is full of smaller kingdoms, Ozma is more an Empress than a “princess”) in a hidden unknown corner of Oz have started a war with each other. The book says nothing more than that but Ozma and Dorothy decide they should go to this place and put a stop to it - mostly because they’re bored and have nothing better to do! And of course things don’t go to plan and Glinda (and pretty much every other major character in Oz) have to come and rescue them.
Now, wouldn’t THAT have made a great Disney movie?
P.S. All Baum’s Oz books are now in the public domain. Film companies don’t even have to pay for the rights!
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