The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, XIV.—The Winged Monkeys

Tonight’s Soundtrack: The Sons of the Pioneers, “Riders In The Sky”


There is perhaps nothing so fantastically Baumian as a magic cap encrusted with precious stones that commands the loyalty of talking monkeys with wings by virtue of a three-step charm - with the instructions  printed on the inside of the cap. Indeed. 

“They may be wizards and warlocks,” says Baum. “Don’t mean they ain’t pract’cal.”

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As the King of the Winged Monkeys tells the story of how they came to be slaves to the Golden Cap, with all the little details of the Ruby Palace in the north and the King’s mischievous grandfather monkey and the hints of years of other adventures and kingdoms before Oz came out of the sky and the cap came to be owned by West Witch, well, Baum’s only gone and sketched out his Silmarillion, hasn’t he?

 Although the King plays down the activities of his people as simple hijinks, these monkeys of the air behave more like djinn. Summon them with a golden device, and they must obey you three times. They can conquer an entire nation, drive out a wizard, or capture a little girl. Whatever you wish.

Who could have wished in Oz before now? Is the young sorceress-princess of the North who wanted to commit vengeful genocide on the monkeys all those years ago the same person as the kindly old Witch of the North? Was the cap really never used by anyone until West Witch? How does that happen? Who were the sons or daughters of Gayelette and Quelala? Was the cap perhaps inherited?

Read this chapter, and before you know it, you’re Gregory Maguire.

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It is kind of creepy that Quelala is a boy “wise beyond his years” that Princess Gayelette fancies and then uses her magic on to make him “perfect”. At least it’s a little ambiguous as to whether her magic ages his body or he grows up naturally. Still. Eeeeeeeeeee.