The Road to Oz, Book Five of the Oz Series

Published 6 December 2022

“PLEASE, miss,” said the shaggy man, “can you tell me the road to Butterfield?” (13)

Together with John R. Neill’s almost ghostly illustration, this makes for a striking start to The Road to Oz, the fifth installment of the Oz series. This is the fourth of my posts about the original sequels to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and I recommend reading each of the ones that preceded it. Sorry for giving you homework, but this will make some of my commentary below will make more sense. And they’re interesting posts in their own right.

Each Oz book is, physically, an art object. Uniquely, The Road to Oz has no color illustrations. Instead, in the first edition of 1909, the text and pen drawings are printed directly onto colored paper, so that the book has a rainbow pattern, from yellow, to violet to light green to lime green to orange to brownish green to neon green to brown.

There is no clear meaning to the points at which the page color shifts. It makes for a highly unique volume, physically, and alludes to the character of the rainbow girl Polychrome, a sky-fairy like those Dorothy glimpses in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz.

These photos demonstrate the effect of the text and drawings on colored paper. This edition is apparently the first reprinting to reintroduce the original colors. While this accounts for the lack of full-color drawings, Neill lavishes his pen artwork with exquisite detail.

The Cowardly Lion pets his old friend, Toto. Neill now draws the Lion wearing spectacles and, on the copyright page, a rather haughty monocle.

Neill crams in the Wizard, Toto, Dorothy, Button-Bright, Polychrome, the Tin Woodman, the Scarecrow, and our beloved Jack Pumpkinhead. They are not all in the palace yet on the point at which this picture appears, but it is lovely all the same.

On page 163, the Tin Woodman has a tin statue of Dorothy “just as she had first appeared in the Land of Oz” (162), as well as of Toto. Amusingly, Neill draws the statues to look exactly like Denslow’s illustrations, so his Dorothy contemplates the previous illustrator’s.

In previous Oz novels, every chapter heading has received a unique illustration. That is true in The Road to Oz as well, except that the tiny unique drawing, always a portrait of a character, fits within one of two designs that alternate each chapter. The first of these is a sort of Ozite cartouche containing a portrait of a character.

Chapter heading illustration. And, for comparison,
Isn’t it shaped like the front of a thong???! That is my first thought! 😅 (Picture source)

This ornament alternates with a disturbing design in which a ghostly ring of merry children’s disembodied heads surrounds the unique illustration. The way they are chained together makes me think of some horrible monster by NFT salesman Ito Junji (probably the thing in “My Dear Ancestors”). Did people actually find this cute in 1909, or did Neill just not realize it was creepy?

Continuing the pattern started in Ozma of Oz, Dorothy does not have an adventure in Oz but has an adventure in reaching it. The plot this time around is that while out in Kansas one day, Dorothy meets a vagrant, the shaggy man. He asks for directions to Butterfield (I suppose the town in Missouri?), where there is a man who owes him fifteen cents, and abducts Toto while Dorothy is putting on her sunbonnet. This means that when Dorothy and the shaggy man find themselves walking down the road and ending up in fairyland, Toto is once again with them. Bizarrely, Toto yet again never talks, unlike every other animal in fairyland. Rather, Toto busies himself being aggressive and attacking most other creatures, though Toto’s bad disposition might not be a surprise considering that he leads a rough life: Uncle Henry whips him for chasing the chickens (155). A bit of a chicken-and-egg situation (pun intended).

Between Toto and Eureka, Dorothy’s pets are menaces. That bumble bee is clearly a person!

