Monday, December 30, 2013

The Characters of Oz — The Shaggy Man

Dorothy was home in Kansas once more. By now, she was becoming very used to disappearing off to the Land of Oz for a week or two to visit her friends before returning to Kansas.

As she stepped downstairs this morning after breakfast, she noticed Toto pawing near the front door. Smiling at her little dog, she let him out and stepped into the fresh, morning sun, smelling the warm August breeze.

"Please, miss," said a voice from the road, "can you tell me the road to Butterfield?"

Dorothy looked over and saw a strange man by the road, looking at her. He had a shaggy beard and hair, and his clothes were a little tattered and hung from his body loosely, looking very shaggy. His boots had definitely seen better days. He chewed slowly on a piece of oat straw. He smiled warmly and his eyes looked very kind. And looking at him, Dorothy had to smile herself. Surely he would do her no harm.

"Oh yes," she replied; "I can tell you. But it isn't this road at all."

And that was how Dorothy began her fourth visit to Oz, as related by Baum in The Road to Oz. She attempted to help a new character that Baum only ever called the Shaggy Man find the way to Butterfield, only to get lost herself, and soon wound up journeying to Oz with a trio of new friends.

The Shaggy Man makes major appearances in three of the Famous Forty: The Road to Oz, Tik-Tok of Oz, and The Shaggy Man of Oz. He plays important secondary roles in The Patchwork Girl of Oz and to a lesser extent in The Emerald City of Oz and The Lost Princess of Oz.

As with many of Baum's characters, we know little of the Shaggy Man's backstory, but we do get a number of clues. Tik-Tok of Oz tells us that he has a brother who was a miner in Denver, Colorado. Perhaps this is their home town. Perhaps they were orphaned children who always lived on the street, but The Patchwork Girl of Oz says the Shaggy Man "knew how to telegraph a wireless reply," so it seems he's had some learned some leading technology. For whatever reason, he decided to live as a tramp. Baum depicts him as being quite well-traveled in the continental US.

Perhaps the reason for the Shaggy Man's tramping may be found in a line from The Road to Oz: "I don't want money, my dear... Money makes people proud and haughty. I don't want to be proud and haughty. All I want is to have people love me..."

Before we try to paint the Shaggy Man as a romancer, it is more likely Baum simply means that he wants to be friends with people. Unfortunately for the Shaggy Man, given that he seems to travel with only the clothes on his back and we don't know how often he got to bathe, he was probably not widely welcomed.

However, his fortune changed when he visited the town of Butterfield (possibly the one in Missouri) and discovered there a young woman who many men were attracted to. The Shaggy Man liked her as well, but thought it was odd that everyone was falling for the same woman. Somehow, he discovered her long line of suitors was due to a magical talisman called the Love Magnet, and realizing that this might help him make more friends, he stole it. After this, he noted that only one man was still attracted to the young woman and they seemed to be happy, so he moved on. He invented a story about how he got it from an eskimo in the Sandwich Islands who was eaten by a grizzly bear afterwards.

Sometime after this, he met Dorothy, asking her the road to Butterfield not to visit it, but to avoid it. He told her that a man there owed him fifteen cents, a debt he did not want repaid. Perhaps this was a lie and he was afraid of being asked about the Love Magnet.

Somehow, he and Dorothy wound up on a road in the southern borderlands of Oz, near a strange crossroads that branched off in seven directions. The Shaggy Man told Dorothy to pick the seventh one from which Dorothy began to count, and they were off on the road to Oz.

Along the way, they met Button-Bright and Polychrome, the Rainbow's daughter. During the trip to Oz, Shaggy was given a donkey's head by King Kik-a-bray of Dunkiton. Later, it was his cunning that let them escape the Scoodlers, and he used the Love Magnet to summon Johnny Dooit (who probably helped him in the past) to help them cross the Deadly Desert. In the Winkie Country, Dorothy and her friends found the Truth Pond, and after bathing in it, the Shaggy Man's head was restored.

However, the Shaggy Man realized a downside to the Truth Pond's magic: he could no longer lie. Thus, when Ozma asked him about the Love Magnet, he had to reveal his theft. However, Ozma decided to let him stay in Oz, and he let her hang the Love Magnet over the gates of the Emerald City. Shaggy was given a room at Ozma's palace, and a new wardrobe which was stylishly shaggy.

