Irashi the Rough is the tyrannical Pasha of Rash, a tiny land in the southwest of Ev. The Pasha has a problem: his prison is too full to cram in any more Rashers. His Vizier's solution is to obtain a ferocious animal from nearby Oz to devour the luckless prisoners. Traveling to the Emerald City on his hurry cane (as good as a witch's broomstick), the Vizier lures the Hungry Tiger to Rash, where the big cat is made the guard of the prison. As might be expected from his past history, however, the Tiger is a total failure at prisoner-eating.
Through an unfortunate series of events involving a winding road and a pair of Quick Sandals, Betsy Bobbin and her new friend Carter Green the Vegetable Man end up in Rash too. They are summarily thrown into the prison. There they meet the Scarlet Prince Evered (known as Reddy), the Rightful Ruler of Rash. Betsy, Reddy, and Carter escape with the Hungry Tiger; they proceed through Down Town and a Cave Inn, and have adventures with Gnomes and gigantic Big Wigs of in a search for three magic rubies.
Back in Oz, Princess Ozma is having troubles of her own: she is confronted by Atmos Fere, a balloon-like being who lives in the upper stratosphere. His plan is to kidnap her up to his own kingdom, to prove to his skeptical compatriots that living beings can actually exist on the surface of the Earth. But Ozma has a secret weapon (actually, a pin).
In time, the adventurers recover the magic rubies, and Reddy is restored to the Rashian throne. Irashi and his evil Vizier end up stranded on a deserted island somewhere in the Nonestic Ocean.
The book's magical talismans, the three royal rubies of Rash, suggest the three magic pearls in Rinkitink in Oz. The rubies bestow immunity form harm in different realms, earth, air, and water; one of the three pearls also provides such immunity.
The Hungry Tiger spends a day as the "kitten" of the giant Princess Elma, daughter of the Big Wigs' king. He laments his lot. "I had no idea kittens lead such hard lives.... My ribs ache from hugging and I've been dragged around all day like a duster." (Chapter 17)
Both Thompson and her predecessor L. Frank Baum indulge in a particular form of wordplay that captures the child's knack for mis-hearing, misinterpreting, misunderstanding the adult world. (Baum, for example, gives us the "Mountain Ear" in The Scarecrow of Oz, Chapter 7. Thompson has "Lively Hoods" in The Yellow Knight of Oz, Chapter 13.) In this book, Thompson's Down Town is arguably one of her best achievements in this line.
Down Town is ruled by King Dad. Its public square is dominated by its enormous Indus Tree, which grows the tools and symbols of trades and occupations on its branches — thimbles, hammers, brooms and mops, miners' caps, cookbooks and rolling pins, etc. People select their professions by picking items from the Tree. "I've often heard of big industries," Carter Green observes, "but I never knew they looked like this." (Chapter 9)
The Dads of Down Town make money. "Some were making money out of leather, some were making money out of oil and some were even making money out of old papers and rags. It looked quite simple."
One negative: the queen of Down Town is King Dad's wife, Fi Nance. She is literally made of money. "Her face and hair were of purest gold, her hands and feet of silver and her dress was made from hundreds of yellow bills that crinkled crisply when she moved." Despite her surface brilliance, Betsy considers Nance to be "the hardest and most disagreeable being she had ever met." (It is not surprising that this unpleasant figure is female; as noted elsewhere, Thompson was not a feminist.)
In promoting The Hungry Tiger of Oz, Reilly & Lee revived a tactic used two decades earlier: they put out press releases in the form of the Ozmapolitan, the supposed newspaper of the Emerald City. The publisher also formed a fan club for children called the Ozmite Club — though it lasted for only two years.
- David L. Greene and Dick Martin. The Oz Scrapbook, New York, Random House, 1977.
|Ruth Plumly Thompson's Oz books|