Following what turns out to be the road to Oz (an accurate title for once), Dorothy and the shaggy man also pick up a pigheaded young boy named Button-Bright, who does little but indicate he doesn’t know anything, and the aforementioned Polychrome, the Rainbow’s Daughter, who slid off the rainbow when she got dancing too near its curved side. They learn, from the towns along the road, that Ozma is a renowned person throughout fairyland and that her birthday is coming up. All the monarchs want to attend. (Ozma’s birthday is 21 August. Mark your calendars.) Along the way, Button-Bright’s head is magicked into a fox head, and the shaggy man’s into a donkey head. But once the four cross the Deadly Desert on a “sand-boat,” they reach the Truth Pond in the Country of the Winkies, which transforms Button-Bright and the shaggy man back to normal. From there, Ozma reveals she is responsible for warping Dorothy into fairyland to attend her birthday. “I thought I should have to use the Magic Belt to save you and transport you to the Emerald City,” says Ozma. She continues, “But the shaggy man was able to help you out both times, so I did not interfere” (204). Then many, many fantastical guests attend Ozma’s birthday, there is a feast and music, the Wizard performs tricks, Button-Bright heads home, Polychrome returns to the rainbow, and Ozma warps Dorothy and Toto, in their sleep, back to the former’s bedroom in Kansas.

Dorothy kissing Ozma.

To a 2022 reader, it sticks out that Dorothy and Ozma seem to really, really like each other. They were already holding hands and hugging and kissing in the earlier books. When she meets Ozma in The Road to Oz, Dorothy “hug[s] and kiss[es] her rapturously” (204). Judging from Neill’s illustration (above), we don’t mean a little peck on the cheek. But they’re just friends, I’m sure.

Baum spends a large portion of the last one hundred pages gushing about how incredibly wonderful Oz is. It gets tiring. In the first two novels, Oz comes across as a place—a magical, strange land of plenitude full of kind people, yes, but a land with the verisimilitude of a place. In The Road to Oz, Baum has fully committed to Oz being Heaven. Apparently, death does not even exist there (172)! Save for capital punishment, though it seems the closest anyone came to receiving this under Ozma is Eureka. And just a sample of the effusive praise Baum cannot stop heaping on Ozma: “The royal historians of Oz, who are fine writers and know any number of big words, have often tried to describe the rare beauty of Ozma and failed because the words were not good enough. So of course I can not hope to tell you how great was the charm of this little Princess, or how her loveliness put to shame all the sparkling jewels and magnificent luxury that surrounded her in this her royal palace. Whatever else was beautiful or dainty or delightful of itself faded to dullness when contrasted with Ozma’s bewitching face, and it has often been said by those who know that no other ruler in all the world can ever hope to equal the gracious charm of her manner” (203). A lot of this kind of thing.

The resolution returns to the issue that that Magic Belt is so powerful it eliminates any stakes or risk in the narrative. What tension there is in The Road to Oz can only exist because Ozma happens to be a bit cruel, so she first causes her friend to almost die by warping her and a random stranger into the wasteland many miles from the Deadly Desert and then watches what happens. Sure is lucky Dorothy didn’t meet any of the “evil spirits” who lurk in the periphery in The Emerald City of Oz.

Or does she? A group of antagonists that only appear in The Road to Oz are the Scoodlers, nightmare horror monsters not so much because of what they do but because they are so bizarre and, in Neill’s drawings, so frightening. Toto begins barking at one in the wasteland.

They moved forward a little faster to see what the dog was barking at, and found perched upon a point of rock by the roadside a curious creature. It had the form of a man, middle-sized and rather slender and graceful; but as it sat silent and motionless upon the peak they could see that its face was black as ink, and it wore a black cloth costume made like a union suit and fitting tight to its skin. Its hands were black, too, and its toes curled down, like a bird’s. [Neill always draws the toes pointing up.] The creature was black all over except its hair, which was fine, and yellow, banged in front across the black forehead and cut close at the sides. The eyes, which were fixed steadily upon the barking dog, were small and sparkling and looked like the eyes of a weasel.

[…] The thing gave a jump and turned half around, sitting in the same place but with the other side of its body facing them. Instead of being black, it was now pure white, with a face like that of a clown in a circus and hair of a brilliant purple. The creature could bend either way, and its white toes had now curled the same way the black ones on the other side had done.

“It has a face both front and back,” whispered Dorothy, wonderingly; “only there’s no back at all, but two fronts” (105–106).

“You!” they yelled

When the Scoodlers turn out to be hostile and swarm Dorothy and her friends, and then turn out to remove their two-faced heads and fling them as projectiles before their headless bodies rush to grab them again, the imagery is horrifying.

