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From: "William H. Ansley" <wansley@warwick.net>
Subject: (urth) Ozflash Revised, Part 1
Date: Mon, 8 Mar 1999 01:04:27 

The New Improved Wonderful Eyeflash of Oz
Oz References in "The Eyeflash Miracles" Part 1

First of all, I would like to express my great appreciation to alga, who
was kind enough to read over these essays and make useful comments and

This posting could be considered to be my way of volunteering to answer the
FAQ: What are the Oz references in "The Eyeflash Miracles"? (for the second
time) except that I doubt it is a question asked very frequently. It is one
that interests me, however.

I don't intend on doing a detailed summary of the whole plot of "The
Eyeflash Miracles" because it would take too long; I am going to
concentrate on the parts with Oz references. But I am also going to single
out the places in the text where miracles seem to occur. The miracles
often, but not always, seem to be linked with Oz references. For those of
you who are interested in my annotations and would like to be able to
follow along, I recommend that you re-read the story. Here is where to find
it: _The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories_.

Although I don't really think it is necessary to warn about Wolfe spoilers
in postings on this list, I will warn everyone that there will be some *Oz*
spoilers before I finish this series of essays.

When I first read "The Eyeflash Miracles" I noticed that it had many
references to Oz in it as well as references to many other things,
including (not at all surprisingly) a great deal of Christian symbolism. I
am not very qualified to discuss the Christian aspects of the story
(especially as there are so many others on this list who are), but I am
fairly well qualified to discuss the Oz aspects.

As most of you, if not all of you, know _The Wonderful Wizard of Oz_ was
just the first of many Oz books that L. Frank Baum wrote, although, because
it was made into the very well known film[1] of almost the same name (_The
Wizard of Oz_), it is by far the most famous of his books (he also wrote
many non-Oz books, which are even less well known).

The movie version differs from the book in several significant ways. I
mention this because Wolfe refers to details from both the book and movie
versions of _The Wonderful Wizard of Oz_, as well as _The Marvelous Land of
Oz_ (the second Oz book), _Ozma of Oz_ (the third), _The Road to Oz_ (the
fifth) and _Tik-Tok of Oz_ (the eighth). I have recently reread the first
ten Oz books[2] so I can be pretty sure about these. There may be
references to other, later Oz books (in fact I think there is at least one)
but not many. Since characters, places and situations recur throughout the
Oz series, it certainly would be possible to include more books, but I am
trying to include only the first occurrence of each reference.

The most interesting thing to me about the Oz references in "The Eyeflash
Miracles" is that even though many of them are so explicit as to be quite
obvious and wholly unambiguous (which is unusual for Wolfe) the boy in the
story, George Tibbs (usually referred to as Little Tib) never recognizes
any of them. Now, I am willing to accept that, because of his unusual
background and upbringing, Little Tib never saw the _Wizard of Oz_ movie or
read any of the Oz books, but then why does he see characters from the Land
of Oz in his dreams and visions? Although I initially said I didn't know
the answer to this question, I now realize a clue is given in the text,
which I will point out when I get to it.

An additional, pragmatic reason that Wolfe never has Little Tib refer to
any of the Oz characters in the usual, familiar way may be to avoid any
possibility of infringing any copyrights or trademarks on the names of the
characters. I am not a lawyer, so I don't know if this really could be a
problem, but it seems possible.

Another, more general, point of interest for Wolfe fans is the insight it
gives us (however slight) into what Wolfe read as a child. That dates of
publication of the Oz books by L. Frank Baum range from 1900 to 1920. Other
authors[3] continued the series after Baum's death in 1919. The Oz books
were extremely popular with children at least through the 1950s and were
more or less continuously in print from the time they were published.

Gene Wolfe was born in 1931. By the time he was ten, 35 Oz books had been
published. Wolfe certainly read the five Oz books I have indicated above,
judging by the references in "The Eyeflash Miracles," and he probably read
many more. I also would guess that he was a child when he read them. I say
this not only because the Oz books are more likely to appeal to a child
than to an adult but because of the details that Wolfe gets wrong in his Oz
references. This indicates (to me, at least) that Wolfe is relying on his
distinct but imperfect childhood memories of Oz, at least in part.

William Ansley

[1] I am, of course, referring to the 1939 MGM film starring Judy Garland.
There were other films with the same name more or less based on the same

[2] Here is a list of all the Oz books by L. Frank Baum and their
publication dates:

_The Wonderful Wizard of Oz_ (1900)
_The Marvelous Land of Oz_ (1904), reprinted as _The Land of Oz_
_Ozma of Oz_ (1907)
_Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz_ (1908)
_The Road to Oz_ (1909)
_The Emerald City of Oz_ (1910)
_The Patchwork Girl of Oz_ (1913)
_Tik-Tok of Oz_ (1914)
_The Scarecrow of Oz_ (1915)
_Rinkitink in Oz_ (1916)
_The Lost Princess of Oz_ (1917)
_The Tin Woodman of Oz_ (1918)
_The Magic of Oz_ (1919)
_Glinda of Oz_ (1920)

There is also _Little Wizard Stories of Oz_ (1913) which is a collection of
six short stories about Oz.

[3] There have been over 40 Oz books written altogether, the majority by
people other than Baum. The first 40 (known as the Famous Forty) were more
or less official and authorized by Baum or his estate. Later books may not
have been authorized. The most prolific of the authorized authors was Ruth
Plumly Thompson. I read at least 20 Oz books long ago, from a set owned by
my mother.

*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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