One night, Queen Lulea of the fairies decides to have some fun with the mortals by creating a magic cloak that, when worn, will grant its wearer any wish, but only one wish. In addition, the cloak will not grant wishes if it is stolen from its owner. One of the fairies is volunteered to give the cloak to the first unhappy person met in the real world.
That person is a girl named Margaret, called Fluff by her brother Timothy (who is called Bud), who have lost their parents and are now abused by their Aunt Rivette. While moving to Nole, capital city of Noland, Bud is unexpectedly crowned king, due to a rule proclaiming the 47th person to enter the city gates to be crowned king in the event of a Succession Crisis.
Once Bud and Fluff enter the palace, the magic cloak trades hands several times, granting wishes to the people of the court who aren't aware of its power. News of the magic cloak reaches Queen Zixi of Ix, a 600-year-old witch-queen who appears as a 16-year-old to all but a mirror, and wishes nothing more than to be able to see her beautiful reflection. Thus, she prepares to take the cloak by any means necessary.
Though overshadowed by the immense popularity of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, it is widely considered, even by L. Frank Baum himself, to be among the best books ever written by him.
This book provides examples of:
- A Child Shall Lead Them: Bud, a young boy, becomes King of Noland. Reality Ensues: he's a mischievous boy and has no idea how to rule, while his sister Fluff (while older and more responsible) is also a child who has no idea how to run a country. In the end, Bud uses the last wish of the Magic Cloak to become the best king Noland has ever known.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Mostly averted; though everyone who makes a foolish wish is surprised at first, most of them come to enjoy the outcome. Played straight with Jikki, who is unable to decide what jobs to assign his six servants, who can only serve him.
- Benevolent Mage Ruler: Before the book (and presumably after) Queen Zixi herself qualifies. She uses her witchcraft to help her people, and they love her for it.
- "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: In the end, when Queen Zixi reveals her past schemes to steal the cloak, Bud and Fluff tell her that they would have been willing to let her borrow the cloak and make her one wish, so she had no need to resort to theft. However, this incident convinces the fairies who made the cloak that humanity is no longer worthy of such a gift, and they take it backso Zixi still never gets to have her wish granted.
- Enemy Mine: When their country is invaded by the Roly-Rogues, Bud, Fluff, and Aunt Rivette seek out Queen Zixi for helpeven though they just repelled her invasion attempt. Luckily for them, Zixi has undergone some Character Development in the interim and is willing to help save the day.
- The Film of the Book: The story spawned a 1914 silent movie, The Magic Cloak of Oz.
- Freakiness Shame: Played with. Aunt Rivette is initially horrified by having wings, but comes to love the attention she attracts. Tollydob is also concerned about his massive height, but he quickly enjoys the fear it brings to others.
- The Good Chancellor: All five of the chancellors think of nothing but the good of the kingdom, and always remain loyal and patient towards their child monarch.
- It Amused Me: The reason the fairies make their magical gifts, including the magic cloak, is because they get bored from dancing and need something else to amuse themselves.
- Judgment of Solomon: Two women come to King Bud, both claiming to own a single cow. At the suggestion of his sister, Bud lets each of them try milking the cow, and the one who successfully milks the cow is declared the owner. Subverted, however, when it is then revealed that it was the other woman's cow all along, and was just bad with animals.
- Large and in Charge: Tollydob, the lord high general, has his wish to be 10 feet tall accidentally granted (leading Bud to dub him the lord very high general).
- The Mirror Shows Your True Self: Queen Zixi can only make herself look beautiful to others because of this trope. Her reflection shows her true age, which is considerable.
- The Napoleon: Tollydob starts off short and sensitive about his height. This quickly changes, though, when he gets his accidental turn with the magic cloak. In the end, the fairy queen reduces his magically-gifted height from ten feet to six, which is enough to make the general happy.
- Nice to the Waiter: Zixi is kind to her people and uses her powers largely to help them; this is why Fluff believes that Zixi isn't entirely bad, and persuades her family to seek out the queen's help in the end.
- Offered the Crown: Bud is offered the crown after the king dies and the laws decree that the forty-seventh person to pass through Nole's eastern gate at sunrise is the new monarch.
- Orphan's Ordeal: Bud and Fluff, before becoming monarchs.
- Outside-Context Villain: After the protagonists repel Zixi's invasion, they settle down to enjoy peace... and then the Roly-Rogues, of whom they have never heard and who have only just learned of existence of other people, roll off of their mountain home and conquer the country. In other words, a new set of villains drop out of the sky.
- The Pollyanna: Fluff uses her wish to become one.
- Princess Classic: Fluff starts out as a penniless orphan, but ends the book as a lovely, sweet princess who is beloved in and out of her country.
- Rags to Royalty: Bud and Fluff go from orphans to monarchs in seconds.
- Really 700 Years Old: Queen Zixi of Ix, 683 years old, uses witchcraft to appear 16.
- Rubber Man: Tellydeb wishes he could reach a distant apple, and thus he becomes a limited version of this.
- Stock Animal Diet: Subverted. Once Ruffles can talk, he complains that he doesn't like bones, and can't understand why humans keep giving their dogs bones instead of meat.
- Succession Crisis: The king dies without an heir, which starts off the plot in Noland.
- Talking Animal: Ruffles, after Tallydab makes his wish.
- Theme Naming: The five high counselors of Noland are named Tallydab, Tellydeb, Tillydib, Tollydob and Tullydub.
- Tragic Dream: The three creatures Zixi meets after stealing the cloak all have one. Fortunately, when she meets them again, they've all accepted the impossibility of their dreams and moved on.
- Vain Sorceress: Queen Zixi of Ix is a powerful monarch whose sole desire is to appreciate her beauty in a mirror.
- Wandering Minstrel: The minstrel Quavo spends his time travelling between Ix and Noland with his harp, carrying news between them.
- Wicked Stepmother: Aunt Rivette. Though she isn't wicked by nature, she is easily impatient, only knows how to punish children physically, and looks ugly. Once the children are no longer in her care, she becomes a dependable ally.
- Winged Humanoid: Aunt Rivette, after wishing she could fly, sprouts two feathery wings from her back.
- Zillion-Dollar Bill: Tillydib wishes for a bag of money that never runs out. Interestingly, when the fairies revoke the poorly-made wishes at the end, this is one of the wishes that is kept intact.