There is a character that boldly defies gender norms in Ozma of Oz. But it’s not the boy who turned into a princess at the end of the last book. Instead, it’s a talking hen. Go figure.
This hen goes by the name Bill. Dorothy decides to call her Billina because “the ‘eena’ makes it a girl’s name,” but the hen still prefers to call herself Bill. Bill likes to get into fights with roosters, but she also likes to lay an egg every day.
Sweden recently added a gender-neutral pronoun to its language, and that new word is “hen.” Coincidence?
Return to Oz is based on the second and third Oz books: “The Marvelous Land of Oz” and “Ozma of Oz”. Elements from the former include the introduction of Jack Pumpkinhead, the witch Mombi and her powder of life, the conquest of the Emerald City, the escape by flying sofa, and the search for Princess Ozma. From the latter comes the return of Dorothy, the talking chicken Billina, the wheelers, the discovery of Tick-Tock, a princess with interchangeable heads, the introduction of the Nome King, and the ornament room.
“I beg your pardon, I’m sure Mrs.–Mrs.–by the way, may I inquire your name, ma'am?” asked the little girl.
“My name is Bill,” said the yellow hen, somewhat gruffly.
“Bill! Why, that’s a boy’s name.”
“What difference does that make?”
“You’re a lady hen, aren’t you?”
“Of course. But when I was first hatched out no one could tell whether I was going to be a hen or a rooster; so the little boy at the farm where I was born called me Bill, and made a pet of me because I was the only yellow chicken in the whole brood. When I grew up, and he found that I didn’t crow and fight, as all the roosters do, he did not think to change my name, and every creature in the barn-yard, as well as the people in the house, knew me as ‘Bill.’ So Bill I’ve always been called, and Bill is my name.”
“But it’s all wrong, you know,” declared Dorothy, earnestly; “and, if you don’t mind, I shall call you 'Billina.’ Putting the 'eena’ on the end makes it a girl’s name, you see.”
“Oh, I don’t mind it in the least,” returned the yellow hen. “It doesn’t matter at all what you call me, so long as I know the name means ME.”
“Very well, Billina. MY name is Dorothy Gale–just Dorothy to my friends and Miss Gale to strangers. You may call me Dorothy, if you like. We’re getting very near the shore. Do you suppose it is too deep for me to wade the rest of the way?”