Saturday, February 13, 2016

This Week's Oz Short Story

Our excursion through The Purple Dragon and Other Fantasies by L. Frank Baum continues with another tale from American Fairy Tales, "The Dummy That Lived". It's a short little day-in-the-life story about a store window dummy (something Baum probably knew a lot about after his time as a crockery salesman and editor of the first journal for window dressers, The Show Window), mischievously brought to life by a yellow ryl. She copies what she sees the flesh-and-blood people around her do, but her wood and wax construction and lack of any experience whatsoever dooms her to, eventually, being run over by a car. She's still alive, however, and the police eventually put her in prison, where she is found by the department store owner, bereft of life after the ryl reverses his spell. While reading it, I thought of a similar character that Baum had recently created, the Scarecrow. Like the poor shop window dummy, the Scarecrow has only recently come to life, took a while to figure out that he was alive and what that meant, and eventually decided to go out into the world. Unlike the dummy, the Scarecrow had a couple of characters helping him—the crow and Dorothy—and a goal to get a brain. It also helped that he was on a farm, without many people around. The dummy, alas, wandered out into a big city with no friends or aims, and it did not work out well for her.

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