The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, IV.— The Road Through the Forest

Tonight's Soundtrack: They Might Be Giants, "Birdhouse In Your Soul"

So. The origin of Scarecrow. Who he is and how he came to be up a pole. You know, when we told the backstory of the Scarecrow in the Oz-based comic that I write, it was also in Chapter IV. Which is, let me tell you, exactly the sort of super clever thing I need to stop mentioning if I want to get invited right kind of parties.

The kind where I'm allowed to speak after my first three pints, for instance.

* * *

Another terrific thing about Baum is that he's funny. Now that Dorothy has been ripped away from the bleak reality of Kansas and hiked a few miles from the cultivated Munchkin farms, her environment is sufficiently dangerous and folklorey to start being playful. Baum understands the storytelling value of contrast, paradox, and of course, irony. (Fellow also can't resist any form of pun, no matter how noisome.)

So you have the subtlety of The Man Who Knows He Is A Fool saying the wisest things, and also his broad pratfalls over holes in the road. You have a little girl who's desperate to get back to a boring, ugly place, as she tells a magic talking corn doll, who is himself desperate for intelligence that a crow claimed he lacks, and neither recognizes that the moral of this story is that they're both already ahead of the game.

Baum, smiling, lets each agree to the fictions that the other has had placed on them. And the road goes on.

* * *

As if that weren't complicated enough, Baum is also the world's first Science Fairy author.

His is a modern tale. Great. It's not all European dreamboozle. It's 'Merican know-how and industry. Sure it's fantastic, but it's not mindless.

So the Scarecrow explains that he can't eat, because his mouth is just paint. He doesn't want to open it, because the straw would spill out. See? We're thinking things through. There are principles here.

Except then how the hell is he talking? Is this another ironic thing? Is this a double-subtle joke on us? Or is this just Baum thinking through half of a clever notion and calling it a day because supper is on?

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