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The Gnome King of Oz is the 21st volume in the Oz books series, and the 7th written by Ruth Plumly Thompson.

Its copyright passed into the public domain on 1 January 2023.


The land of Patch (just south of Oogaboo in the Winkie Country) faces a crisis when its queen, Cross Patch VI, goes to pieces with the pressure of her office. Her two ministers, the Prime Piecer and the Chief Scrapper, deploy the magic Spool of Succession to find her successor; they follow the golden thread as it unrolls across the landscape of Oz. It leads them on a wild trip to the Emerald City, where is appears to identify the Patchwork Girl as the next Queen of Patch. The Scrapper and Piecer promptly dump the Patchwork Girl in a sack and race home with her. They are used to kidnapping the next queen; it is not a good job, and candidates rarely accept it voluntarily. In Patch Castle, the Patchwork Girl determines to escape the dreary and oppressive workload of domestic chores that goes with being Patch's queen. She is befriended by a talking stuffed bear called Grumpy, but guarded by a fierce Scissor Bird and the local Quilties.

In Philadelphia, U.S.A., a boy named Peter Brown buys a green balloon from a street vendor; the balloon transforms into a balloon bird and takes off into the sky, with Peter hanging on for dear life. The creature informs the boy that they are headed for Balloon Island, where Peter will be put to work as an "airrend boy." The more Peter learns about the job, the less it appeals to him; as they fly over a dark cloud, he lets go his hold and trusts himself to fate and gravity.

He kerplunks into ocean shallows by a small island. There he meets Ruggedo the Nome King, exiled and stranded for five years since his last Oz adventure (in Kabumpo in Oz). A sea quake tosses a decrepit pirate ship up from the ocean bottom. It holds a pirate treasure; Peter finds a box of magical implements too. This contains a cloak of invisibility that will transport its wearer anywhere he wishes. The cloak does not work, though, because it is badly ripped. The Nome King grabs the cloak too. Peter sensibly keeps the remaining contents of the box for himself, including an uncut emerald with odd indecipherable writing on its surface.

Ruggedo thinks Peter has brought him luck, and promises to make the boy a general in his army; the Nome is plain about his plans to conquer Oz. Peter tags along, hoping to frustrate the Nome's plan of conquest, and then get Ozma to send him home to Philadelphia. The boy has read an Oz book, and knows that much about his situation. Boy and Nome float to the shore of Ev; in the Nome Kingdom they learn that the magic cloak can be repaired only by the great seamstresses of Patch.

In Patch, they meet the Patchwork Girl and Grumpy. Ruggedo gets the cloak repaired, but Peter wishes the Nome to remote Zamagoochie Country before the Nome can react. Peter and his new friends escape Patch Castle; they head to the Emerald City to bring a warning about Ruggedo. They are helped on their way by a Oztrich named Ozwold. Ruggedo escapes from Zamagoochie and wishes himself to the City; he plans to steal back the Magic Belt and send all the inhabitants of Oz to the bottom of the sea.

In the grand confrontation that ensues, Ruggedo get hold of the Belt, and almost succeeds in his plan; but before he can speak his wish, Peter desperately throws the uncut emerald he has kept in his pocket, and strikes the Nome in the forehead. The rock turns out to be "the famous Silence Stone," a talisman "used by the ancient Emperors of Oz to keep their wives quiet in time of war." (Chapter 19) The stone's strike leaves Ruggedo mute for the next seven years. Ozma decides that's that, and a dip in the Forbidden Fountain so that the Water of Oblivion can erase his memory is punishment enough. In time, this will prove an inadequate response to Ruggedo's persistent villainy.

The Wizard finds more of the golden thread that the Piecer and Scrapper missed; this leads to a much better candidate for Queen of Patch than the Patchwork Girl. Ozma sends Peter home to Philadelphia with bags of pirate gold as his reward.


In this book, Thompson introduces a major character in Peter Brown; he is the first American boy protagonist in the Oz literature, and will appear in three of Thompson's books in five years. Apparently, Peter is one of the orphans of Oz; he lives with his grandfather, and his parents are never mentioned. At one point in the story, Peter is distressed by the idea that his grandfather will be worried by his absence, and speculates that the police have been called to search for him. (Chapter 6) This is more realism than the Oz books normally show on the subject of missing children. At the end of the book, Peter arrives home and the local newspapers announce, "Philadelphia Boy Finds Treasure and Saves the Emerald City of Oz" (Chapter 20) - an interesting relationship between the mundane world and the fairyland.

In a previous book, Grampa in Oz, Thompson portrays a disagreeable group of washerwomen. Her remark in this book, about the rulers of Oz keeping their wives quiet with a magic rock, suggests that she could not qualify as a feminist.


External links[]

Ruth Plumly Thompson's Oz books
15. The Royal Book of Oz 16. Kabumpo in Oz 17. The Cowardly Lion of Oz 18. Grampa in Oz 19. The Lost King of Oz 20. The Hungry Tiger of Oz 21. The Gnome King of Oz 22. The Giant Horse of Oz 23. Jack Pumpkinhead of Oz 24. The Yellow Knight of Oz 25. Pirates in Oz 26. The Purple Prince of Oz 27. Ojo in Oz 28. Speedy in Oz 29. The Wishing Horse of Oz 30. Captain Salt in Oz 31. Handy Mandy in Oz 32. The Silver Princess in Oz 33. Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz