After a long line of Oz books with young heroes who would have been at home in the pages of Boy’s Life, Ruth Plumly Thompson brought Girl Power back to Ozma’s realm in Handy Mandy in Oz. Mandy is a goatherdess whose pluck, courage, determination, and utter cheekiness would make her a noteworthy character by themselves, but who boasts another feature—or rather seven—which makes her truly unique.
But more on that later.
One day, Mandy, a native of Mt. Mern in an unknown country, was trying to get her goat What-a Butter to come home, when an erpution hurled the girl into the air on a slab of rock, catapulting her into the kingdom of Keretaria in the Munchkin Country. As Mandy later told it:
“(T)here was a daisy — growing on the rock, and I picked it. As I started to fall, I began pulling off the petals, and when I landed I came down on a high, huge pile of them, a heap as high as a haystack…So I slid off the stack and turned to look at the castle, and when I looked again, the petals were gone, but there was the daisy itself growing up as pert as you please in this strange garden.”
Picking it and pocketing it, Mandy saw a white Ox with gold horns at a gold plow. Thinking to do a good deed, she set it to work, but the beast, alarmed by her appearance, took off on a destructive path (along which Mandy was struck by a tiny hammer, which she also pocketed) straight into the throne room. The King of Keretaria and his court were similarly frightened by her seven arms. King Kerr demanded she explain herself.
“This iron hand… I use for ironing, lifting hot pots from the stove, and all horrid sort of hard work; this leather hand I keep for beating rugs, dusting, sweeping, and so on; this wooden hand I use for churning and digging in the garden; these two red rubber hands for dishwashing and scrubbing; and my two fine white hands I keep for holding and braiding my hair.”
Taking a liking to her, the Ox, named Nox, made her his servant; indeed, he had a whole retinue to look after him, for according to a prophecy, he explained to “Handy Mandy” (his name for her), as long as the Royal Ox was healthy and happy, so would the King rule. But Nox was really Boz, pet Ox of the vanished boy King Kerry. The lad had vanished and Boz had been knocked out and buried. When he came to and came back, all thought he was a new Ox.
Vexed by this, Mandy decided she and Nox would seek King Kerry and restore him to the throne. She also found two small balls in his horn; one contained a note which read “Go to the Silver Mountain of Oz,” the other, a tiny silver key…