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“With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility”: Wayback Wednesday

Final two panels from Amazing Fantasy #15
Spider-Man in Amazing Fantasy #15 (© Marvel 1962)

Fantasy tales, especially those aimed at children, have often been designed to teach life lessons. They show the worst possible outcome for a situation and through the vicarious experience of reading the story, teach the observer what not to do. The story The Three Ridiculous Wishes shows the danger of wishing without thinking about the consequences. In the story, the elderly couple is granted three wishes and end up squandering them. This leaves the couple no better off than before they had the wishes.

Other stories, like Snow White and Beauty and the Beast deal with the dangers of judging people only by their looks as well as the dangers of vanity. These were, and are, life lessons to be imparted.

In another tale, The Prince and the Pauper, the reader learns the joys and difficulties inherent in different people's lives. Just because a person can only see good or bad in another’s situation, they are getting but a small part of the whole story. In many ways, this story embodies the concept of the fallacy of “the grass is always greener on the other side” and the truth of “you can’t truly know someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.”

In modern times, the comic book and superhero genre have somewhat taken on the role of imparting the moral and ethical values of society. In the movie Spiderman, Uncle Ben tells an impressionistic Peter Parker that “with great power comes great responsibility.” When a person comes to power, whether or not they want to be, they gain new responsibilities. As children grow up, new responsibilities are placed on them, both by their family and society. Responsibility is part of the package. Or, put another way by Robert A. Heinlein, “TANSTAFL – There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” Baum begins delving into this concept in the next chapters of Queen Zixi of Ix.

Chapter VII: The Wings of Aunt Rivette

The chapter starts with Bud and Fluff looking over their new clothes. They are quite delighted with them, but soon tire of just the clothes. Looking around, they discover the old king didn’t seem to have any toys. Bud suggests they go out in the city and buy some.

Before they can leave, Aunt Rivette bursts into the room, showing off a large purse of money. She boasts about what she will buy in town and how she will get there. Baum makes it clear her primary interest is making a pair of old neighbors jealous of her new station in life. Bud doesn’t care and wants to be left alone. Aunt Rivette gets upset, exclaiming how his ascendancy to the throne is due to her bringing him back on the mule. Fluff points out both are right, and offers the magic cloak to Aunt Rivette after Rivette complains about going out in such poor looking clothes.

Baum then shows off one of the biggest drawbacks to magic. Unintelligent magic items, like modern day voice-activated computers, take input literally and do not have the capability to verify the meaning of the inputs. This leads to Aunt Rivette wishing to fly and gaining a pair of goose wings. It is clear that Aunt Rivette had no idea the cloak was magical and did not expect to actually gain the ability to fly.

Chapter VIII: The Royal Reception

Bud and Fluff go to the local toy store. They cannot decide which doll to buy, so Bud decides to buy all of them, plus a selection of toys for himself. His royal treasurer pays, but through his heavy sighing as he counts out the money, the audience knows he thinks this is foolish.

Back at the castle, Bud is told he must attend a royal reception in five minutes. Bud has no interest in going and tells his counsellor that he will not be attending. The counsellor tries to explain that he must, and Bud responds with basically “I’m the king. What I say goes.”

Fluff acts as the voice of reason, talking about how all the fun of being a king and what they bought has to be paid for somehow. One way is by going to the reception. Bud reluctantly agrees. Fluff comes with him.

Bud has no idea how to talk with the people and the reception begins to get boring and go downhill. When Fluff points out how bored everyone is, they get the royal musicians to play music. This upsets the chief counsellor Tullydub. Bud sends the man into a corner, a punishment he himself had received and hated. Bud is really trying to understand the wants of the people at the reception and make it fun. He declares that people can dance and leave when they want. He even relents and allows Tullydub to come out of the corner after ensuring he will behave himself.

On the flip side, Bud does order Tullydub to dance with Aunt Rivette, much to the consternation of both people. This shows a tendency for children to be a bit spiteful and mean. There is also no one besides Fluff who seems to be able to get through to King Bud since he has decided only to listen to advice when he asks for it.

Chapter IX


Next morning Aunt Rivette summoned Jikki to her room, and said:

“Take these shoes and clean and polish them; and carry down this tray of breakfast dishes; and send this hat to the milliner to have the feathers curled; and return this cloak to the Princess Fluff, with my compliments, and say I’m much obliged for the loan of it.”

Poor Jikki hardly knew how to manage so many orders. He took the shoes in his left hand, and the tray of dishes he balanced upon the other upraised palm. But the hat and cloak were too many for him. So Aunt Rivette, calling him “a stupid idiot,”—probably because he had no more hands,—set the plumed hat upon Jikki’s head and spread the cloak over his shoulders, and ordered him to make haste away.

