Sunday, September 20, 2020

This Week's Oz Short Story

The 2014 issue of Oziana started with a story set in Merryland, so it's appropriate that it ends with a story about Dot and Tot themselves. "Roselawn" by Jared Davis, with illustrations by David Baker, is set in 1919, after the end of World War I. Eva "Dot" Freeland, now an up-and-coming illustrator of children's books, has returned to her childhood home, Roselawn, to welcome home her old friend, American Expeditionary Forces soldier Matthew "Tot" Thompson. But the war has had a bad effect on Matthew, and he needs a lot of love and patience from Eva and the Roselawn staff to overcome his PTSD. Eva is finally able to break through by showing some of her illustrations based on their childhood trip to Merryland, even though he doesn't really believe it actually happened anymore.

This is a powerful, raw story of two old friends and how their friendship has endured through time and hardships. It ultimately has a happy ending, but we see a lot of the bad times Tot went through in Europe. This is in sharp contrast to the lighthearted fantasy these two first went through in Dot and Tot of Merryland. This story stands well enough on its own, but it really needs the reader to have read, or at least be familiar with, Baum's original book to truly understand it all. But that is easy enough nowadays to reckon with, as the book is in public domain.

1 comment:

Jay said...

I was reading Michael Riley's Oz and Beyond and while reading the coverage of Dot and Tot, I realized that Tot easily could have served in World War I. There was also the line "Tot might, in time, forget his visit to Merryland, but Dot never would" from Baum's book. The story quickly came together and I wrote an early version I posted on my blog.

David Tai wanted me to do a longer version where Matthew has seven different treatments that correspond to the seven valleys of Merryland. That was a bit much. He was also wanting a more dramatic depiction of PTSD. I wound up going for a quieter version and it seems that my handling of it connected with people. The idea that Tot isn't cured at the end, but he's talking to his friend again and opening up about how he feels, so that's a good development.

One thing I added to the Dot and Tot canon was a first name for Tot. Baum didn't give us a proper first name for him, we just know that his last name is Thompson. Eva's name is from Baum's book: Evangeline Josephine Freeland, so I used that as license to give Tot a name that didn't suggest "Tot" as a short version of. So, Matthew. It was a name that fit the period.

This is one of my favorite works of mine and I've had a few ideas for a further story about Matthew and Eva.