Look at the way the Queen Scoodler’s left arm wraps around her body. Also, is she made of wood? Baum describes the Scoodlers as having skin earlier. Is that boxy torso skin?

The Scoodlers, each smaller than Dorothy, live in small stone huts in a cave inside a mountain accessible only via a narrow stone bridge that spans a “deep gulf—so deep that when you looked into it there was nothing but blackness below” (114). The only desire of the Scoodlers to eat Dorothy and her friends in a soup, for which purpose they have cauldron and many onions, carrots, turnips, and potatoes. Dorothy and her friends break out of the Scoodlers’ prison. As they flee, the shaggy man puts his baseball skills to good use and daringly stands his ground on the narrow bridge to catch the Scoodlers’ heads and toss each into the black abyss.

Because the bodies depend on their heads for vision, the implications are disturbing, even as it is also comforting to know the Scoodlers will cause no further trouble. However, the Scoodlers are the only suggestion of the heavier violence and dark tone of Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz. I thought the Scoodlers returned in The Emerald City of Oz, but in fact I mixed them up with the Whimsies, who have similarly scary disproportionately large heads (or rather, despite appearances, the opposite—but I will explain that in the next post).

There might be some unfortunate subtext here, given that, at the time, cannibals attacking travelers was a rather common element of racist caricature in stories of explorers and travelers in Africa and Pacific islands. Particularly given that context, Neill draws some of their clown makeup worryingly similar to blackface. But Baum, at least, doesn’t seem to lean into these implications, so I will not ponder them long either.

What about our new main characters? Button-Bright, a little blond boy in a sailor suit of the style nowadays more associated with a certain Tsukino Usagi, remains a complete dullard from start to finish. In fairyland, Dorothy and the shaggy man’s first adventure is finding the lad digging a hole beneath a chestnut tree. Most of Button-Bright’s dialogue is him indicating he doesn’t know something. His introductory scene is representative:

“Papa always said I was bright as a button; so mamma always called me Button-Bright,” he said.
“What is your papa’s name?”
[said Dorothy.]
“Just Papa.”
“What else?”
“Don’t know.”
“Never mind,” said the shaggy man, smiling. “We’ll call the boy Button-Bright, as his mamma does. That name is as good as any, and better than some.”
Dorothy watched the boy dig.
“Where do you live?” she asked.
“Don’t know,” was the reply.
“How did you come here?”
“Don’t know,” he said again.
“Don’t you know where you came from?”
“No,” said he.
“Why, he must be lost,” she said to the shaggy man. She turned to the boy once more.
“What are you going to do?” she inquired.
“Dig,” said he.
“But you can’t dig forever; and what are you going to do then?” she persisted.
“Don’t know,” said the boy.
“But you must know something,” declared Dorothy, getting provoked.
“Must I?” he asked, looking up in surprise
(28–29).

This goes on until Dorothy says, “You’re just awful stupid, Button-Bright,” and when he asks a follow-up, stops herself from answering him with “Don’t know” (32). I assumed, at this point, there would be more to Button-Bright, some reveal or twist. His initial appearance is mysterious. How did he end up in fairyland? Why is he in a sailor suit if, as he says, he does not live near the sea? Why is he digging a hole? Who are his parents? Baum does not hint at an answer to any of these questions. The only interesting play on the boy’s obtuse uselessness comes in Foxville, the city of the foxes, where the fox king finds the boy ingenious in a Socrates “I know nothing” way.

“My private name is Dox, but a King can’t be called by his private name; he has to take one that is official. Therefore my official name is King Renard the Fourth. [This is a reference to the medieval fables of Reynard the Fox.] Ren-ard with the accent on the ‘Ren’.”

“What’s ‘ren’?” asked Button-Bright.

“How clever!” exclaimed the King, turning a pleased faced toward his counselors. “This boy is indeed remarkably bright. ‘What’s ‘ren’? he asks; [sic] and of course ‘ren’ is nothing at all, all by itself. Yes; he’s very bright indeed” (47).

