Friday, March 21, 2014

The Characters of Oz — Dr. Pipt

Ojo and Unc Nunkie decided to go to their nearest neighbors: the Crooked Magician and his wife Margolotte.

Baum tells us little of Margolotte. She seems rather content living as she is, though she makes a Patchwork Girl out of an old patchwork quilt her grandmother made so her husband can bring it to life and she can make it do all the work while she enjoys herself. She appears to be a kind woman.

The Crooked Magician was called Dr. Pipt and had been living in the Munchkin Forest for some time it seems. He is an old friend of Unc Nunkie, suggesting that his residence has been lengthy. His body is so crooked that he can stir four kettles with his arms and legs at the same time.

Presumably, Dr. Pipt's main output is the Powder of Life, a substance that takes six years to make. In The Patchwork Girl of Oz, he and Margolotte claim that he made the same Powder of Life that was used in The Marvelous Land of Oz, bringing to life Jack Pumpkinhead, the Sawhorse and the Gump.

I suggest that the Powder of Life has only been made twice by Dr. Pipt. The first batch—a large batch, it seems—worked very well, but the charm was activated by the phrase "Weaugh, Teaugh, Peaugh" and making certain gestures. And it seems—though no one tried it intentionally—wishing that the sprinkled item was alive would also work. When Dr. Pipt made his second batch, he revised the formula so no magic words or gestures would be required.

Fans have noted that the surfaces and containers that Dr. Pipt used to make the Powder of Life do not seem to be alive. Perhaps certain objects cannot be brought to life with the powder, due to them not having life-like features or being made of certain materials (a marble table or a golden vial). Or—some posit—these items are alive but are unable to express themselves due to a lack of features that would allow them to move or communicate. (Which is a pretty poor way to live...)

In The Patchwork Girl of Oz, it is said that Mombi gave Dr. Pipt a Powder of Perpetual Youth in exchange for the Powder of Life. The Youth Powder didn't work, and The Marvelous Land of Oz finds Mombi saying, "Why, here is a good chance to try my new powder! And then I can tell whether that crooked wizard has fairly traded secrets, or whether he has fooled me as wickedly as I fooled him." Presumably, the Powder of Youth is the wicked fooling Mombi was talking about.

However, The Marvelous Land of Oz has Tip find some of Dr. Nikidik's Celebrated Wishing Pills, and he says, "I remember hearing her (Mombi) say that she got the Powder of Life from this same Nikidik." So, who was Dr. Nikidik?

Personally, I think that Dr. Pipt marketed his wares under the name and guise of Dr. Nikidik so he wouldn't be bothered while making his powder. A man who could make pills that grant wishes (which must be a simple thing that he can do quickly or Margolotte made them under his instruction) or a powder that can give life to inanimate objects would be a very popular man indeed. So, as to avoid people coming to see him, he used a fake name (and possibly appearance, as Neill's single picture of Nikidik looks very different from Dr. Pipt) so they wouldn't be able to find him and disturb his work.

That would solve this continuity snarl, except The Road to Oz finds the Tin Woodman saying that, "the crooked Sorcerer who invented the Magic Powder fell down a precipice and was killed." His remaining items went to a woman named Dyna who lived in the Emerald City, and she accidentally used the Powder of Life to wish her blue bear (who had been made into a rug post-mortem) alive again, which made it come to life.

Is Dyna actually a relative of Dr. Pipt? Or was Nikidik a magician whose identity Pipt had taken (presumably after the real Nikidik had died or permanently departed Oz)? Or, perhaps the accident in which Nikidik was killed was staged due to Ozma's ban on magic so no one would ask after him, a false home being made so as to sell the idea of his death even further? Did Dr. Pipt himself claim that Dyna was a relative, as he believed her to be harmless? If it was to lay low because of Ozma's magic ban, it certainly seemed to have worked.

Aside from the Powder of Life and the Wishing Pills, Dr. Pipt made the Liquid of Petrifaction, which turned any object it touched into marble. It was useful in stopping some attacking Kalidahs and making certain household items more durable. Unfortunately, it had a downside, as seen in The Patchwork Girl of Oz. Among other achievements was creating qualities for manufactured people as powder, Ojo famously remixing the brains that Scraps would be given. He also knew how to enchant food so that it would not run out, which would be quite a boon to the Great Outside World.

At the close of The Patchwork Girl of Oz, Dr. Pipt's magic tools are confiscated and his body is straightened out. He is otherwise pardoned. But what became of him and Margolotte afterward? Did they move? Did Dr. Pipt really stay away from magic afterward? Perhaps Dr. Pipt assists the Wizard. Some stories outside of the Famous Forty pick up on these ideas, but the main series leaves him alone. Who knows, though?


Eric said...

I've heard this argument many times before, but I don't think Dr. Pipt and Dr. Nikidik are the same person. Why? Because otherwise, instead of making another whole batch of Powder of Life to restore Unk Nunkie and Margolotte in The Patchwork Girl of Oz, Dr. Pipt would have used some wishing pills instead. Unless they're even harder to make than Powder of Life, that should be a lot easier. Now, this does not mean that I think Mombi traded with Dr. Nikidik! My suspicion is that Nikidik and Pipt traded things at some time, and in the process, Pipt acquired something in a powder shaker that had a false bottom in which Nikidik had hidden some Wishing Pills. and either forgot about them, or meant them as a surprise to Dr. Pipt. Dr. Pipt never knew they were there, however, and reused the shaker for Powder of Life.

And while I'm at it, there's a very simple reason why the Powder of Life didn't affect any of the utensils used to make it: In The Patchwork Girl of Oz, Dr. Pipt couldn't use the Powder of Life until it was quite cold, although he could bottle it before then. So there must be a certain amount of time that must pass before the Powder will actually work. Anything that touches it before then is not alive.

Nathan said...

We don't really know the limits of the wishing pills, and it's possible that they couldn't have broken the petrifaction charm. Still, I prefer the idea that Pipt didn't know about the pills in the shaker he got from Nikidik earlier. Yes, Tip says that Mombi got the Powder of Life from Nikidik, but he could have been misremembering.