Cybernetic Ozites

When I wrote about science fiction elements in the Oz books, there were a few comments suggesting the Tin Woodman could count as a cyborg, since he had his fleshy parts replaced with metal ones. It’s a little difficult to make the call for a few reasons. What, exactly, qualifies a being as a cyborg? Wikipedia defines the word as “a being with both organic and biomechatronic parts,” and there’s no indication that Nick Chopper’s tin parts are mechanical. In fact, he’s clearly differentiated from the mechanical man Tik-Tok; L. Frank Baum writes in The Road to Oz that “one was alive and the other moved by means of machinery.”

The problem is that living metal isn’t an actual thing, at least as far as we know. Since Nick is able to control his tin parts with his mind, they obviously go beyond mere prostheses, even before you take into account his entire body eventually being replaced. So I don’t consider him a cyborg, but you could potentially make a case for it.

Although I was sticking with Baum in the earlier post, it does appear that Ruth Plumly Thompson wrote about a legitimate cyborg in Pirates. Clocker, the Wise Man of Menankypoo, is described as an enormous man with a wooden clock for a head. At one point, Ruggedo says that the clock man is “three times my size,” and since he’s said to be four feet tall elsewhere in the book, it might mean Clocker is about twelve feet tall. Like the other residents of Menankypoo, Clocker doesn’t talk, but he does tick. Also, every fifteen minutes, a cuckoo comes out of a door in his forehead with a yellow note of advice.

He can do other things in the meantime, but is unable to communicate verbally except through the notes. Later, we learn that “[i]n the cuckoo rested all of the Wise Man’s brains and intelligence.” The cuckoo clock man has a crafty, scheming personality, and was locked up in Kadj the Conjurer’s cave after filling the old King of Menankypoo’s head with ambitious ideas. After being crowned the new king, Ruggedo found and rescued Clocker, and the two of them came up with a scheme to conquer Oz.

Like many of the former Nome King’s allies, he secretly plans to betray his fellow conspirator at the last minute, but he never gets the chance. After the Nome is defeated, we find out that the Wizard of Oz “promised to replace his his bad works with good ones,” but we never learn how that turns out, and he never reappears in the series. So is he entirely mechanical? As far as I can recall, we don’t really know. Thompson writes, “He was dressed in the stately manner of the Menankypoos, but his head was of wood and his face was the face of a clock.” I guess we don’t know for sure that his body was flesh and blood, but since she calls attention to his head, it’s quite possible that it is. We’re also never told whether his clockworks are only in his head or in his body as well. Since he’s found in Kadj’s cave and is familiar with his magic, it’s possible that the Conjurer created him, but again we’re not specifically told.

It might also make sense to mention Clockwise, the Chief Tinkerer of Wyndup Town in Eloise Jarvis and Lauren Lynn McGraw’s Forbidden Fountain. Although his voice is described as “non-mechanical and ordinary” and he looks human, he is by his own admission “the only creature of my sort.” At least one of his ears can be extended as a cord and used as a light. In addition, “the man’s fingernails were screwdrivers of graduated size, his left thumb and index finger formed a pair of pliers, and his jeweler’s loupe actually grew out of his eye-socket.” He spends his time making and repairing wind-up toys that appear to have minds of their own, and is confused by anyone who doesn’t have clockworks and a key.

When Kabumpo stumbles across Wyndup Town, he guesses that Clockwise might eat nuts and bolts, but this is never confirmed. He also compares the tinkerer to Ippty, the Royal Scribe of Rash in Thompson’s Hungry Tiger, although it’s apparently only the scribe’s fingers that are unusual in a similar way. The fingers of his right hand are a fountain pen, a pencil, an eraser, and a stick of sealing wax, with a candle for a thumb and a pen knife as his left thumb.

At one point, he’s described as “sharpening the second finger of his right hand with the thumb of his left,” which makes me wonder whether these fingers can regrow. Otherwise, you’d think the pencil and the candle would have been used up years before. Ippty is a villainous sort who worked in a bookstore until the usurper Pasha promoted him. After Evered regained his throne, Atmos Fere took both the Pasha and Ippty to the Cloud Country to serve as specimens of life at the bottom of the air. J.L. Bell wondered whether Atmos’ fellow airmen would think Ippty’s fingers were standard for Earth dwellers.

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