Something to Crow About


I probably should start making a list of topics I’ve covered before. There are some broad topics I frequently return to, but when I end up with things like two separate but similar posts about the Egyptian scorpion goddess Serqet, it’s a little embarrassing. Google doesn’t always find them either. An Oz-themed Halloween story I recently wrote has some giant crows in it, and I thought I might not have done a post about crows in Oz before, but it turns out I did seven years ago. There were a few things I left out, however, in some cases because I hadn’t read some relevant material, so maybe it’s worth revisiting. One significant source is Jeff Rester’s “Cryptic Conversations in a Cornfield” from the 2011 issue of Oziana. It calls the crow who advises the Scarecrow to seek brains Solomon, while she was Kaggi-Karr (Russian onomatopoeia for a crow’s call) in the Magic Land books and he was Kuskar in The Mysterious Chronicles of Oz. It also mentions a bandit named Jim Crow, a reference to one of Baum’s Twinkle Tales, although that takes place in the United States rather than Oz.

“Jim Crow” is a racist term, but I don’t think there were any racial connotations in the Baum story; it’s possible that Jim was also kind of the default name for crows at the time, like Polly for parrots and Jenny for wrens. The Dorothy Haas easy-reader book Dorothy and Old King Crow has a crow with a crown, maybe but maybe not the same as the King Crow from the Little Wizard Story “The Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman,” enchant the Scarecrow. In “Cryptic Conversations,” Solomon refers to Old King Crow as self-appointed. In general, the straw man gets along all right with crows. The Little Wizard Story flat-out states, “He knew the crows well, however, and they had usually been friendly to him because he had never deceived them into thinking he was a meat man—the sort of man they really feared.”

His mansion has a figure of himself on top of it with ebony crows with ruby eyes perched on his head and arms, and the illustration in Emerald City has several other crow statues surrounding it, possibly a symbol of his friendship with those he was created to scare.

In the film His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz, he dances with a giant crow.

Other crows show up in the books but don’t interact with the Scarecrow, including the oversize croquet-playing crows of Gameland in Lucky Bucky; and Cornelius, the Royal Watch Crow of Septentria in Ozmapolitan who tries to sabotage Tim’s attempts to prove himself useful.

Margaret Berg’s stories have crows forming a message service called Crowegram Limited, and one of her recurring characters is a yellow-necked crow named Pone. I believe he’s identified at one point as the leader of the crows in the Winkie Country, but it doesn’t seem like these designations are necessarily all that official.

Corvids are also popular forms for magical transformations.

I had previously mentioned Kiki Aru turning himself into a magpie in order to steal money, but not the Wicked Wizard of Mo becoming a crow to steal Princess Truella’s toe for a spell.

In Grampa the titular character smokes some magic tobacco that turns “a company of captives” into crows for one hour with each puff. Grampa and his companions use the transformation to fly back to Oz from a floating iceberg in the Nonestic Ocean, the soldier becoming a crow with a game leg and Bill the Weather-Cock a cock’s crow, which means he’s invisible.

While Grampa takes the tobacco from the robber chief Vaga, it’s not clear where he got it. He might have stolen it from the wizard Gorba as he did the cure-all medicine and golden key, but it’s not specifically stated. It does appear to be the case that someone, whether Vaga, Gorba, or somebody else, was smoking it in the bandits’ forest, as it’s full of crows. And in Purple Prince, Ozma transforms Faleero into a raven.

This entry was posted in Animals, Characters, Dick Martin, Jeff Rester, John R. Neill, L. Frank Baum, Magic, Magic Items, Names, Onyx Madden/Jim Nitch, Oz, Oz Authors, Prejudice, Ruth Plumly Thompson and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Something to Crow About

  1. Pingback: I Like Birds | VoVatia

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