Songs in Oz

With book number ten, I feel like I’ve reached a milestone in my journey through L. Frank Baum’s original Oz novels. Rinkitink in Oz opens up on the Island of Pingaree in the Nonestic Ocean, some distance from the land of Oz. The title character, king of a land adjacent to the domain of the Nome King, which we’ve visited in several other Oz adventures, arrives on Pingaree with his talking goat Bilbil. He’s a jolly sort who is happy to enjoy all the perks of being a king, but really doesn’t want the responsibility. He’s happy to eat, swap stories, and sing, but doesn’t really want to do the hard work.

Soon after Rinkitink arrives in Pingaree, the island is invaded by a force from the twin islands of Regos and Coregos. The people of Pingaree, including the island’s king and queen, are hauled away as slaves. Rinkitink, Bilbil, and the island’s young prince, Inga, are the only ones who elude capture. Fortunately, Inga had just learned about three magical pearls which give him hope for rescuing his people. One pearl gives him great strength, one gives him invulnerability, the third one gives him sage advice. With the pearls of strength and invulnerability ensconced in the prince’s shoes, he sets out with Rinkitink and Bilbil to rescue his people. All along the way, Rinkitink is happy to entertain his traveling companions with a song.

I’ve always found it interesting when songs appear on the pages of novels. I often find myself trying to sing the words and I wonder how close I might have come to what the author heard in their head. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been listening to these novels on audio. The Librivox recording of Rinkitink that I listened to featured a full cast. The good king was acted, and sung, by an audiobook narrator named Angleet. I thought he did a fantastic job singing Rinkitink’s songs. I don’t know if the melodies were those Baum heard in his head, but they were nicely done and felt true to the fairy tale-like atmosphere of the Oz books

In reading the Oz books to date, I’ve had the impression that L. Frank Baum was a fan of the Brothers Grimm. We see evidence of that in Dorothy’s magical shoes, the talking animals of Oz, and the witches, both good and evil. That noted, the books still have a distinctly American flavor as plucky, independent adventurers such as Dorothy or Trot find their way through the dangers of these lands. For much of its length, Rinkitink feels the most like a Grimm fairy tale of all these novels. In fact, our familiar Oz denizens don’t come into the story until the final chapters of the novel. At the risk of a spoiler, the most American aspect of this novel is how Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz come riding to Inga and Rinkitink’s rescue near the novel’s end.

Like Baum, I’m a fan of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. I’ve translated a few of the tales and done my own retellings. They are available in the anthologies Gaslight and Grimm and It Came From Her Purse. Click on the links to learn more about the books.

Also, this coming weekend is the second installment of Buboni-Virtual-Con. I will be on the panel “Writing Badass Women,” which is scheduled from 6:30-7:30pm Mountain Daylight Time on Saturday, August 21. The schedule for the entire convention and information about how to watch the panels from your computer will be on Bubonicon’s website at: http://www.bubonicon.com/.

Two Van Helsings

Over the last year, I’ve been enjoying Zenescope Entertainment’s comic book mini-series, Van Helsing vs. the League of Monsters along with catching up on some of the earlier offerings in their Van Helsing universe. Last week, right after concluding League of Monsters, they released the Van Helsing 2020 annual, entitled Bloodlust. The comics follow the adventures of Liesel van Helsing, daughter of the famed vampire hunter Abraham van Helsing. She’s an inventor who was trapped in a hellish dimension called the Shadowlands for many decades, but finally emerged into the modern era where she continues the fight against vampires and other monsters.

Van Helsing: Bloodlust and Van Helsing the TV series.

In fact, Van Helsing vs. the League of Monsters reminded me of an updated version of those Universal monster fest films of the 1940s like House of Dracula or even the 2004 film Van Helsing with a strong woman taking Hugh Jackman’s role. Bloodlust finds scientists in a secret New Mexico laboratory investigating an ancient body only to unleash a vampire-like monster. Van Helsing and her sidekick Julie Jeckyl are called in to save the day. Unfortunately the monster kicks the game up a notch by attacking a nearby youth camp. Like those earlier movie examples, Zenescope’s Van Helsing is less about deep, thoughtful plots and character analysis and more about thrilling action. That said, it delivers the action well and gives us enough character development to care about the heroes. It’s just what I need when I’m looking for some fun, light reading.

Having become a fan of Zenescope’s Van Helsing, I was interested to discover there’s a series on the SyFy network of the same name “inspired by” the comic. I spent the last week watching the first season. The series imagines that the Yellowstone Caldera erupts, unleashing a cloud of dust and ash that lasts for years. This allows vampires to appear in the daytime and they have started rampaging the world. Meanwhile, in Seattle, Vanessa Seward is attacked by a vampire and falls into a coma. The show’s action starts three years later when vampires rush in and attack Vanessa again. This time, we learn her blood has the power to restore vampires to humanity. Now awake, Vanessa finds herself caught in a fight for survival with a handful of humans in a Seattle hospital. Vanessa desperately wants to leave so she can find out what happened to her daughter who was in the apartment with her when she was first attacked. As the season progresses, Vanessa learns that she’s a descendant of Abraham van Helsing.

The series mostly seems inspired by the comic in the sense that it’s focused on a woman vampire hunter named Van Helsing. The way vampires are portrayed is also similar. Both stories portray most vampires as vicious, animal-like predators. Only a few seem to rise to higher consciousness, though they are just as evil as their more feral counterparts. What I did find interesting was that the storyline of Vanessa looking for her daughter echoed another Zenescope storyline. Part of Zenescope’s Grimm’s Fairy Tales comic involves its protagonist, Sela Mathers, seeking her daughter.

It’s fun to think about what my own Scarlet Order vampires would make of either Van Helsing world. I suspect they’d do their best to avoid a confrontation with either Liesel or Vanessa. In Vanessa’s world, I could actually imagine them helping the humans, which would make an interesting plot twist. Of course it helps that the Scarlet Order vampires don’t have to drain humans of all their blood, though a couple have been known to get greedy! You can learn more about the Scarlet Order vampires at: http://davidleesummers.com/books.html#scarlet_order