Sunday, February 07, 2010

The Assault of the Roly-Rogues

Illustrations by Frederick Richardson from L. Frank Baum's Queen Zixi of Ix (1905). The Roly-Rogues live high in the mountains above the city of Nole (in the land of "Noland"), of whose existence they are ignorant until one of their number accidentally bounces off a cliff. The rest follow, and quickly take the city by storm.

"I must describe the Roly-Rogues to you, for they were unlike any other people in the world. Their bodies were round as a ball -- if you can imagine a ball fully four feet in thickness in the middle. And their muscles were as tough and elastic as india-rubber. They had heads and arms resembling our own, and very short legs; and all these they could withdraw into their ball-like bodies whenever they wished, very much as a turtle withdraws its legs and head into its shell."

Queen Zixi was made into a silent film in 1914, produced by Baum and Louis F. Gottschalk (not the composer, but his grand-nephew). In order to capitalize on the popularity of Baum's most famous creation, it was released under the title of The Magic Cloak of Oz, though the book doesn't take place in Oz at all. A substantial portion of the film has been lost, but what remains can be viewed at the Internet Archive, or below (give it a minute to load). The Roly-Rogues (here spelled with two l's) show up around thirty minutes in, though actually the most entertaining parts of the rather convoluted storyline feature the antics of Nickodemus the donkey, a giant crow, something called a zoop, and several other characters played by actors in animal costumes. The original soundtrack no longer exists.

There's more detailed information on the film at the blog And You Call Yourself a Scientist, and more about the Roly-Rogues at Vovat.


Nathan said...

What's weird is that I found a link to this entry on the same day I was planning on writing my own blog partially about the Roly-Rogues. If you're interested in reading mine, it's at:

Chris said...


Thanks for stopping by. I just put together my piece yesterday -- it must be something in the air! I've updated and added a link to your post.