This gets Button-Bright stuck with his fox head. Turns out you may not want King Dox to like you.

Dorothy comforting Button-Bright following his foxy transformation.

Button-Bright never does anything particularly useful or, from a writing perspective, has any clear reason to be there. Compare that to Dorothy’s companions in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion all make essential contributions to the group. None of them are unhelpful.

Finally this kid reaches Oz and accidentally cures his fox-head problem (by clumsiness, of course). Learning that Button-Bright’s name comes from his papa calling him bright as a button, the Scarecrow says, “Your papa may have been right, but there are many kinds of buttons, you see. There are silver and gold buttons, which are highly polished and glitter brightly. There are pearl and rubber buttons, and other kinds, with surfaces more or less bright. But there is still another sort of button which is covered with dull cloth, and that must be the sort your papa meant when he said you were bright as a button. Don’t you think so?” Yeah, police? I have to report a murder. Naturally, Button-Bright responds, “Don’t know” (217). Button-Bright finally rides back home to, presumably, the US in a giant soap bubble. He adds almost nothing, though I am aware he takes on other roles in later books. Perhaps the lesson is simply that some people are dull.

Polychrome is more interesting because, while many of us have encountered annoying boys, few people have experience with sky-fairies. Dorothy, Toto, the shaggy man, and Button-Bright encounter her after walking a couple hours from Foxville. As usual for Baum, Polychrome, the rainbow’s daughter, is a transcendentally beautiful child: “A little girl, radiant and beautiful, shapely as a fairy [what does that mean?] and exquisitely dressed, was dancing gracefully in the middle of the lonely road, whirling slowly this way and that, her dainty feet twinkling in sprightly fashion. She was clad in flowing, fluffy robes of soft material that reminded Dorothy of woven cobwebs, only it was colored in soft tintings of violet, rose, topaz, olive, azure, and white, mingled together most harmoniously in stripes which melted one into the other with soft blendings. Her hair was like spun gold and floated around her in a cloud, no strand being fastened or confined by either pin or ornament or ribbon” (60).

Polychrome—the rainbow’s daughter.

Dorothy tends to call Polychrome “Polly.” Although Polychrome always dances, she is afraid because she is lost and has never been away from her father, the rainbow. Her constant movement is only to keep herself warm, the surface of the world being colder than the sky, apparently. Maybe Polychrome lives in the thermosphere. This dainty fairy is used to eating dewdrops and mistcakes, finding the food of the surface people so filling she eats only the smallest morsels. She instantly loves the shaggy man because of his magic (more on that later) and agrees to accompany him, Dorothy, and Button-Bright to Oz, where Dorothy hopes Ozma can return Polly to her home using the Magic Belt. Unlike Button-Bright, Polychrome contributes to the group: It is her who initiates their escape from the Scoodlers (120).

Oddly enough, Ozma does not return Polly to the rainbow. Instead, on his way back home from Oz, Santa Claus (who attends Ozma’s birthday party) stops by the rainbow to let him know what is going on. Shortly after Santa’s departure, the rainbow descends around Dorothy and the others. “With a glad cry the Rainbow’s Daughter sprang from her seat and danced along the curve of the bow, mounting gradually upward, while the folds of her gauzy gown whirled and floated around her like a cloud and blended with the colors of the rainbow itself” (258). Polly tells them goodbye, and Ozma remarks, “perhaps we may meet the Rainbow’s daughter again, some day” (260). Note the inconsistent capitalization of “Rainbow’s Daughter.” Neill depicts various other sky-fairies emerging from the rainbow to greet Polly, a whimsical and lovely scene recalling, though without the high degree of sexuality, the nymphs much loved by painters. It might seem odd that Polly lives on or inside her father, but Baum is unclear on whether the father is literally the rainbow or if the father is a being called the Rainbow who controls the rainbow we see. Besides, you live on your mother, Earth, so don’t judge.

Good-bye, Ozma! Good-bye, Dorothy!

