The Great Oojah’s presumptiveness knows no bounds. To put it briefly, he turns up with Jerry, Don and Snooker in Africa (no country is ever specified) and builds a house on land without checking who owns it. He then sets up an ostrich farm to supply the female elite of Oojahland with feathers, rounding up some wild ostriches with the help of his magic powers. As ever, Oojah simply assumes the right to do as he pleases. This time, however, he is challenged by a local ‘black king’ who gives as good as he gets. The ‘black king’ proceeds to eat the Oojah very nearly out of house and home until Jerrywangle is let loose to work his mischief with centipedes and scorpions. Initially, though, he turns out to be somewhat less adroit with the ostrichs.
Oojah gets another taste of his own medicine when a local washer women uses his famous pyjamas to clothe her own extensive family. To make matters worse, the Crying Crocodile is on home territory and out to wreak revenge upon ‘that fattery Oojah’. My favourite bit is the crocodile parliament. Shame this story never appeared in an annual with full colour plates. Thomas Maybank’s drawings are excellent.
The tale does reflect the colonial attitudes prevalent at the time, but there is nothing overtly or deliberately racist. The caricatured illustrations of black people are most likely to offend modern sensibilities. In the text they are referred to simply as blacks and blackies, and they give as good as they get. Oojah even applauds the punishments they wreak upon Jerrywangle for his wanton mischief. In the end it is Jerrywangle’s dedication to the Great Oojah and the Ostrich Farm which wins the day.
As with the Princess of Persia (the only other book which seems to have been actually published in the ‘Uncle Oojah’s Travels’ series), this one appears to have been published in 1938. But it was obviously written and illustrated a lot earlier. Presumably it originally appeared in the various Oojah Paper supplements to the Daily Sketch, between 1921 and 1929, the year Thomas Maybank died.
Once again, as in ‘The Princess of Persia’, the preface refers to numerous other stories from ‘Uncle Oojah’s Travels’. In one episode Jerry is crowned king on an island. In another they fight bandits and encounter a Chinese dragon. They fall in with Barbary pirates and explore Egypt with its pyramids and the River Nile. Sadly none of these were published in book form or have all been lost. If you come across any other books let me know! I am still trying to get copies of the Oojah Paper, so hopefully something will turn up soon.