Patchwork Relationships


Jared Davis recently wrote about relationships and sexuality in Oz, a topic that I’d addressed before. Jared and J.L. Bell have also commented on how a passage in The Tin Woodman of Oz has taken on a different but perhaps still appropriate meaning: “‘Well, perhaps our Emperor is queer,’ admitted the servant; ‘but he is a kind master and as honest and true as good tin can make him; so we, who gladly serve him, are apt to forget that he is not like other people.'” Since this is the book that portrays the Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow as akin to a married couple, the modern definition of the word “queer” might fit. Of course, Nick Chopper was engaged to a woman back when he was human, but found he was unable to love her upon losing his heart.

After getting one from the Wizard of Oz, he seemed totally uninterested in seeking out his old love Nimmie Amee, instead concentrating on his new role as Emperor of the Winkies. In Tin Woodman, he tells Woot the Wanderer that his heart is kind but not loving, and Woot argues that the kind thing to do would be to seek out Nimmie Amee and marry her. It turns out that Nimmie has moved on…well, sort of; and while NIck is somewhat jealous, he isn’t all that broken up over the fact. It might be tempting to read this turn of events as an indication that Nick has come out of the closet and found his true love in the Scarecrow. Really, though, does he have any libido at all as a tin man? He blames the loss of a heart for his loss of interest in Nimmie, but maybe it’s due to the lack of another organ entirely.

Jared mentions that the Scarecrow flirts with the Patchwork Girl, and that in turn her devotion to Popla the Power Plant in John R. Neill’s Runaway seems to go beyond mere friendship. If sex and reproduction are impossible for these beings, maybe monogamy isn’t such a big deal for them. Even in Gilbert Sprague’s Patchwork Bride, which marries off the Scarecrow and Scraps, they eventually decide to live apart because the straw man misses the Tin Woodman.

I tried to think of examples of married couples among the artificial constructs of Oz, and I did think of a few, but they were quite minor characters. Emerald City introduces the married baked goods Pop and Mrs. Over, and mentions other familial relationships among the citizens of Bunbury. King Christopher and Queen Christine of Crystal City, who are made of crystal, have an adult daughter who wants to get married herself.

And the wooden Hi-Los in Jack Snow’s Magical Mimics are another married couple with a child, in this case a boy named Charlie who goes to live with Edgar Bergen.

The Hi-Los were carved and animated by Princess Ozana, but we don’t know anything about the origins of the crystal people. Even in a fairyland, how can these couples have children? I’m not even sure I’d want to hazard a guess, although in some cases they might simply have been created as family units. That’s true for a lot of toy families, so the concept might seem natural enough to kids. It might also be appropriate to mention the Lollies and Pops from Scalawagons. There are six Lollies, each of whom has a Pop, and who consider each other cousins. Perhaps the Pops are brothers, but there’s no sign of any Moms.

Really, such issues as gender identity and familial relationships among artificially created beings often seem to be a result of appearance. The Scarecrow was made to look like a man, and the farmer who makes him calls him one. The Patchwork Girl, on the other hand, is created to be female. Nick Chopper was a human male before receiving his tin body, but if Ku-Klip had made him a body with stereotypically feminine characteristics, would he have become the Tin Woman instead? It wouldn’t have been the first sex change to take place in Oz. For that matter, could an artificial being created with a male form decide to identify as female instead? Well, why not? I get the impression that L. Frank Baum was largely thinking of how a child would likely see these magically animated beings. The Scarecrow is dressed like a man, and Scraps has long hair and wears a dress like a girl.

Except for the brief period she was dressed like this.
In a way, though, he was perhaps ahead of his time in suggesting that gender for such beings was more of a social construct, and sometimes a personal decision, than a rigidly defined concept. As for families, Jack Pumpkinhead identifies his creator as his parent, but the Sawhorse doesn’t. Mind you, it is a somewhat different case, as Jack is made by Tip and brought to life by Mombi, while the Sawhorse had already been made by someone else before being animated by Tip. Since Dr. Pipt was responsible for bringing both the Glass Cat and the Patchwork Girl to life, I suppose they could consider themselves sisters, but they don’t. Again, I think there’s a large amount of personal choice at work here. And communities of beings that were presumably artificially constructed, like Bunbury and the Lolly-Pop Village, might have their own ways of deciding how they’re related.

This entry was posted in Characters, Families, Gender, Jack Snow, Jared Davis, John R. Neill, L. Frank Baum, Oz, Oz Authors, Relationships, Ruth Plumly Thompson and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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