Jikki was glad enough to go, for the fluttering of Aunt Rivette’s wings made him nervous; but he had to descend the stairs cautiously, for the hat was tipped nearly over his eyes, and if he stumbled he would be sure to spill the tray of dishes.

He reached the first landing of the broad stairs in safety, but at the second landing the hat joggled forward so that he could see nothing at all, and one of the shoes dropped from his hand.

“Dear me!” sighed the old man; “I wonder what I shall do now? If I pick up the shoe I shall drop the dishes; and I can’t set down this tray because I’m blinded by this terrible hat! Dear—dear! If I’m to be at the beck and call of that old woman, and serve the new king at the same time, I shall have my hands full. My hands, in fact, are full now. I really wish I had half a dozen servants to wait on <i>me</i>!”

Jikki knew nothing at all about the magic power of the cloak that fell from his shoulders; so his astonishment was profound when some one seized the shoe from his left hand and some one else removed the tray from his right hand, and still another person snatched the plumed hat from his head.

But then he saw, bowing and smirking before him, six young men, who looked as much alike as peas in the same pod, and all of whom wore very neat and handsome liveries of wine-color, with silver buttons on their coats.

Jikki blinked and stared at these people, and rubbed his eyes to make sure he was awake.

“Who are you?” he managed to ask.

“We are your half a dozen servants, sir,” answered the young men, speaking all together and bowing again.

Jikki gasped and raised his hands with sudden amazement as he gazed in wonder upon the row of six smart servants.

“But—what—are you doing here?” he stammered.

“We are here to wait upon you, sir, as is our duty,” they answered respectfully.

Jikki rubbed his left ear, as was his custom when perplexed; and then he thought it all over. And the more he thought the more perplexed he became.

“I don’t understand!” he finally said, in a weak voice.

“You wished for us, and here we are,” declared the six, once more bowing low before him.

“I know,” said Jikki. “But I’ve often wished for many other things—and never got a single one of the wishes before!”

The young men did not attempt to explain this curious fact. They stood in a straight row before their master, as if awaiting his orders. One held the shoe Jikki had dropped, another its mate, still another the plumed hat, and a fourth the tray of dishes.

“You see,” remarked Jikki, shaking his head sadly at the six, “I’m only a servant myself.”

“You are our master, sir!” announced the young men, their voices blended into one.

“I wish,” said Jikki, solemnly, “you were all back where you came from!” And then he paused to see if his wish also would be fulfilled. But no; the magic cloak conferred the fulfilment of but one wish upon its wearer, and the half a dozen servants remained standing rigidly before him.

Jikki arose with a sigh.

“Come downstairs to my private room,” he said, “and we’ll talk the matter over.”

So they descended the grand stairway to the main hall of the grand palace, Jikki going first and his servants following at a respectful distance. Just off the hall Jikki had a pleasant room where he could sit when not employed, and into this he led the six.

After all, he considered, it would not be a bad thing to have half a dozen servants; they would save his old legs from many a tiresome errand. But just as they reached the hall a new thought struck him and he turned suddenly upon his followers:

“See here!” he exclaimed. “How much wages do you fellows expect?”

“We expect no wages at all, sir,” they answered.

“What! nothing at all!” Jikki was so startled that he scarcely had strength remaining to stagger into his private room and sink into a chair.

“No wages! Six servants, and no wages to pay!” he muttered. “Why, it’s wonderful—marvelous—astounding!”

Then he thought to himself: “I’ll try ’em, and see if they’ll really work.” And aloud he asked:

“How can I tell you apart—one from another?”

Each servant raised his right arm and pointed to a silver badge upon his left breast; and then Jikki discovered that they were all numbered, from “one” up to “six.”

“Ah! very good!” said Jikki. “Now, number six, take this shoe into the boot-room, and clean and polish it.”

Number six bowed and glided from the room as swiftly and silently as if he were obeying a command of the King of Noland.

“Number five,” continued Jikki, “take this tray to the kitchen.” Number five obeyed instantly, and Jikki chuckled with delight.

“Number two, take this to the milliner in Royal Street, and have the feathers curled.”

Number two bowed and departed almost before the words had left Jikki’s mouth; and then the king’s valet regarded the remaining three in some perplexity.

“Half a dozen servants is almost too many,” he thought. “It will keep me busy to keep them busy. I should have wished for only one—or two at the most.”

Just then he remembered something.

