Review of The Woggle-Bug Book by L Frank Baum (1905)

Following the Yellow Brick Road

Baum wrote a short book published in 1905 right before the third Oz book; Ozma of Oz.  It featured a character that was introduced in the Marvelous Land of Oz, the Woggle-Bug.  It’s not an “official” Oz book, however, since L Frank Baum wrote it and it features a character from the Oz series, I’m going to include it as part of my ancillary Oz materials reviews.  It was called The Woggle-Bug Book.

Woggle-Bug book

“Sire, I am a Woggle-Bug, highly magnified and thoroughly educated. It is no exaggeration to say I am the greatest Woggle-Bug on Earth” – HM Woggle-Bug, TE

The book takes the Woggle-Bug character out of Oz and transplants him into a nameless city in America. We aren’t told how he got there and not too many people seem distressed that a giant talking bug in a top hat is walking around the city streets in broad daylight.  The bug falls in love with this crazy colored plaid dress, follows it around as it’s passed from person to person and falls in love with whomever has the dress at the time he sees them.  After falling in love with a Chinaman wearing the dress as a Chinese robe, the Woggle-Bug mistakenly gets onto a balloon that carries him to Africa where he barely escapes vicious Arabs that want to kill him.  He then wanders into a hidden forest with talking animals that feel more like an Oz book than the events in the rest of the book.  This hidden animal kingdom is guarded by a group of bears with guns that are awesomely called a “bearicade”.  The story really is weird.  It’s funny and strange in some ways, but overall, it’s weird.  Plus, there’s a lot of ethnic humor which, I guess, was popular at the time.  However, it’s rather jarring today.

This book evolved from a series of Oz comic strips called The Queer Visitors from Oz that were used to promote the second Oz book (I’m trying to get a hold of a copy of these strips for review).  The strips took popular Oz characters and transplanted them into America for various adventures.  Those strips were popular enough that Baum thought that formula would work again.  It wasn’t completely out of left field, the Woggle-Bug had become sort of a national fad at the time.  There were Woggle-Bug postcards and board games (today, he even has his own Facebook page).  Also at this time, Baum was trying to mount a stage musical about the Woggle-Bug to recreate the smash hit 1902 stage version of Wizard of Oz.  This book was adapted from that stage play.  Unfortunately, the fad died and the Woggle-Bug play and book flopped.

Now, this book is sort of a one-off curiosity.  It is not considered Oz canon.

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