The Patchwork Girl of Oz: Patching Together a Story

Who Is Dr. Pipt?!

The Patchwork Girl reintroduces some nuance to the Land of Oz, then, but Baum still reigns in characters to certain parameters. Yet in other ways The Patchwork Girl persists in the pattern that began in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz of retroactively erasing nuance and moral grays where they previously existed (without re-editing the earlier novels, creating an incoherent mess). As my earlier comments highlight, Baum chooses to forget that he earlier depicts the Tin Woodman as perfectly willing to kill animals to save the lives of others. But the worst continuity issue is Dr. Pipt himself! (Puts on nerd glasses)

Dr. Pipt reading from his magic book.

Ozma explicitly states that Dr. Pipt is the man from whom Mombi bought the Powder of Life in The Marvelous Land of Oz (220). In that earlier novel, the narration describes this interaction: “[Mombi] had met a crooked wizard who resided in a lonely cave in the mountains, and had traded several important secrets of magic with him” (16). In exchange, she attains magical powders and herbs. These products are comically branded like commercial goods under the name “Dr. Nikidik’s.” This implies the wizard’s name is Dr. Nikidik, not Dr. Pipt. As you can see below, Neill draws this character as a standard bearded wizard with a staff and pointed cap, physically not crooked at all.

The implication is that the wizard is crooked in the sense of being sleazy or criminal. This is why Mombi tests the Powder of Life on what becomes Jack Pumpkinhead: she does not trust the wizard has given her a fair deal and wants to check. I love this idea that there are shady wizards around who will sell you seedy snake oil magic that may or may not work. However, Baum has rewritten Oz to be a land so flawless, whose people are so innately kind, that he cannot accept someone might be untrustworthy. So he reinterprets the obvious meaning of his words such that the wizard is physically crooked but wholly honest and, moreover, praising the laws that oppress him (!) and insisting he actually obeys them (!) because, dang it, he is an honest, good guy. This sanitizing is almost insulting to the reader. Granted, he illegally creates a magical entity to be his wife’s slave, so I shouldn’t overstate the extent that he is no longer a shady weirdo.

But this is not the only issue. In The Road to Oz, the Tin Woodman explains to the Shaggy Man that Mombi bought the Magic Powder from a “a crooked Sorcerer,” here unnamed, who inhabited Gillikan Country (177), not Munchkin Country, as in The Patchwork Girl. The detail about Mombi and the Powder of Life confirms he is referring to the “crooked wizard.” However, the Tin Woodman exposits that this man has since died. There is no reason for Baum to include this information at all, and yet he did and then he ignored it entirely to re-name and re-introduce the same character as the “crooked magician” Dr. Pipt present in The Patchwork Girl. By now, reiterating that this series is incoherent in both themes and literal continuity is passé. But these issues drain the verisimilitude of the setting (and usually make the world less interesting).

Baum also devotes a surprisingly large number of pages (and one whole chapter) to complaining about how much he hates music (both popular and classical) and calling music listeners “feeble-minded” and “ignorant” (137) before seemingly forgetting about the kindly living phonograph character, Vic. Everyone hates and abuses Vic for playing music. Even Scraps, who spends her time singing bad songs, begs Vic to stop and tries to run away. Baum calls ragtime, the most pleasant music that has ever existed, “a jerky jumble of sounds which proved so bewildering that after a moment Scraps stuffed her patchwork apron into the gold horn and cried: ‘Stop—stop!’” (89) Later the Shaggy Man, having failed to murder Vic himself, indicates Vic will soon be killed by angry Ozites (138) because everyone hates music because Oz is a nightmare world of people who will kill you for playing ragtime. Then the Shaggy Man sings a long, terrible song that everyone applauds. Baum seemingly forgets Vic and never mentions it ever again. What is going on aaahhhhh