When L. Frank Baum set out to write and produce a second Oz musical for the stage, he discovered he had signed away the theatrical rights to his early Oz stories and characters. Apparently unwilling to create new material, Baum drafted a play that he called Tik - Tok Of Oz, which was simply a retelling of his third Oz novel, 1907's Ozma Of Oz, with some character names changed and minor plot elements rearranged. Since he owed publishers Reilly & Britton a new Oz book, Baum then rewrote his new play into a novel, and 1914's redundant Tik - Tok Of Oz was born.
With such a circuitous pedigree, it's no wonder that Tik - Tok Of Oz is a generally unimpressive entry into the Oz chronicle. Baum was occasionally careless with his prestigious fairyland, and nothing suggests that here more than the fact that wind - up mechanical man Tik - Tok, though his name lights up the book's title, is only a secondary character in the narrative and often appears to be absent from much of the story, even when present in theory. In fact, the Tin Woodman or Jack Pumpkinhead could have replaced the clockwork man without altering the essential plot in the least. But the uncomplicated Tik - Tok was particularly useful in a lazily composed narrative, since, as a preprogrammed machine of limited potential in need of continuous winding, Baum could silence him at any time by simply having him run down, no dramatic action or mental fatigue required. Despite several warm and imaginatively written chapters, such as 'The Lovely Lady Of Light,' the book plods on without building in strength or imagination until its final section, when it suddenly awakens to life.
Dorothy Gale doppelganger Betsy Bobbin, accompanied by sidekick Hank the Mule, reaches the shores of fairyland when a ship on which she is inexplicably a passenger explodes at sea. Baum's ho - hum attitude towards his material is immediately evident when introducing Betsy, who does indeed do some "bobbing" up and down on the waves and billows: "Suddenly the sea was lighted up by a vivid glare. The ship, now in the far distance, caught fire, blew up and sank beneath the waves." No mention is made of the fate of the other passengers or of Betsy's guardians. Meanwhile, in the tiny northern Winkie kingdom of Oogaboo, irritable queen Ann Soforth ('And so forth') has decided to conquer all of Oz through the use of her army, which consists of four Colonels, four Captains, four Generals, four Majors and one soldier. The third plot thread finds the Shaggy Man tramping across Oz in search of his missing brother, who he believes has been captured by the Nome King. Ozma, concerned about the Shaggy Man's progress, sends Tik - Tok to assist him, though he promptly gets thrown down a well.
Potentially interesting new character Princess Ozga, a beautiful vegetable woman grown from a rose bush, remains underdeveloped and underutilized, while the apparently always - on - standby Polychrome strays from the rainbow yet again, and acts, here as elsewhere, as a convenient deus ex machina whenever Baum writes himself into a tight corner. To his credit, Baum allows Polychrome a little more common sense and perception than she reveals in other titles. Arch Oz villain Ruggedo, whose original name was Roquat before he drank from the 'Waters of Oblivion,' is alternately called the Metal Monarch or the Nome (Gnome) King, while on the other side of the planet readers are introduced to the "Famous Fellowship of Fairies," which is overseen by the Jinjin, who is also known as the Private Citizen and as Tititi - Hoochoo, a name which must have delighted grade school boys and irked educators for decades. Readers never learn the true name of Shaggy Man's brother, but, when he is not referred to as such, is simply called the Ugly One due to a punishing enchantment Ruggedo has cast upon him. Like the Little Wizard and Dorothy and Captain Bill and Trot, the Shaggy Man and Betsy eventually form a partnership: elderly man - little girl relationships lacking blood ties are common in the Oz chronicle.
A good indicator of a weak Baum title is an absence of imaginative description, as readers will find here. Baum's Nome Kingdom might have been wondrously described, as E. T. A. Hoffman detailed his own underground fairyland in 'The Mines of Falun.' Hoffman's underground caves, mines, and tunnels emit a claustrophobia readers can feel, a strange otherworldly magic that is both threatening and powerfully seductive. Once Baum establishes that his characters are underground, except for a brief scene in a metal forest, readers are left to visualize the rocky, gem - rich nome world as best they can, or rely wholly on John R. Neill's humorous illustrations.
In an apparent mistake on Baum's part, sorceress Glinda the Good's castle on the far boundary of the southern kingdom of the Quadlings is said to "stand far north of the Emerald City where Ozma holds her court," despite the two comprehensive maps which open and close the book and demonstrate that the castle rightly stands in the red southern kingdom of the Quadlings where it should.
Oz newcomers beware: Tik - Tok Of Oz reads much like the uninspired retread it is; like the clockwork man himself, the book is sorely in need of additional winding under its left arm. Baum should have saved the few good ideas he introduced here for his next entirely new manuscript. This is one of the few Baum - authored books in the Oz series which readers may decide to put aside before finishing.