The standout character is the shaggy man. He has a frightening appearance, is introduced abducting Toto, and lies about his past and motives. Despite his initial menace, the shaggy man is kind, probably more so than Dorothy. Consider how the shaggy man responds to the Queen Scoodler asking if she is beautiful:

“You won’t be at all beautiful if you eat me,” he said, shaking his head sadly. “Handsome is as handsome does, you know.”

Whereas Dorothy tells her, “I think you’re a fright” (118).

That the shaggy man is an almost complete embodiment of good who protects the three children he ends up with also interacts interestingly with his social status. Few people are more hated in the US than the homeless (many still talk about them with exterminationist language, whereas most conservatives nowadays know well enough to pretend they don’t feel the same about other vulnerable groups of people—this parenthetical may prove outdated very soon). While Baum would never go so far as to (scandalous) put a Black person in his Oz novels, it is notable that here children might be shown a sympathetic version of man in a commonly despised class.

However, the shaggy man also embodies a romanticized version of homelessness. He always whistles cheerfully and does not seem to struggle for survival. It is not explicit that he is a tramp. The narration implies it: “the shaggy man had no home, perhaps, and was as happy in one place as in another” (34). Later, it is made clearer: “this shaggy man of ours had slept more in hay-lofts and stables than in comfortable rooms” (196). Furthermore, the shaggy man’s economic deprivation is not entirely a social failure but is a choice, a reflection of his personal values. Early on, he tells Dorothy he does not actually want the fifteen cents the man in Butterfield owes him. “I don’t want money, my dear,” he tells Dorothy. The shaggy man explains: “Money makes people proud and haughty; I don’t want to be proud and haughty. All I want is to have people love me” (23–24). He admits that he only asked Dorothy to show him to Butterfield because he wanted to be around her so that she might love him, which is a bit creepy.

This, my dear, is the wonderful Love Magnet.

The unethical method through which the shaggy man contrives to make people love him is the Love Magnet, “a bit of metal shaped like a horseshoe” that is “dull and brown, and not very pretty” (24). The shaggy man keeps it in one of his many pockets and lies to Dorothy that he received it from an Inuit (though the shaggy man uses a somewhat less accepted term) in the “Sandwich Islands,” an old-fashioned, colonialist name for Hawaii. The Love Magnet is a talisman that causes “every living thing” (24) who meets its owner to love him. Throughout the journey to Oz, the Love Magnet seems to guarantee trust and good treatment, although the form of love is not always beneficial. King Dox thinks he performs an act of love by transforming Button-Bright’s head into that of a fox, and King Kik-a-bray feels the same when he transforms the shaggy man’s head into that of a donkey.

Reeling from the transformation, the shaggy man says, “What a misfortune—what a great misfortune! Give me back my own head, you stupid king—if you love me at all!” Kik-a-bray, however, a donkey himself and an arrogant and pseudointellectual buffoon, genuinely considers this “the greatest gift within [his] power” (82). Some people’s selfish notion of love does not mean accepting others for who they are but forcing the object of adoration to become what they themselves want the beloved to be. The Scoodlers later claim they want to eat the shaggy man and his companions because they love him: “We love you very much; so much that we intend to eat your broth with real pleasure” (117–118). “Love” is not always desirable.

Strangely, Baum never questions the ethics of magically overriding other people’s free will to force them to love you. But he does further complicate the situation when the shaggy man meets Ozma. Because he bathed in the Truth Pond to restore his head to normal, he can no longer lie, so the shaggy man admits that he stole the Love Magnet.

“Why did you steal it?” asked Ozma, gently.

“Because no one loved me, or cared for me,” said the shaggy man, “and I wanted to be loved a great deal” (208).

In reality, the shaggy man stole the Love Magnet from a woman in Butterfield. He might have wanted to reach the town in order to return it, though in his truthful state he also says the woman is happier without it because its absence revealed the suitor who genuinely loved her. As a homeless wanderer, the shaggy man could find no affection except by stealing it because in “the big, cold, outside world” (196) beyond Oz, a place even in the fairy countries home to cruel people like the Scoodlers, Evoldo, the Nome King, and the Gargoyles, nobody accepted his strange ways. In Oz, however, he is overwhelmed, and somewhat embarrassed, to be ushered around and given attention by servants in first the Tin Woodman’s and then Ozma’s palaces. He is welcomed by everyone everywhere he goes because Oz does not use money. (It did in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, but perhaps Ozma has made some changes.)

