The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, V.—The Rescue of the Tin Woodman
Tonight's Soundtrack: Foetus, "Kamikaze"
If you take away nothing else from this re-acquaintance with Oz, take this, I implore thee: There's no fucking S. It's "Woodman". Burn that into your brain, and go forth in the world, destroying my enemies, seeding Utopia with their bones.
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I don't know. Did many of you grow up with a parent, loved-one, or caregiver who constantly said things like "breaksfast" and "pasketti", or called a Whiskey and Tap Water a "Manhattan"? I suppose one either picks up those habits one's self, or becomes, well, me.
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Speaking of me, the Tin Woodman, eh? I can't tell you exactly when I learned his actual origin - because I'm an American of a certain age, MGM's The Wizard of Oz was certainly on TV and in my eyes at least once a year; the books wouldn't have arrived until I had a library card and unlocked Oz, and Andrew Lang's Fairy Books, and Raggedy Ann and Andy, and Andersen, and Alice, and and and and and - all I know is that it feels like his tragic story always resonated with me. That I always identified with the metal man, his humanity hacked away in great chunks, seemingly impervious to pain, but eternally anxious of the empty echo inside, whether he be named Nick Chopper or Cliff Steele or Officer Murphy.
Aside from the personal, Tin Woodman's origin is a perfect little O. Henry story, mixed up with gruesome violence and the Ship of Theseus Paradox, dropped neatly into a kids' book.
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One last thing: Baum goes out of his way to give each of Dorothy's new friends a fatal weakness. The Scarecrow confesses he is afraid of only a lighted match, and the Tin Woodman makes sure to go back for his oil can for fear of rust. But Baum being Baum, he just leaves these Chekhovian Threats on the table, and thinks up new things to threaten them with later in the book. It's either scatter-brained or genius, and probably both.