The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, XVI.—The Magic Art of the Great Humbug

Tonight’s Soundtrack: Ramin Djawadi, “To Fight Monsters, We Created Monsters”


Owing to Baumian Irony, the Wizard's job here is both trivial and impossible. Since Lion, Tin Woodman, and Scarecrow don't really lack jack, it's no thing at all to "give" them what they want. But since literalism trumps logic and evidence in Oz, you can't not do a thing and expect them to believe anything's changed. Especially when it didn't need to. Clear?

What the Wizard must do, therefore, is bring out the big puns. He's lived in Oz long enough to know that wordplay is sharper than sense here, and jokes are louder than bombs. He knows the secret of Oz: the strongest magic is that which delights a child.

If the audience will clap their hands and laugh, then that's the right thing to do. That thing will win the day. Even if they groan while swallowing another overstuffed pun, happy children are the Narrative Gravity of Oz - the most pervasive force in the universe, toward which all things tend.

Bring pleasure to those who are hearing the story and you can get away with miracles. It’s the ultimate loophole. Well, except for the one thing that you then can’t ever do.

You can’t bring an end to the story.

You can’t send Dorothy home.

* * *

And so Baum ends the chapter with the little Wizard on his own, delivering a soliloquy on the limits of imagination and humbuggery. That’s how high the stakes are raised - he’s getting Shakespearean on your ass.