I too would not be happy with servants bowing to me.

Despite the shaggy man’s poverty and strange appearance, the Ozites would love and accept him for his kindness even without the Love Magnet’s effect. The Tin Woodman tells him, “We have no rich, and no poor; for what one wishes the others all try to give him, in order to make him happy, and no one in all Oz cares to have more than he can use” (165). After bathing, the shaggy man changes into exquisite clothes Ozma provides, which are still shaggy, thereby preserving his identity despite his improved material conditions. He then confesses his thievery to Ozma. The shaggy man decides he wants to live in Oz always, but Ozma says this means he must give up the Love Magnet because “in Oz we are loved for ourselves alone, and for our kindness to one another” (210) and not for magic spells. Ozma decides to hang the Love Magnet over the gates of the Emerald City, “that whoever shall enter or leave the gates may be loved and loving” (210).

So, following a baptism in the Truth Pond and then a baptism in the palace, the shaggy man confesses his sins and is allowed to live in Paradise. Neill does often draw Ozma emitting a radiant halo of light. And it is interesting that characters usually enter Oz by a disaster that in real life would kill them. Christian cultural osmosis.

The Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion (whom are on the cover for some reason when the shaggy man, Button-Bright, and Polly are not) are interesting in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and instructive to young readers because each longs for a quality that he actually already possesses. From the get-go, the Scarecrow is the smartest member of the group, the Tin Woodman is the kindest, and the Cowardly Lion never has any shortage of courage. It is just that each imagines himself deficient. Along the course of their journey, a rather more interesting journey than in The Road to Oz, the characters sometimes discuss whether a heart is better than brains, and so on. But ultimately, Dorothy learns that it is not an either/or situation because the whole group reaches a happy conclusion together by cooperating.

As Peter Glassman notes in the afterword, the goal of the journey is not as shallow as restoring Button-Bright and the shaggy man’s heads to normal. The shaggy man, Button-Bright, and Polychrome are all lost and homeless. In helping Button-Bright and Polychrome return to their parents and helping the shaggy man reach a place that will house him, Dorothy, writes Glassman, carries out a task as valuable as showing the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Lion that they are not lacking the qualities they desire (264). The Road to Oz is sadly underwhelming compared to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and the characters mostly worse. And I object to Glassman claiming that Dorothy helps the shaggy man and the others—if anything, it is the shaggy man who saves Dorothy in both major instances of peril, the Scoodlers and the Deadly Desert—and also Glassman’s belief that the companions in the first novel “realize they possess the qualities they sought” when they never, ever realize it. However, his point is true that The Road to Oz may be more sophisticated that it seems.

With that serious analytical stuff done, now let’s mention some of the weird guests who turn up for Ozma’s birthday party. They include Glinda (naturally), the Good Witch of the North, the king and queen of Ev from Ozma of Oz, Santa Claus with the Ryls and Knooks, a living wax doll called the Queen of Merryland, and various other characters from Baum’s non-Oz fantasy novels. Perhaps, wanting to end the Oz series, he thought tying his other works into its universe would pique readers’ interest. Based on this expanded canon, it is worth mentioning that the dreaded Nome King might actually first appear in Baum’s novel The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, though there he is called the Gnome King, has children of his own, and provides material for the construction of Santa’s sleigh. Given that Santa is apparently a highly respected person in fairyland, this somewhat recontextualizes the Nome King welcoming Dorothy’s belief that he is like Santa—it’s sort of like calling him really beloved and powerful.

The gingerbread man named King Dough, the living toy bear named Para Bruin, and Head Booleywag Chick the Cherub come from the novel King Dough and the Cherub. This might interest my readers because, in that text, Baum refused to assign any gender to the androgynous Chick the Cherub to the point of referring to the character as “it.” Apparently, Baum’s refusal to gender Chick confused his editor. Today, people would likely read Chick as nonbinary. Dorothy even wonders about Chick’s gender: “Is it a boy or a girl?” (222).

