The twelfth Oz book seeks to answer a question that has been lingering since the series began. In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, it’s revealed that Nick Chopper became the Tin Woodsman because he had the misfortune of falling in love with Munchkin lass who happened be enslaved by the Wicked Witch of the East. The Wicked Witch didn’t like Nick distracting her servant so she enchanted his axe. Eventually, poor Nick chopped off every part of his body. As each amputation occurred, a friendly tinsmith replaced the part until he was all made of Tin. Unfortunately, he got caught in a rainstorm and rusted in place until Dorothy found him. Afterwards, he went with Dorothy in search of a heart, because he could no longer feel love. So, what happened after Nick got the heart? So far in the series, we never heard any mention that he went back to seek out the fair lass, whose mistress Dorothy dispatched when she dropped a Kansas farmhouse on her.
As The Tin Woodman of Oz opens, a munchkin named Woot the Wanderer pays a visit to the Tin Woodsman’s castle and they exchange stories. Woot asks what happened to the girl. The Tin Woodsman explains that although the Wizard of Oz gave him a kind heart, it wasn’t a loving heart, so he never felt the need to seek out the girl, who we learn is named Nimmie Amee. Woot and the Scarecrow call the Tin Woodman on this and inform him that it certainly wasn’t kind never to return to Nimmie Amee and let her know what happened. So they decide to go on a quest to find the munchkin lass. If she still wants to marry Nick, he will consent … out of kindness, of course.
As the quest proceeds, we learn a little of the history of Oz. We hear how the Fairy Queen Lurline saw Oz isolated by the deadly desert and turns it into a fairyland where no one can ever die. In this part of the novel, we learn, “…when Oz first became a fairyland, it harbored several witches and magicians and sorcerers and necromancers, who were scattered in various parts…” When I heard this part, I had to pause and consider the necromancers of Oz. In a weird way, the book doesn’t just mention this idea, it eventually explores the idea.
Over the course of their adventures, Nick, the Scarecrow, and Woot meet up with Pollychrome the Rainbow’s daughter and also find yet another tin man rusted in place in the very same woods where Dorothy had found Nick. This tin man is a soldier named Captain Fyter. It turns out that after Nick became a tin man and rusted in place, Captain Fyter came along and also fell in love with Nimmie Aimee, who was heartbroken because Nick had vanished. The Wicked Witch of the East enchanted his sword and the same fate that happened to Nick, happened to Captain Fyter. Like Nick, Captain Fyter went to a nearby tin smith and was rebuilt. The two tin men decide to visit Nimmie Aimee together to see if she will marry either of them. Nick and Fyter visit the home of Nimmie Aimee and find she’s no longer around. So they decide to visit the tinsmith who made them into tin men to see if he knows what happened to her.
Now, remember that bit about how no one can ever die in Oz? When they get to the tinsmith’s house, they find he isn’t around. Nick looks around the house, opens a cupboard and lo and behold he finds his old head! He then goes on to have a conversation with his old head and finds his old self somewhat disagreeable. What’s more, when the tinsmith returns, we learn that he used the organic or “meat” parts of Nick Chopper and Captain Fyter to create yet another creature he names Chopfyt, which we ultimately meet and find it has its own personality. In effect, we do learn that the tinsmith who made the tin woodman and tin soldier is kind of a necromancer of Oz, which leads me to ponder other story possibilities about other creatures we thought long gone.
I found this exploration of how much the tin woodman and the tin soldier are like their original human forms really fascinating because of how much the scenes anticipate science fiction of almost fifty years later where writers would contemplate what happens to consciousness when the mind is transferred into a robot or a computer. I edited one such novel called Upstart Mystique by Don Braden. You can learn more about it at: http://hadrosaur.com/UpstartMystique.php
Finally, before I sign off, the virtual CoKoCon is this coming weekend. I’ll be discussing such topics as exoplanets, the weird west, badass women of science fiction, speculative poetry and magical creatures. You can find the schedule and register to attend for free at: http://www.cokocon.org/2021/index.html. The convention is all virtual, so you just need Zoom and/or Discord to attend the events from wherever you happen to be. Hope you’ll join us!