Best Friends Forever and Even Longer

We’ve established that there aren’t very many ROMANTIC couples in the Oz books, but there are a whole lot of best friend pairs. Some people choose to make them romantic pairings as well, because that’s what fans of pretty much every fictional universe seem to want to do these days, but they’re not canonical. The Scarecrow and Tin Woodman are probably the most frequently used, but when they were first introduced there wasn’t much of a sense of their being close friends. Sure, they got along, but the story was more about how they both related to Dorothy rather than to each other. The stage play made the two of them a comic duo, however, and this likely led to their being largely inseparable friends in the later books.

This might also have been why L. Frank Baum decided to give the Cowardly Lion his own counterpart in the Hungry Tiger.

They walk shoulder to shoulder pulling Ozma’s chariot, and sit on either side of her throne during state occasions. The Marvelous Land of Oz also presented Jack Pumpkinhead and the Sawhorse as a pair of sorts, with the horse being intended as Jack’s steed because he had a hard time walking, and they are a team in the Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz comics and one of the Little Wizard Stories.

Since the Sawhorse becomes Ozma’s steed and Jack moves outside the Emerald City, however, they aren’t together quite as frequently in later books. The beginning of Lost Princess established Button-Bright and Ojo as best friends, but they weren’t all that frequently paired up in the rest of the Famous Forty.

Then there are Trot and Cap’n Bill, and while the Cap’n is sort of a surrogate father to the girl, they’re also best friends.

Betsy Bobbin and Hank also qualify, as do the Guardian of the Gates and the Soldier with Green Whiskers. Of course, these characters don’t always appear together, but such duos were definitely a recurring theme for Baum. Ruth Plumly Thompson tended not to feature these character pairs quite as much, although this was probably largely personal preference in many cases. She used the Scarecrow a lot, for instance, but Nick Chopper was more often than not just a supporting character in her stories. She did introduce a pair of constant companions in the Comfortable Camel and Doubtful Dromedary, but then apparently separated the two at the end of Yellow Knight.

John R. Neill went back to the Scarecrow and Nick usually appearing together, to the point where he made the Scarecrow King of the Munchkins, presumably for the sake of symmetry since the Tin Woodman ruled the Winkies. He also tended to pair up Ojo with Kabumpo, despite the fact that I don’t think the two even interacted in the Thompson books.

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7 Responses to Best Friends Forever and Even Longer

  1. caelesti says:

    I think non-romantic friendship is far too undervalued both in fictional depictions and in real life (and of course life reflects art or vice versa?) Even TV shows like Big Theory or well, Friends that are initially focused on a group of platonic friends tend to end up more focused on romantic relationships.

    • Nathan says:

      It could also signify a difference in how media for children and adults tend to operate. Children’s stories have a lot of non-romantic friendships, but the people who market fiction seem to think that anyone over the age of thirteen is only interested in friendship if it leads to romance.

  2. caelesti says:

    Oops, I meant Big Bang Theory, but guess you could probably figure that one out.

  3. Wasn’t it stated many times, especially in Thompson, that Dorothy was Ozma’s best friend??

    • Nathan says:

      Yes, although I think Thompson also once said the Scarecrow was her best friend, and of course Toto is her regular companion. Dorothy and Ozma definitely fit what I discuss in this post, although they don’t adventure together all that often.

  4. Pingback: Love is so strange, even in Oz |

  5. James Krych says:

    To us “moderns”, the concept of romantic friendship can seem quite alien. Similar in aspect is the extremely close comradeship many in the service can have.

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