“Number four,” said he, “go after number two and tell the milliner that the hat belongs to Madam Rivette, the king’s aunt.”

And a few moments later, when the remaining two servants, standing upright before him, had begun to make him nervous, Jikki cried out:

“Number three, take this other shoe down to the boot-room and tell number six to clean and polish it also.”

This left but one of the six unoccupied, and Jikki was wondering what to do with him when a bell rang.

“That’s the king’s bell,” said Jikki.

“I am not the king’s servant; I am here only to wait upon you,” said number one, without moving to answer the bell.

“Then I must go myself,” sighed the valet, and rushed away to obey the king’s summons.

Scarcely had he disappeared when Tollydob, the lord high general, entered the room and said in a gruff voice:

“Where is Jikki? Where’s that rascal Jikki?”

Number one, standing stiffly at one end of the room, made no reply.

“Answer me, you scoundrel!” roared the old general. “Where’s Jikki?”

Still number one stood silent, and this so enraged old Tollydob that he raised his cane and aimed a furious blow at the young man. The cane seemed to pass directly through the fellow, and it struck the wall behind so forcibly that it split into two parts.

This amazed Tollydob. He stared a moment at the silent servant, and then turned his back upon him and sat down in Jikki’s chair. Here his eyes fell upon the magic cloak, which the king’s valet had thrown down.

Tollydob, attracted by the gorgeous coloring and soft texture of the garment, picked up the cloak and threw it over his shoulders; and then he walked to a mirror and began admiring his reflection.

While thus engaged, Jikki returned, and the valet was so startled at seeing the lord high general that he never noticed the cloak at all.

“His Majesty has asked to see your Highness,” said Jikki; “and I was about to go in search of you.”

“I’ll go to the king at once,” answered Tollydob, and as he walked away Jikki suddenly noticed that he was wearing the cloak. “Oho!” thought the valet, “he has gone off with the Princess Fluff’s pretty cloak; but when he returns from the king’s chamber I’ll get it again and send number one to carry it to its rightful owner.”

Chapter X


When Tollydob, still wearing the magic cloak, had bowed before the king, Bud asked:

“How many men are there in the royal army, general?”

“Seven thousand seven hundred and seventy-seven, may it please your gracious Majesty,” returned Tollydob—“that is, without counting myself.”

“And do they obey your orders promptly?” inquired Bud, who felt a little doubt on this point.

“Yes, indeed!” answered the general, proudly. “They are terribly afraid of my anger.”

“And yet you’re a very small man to command so large an army,” said the king.

The lord high general flushed with shame; for, although he was both old and fat, he was so short of stature that he stood but a trifle taller than Bud himself. And, like all short men, he was very sensitive about his height.

“I’m a terrible fighter, your Majesty,” declared Tollydob, earnestly; “and when I’m on horseback my small size is little noticed. Nevertheless,” he added, with a sigh, “it is a good thing to be tall. I wish I were ten feet high.”

No sooner were the words spoken than Bud gave a cry of astonishment; for the general’s head shot suddenly upward until his gorgeous hat struck the ceiling and was jammed down tightly over the startled man’s eyes and nose.

The room was just ten feet high, and Tollydob was now ten feet tall; but for a time the old general could not think what had happened to him, and Bud, observing for the first time that Tollydob wore the magic cloak, began to shriek with laughter at the comical result of the old man’s wish.

Hearing the king laugh, the general tore the hat from his head and looked at himself in mingled terror and admiration.

From being a very small man he had suddenly become a giant, and the change was so great that Tollydob might well be amazed.

“What has happened, your Majesty?” he asked in a trembling voice.

“Why, don’t you see, you were wearing my sister’s magic cloak,” said Bud, still laughing at the big man’s woeful face; “and it grants to every wearer the fulfillment of one wish.”

“Only one?” inquired poor Tollydob. “I’d like to be a little smaller, I confess.”

“It can’t be helped now,” said Bud. “You wished to be ten feet tall, and there you are! And there you’ll have to stay, Tollydob, whether you like it or not. But I’m very proud of you. You must be the greatest general in all the world, you know!”

Tollydob brightened up at this, and tried to sit down in a chair: but it crushed to pieces under his weight; so he sighed and remained standing. Then he threw the magic cloak upon the floor, with a little shudder at its fairy powers, and said:

“If I’d only known, I might have become just six feet tall instead of ten!”

“Never mind,” said Bud, consolingly. “If we ever have a war, you will strike terror into the ranks of the enemy, and every one in Noland will admire you immensely. Hereafter you will be not only the lord high general, but the lord <i>very</i> high general.”

