Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Tin Woodman of Oz

The Tin Woodman of Oz (1918) is my new favorite of the later-period Oz stories. So forgive the extensive quoting below, and believe me -- it is totally worth it.

It starts as a quest between the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, and a little boy named Woot the Wanderer to journey back to the Tin Man's hometown and find the girl he was supposed to marry before he rusted in the forest. Back in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz when Dorothy and the gang oiled his joints and rescued him from the rust, the Tin Man realized that he didn't have a heart and couldn't love this girl, Nimmie Amee, anymore -- which is why he asked the Wizard of Oz for a new heart. Alas, the Wizard only had kind hearts and not loving ones, so the Tin Man still couldn't love the girl who loved him. The group decided, though, that as a matter of duty, he should present himself to Nimmee Amee, marry her, and make her the Empress of the Winkies.

Nimmie Amee was in love with the Tin Man when he was Nick Chopper the woodcutter, but she was the servant of the Wicked Witch of the East (the one Dorothy's house falls on later), and the witch enchanted Chopper's axe so that he cut off his own limbs one by one. Luckily, Chopper knew this tinsmith that fashioned tin limbs for him as his meat limbs were cut off, eventually finishing him off with a tin head when the witch had that cut off as well. Did all this tin dissuade Nimmee Amee from loving Chopper? Of course not...

"'I am sure, my dear Nick,' said the brave and beautiful girl -- my name was then Nick Chopper, you should be told -- 'that you will make the best husband any girl could have. I shall not be obliged to cook for you, for now you do not eat; I shall not have to make your bed, for tin does not tire or require sleep; when we go to a dance, you will not get weary before the music stops and say you want to go home. All day long, while you are chopping wood in the forest, I shall be able to amuse myself in my own way -- a privilege few wives enjoy. There is no temper in your new head, so you will not get angry with me. Finally, I shall take pride in being the wife of the only live Tin Woodman in all the world!'

Makes a lot of sense... The three companions get in all kinds of hijinks and adventures on their way across Oz, including getting trapped in the castle of a giantess and fighting their way through an invisible kingdom. Eventually the get to the forest of the Tin Man's youth, when, to their surprise, they run into another tin man who has rusted in the forest. After oiling him up, the man tells them that he is Captain Fyter, and he fell in love with Nimee Amee after the Tin Man never showed up for their wedding (since he was rusted in the forest at the time). But could Nimee Amee love Fyter as much as Chopper?:

"She told me he [Chopper] was nicer than a soldier, because he was all made of tin and shone beautifully in the sun. She said a tin man appealed to her artistic instincts more than an ordinary meat man, as I was then. But I did not despair, because her tin sweetheart had disappeared, and could not be found. And finally Nimmie Amee permitted me to call upon her and we became friends. It was then that the Wicked Witch discovered me and became furiously angry when I said I wanted to marry the girl. She enchanted my sword, as I said, and then my troubles began. When I got my tin legs, Nimmie Amee began to take an interest in me; when I got my tin arms, she began to like me better than ever, and when I was all made of tin, she said I looked like her dear Nick Chopper and she would be willing to marry me."

When the group can't find Nimee Amee at her house, they go to Ku-Klip the tinsmith's where both of their new tin bodies were built. The two tin men reminisce about the times they had there:

"It seems almost like home to me," he told his friends, who had followed him in. "The first time I came here I had lost a leg, so I had to carry it in my hand while I hopped on the other leg all the way from the place in the forest where the enchanted axe cut me. I remember that old Ku-Klip carefully put my meat leg into a barrel -- I think that is the same barrel, still standing in the corner yonder -- and then at once he began to make a tin leg for me. He worked fast and with skill, and I was much interested in the job."

"My experience was much the same," said the Tin Soldier. "I used to bring all the parts of me, which the enchanted sword had cut away, here to the tinsmith, and Ku-Klip would put them into the barrel."

"I wonder," said Woot, "if those cast-off parts of you two unfortunates are still in that barrel in the corner?"

This is where it gets really good. All those cast-off parts were put to use, and the Tin Man even finds his head in a cupboard and has a little conversation with himself (note: the head is a real jerk). Since no one can die in Oz, the body parts all retained their liveliness even though they were no longer attached to their owner. This gave Ku-Klip an idea:

"Who is Chopfyt?"inquired Woot.

"Oh, haven't I told you about Chopfyt?" exclaimed Ku-Klip. "Of course not! And he's quite a curiosity, too. You'll be interested in hearing about Chopfyt. This is how he happened:

"One day, after the Witch had been destroyed and Nimmie Amee had gone to live with her friends on Mount Munch, I was looking around the shop for something and came upon the bottle of Magic Glue which I had brought from the old Witch's house. It occurred to me to piece together the odds and ends of you two people, which of course were just as good as ever, and see if I couldn't make a man out of them. If I succeeded, I would have an assistant to help me with my work, and I thought it would be a clever idea to put to some practical use the scraps of Nick Chopper and Captain Fyter. There were two perfectly good heads in my cupboard, and a lot of feet and legs and parts of bodies in the barrel, so I set to work to see what I could do.

"First, I pieced together a body, gluing it with the Witch's Magic Glue, which worked perfectly. That was the hardest part of my job, however, because the bodies didn't match up well and some parts were missing. But by using a piece of Captain Fyter here and a piece of Nick Chopper there, I finally got together a very decent body, with heart and all the trimmings complete."

"Whose heart did you use in making the body?" asked the Tin Woodman anxiously."

"I can't tell, for the parts had no tags on them and one heart looks much like another. After the body was completed, I glued two fine legs and feet onto it. One leg was Nick Chopper's and one was Captain Fyter's and, finding one leg longer than the other, I trimmed it down to make them match. I was much disappointed to find that I had but one arm. There was an extra leg in the barrel, but I could find only one arm. Having glued this onto the body, I was ready for the head, and I had some difficulty in making up my mind which head to use. Finally I shut my eyes and reached out my hand toward the cupboard shelf, and the first head I touched I glued upon my new man."

"It was mine!" declared the Tin Soldier, gloomily.

"No, it was mine," asserted Ku-Klip, "for I had given you another in exchange for it -- the beautiful tin head you now wear. When the glue had dried, my man was quite an interesting fellow. I named him Chopfyt, using a part of Nick Chopper's name and a part of Captain Fyter's name, because he was a mixture of both your cast-off parts. Chopfyt was interesting, as I said, but he did not prove a very agreeable companion. He complained bitterly because I had given him but one arm -- as if it were my fault! -- and he grumbled because the suit of blue Munchkin clothes, which I got for him from a neighbor, did not fit him perfectly."

Well, eventually the two tin men find their former sweetheart and present themselves as bridegrooms for her to choose between. As you might guess, Nimee Amee wasn't just pining away for the Tin Man all these years, and managed to find herself a new husband, who really reminded her of her former beaus, for some reason. Plus he had one tin arm.

[And, of course, you can always read the whole thing for yourself right here.]

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