FictionForest

Chapter 11

L. Frank BaumOct 05, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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That was a wonderful gathering of wild animals in the Forest of Gugu
next sunrise. Rango, the Gray Ape, had even called his monkey
sentinels away from the forest edge, and every beast, little and big,
was in the great clearing where meetings were held on occasions of
great importance.

In the center of the clearing stood a great shelving rock, having a
flat, inclined surface, and on this sat the stately Leopard Gugu, who
was King of the Forest. On the ground beneath him squatted Bru the
Bear, Loo the Unicorn, and Rango the Gray Ape, the King’s three
Counselors, and in front of them stood the two strange beasts who had
called themselves Li-Mon-Eags, but were really the transformations of
Ruggedo the Nome, and Kiki Aru the Hyup.

Then came the beasts–rows and rows and rows of them! The smallest
beasts were nearest the King’s rock throne; then there were wolves and
foxes, lynxes and hyenas, and the like; behind them were gathered the
monkey tribes, who were hard to keep in order because they teased the
other animals and were full of mischievous tricks. Back of the
monkeys were the pumas, jaguars, tigers and lions, and their kind;
next the bears, all sizes and colors; after them bisons, wild asses,
zebras and unicorns; farther on the rhinoceri and hippopotami, and at
the far edge of the forest, close to the trees that shut in the
clearing, was a row of thick-skinned elephants, still as statues but
with eyes bright and intelligent.

Many other kinds of beasts, too numerous to mention, were there, and
some were unlike any beasts we see in the menageries and zoos in our
country. Some were from the mountains west of the forest, and some
from the plains at the east, and some from the river; but all present
acknowledged the leadership of Gugu, who for many years had ruled them
wisely and forced all to obey the laws.

When the beasts had taken their places in the clearing and the
rising sun was shooting its first bright rays over the treetops, King
Gugu rose on his throne. The Leopard’s giant form, towering above all
the others, caused a sudden hush to fall on the assemblage.

“Brothers,” he said in his deep voice, “a stranger has come among
us, a beast of curious form who is a great magician and is able to
change the shapes of men or beasts at his will. This stranger has
come to us, with another of his kind, from out of the sky, to warn us
of a danger which threatens us all, and to offer us a way to escape
from that danger. He says he is our friend, and he has proved to me
and to my Counselors his magic powers. Will you listen to what he has
to say to you–to the message he has brought from the sky?”

“Let him speak!” came in a great roar from the great company of
assembled beasts.

So Ruggedo the Nome sprang upon the flat rock beside Gugu the King,
and another roar, gentle this time, showed how astonished the beasts
were at the sight of his curious form. His lion’s face was surrounded
by a mane of pure white hair; his eagle’s wings were attached to the
shoulders of his monkey body and were so long that they nearly touched
the ground; he had powerful arms and legs in addition to the wings,
and at the end of his long, strong tail was a golden ball. Never had
any beast beheld such a curious creature before, and so the very sight
of the stranger, who was said to be a great magician, filled all
present with awe and wonder.

Kiki stayed down below and, half hidden by the shelf of rock, was
scarcely noticed. The boy realized that the old Nome was helpless
without his magic power, but he also realized that Ruggedo was the
best talker. So he was willing the Nome should take the lead.

“Beasts of the Forest of Gugu,” began Ruggedo the Nome, “my comrade
and I are your friends. We are magicians, and from our home in the
sky we can look down into the Land of Oz and see everything that is
going on. Also we can hear what the people below us are saying. That
is how we heard Ozma, who rules the Land of Oz, say to her people:
‘The beasts in the Forest of Gugu are lazy and are of no use to us.
Let us go to their forest and make them all our prisoners. Let us tie
them with ropes, and beat them with sticks, until they work for us and
become our willing slaves.’ And when the people heard Ozma of Oz say
this, they were glad and raised a great shout and said: ‘We will do
it! We will make the beasts of the Forest of Gugu our slaves!'”

The wicked old Nome could say no more, just then, for such a fierce
roar of anger rose from the multitude of beasts that his voice was
drowned by the clamor. Finally the roar died away, like distant
thunder, and Ruggedo the Nome went on with his speech.

“Having heard the Oz people plot against your liberty, we watched to
see what they would do, and saw them all begin making ropes–ropes
long and short–with which to snare our friends the beasts. You are
angry, but we also were angry, for when the Oz people became the
enemies of the beasts they also became our enemies; for we, too, are
beasts, although we live in the sky. And my comrade and I said: ‘We
will save our friends and have revenge on the Oz people,’ and so we
came here to tell you of your danger and of our plan to save you.”

“We can save ourselves,” cried an old Elephant. “We can fight.”

“The Oz people are fairies, and you can’t fight against magic unless
you also have magic,” answered the Nome.

“Tell us your plan!” shouted the huge Tiger, and the other beasts
echoed his words, crying: “Tell us your plan.”

“My plan is simple,” replied Ruggedo. “By our magic we will
transform all you animals into men and women–like the Oz people–and
we will transform all the Oz people into beasts. You can then live in
the fine houses of the Land of Oz, and eat the fine food of the Oz
people, and wear their fine clothes, and sing and dance and be happy.
And the Oz people, having become beasts, will have to live here in the
forest and hunt and fight for food, and often go hungry, as you now
do, and have no place to sleep but a bed of leaves or a hole in the
ground. Having become men and women, you beasts will have all the
comforts you desire, and having become beasts, the Oz people will be
very miserable. That is our plan, and if you agree to it, we will all
march at once into the Land of Oz and quickly conquer our enemies.”

When the stranger ceased speaking, a great silence fell on the
assemblage, for the beasts were thinking of what he had said. Finally
one of the walruses asked:

“Can you really transform beasts into men, and men into beasts?”

“He can–he can!” cried Loo the Unicorn, prancing up and down in an
excited manner. “He transformed ME, only last evening, and he can
transform us all.”

Gugu the King now stepped forward.

“You have heard the stranger speak,” said he, “and now you must answer him.
It is for you to decide. Shall we agree to this plan, or not?”

“Yes!” shouted some of the animals.

“No!” shouted others.

And some were yet silent.

Gugu looked around the great circle.

“Take more time to think,” he suggested. “Your answer is very
important. Up to this time we have had no trouble with the Oz people,
but we are proud and free, and never will become slaves. Think
carefully, and when you are ready to answer, I will hear you.”

 

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