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broodings from the burrow

June 23, 2010

into the stacks: queen zixi of ix
posted by soe 12:19 am

once upon a time readalong
Queen Zixi of Ix; or The Story of the Magic Cloak, by L. Frank Baum

From the jacket: “When the renowned author of the wonderful Oz stories surpasses himself with a full-blown fairy tale, complete with magic wishes, palace life, an evil hag, and a poor boy and girl, we know we are in for something exceptional in story-telling.”

My take: In this lesser known tale by L. Frank Baum, the good fairy queen Lulea and her band of fairies decide to alleviate her boredom with dancing by creating a magical wishing cloak that will grant each wearer a single wish unless they have come by the garment in an underhanded means. The Man in the Moon suggests they give to the first unhappy person they encounter. After all, he points out, “The happy mortals have no need of magic cloaks.”

They dispense the cloak by messenger to the land of Noland, where the king has just died without an heir. After several days of hand-wringing by his cabinet, they remember eventually that they had a book of laws to refer to for occasions just such as these. The book decrees that the 47th person to enter the capital city’s eastern gate at dawn shall be declared ruler of the kingdom.

Approaching the city of Nole are three miserable travellers: the newly orphaned Margaret (known to all as Fluff) and Timothy (called Bud) and their stern guardian, Aunt Rivette. Bud and his aunt butt heads constantly, leaving Fluff in an endless stream of tears.

These three events conspire to land Bud on the throne of the land and Fluff in a more cheerful state of mind. They are whisked off to the castle, where they live happily for a good while, enjoying the periodic and accidental dispensing of odd wishes — from wings to a talking dog — to various people who unknowingly come into contact with the cloak.

It is not a perfect life in Noland, though, for there are enemies gathered outside the boundaries of the land. Queen Zixi of the adjoining Ix was not on speaking terms with her neighbors. A 683-year-old enchantress who had found a way to appear eternally youthful, she immediately coveted the magic cloak when she heard tell of its existence. She yearns to use it to turn the wrinkled visage she sees in the mirror to the same outward beauty her subjects see. And she’s not above using both trickery and force to try to get her hands on it.

Along another border, the Roly-Rogues, a quarrelsome, ball-shaped, bouncy people, have discovered the existence of the Nolanders and seek to invade and take over the land and its people.

Will the cloak be able to save them? Or will its wishes be squandered by foolish mortals?

This fairy tale is sweet and would make a good read-aloud bedtime book for families. And apparently Baum also created a silent film version of the story, which is available on dvd.

Pages: 231

This is one of the books I read for the Once Upon a Time Challenge.

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