So now we have a trans character, a nonbinary character, and a reasonable case Dorothy is gay, and the same for the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman (well, the latter would be bi, considering his love for the Munchkin woman before the Wicked Witch of the East destroyed his body). When Polly, ironically wearing a rainbow dress, tells Dorothy she has a lot of queer friends, Dorothy responds, “The queerness doesn’t matter, so long as they’re friends” (184).

According to Glassman’s afterword, the other novels The Road to Oz ties into Oz canon are Dot and Tot of Merryland and Queen Zixi of Ix.

Other miscellaneous weird and interesting details:

Foxes despise Aesop because they believe his fables are unfairly prejudiced against foxes (55).

Although King Dox and King Kik-a-bray both do Dorothy’s friends harm, Ozma lets both of them attend her birthday party. Meanwhile, she refuses to let the completely peaceful and friendly Musicker attend for no other reason than that she finds him annoying due to his fantastical disability—which seems like a bizarre lesson to teach kids.

Jack Pumpkinhead now lives in the Country of the Winkies, where his mother Ozma periodically visits him to carve him a new head as his old one begins to rot, each one’s composition minutely altering his personality, though most of what makes him himself is in the rest of his body (174). (This is a big scene for Jack fans since it is the first time Baum has given him more than a sentence of attention since The Marvelous Land of Oz—Jack has so far survived mostly because Neill has kept drawing him in every book.) The old heads Jack keeps in a graveyard outside his home.

Calling on Jack Pumpkinhead

The Land of Oz has electricity: Neill draws power lines connecting to Jack’s house! The text in the series also, at some point, mentions the use of electricity, though I think that is in The Emerald City of Oz.

When the Hungry Tiger assures Dorothy (as usual) that he wants to eat babies, Dorothy tells her new friends, “He says he longs to eat fat babies; but the truth is he is never hungry at all, ’cause he gets plenty to eat; and I don’t s’pose he’d hurt anybody even if he was hungry.” The Hungry Tiger tells her to knock it off: “It isn’t what we are, but what folks think we are, that counts in this world” (185). He then says Polychrome would “make a fine variegated breakfast.” It is amusing that the Tiger acknowledges he is a fraud.

Dr. Nikidik has died after he “fell down a precipice” (178). The last of Dr. Nikidik’s magic powder, which Mombi (not Ozma, as Jack claims in The Road to Oz) used to bring Jack Pumpkinhead to life, went to his relative, Dyna, and has been used up in a horrifying accident.

Finally, Santa Claus canonically exists within the Oz universe, where he is considered a more respected and important personage than even Ozma: “The jolliest person present, as well as the most important, was of course, old Santa Claus” (239).

Each installment of the Oz series opens with a short preface giving thanks to the readers, but they often indicate that Baum would prefer to be writing about something else. He is more clearly running out of steam in The Road to Oz than earlier on. Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz opens with Baum saying, “The children won’t let me stop telling tales of the Land of Oz. I know lots of other stories, and I hope to tell them, some time or other; but just now my loving tyrants won’t allow me. They cry: ‘Oz—Oz! more about Oz, Mr. Baum!’ and what can I do but obey their commands?” Baum repeats this idea in the preface to The Road to Oz. But he also indicates, for the first time, some kind of plan for the next installment: “Since this book was written I have received some very remarkable news from The Land of Oz, which has greatly astonished me. I believe it will astonish you, too, my dears, when you hear it. But it is such a long and exciting story that it must be saved for another book—and perhaps that book will be the last story that will ever be told about the Land of Oz.”

While there are a few interesting moments like gasps of air I take while trying to stay afloat in a sea of boring fluff, I can see why the 1986 Oz anime skipped this book and Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz. Next time, we’ll see how The Emerald City of Oz, the intended grand finale, lives up to the boots it has to fill. But that must be saved for another post.

Thanks for reading! 🤗