So Tollydob went away to show himself to the chief counselor; and he had to stoop very low to pass through the doorway.

When Jikki saw the gigantic man coming out of the king’s chamber, he gave a scream and fled in terror; and, strange to say, this effect was very agreeable to the lord high general, who loved to make people fear him.

Bud ran to tell Fluff of the curious thing that had happened to his general; and so it was that when the lord high executioner entered the palace there was no one around to receive him. He made his way into the king’s chamber, and there he found the magic cloak lying upon the floor.

“I’ve seen the Princess Fluff wearing this,” thought the lord high executioner; “so it must belong to her. I’ll take it to her rooms, for it is far too pretty to be lying around in this careless way, and Jikki ought to be scolded for allowing it.”

So Tellydeb picked up the cloak and laid it over his arm; then he admired the bright hues that ran through the fabric, and presently his curiosity got the better of him; he decided to try it on and see how he would look in it.

While thus employed the sound of a girl’s sweet laughter fell upon Tellydeb’s ears, seeming to come from a far distance.

“The princess must be in the royal gardens,” he said to himself. “I’ll go there and find her.”

So the lord high executioner walked through the great hall, still wearing the cloak, and finally came to the back of the palace and passed a doorway leading into the gardens. All was quiet here, save for the song of the birds as they fluttered among the trees; but at the other end of the garden Tellydeb caught a glimpse of a white gown, which he suspected might be that of the little princess.

He walked along the paths slowly, enjoying the scent of the flowers and the peacefulness of the scene; for the lord high executioner was a gentle-natured man and delighted in beautiful sights.

After a time he reached a fruit-orchard, and saw hanging far up in a big tree a fine red apple. Tellydeb paused and looked at this longingly.

“I wish I could reach that apple!” he said, with a sigh, as he extended his arm upward.

Instantly the arm stretched toward the apple, which was at least forty feet away from the lord high executioner; and while the astonished man eyed his elongated arm in surprise, the hand clutched the apple, plucked it, and drew it back to him; and there he stood—the apple in his hand, and his arm apparently the same as it had been before he accomplished the wonderful feat.

For a moment the counselor was overcome with fear. The cloak dropped unnoticed from his shoulders and fell upon the graveled walk, while Tellydeb sank upon a bench and shivered.

“It—it was like magic!” he murmured. “I but reached out my hand—so—it went nearly to the top of the tree, and—”

Here he gave a cry of wonder, for again his arm stretched the distance and touched the topmost branches of the tree. He drew it back hastily, and turned to see if any one had observed him. But this part of the garden was deserted, so the old man eagerly tested his new accomplishment.

He plucked a rose from a bush a dozen yards to the right, and having smelled its odor he placed it in a vase that stood twenty feet to his left. Then he noted a fountain far across a hedge, and reaching the distance easily, dipped his hand in the splashing water. It was all very amazing, this sudden power to reach a great distance, and the lord high executioner was so pleased with the faculty that when he discovered old Jikki standing in the palace doorway, he laughingly fetched him a box on the ear that sent the valet scampering away to his room in amazed terror.

Said Tellydeb to himself: “Now I’ll go home and show my wife what a surprising gift I have acquired.”

So he left the garden; and not long afterward old Tallydab, the lord high steward, came walking down the path, followed by his little dog Ruffles. I am not certain whether it was because his coat was so shaggy or his temper so uncertain that Tallydab’s dog was named Ruffles; but the name fitted well both the looks and the disposition of the tiny animal. Nevertheless, the lord high steward was very fond of his dog, which followed him everywhere except to the king’s council-chamber; and often the old man would tell Ruffles his troubles and worries, and talk to the dog just as one would to a person.

To-day, as they came slowly down the garden-walk, Tallydab noticed a splendid cloak lying upon the path.

“How very beautiful!” he exclaimed, as he stooped to pick it up. “I have never seen anything like this since the Princess Fluff first rode into Nole beside her brother the king. Isn’t it a lovely cloak, Ruffles?”

The dog gave a subdued yelp and wagged his stubby tail.

“How do I look in it, Ruffles?” continued the lord high steward, wrapping the folds of the magic cloak about him; “how do I look in such gorgeous apparel?”

The dog stopped wagging its tail and looked up at its master earnestly.

“How do I look?” again said Tallydab. “I declare, I wish you could talk!”

“You look perfectly ridiculous,” replied the dog, in a rather harsh voice.

The lord high steward jumped nearly three feet in the air, so startled was he by Ruffles’s reply. Then he bent down, a hand on each knee, and regarded the dog curiously.

“I thought, at first, you had spoken!” said he.

