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The Oz books are not celebrated for the consistency among their stories. Debating and trying to reconcile the many inconsistencies in the Oz books is a pastime that many Oz enthusiasts enjoy. In fact, an Oz book just doesn't seem really Ozzy unless it has an inconsistency or two.
John R. Neill, illustrator of most of the Oz books, was no more consistent in his Oz character design than L. Frank Baum, Ruth Plumly Thompson, and Neill himself were in their Oz stories--yet another quality that made Neill a perfect illustrator for the Oz books. A case in point is Ozma, the royal and rightful ruler of the Land of Oz. Let's contrast and compare the many different versions of Ozma. We'll just stick to Neill's depictions of Ozma this time. Another time we'll look at many of the countless other ways Ozma has been portrayed through the years.
(And remember, you can click on any of these pictures to view a larger version.)
Later in the same book, this Neill illustration of Ozma follows Baum's description "of a young girl, fresh and beautiful as a May morning" with "tresses of ruddy gold." Get a good look at those tresses while you can. They won't last long.
In the very next Oz book, Ozma of Oz (1907), Ozma's hair has become dark, as you can see here in one of the most iconic illustrations Neill drew of the character. Commentators have tried to explain Ozma's sudden change of hair color as Neill contrasting Ozma with his version of Dorothy, who's blond. But since this book is the first time Neill drew Dorothy, he could have given little Miss Gale any hair color he wanted. So that explanation doesn't hold much water.
Here's another of Neill's iconic images of Ozma from Ozma of Oz. Ozma crossing the Deadly Desert is Dorothy's first glimpse of the girl who would soon become her BFF - that's Best Friend Forever for those of you behind the times - a relationship exemplified by the illustration below from Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz (1908).
By The Road to Oz (1909) their relationship is pretty warm.
How old is Ozma? No one can really say, least of all Neill. He drew her sometimes as a child, sometimes as an adult, and sometimes in between - often in the same book. In The Road to Oz Ozma looks decidedly more mature than we've seen her in previous books.
Ozma's a bit small in this illustration of her birthday banquet from The Road to Oz. But it's too nice an illustration not to share.
A lovely portrait of Ozma here in the endpaper from The Emerald City of Oz (1910). This is another of those iconic illustrations that defines the character as much as Baum's text ever did.
The Land of Oz had a telephone system early on, obvious in this illustration from Emerald City. Ozma's more mature again here. There's a reason for that. Neill was never one to throw away an illustration that didn't work for one assignment if he could use it elsewhere. Many illustrations for the Oz books show evidence of being originally intended for other uses, including this one. Originally this was likely an illustration for a woman's magazine, perhaps Ladies Home Journal or McCall's, both of which Neill did work for over the years. Neill seems to have turned a generic American woman - inhabiting an up-to-date household complete with telephone - into Ozma of Oz.
And now - from the same book - Ozma's a little girl again in this glorious color illustration that's one of the Ozziest images ever created.
John R. Neill gets the credit for giving Ozma her poppies, her tall thin crown, and her tiara featuring the Oz symbol, another of Neill's creations. But Ozma doesn't always sport these trademark features - sometimes she varies her headgear, as in this illustration from The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1913), where the tiara and crown are missing.
Later in the same book the tiara is back, but now Ozma's exchanged her crown for some sort of feathered knob.
It's hard to even accept the character in this illustration from Tik-tok of Oz (1914) as Ozma. The blond hair is back, and that dress and hairstyle don't look so Ozzy on close inspection. It looks like another case of Neill adding Ozzy elements to an illustration of an American woman of the time. In fact, she looks suspiciously like the actress Margaret Carroll who would soon be married to John R. Neill. But the tiara with the Oz symbol is there, so we'll agree that it's Ozma and say no more about it.
In The Lost Princess of Oz (1916), Ozma's back to full traditional headgear in another iconic Ozma illustration.
Then for most of Glinda of Oz (1920), the poppies and tiara are nowhere in sight. Ozma wears only her crown, now attached to a small skull cap. How Ozma manages the rest of the time to keep that crown firmly sitting on top of her head without the skull cap is anyone's guess.
This illustration of Ozma from The Royal Book of Oz (1921) - Ruth Plumly Thompson's first Oz book - re-opens the question of Ozma's hair color. We've been so used to seeing it dark that this version of Ozma can easily be read as having dark hair, but considered objectively, she could be a blonde again.
Ozma's choice of clothes changes more than most readers are aware. Here's a rather unique robe from the cover of The Lost King of Oz (1925).
And do you remember the time Ozma wore pants? No? Well, here it is from The Yellow Knight of Oz (1930).
Once more Ozma is decidedly a mature young woman in this cover for a reprint of Ozma of Oz that Neill drew about 1929. Among circles of Oz fandom this illustration is known as "slinky Ozma."
This cover for a reprint of The Emerald City of Oz was done about the same time. It bears a striking resemblance to the illustration of Ozma in pants. Oz enthusiasts have nicknamed this one "cheesecake Ozma."
Neill's style evolved through the years, always retaining its spark of life and humor. This illustration of Ozma was drawn very late in his career, for the first of the Oz books Neill wrote himself, The Wonder City of Oz (1940). Ozma has outgrown the girlish demeanor that she displayed early in her reign. Perhaps she's become more sophisticated over the years that she's borne the responsibility of ruling Oz. She's no longer as "young" and "fresh" as she once was, but she's still "as beautiful as a May morning."
So choose the version of Ozma you prefer. As you can see, there are plenty of versions to go around.