I think I’m starting to run out of topics for these Oz posts, and I have to wonder if anyone reads them anyway. I’ve already covered my personal favorite characters, and I’m getting to the point where there might not be any more characters significant enough to have posts devoted to them. Any suggestions would be welcome, and there might well be some I forgot in my disorganized approach. Anyway, today we turn to a character who’s pretty minor but still interesting, the Braided Man.
He first appears in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, in his workshop cave halfway up the subterranean Pyramid Mountain, in between the Valley of Voe and the Land of Naught. He has very long white hair and a beard, both of which he keeps in braids tied up with ribbons, hence his name. Well, I suppose “Braided Man” isn’t really his NAME, but it’s what Baum calls him. He originally lived on the surface of the Earth manufacturing portable holes, but he fell down a stack of post-holes and saved himself from falling into a flaming black sea by catching a point of rock on Pyramid Mountain. At his new location, he manufactured mostly ruffles and flutters.
When I first saw Who Framed Roger Rabbit, I thought of the Braided Man when I saw that Marvin Acme made portable holes. I suppose it’s a fairly common cartoon trope, but I have to wonder whether it existed prior to Baum. The idea of intangible objects being made portable is certainly an old one, and perhaps the Braided Man’s ruffles and flutters could be considered the literary descendants of Odysseus’ bag of wind. And Baum himself wrote in The Magical Monarch of Mo of the king escaping from a deep hole by turning it upside down, which is along the same basic lines. Does anyone know of any pre-Baum examples of holes being treated as tangible objects?
The Braided Man himself is friendly, but spends so little time with other people that he really has nothing to discuss but his ruffles and flutters. Ozma invites him to her birthday party in Road, and the Wizard of Oz has to get him to stop talking about his wares.
While Dorothy and the Wizard and Road are the Braided Man’s only two canonical appearances, there are actually two published stories entitled “The Braided Man of Oz.” One is a small, short book written by R.K. Lionel and published by Buckethead Enterprises of Oz that involves the man having adventures with a Gargoyle named Gorry. Unlike his fellows, Gorry doesn’t mind noise, and is even capable of speaking.
The other story is an Oziana piece by Eleanor Kennedy, in which the braided one’s flutters save the Emerald City from a long-distance magic spell, and the man is invited to live in Oz. Also, in Melody Grandy’s Disenchanted Princess, Tip visits the Braided Man’s cave on his way up Pyramid Mountain, but its inhabitant is absent.