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The Reading Jackalope

The Road to Oz

The Road to Oz  - L. Frank Baum, John R. Neill Pleasant enough. I still love Polychrome, though she seems less substantial then she did before. The Shaggy Man creeps me out a little; I never really liked him all that much as I thought the Love Magnet was cheating just a little. But now, he strikes me as a little creepy. That said, one of the more touching moments in the book is when the Shaggy Man first comes to The Emerald City and is left in the foyer of the palace just wondering what’s to become of him. This sentence in particular, “In the big, cold, outside world people did not invite shaggy men in to their homes…”

There isn’t really much of a plot here though, just a parade of characters as the heroes journey to OZ. I remembered most of them, the donkeys and the foxes and the musical man for example. But I didn’t remember the Scoodlers, and I wonder if it’s because the traumatized me when I was younger. Scary cannibals that can remove their heads are scary.

I do find it amusing that there are many ways to cross the Deadly Desert, and yet according to the citizens of OZ very few people have done it. But really, how hard is it to think of a sand boat, or use something like the Magic Carpet, or to tunnel under it as the Gnome King does in a later book? Granted that’s fixed in a later book, but at this point it’s still amusing.

One thing I really do like about the OZ characters is how flawed they are. The Tin Woodman might be the kindest man alive, but he’s rather vain. And the Scarecrow, while smart is a bit proud and occasionally a bit mean spirited-he tends to look down on those he thinks dumber then himself.

There’s also an interesting paragraph in this book where Baum compares the Tin Woodman and Tik-Tok saying you couldn’t feel for Tik-Tok the way you do for the Tin Woodman because Tik-Tok is just a machine (like a sewing machine) and the Tin Woodman is alive. I find it fascinating how much that philosophy has changed over time; to the point that there are now books and other media which deal with that issue. As a child I remember thinking Tik-Tok was quite alive, just because he was a machine that didn’t deny his personhood. And I wonder how the children of 1909 felt about it. Of course all that is compounded by the Powder of Life, because as presented in this book (in the story of the Blue Bear Rug) you’re not quite sure if it’s really life at all. Though it seems in that story, personhood is decided by usefulness as since the bear rug is no longer useful it’s just a nuisance and no thought at all is given to the poor creature and that same philosophy is applied to the Gump. The Gump’s head in the last book was still alive, though it seems to have been forgotten here; another one of Baum’s continuity errors?

Speaking of things that are different from 1909-the guest list. There are a number of guests to Ozma’s birthday party that I don’t recognize and I wonder if a child of 1909 would have known immediately. If not, there are certainly a number of new characters and new places to explore described in just one short chapter. I haven’t read much in the OZ cannon beyond Baum’s work and I wonder if any of the other people considered cannon writers did explore the other fairy lands described there.

One of my favorite images in this book is the one of all the strange guests at Ozma’s party floating home in the Wizard’s bubbles.

Favorite quote-“But to be civilized means to dress as elaborately and as prettily as possible, and to make a show of your clothes so your neighbors will envy you, and for that reason both civilized foxes and civilized humans spend most of their time dressing themselves.”-Love that rational from the foxes. Baum occasionally works in those little gems of satire.