Wednesday, July 09, 2014

The Characters of Oz — Betsy Bobbin and Hank the Mule

So, picture this scene, a stormy night at sea. A young girl is washed overboard, but manages to keep afloat on a piece of flotsam and jetsam with a barnyard animal companion. Soon she washes up near the Land of Ev.

And that's how Betsy Bobbin made her entrance into the world of Oz! ... Except that it's exactly like Dorothy's arrival in Ozma of Oz. And if you remember the last Characters blog, you can likely guess the reason.

Betsy originated from The Tik-Tok Man of Oz musical, which was primarily based on Ozma of Oz. Dorothy could not be used as the stage rights to her character were tied up with The Wizard of Oz extravaganza. So, she was replaced with a character named Betsy Bobbin. A mule named Hank served as a comic companion, like Imogene the calf in Wizard. He also replaced Billina.

Thus, Betsy has often been ignored for other characters after Tik-Tok of Oz and widely considered to be Dorothy with a name swap.

To add insult to injury, poor Betsy gets less to do in Tik-Tok than Dorothy did in Ozma. After arriving in the Rose Kingdom, she's joined by the Shaggy Man, who helps her free Ozga, the Rose Princess. (Mirroring some of the action from Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz.) After finding Tik-Tok and falling in with the Army of Oogaboo, Betsy is mainly lost in the action as she tags along and falls down the Hollow Tube. Baum does follow her night with the Famous Fellowship of Fairies, which is just about the least plot-relevant chapter. After scaring Ruggedo by requesting eggs, Kaliko puts Betsy and Hank in his private room, where they sit out the rest of the action. Later, Betsy helps search for the Shaggy Man's brother and offers to kiss him.

Betsy appears to be an orphan. We may presume she was traveling with her family in the ship, which caught fire and sank. She seems strangely remorseless if that's the case. Perhaps she was already an orphan and was being sent to overseas relatives. She says she and Hank have nowhere to go, despite indicating that she lived in Oklahoma before. As a result, Ozma gives into Dorothy's request and brings Betsy and Hank to the Emerald City, so Dorothy can have a new girl friend.

Hank is a pretty typical mule, and doesn't speak throughout the adventure of Tik-Tok of Oz. Only when he arrives in the Emerald City does he begin to speak and believes Betsy to be the loveliest girl, while the Lion and Tiger believe it to be Dorothy, and the Sawhorse sticks up for Ozma to have this title. Ozma then rebukes all three for pitting friends against one another.

Betsy and Hank join Dorothy and the Wizard's search party in The Lost Princess of Oz, while Betsy winds up having an adventure in the kingdoms of Ev in The Hungry Tiger of Oz.

Once again I'll break with restricting mentions to the Famous Forty and bring up the Oz stories of David Tai, who gave Betsy a differing personality from Dorothy and the other girl who would soon be introduced to the Oz series. So far, he's only published one story featuring Betsy, in Oziana 2008. "Executive Decisions" sees Betsy take a practical, reasonable approach to her world view, in a contrast to Dorothy's high tolerance.

1 comment:

Nathan said...

I always liked Betsy, although it's true that she isn't all that developed. I appreciated some of her sassy comments in Tik-Tok. I believe Baum calls her "a shy little thing" in one of his books, which I guess would explain why she doesn't go adventuring as often as Dorothy or even Trot. In Hungry Tiger, she's dragged into the adventure and doesn't contribute all that much.

Also worthy of note are that she was Betsy Baker in some earlier drafts of the play, and that the name Betsy Bobbin probably comes from a nursery rhyme.