Wonderful, Marvelous, Hungry: 7 characters from the Oz books we want in Emerald City

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Jan 11, 2017

Please indulge me while I quote one of my favorite lines in all of fiction:

"For although I feel that I know a tremendous lot, I am not yet aware how much there is in the world to find out about. It will take me a little time to discover whether I am very wise or very foolish."

These are the wise words of Jack Pumpkinhead, who spoke them shortly after coming to life in L. Frank Baum's The Marvelous Land of Oz. And if you're scholar of Oz and were paying close attention to last week's premiere of Emerald City on NBC, you'll have noted that the show featured a version of Jack, just not quite so pumpkinheaded.

Beware! Lions, tigers, and minor spoilers for the premiere of Emerald City ahead!

If you remember, the boy that helped Tip finally escape Mombi's clutches was named Jack, clearly a nod to his squash-gourded counterpart, who was Tip's painfully self-aware companion in the book. Now, I may know a tremendous lot, but I don't know what the writers of Emerald City are planning, so I can't say whether the television Jack will find his head a bit more orange by the end of the season. It's unclear just how fantastical this version of Oz was before the Wizard outlawed magic, so it's hard to know what to expect of the more outlandish elements of the Oz mythology.

Like my favorite jack o’ lantern, I am not yet aware of how much there is in this new world of Oz to find out about, but that certainly won't stop me from speculating! There is a great wealth of marvelous characters from L. Frank Baum's Oz books (all 14 of them!) that would fit right in on Emerald City, many of which may be too outlandish, but at least a couple of which have already been cast, or hinted at.

Although this list may end up making me look very wise or very foolish, it's with great pleasure that I pull back the curtain and let you in on these seven great Oz characters that will hopefully make their way to the small screen this season on Emerald City.

Roquat the Red

Let's start with one that’s almost certainly happening, unless IMDB is way off base.

This character goes by many names. The Nome King. Ruggedo of the Rocks. The Metal Monarch. But according to the International Movie Database, Doctor Who's Julian Bleach will be portraying the character known as Roquat. Originally going by 'Roquat the Red' when he appeared in 1907’s Ozma of Oz — the third of Baum's Oz novels — Roquat was one of the fantasy world's most feared and recurring villains. He's the king of the nomes, a subterranean people who are known for hoarding gems and precious metals. He has plotted and attempted to invade and destroy Oz numerous times, and is almost always thwarted by his own over-confidence and general stupidity.

What shape might Roquat take in the show? It's too early to tell, but odds are his storyline may echo the first time Ozma and Dorothy meet him, when he had kidnapped the Royal Family of Ev, seeing as there is also a character known as Lady Ev set to appear in the show, played by Stefanie Martini. We can only hope that Roquat's insane facial hair is not lost in the translation.

Billina

Remember the scene in Dorothy's Kansas home where we see her washing dishes with her adopted mother, and are shown a little tin man on the counter to one side of the sink, a scarecrow directly outside the window and the light of a glass rainbow shining on Dorothy's face? While those were all obvious hints, they may not have been the only ones. If you go back and look, you'll notice the curtains are patterned with chickens and there is a chicken-shaped jar on the counter on the other side of the sink from the tin man. You may have thought nothing of it, but if you're like me, you may have got excited at the possibility of an appearance by Oz's sassiest talking chicken, Billina.

Billina was also introduced in Ozma of Oz, where she was tossed into Oz alongside Dorothy Gale on Dorothy's second trip to the realm. Upon arrival she finds herself able to talk, and she does so constantly during her time there, where she becomes instrumental in defeating Roquat, who (falsely) believes eggs to be deadly to nomes.

It may be hard to picture a talking chicken in the grim and gritty vision of Oz in Emerald City, but the hints are certainly there, and who knows just how magical the show will get.

Sawhorse

When Tip and Jack bolted from the crazed witch Mombi in 1904's The Marvelous Land of Oz, they didn't do it alone. Using the same magic powder that energized Jack's pumpkin head, Tip endowed a simple wooden structure with life, and thus the legendary Sawhorse was born. A blindingly fast steed and cherished friend to many of Oz's most well-known residents, Sawhorse is a stick figure in the most literal sense. He's basically a log with a mouth and sticks for legs.

