Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Road to Oz

The Road to Oz (1909) is the fifth book in L Frank Baum's Oz series, and this is where things start to get a little weird. Dorothy is playing in the front yard of Uncle Henry and Aunt Em's house in Kansas when a shaggy man comes up and asks for directions. The Shaggy Man is apparently some kind of nice hobo guy. Dorothy decides to walk with him part of the way to his destination, because its easier than explaining it, and on the way all the roads start to become unfamiliar and then they find themselves at an intersection of seven roads that they had never seen before. Hmmm. Perhaps we are on our way to Oz?

The two (plus Toto) come across a little boy named Button Bright who answers "Don't know" to pretty much anything you ask him, as well as Polychrome, the daughter of the rainbow who accidentally fell off and now has to dance all the time to stay warm and is constantly searching for dewdrops and mist cakes to eat.

The group goes through many adventures on their way to Oz, including a land of foxes where the king turns Button Bright's head into a fox head, and a land of donkey's where the king turns the Shaggy Man's head into a donkey head.

Luckily the Shaggy Man has a gizmo called the Love Magnet which makes all creatures love him instantly. This Love Magnet (however disturbingly named) gets the gang out of several scrapes.

The creepiest adventure by far, though (and which I'm going to quote in length, so get ready for it), is their meet-up with The Scoodlers.

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. 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.

"What in the world do you s'pose that is?" asked Dorothy in a hushed voice, as the little group of travelers stood watching the strange creature.

"Don't know," said Button-Bright.

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 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."
"Wonder if this works with strings," said Dorothy; but Polychrome cried "Look!" for another creature just like the first had suddenly appeared sitting on another rock, its black side toward them. The two twisted their heads around and showed a black face on the white side of one and a white face on the black side of the other.

"How curious," said Polychrome; "and how loose their heads seem to be! Are they friendly to us, do you think?"

[dozens more of the creatures appear and surround the group]

"Ask 'em who they are, and what they want," whispered Dorothy; so the shaggy man called out in a loud voice:

"Who are you?"

"Scoodlers!" they yelled in chorus, their voices sharp and shrill.

"What do you want?" called the shaggy man.

"You!" they yelled, pointing their thin fingers at the group; and they all flopped around, so they were white, and then all flopped back again, so they were black.

"But what do you want us for?" asked the shaggy man, uneasily.

"Soup!" they all shouted, as if with one voice.
Happening just then to feel the Love Magnet in his pocket, [The Shaggy Man] said to the creatures, with more confidence:

"Don't you love me?"

"Yes!" they shouted, all together.

"Then you mustn't harm me, or my friends," said the shaggy man, firmly.

"We love you in soup!" they yelled, and in a flash turned their white sides to the front.

"How dreadful!" said Dorothy. "This is a time, Shaggy Man, when you get loved too much."

[they start walking away, the The Shaggy Man throws a rock at the Scoodlers]

At this the Scoodlers raised a howl. Two of them picked their heads from their shoulders and hurled them at the shaggy man with such force that he fell over in a heap, greatly astonished. The two now ran forward with swift leaps, caught up their heads, and put them on again, after which they sprang back to their positions on the rocks.

I love those creepy Scoodlers. Their queen is even better, but I think I've probably quoted enough. The gang eventually makes its way to Oz (of course) for Ozma's big birthday celebration where they are reunited with all their friends from the other books, as well as characters from some of Baum's non-Oz children's books. A good time is had by all.

And now, since you've read this much, don't you want to go and read the whole thing? Of course you do.

1 comment:

casual ninja said...

Black, white, we all like Shaggy Man soup.

(my verification is bookhkh... a librarian's dying words? har.)