“What caused you to change your mind?” asked Ruffles, peevishly. “I <i>did</i> speak—I <i>am</i> speaking. Can’t you believe it?”

The lord high steward drew a deep sigh of conviction.

“I believe it!” he made answer. “I have always declared you were a wonderful dog, and now you prove I am right. Why, you are the only dog I ever heard of who could talk!”

“Except in fairy tales,” said Ruffles, calmly. “Don’t forget the fairy tales.”

“I don’t forget,” replied Tallydab. “But this isn’t a fairy tale, Ruffles. It’s real life in the kingdom of Noland.”

“To be sure,” answered Ruffles. “But see here, my dear master: now that I am, at last, able to talk, please allow me to ask you for something decent to eat. I’d like a good meal for once, just to see what it is like.”

“A good meal!” exclaimed the steward. “Why, my friend, don’t I give you a big bone every day?”

“You do,” said the dog; “and I nearly break my teeth on it, trying to crack it to get a little marrow. Whatever induces people to give their dogs bones instead of meat?”

“Why, I thought you liked bones!” protested Tallydab, sitting on the bench and looking at his dog in astonishment.

“Well, I don’t. I prefer something to eat—something good and wholesome, such as you eat yourself,” growled Ruffles.

The lord high steward gave a laugh.</p>

<p>“Why,” said he, “don’t you remember that old Mother Hubbard?”

“Ah! that <i>was</i> a fairy tale,” interrupted Ruffles, impatiently. “And there wasn’t even a bone in her cupboard, after all. Don’t mention Mother Hubbard to me, if you want to retain my friendship.”

“And that reminds me,” resumed the steward with a scowl, “that a few minutes ago you said I looked ridiculous in this lovely cloak.”

“You do!” said Ruffles, with a sniff. “It is a girl’s cloak, and not fit for a wrinkled old man like you.”

“I believe you are right,” answered Tallydab, with a sigh; and he removed the cloak from his shoulders and hung it over the back of the garden seat. “In regard to the meat that you so long for,” he added, “if you will follow me to the royal kitchen I will see that you have all you desire.”

“Spoken like a good friend!” exclaimed the dog. “Let us go at once.”

So they passed down the garden to the kitchen door, and the magic cloak, which had wrought such wonderful things that day, still remained neglectfully cast aside.

It was growing dusk when old Tillydib, the lord high purse-bearer, stole into the garden and sat upon the bench to smoke his pipe in peace. All the afternoon he had been worried by people with bills for this thing or that, and the royal purse was very light indeed when Tillydib had at last managed to escape to the garden.

“If this keeps up,” he reflected, “there will be no money left; and then I’m sure I don’t know what will become of us all!”

The air was chilly. The old counselor shivered a little, and noting the cloak that lay over the back of the seat, drew it about his shoulders.

“It will be five months,” he muttered half aloud, “before we can tax the people for more money; and before five months are up the king and his counselors may all starve to death—even in this splendid palace! Heigh-ho! I wish the royal purse would always remain full, no matter how much money I drew from it!”

The big purse, which had lain lightly on his knee, now slid off and pulled heavily upon the golden chain which the old man wore around his neck to fasten the purse to him securely.

Aroused from his anxious thoughts, Tillydib lifted the purse to his lap again, and was astonished to feel its weight. He opened the clasp and saw that the huge sack was actually running over with gold pieces.

“Now, where on earth did all this wealth come from?” he exclaimed, shaking his head in a puzzled way. “I’ll go at once and pay some of the creditors who are waiting for me.”

So he ran to the royal treasury, which was a front room in the palace, and began paying every one who presented an account. He expected presently to empty the purse; but no matter how heavily he drew upon the contents, it remained ever as full as in the beginning.

“It must be,” thought the old man, when the last bill had been paid, “that my idle wish has in some mysterious way been granted.”

But he did not know he owed his good fortune to the magic cloak, which he still wore.

As he was leaving the room, he met the king and Princess Fluff, who were just come from dinner; and the girl exclaimed:

“Why, there is my cloak! Where did you get it, Tillydib?”

“I found it in the garden,” answered the lord high purse-bearer; “but take it, if it is yours. And here is something to repay you for the loan of it;” and he poured into her hands a heap of glittering gold.

“Oh, thank you!” cried Fluff; and taking the precious cloak she dropped the gold into it and carried it to her room.

“I’ll never lend it again unless it is really necessary,” she said to herself. “It was very careless of Aunt Rivette to leave my fairy cloak in the garden.”

And then after carefully folding it and wrapping it up she locked it in a drawer, and hid the key where no one but herself could find it.

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