While he isn't the most outwardly exciting of Oz's myriad wonders, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him pop up on Emerald City, since the show seems to be riffing mainly off of the first two Oz books, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz, and Sawhorse is one of the main characters of the latter.

Shaggy Man

The Dorothy of Emerald City has a bit of an edge to her, but the Dorothy of Baum's novels was sometimes recklessly friendly. A primary example of this is when she met one of my personal favorite Oz characters, the unmaterialistic wanderer known simply as the Shaggy Man.

As recounted in the fifth Oz novel, 1909's The Road to Oz, Shaggy Man simply walks up to Dorothy's home, knocks on her door, and asks her for directions to Butterfield. Naturally, Dorothy decides to walk there with this odd-looking old man dressed it shaggy rags. Because book Dorothy was kind of oblivious, they very quickly become lost and wander down a road that leads them straight into Oz for yet another adventure. Shaggy is basically an old homeless hippy who rejects money and posessions of all kinds, though he does carry one prized possession called the Love Magnet which, as you may guess, attracts love from all around it to the owner. He isn't involved in the first couple of books the show seems to be taking inspiration from, but he's definitely one of the easiest characters for them to adapt since he's one of the few (relatively) normal humans in the Oz stories.

Tik-Tok

It’s hard to imagine a time in fiction when robots weren't around, but when Ozma of Oz introduced one in 1907, there wasn't even a word for 'robot' yet. The mechanical man called Tik-Tok is a rotund copper clockwork fellow who requires someone (Dorothy when we first meet him, obviously) to occasionally insert a key and wind him up three times: once for thought, once for speech, and once for action. As the Smith and Tinker label on his back reads, he's "Patent Double-Action, Extra-Responsive, Thought-Creating, Perfect-Talking" and "Thinks, Speaks, Acts, and Does Everything but Live."

As noted before, we're probably going to at least be made aware of the land of Ev, where Tik-Tok was created, so there's a chance he could pop up there. Plus, we've already gotten hints that the Wizard has access to impressive clockwork technology (most notably in the flying monkey we see in the premiere), so could Tik-Tok, or something resembling him, be in store for Emerald City viewers? I for one am all wound up in anticipation.

Hungry Tiger

"Lions and tigers and bears! Oh my!" It's one of the most famous lines from the classic cinematic version of The Wizard of Oz, but why have we only ever seen the lions on screen? It's high time we give the forest's other predators a chance!

We may be lacking in famous bears from Oz, but fortunately we have a rather voracious tiger. The tiger known simply as Hungry Tiger is a beast plagued by his conscience, as he has an insatiable appetite for babies — fat ones, in particular — but has never acted on his urges. This leaves him perpetually starving, eating as much food as he can get his claws on. He's close friends with the Cowardly Lion, who he assists in pulling Princess Ozma's chariot (which is how he's introduced in Ozma of Oz), and his non-threatening nature is punctuated by his trademark red bow, which he wears around his tail.

He may be a bit too silly for Emerald City to translate literally, but if any tigers pop up in the show, you can bet they'll immediately be made into Hungry Tiger in my personal head-canon.

General Jinjur

There are two things that should be apparent to viewers after the premiere of Emerald City. One: big changes are coming to Oz. And two: the girl power is just getting started.

With those things in mind, it would be absolutely criminal if General Jinjur didn't make an appearance at some point. Jinjur is the Munchkin leader of 'The Army of Revolt,' made up of 400 girls from across Oz that she had assembled for the purpose of overthrowing the ruler of the Emerald City — who at the time was the Scarecrow. And they were actually successful — though, to be fair, the city was defended by a single man with an unloaded gun.

Jinjur and her army's goofy methods definitely wouldn't fly today (they relied on the fact that men wouldn't hit girls, and used knitting needles as weapons), but an updated version of Jinjur and her army leading a modernized feminist revolt on the Emerald City would be a lot of fun to see play out on the show and would seem to fit right in with a lot of what they're doing thematically.

Which Oz characters would you like to see translated into the world of Emerald City? Are you a big fan of the Gump and mad I left him out? Just follow the yellow brick road down to the comments section and let us know your very wise and very foolish thoughts!