Saturday, June 19, 2021

This Week's Oz Short Story

The penultimate story in The Little Wizard Stories of Oz is "Jack Pumpkinhead and the Sawhorse", which features Ozmas first two friends from The Marvelous Land of Oz, as you can probably surmise from the title. Ozma sends the title pair off to the wilds of the Winkie Country to rescue two lost children. When they get there, Jack finds that the local squirrels have captured the children, punishing them for getting into the squirrels' stash of nuts to ease their hunger. Yeah, these are some bad squirrels! Jack unties the children, but by the time he's done with that task all the squirrels in the area have surrounded them, not allowing any of them to leave. In the process, Jack's head gets smashed in, and the Sawhorse steps up and takes control of the situation. He has the children get Jack's body into the saddle, then takes off with his legendary speed and gets them all out of there. The Sawhorse may have a lot of horse sense (a pun I'm surprised Baum didn't use), but his sense of direction isn't so good, and the little group gets lost. Luckily the Wizard arrives with the Cowardly Lion to straighten things out. He gets the children home at last (I have a sneaking suspicion that they're not going to go off wandering into the woods any time soon), then takes Jack to his pumkin home and carves a new head.

Like the rest of The Little Wizard Stories, this is pretty simple and straightforward, as Baum and the publishers were clearly aiming them at a younger audience. Jack may not be the smartest character in Oz, but he does show sense and compassion while he still has a head. Then the Sawhorse steps up and does what he's rarely been given the chance to do in the Oz books, and becomes a hero. True, he needs the Wizard's help in the end (I would have had the Sawhorse get the kids home and head to Jack's where the Wizard can meet them and carve the head), but his quick thinking at least got everyone out of immediate danger. And I'm concerned that the squirrels didn't suffer any consequences. While I think they were actually right to guard their nuts, I think the way they went about it was way over the top, and I'll bet Ozma or the Wizard would have come up with a clever compromise solution had they been there, maybe involving a new king.

Only one more story to go, and then it's back to Oziana! (Oh, you thought I was done with that, did you?)

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