Perhaps it really shouldn't be counted as Oz canon, but Baum dedicated The Road to Oz to his first grandson, Joslyn Stanton Baum, and in the copy of the book he gave to the parents for his grandson, he wrote a tiny story about how Joslyn had been blessed by the people of Oz, including the Shaggy Man pressing the Love Magnet on the baby's brow.

The Shaggy Man joins Dorothy, Aunt Em and Uncle Henry and the other people on the grand tour of Oz in The Emerald City of Oz, but offers little except sneezing in the land of the Cuttenclips and offering some comments her and there. (In Walt Spouse's comics adaptation of the book, the Shaggy Man was removed entirely, the sneezing reassigned to Uncle Henry and no other harm to the story done.)

The Shaggy Man returns again in The Patchwork Girl of Oz, having become an experienced traveler in Oz. He rescues Ojo and his friends from the man-eating plants by the side of the road, and then leads them through other obstacles to the Emerald City. He gets to sing a song about the Land of Oz, but in the Emerald City, the story leaves him behind.

He features more prominently in Tik-Tok of Oz in which he discovers that the Nome King kidnapped his brother, Ozma sending him to Ev to ask the Nome King for his freedom, later sending Tik-Tok to assist him. They both wind up befriending Betsy Bobbin and Hank the Mule, and later accompany Queen Ann's army of conquest. After a number of difficulties (including a fall through a tube to the other side of the world and the Nome King turning the Shaggy Man into a bird briefly), Shaggy finally recovers his brother.

In The Lost Princess of Oz, these two set out in a search party to find Ozma, but their adventures remain—to my knowledge—unchronicled.

The Shaggy Man vanishes from the Oz books during Thompson's run. (Aside from the Wizard, Thompson used few of Baum's regular human male characters.) Jack Snow finally brought him back with his own book, The Shaggy Man of Oz. The Shaggy Man goes to Conjo's Island to get the Love Magnet fixed when it breaks. That night, after the Magnet is fixed, Conjo steals the Shaggy Man's means of returning home, leaving him to find his own way back to Oz with the clown Twiffle, and the captured twins Tom and Twink. Through the group's efforts (and help from their friend the King of the Fairy Beavers), they manage to reach Oz before Conjo can do any serious harm.

To me, the Shaggy Man was a little similar to the Wizard. Yes, he came from a rough American background, but there was much more to him than meets the eye. I had the idea that the Shaggy Man was actually a very smart man and once had the idea of writing him as a detective. I actually tried this in the "Ruby Ring of Oz" round robin tale, but a good idea ran into poor execution.

What I particularly like about the Shaggy Man is that he isn't a clearly good guy. Despite his somewhat shady start in The Road to Oz (leading a girl of 10 or 11 away from her home without her guardians), he turned out to have a heart of a gold. Even his theft of the Love Magnet turned out to be a good thing in helping the young woman finally find someone who truly loved her, not just someone attracted by the Love Magnet.

Speaking of which, was Baum on a Shakespeare kick with The Road to Oz? The Love Magnet is akin to the love flower of A Midsummer Night's Dream, and—like Bottom—Shaggy is given a donkey's head.

I think there's quite a bit more to the Shaggy Man than we know. Maybe some other Historians will tell us more. (And yes, I know about Queen Ann in Oz by my friends Eric Gjovaag and Karyl Carlson, but I won't spoil that one for you.)


Mike said...

Nice connections to the Bard, Jared!

Have you read "The Oz/Wonderland Chronicles" comics? Shaggy Man makes a very amusing entrance in the first issue, which is set in the contemporary world, with 20-somethings Dorothy and Alice. He approaches them on the street, innocently asks if they have seen his love magnet, and gets written off as a pervert. I am making it sound like a worse moment than it is - it's quite funny, and the series is written by Ben Avery, who has tremendous affection for and knowledge of Baum's Oz books. The first trade paperback, especially, is quite good. I highly recommend the whole series.

I'm reading "Road to Oz" with my six-year-old daughter right now... we just read about Shaggy Man's transformation last night. So thanks for a timely post!

J. L. Bell said...

It might be worth noting that "the Sandwich Islands" is an old name for Hawai'i, so the likelihood of the Shaggy Man's story about an Eskimo and a grizzly bear there was small.