Meet the Heroines: Dorothy Gale, Betsy Bobbin, Trot, and Princess Ozma

Four of the primary heroines in the Oz stories have been staples of the adventures since the first published works, and their presence is integral to the story arc of "A Nightmare in Oz." Though Dorothy Gale remains the most famous, in part because of her timeless depiction by Judy Garland on film, each of them is a key facet to the greater mythos of the magic realm, which endures primarily because of the headstrong influence of female authority. Baum may not have intended this exactly, as he wrote his original stories in a time when the perception of the opposite sex was more stereotypical, but the results speak for themselves: Oz remained in an age of prosperity for well over 40 novels because women, both young and old, safeguarded the kingdom.

"A Nightmare in Oz" begins with the four of them engaged by the typical affairs of the Emerald City. One day, young Dorothy brings them some distressing news. She has been experiencing dreams. Not merely absurd visions in her sleep, either; these involve memories, twisted beyond recognition, ending in devastating conclusions that involve harm to those she loves. A realization emerges -- the concept of "dreams" has become foreign to them all, having never occurred in the many years they have lived on Oz soil. Initially this inspires all the typical assertions, including visits to loved ones and insight from wiser elders, but little of that soothes their insecurity. As the story progresses, these nightmares begin to afflict not just Dorothy, but also those surrounding her. This culminates in a third act where the four must confront the source as a united front.

Princess Ozma, who came to rule over Oz in "The Marvelous Land of Oz" [1904], remains the primary monarch, while Dorothy, Betsy and Trot are all princesses who serve under her. Dorothy and her guardians, Uncle Henry and Aunt Em (not to mention Toto), have been a prominent fixture of the fairy world since "The Emerald City of Oz" [1910], when they were invited by Ozma and Glinda to become permanent residents. Similar requests were bestowed on Betsy Bobbin and her companion, Hank the Mule, when they first arrived in "Tik-Tok of Oz" [1914], while Trot and her guardian, old Cap'n Bill, joined the country's population in "The Scarecrow of Oz" [1915], after being featured in a couple of Baum's offshoot adventures ("The Sea Fairies" [1911] and "Sky Island" [1912], respectively).

Why was there a need for so many heroines, you ask? A little explanation is necessary. Halfway into his series, Baum initially decided to discontinue his Ozian adventures, having already penned seven books. Unfortunately, because sales of his subsequent works had seen a sharp decline, he was persuaded to return to Oz and write an additional seven novels. Fearing that his young audiences might grow bored with the notion of Dorothy Gale always being the main character, he invented these additional heroines as a way to mix up the focus of his books. Eventually this lead them all becoming friends, a notion that has persisted with many of the official "Historians" who wrote stories set in his universe after his death. For the sake of the central point of "A Nightmare in Oz," their friendship lingers on, providing a bridge between fans of the original canon and those who are new to the series.

All good stories inspired by existing worlds, of course, ought to evoke a foundation that is plausible in context with the premise of the originals. This is why familiar characters become necessary in creating new adventures. They are part of a long-standing tradition. Readers with some familiarity of the original writing would, likewise, not be as eager to visit a new narrative without some friendly faces to travel along with. An added benefit in including less famous faces, such as Betsy and Trot, is that a new generation of readers get a chance to see the deeper corners of a world, which are chock-full of colorful personalities that might otherwise be forgotten.

Stay tuned to see what the four go through when "A Nightmare in Oz" arrives in Paperback and Kindle editions on April 6th, 2020!