Nathan (vovat) wrote,

Let's Get Woozy

First of all, happy birthday to pixielust!

Next, what do you readers think of my making Oz character profiles a recurring feature on my journal? Well, I'll probably do it even if no one wants me to. I'm allowed to do things on here for my own amusement, right? Anyway, I'm going to start out with characters who seldom or never have major roles, but I quite like them. And what better character to start with than the Woozy?

The Woozy is introduced in The Patchwork Girl of Oz, and also travels with Dorothy's search party in Lost Princess. And after that, the poor guy was largely neglected. He received a few brief mentions in Thompson and Snow, and Neill occasionally drew him into scenes in which the authors don't specify his presence. Yet, for all his obscurity, he's a very popular character. I've seen several fans mention that he's one of their favorites. Why? Well, any other Woozy fans can offer their own opinions, but I think part of it is his oddness (even for Oz), and another part his affable and easy-going personality (which might also be part of why he rarely appears as a major character; what reason would he have to leave the comfort of the Emerald City?). He has strange and interesting powers, like the ability to flash fire from his eyes when angry, and to go without sleep for a month. At the same time, he's lovably pathetic in certain ways, as with his growl that he thinks is fearsome and horrible, but turns out to be a mere squeak.

Here's how the Woozy is described on his first appearance (Patchwork Girl, pp. 102-103):

The creature was all squares and flat surfaces and edges. Its head was an exact square, like one of the building-blocks a child plays with; therefore it had no ears, but heard sounds through two openings in the upper corners. Its nose, being in the center of a square surface, was flat, while the mouth was formed by the opening of the lower edge of the block. The body of the Woozy was much larger than its head, but was likewise block-shaped--being twice as long as it was wide and high. The tail was square and stubby and perfectly straight, and the four legs were each made in the same way, each being four-sided. The animal was covered with a thick, smooth skin and had no hair at all except at the extreme end of its tail, where there grew exactly three stiff, stubby hairs. The beast was dark blue in color and his face was not fierce nor ferocious in expression, but rather good-humored and droll.

Interesting that Baum suddenly switches from neuter to masculine pronouns right in the end of that last sentence. Also, I believe this is the only canonical mention of the Woozy's color, yet for some reason he's colored in brown in the illustrations. A poem used to promote Baum's silent film of Patchwork Girl also refers to the beast as brown-skinned, and I think the portrayal of him as brown instead of blue was what led to the surprisingly common misconception that the Woozy is made of wood, as the Hungry Tiger states in Wishing Horse. But he's actually a flesh-and-blood animal, with skin sort of like that as a hippopotamus, and an appetite for honeybees. It's because of this that the beekeeping Munchkin farmers pen him up, but when he's rescued by Ojo and brought to the Emerald City, he learns that he can eat pretty much anything. Lost Princess mentions that he's particularly fond of honey, perhaps because it has some of the flavor of the bees that make it.

While Baum leaves the origins of the Woozy a mystery (he's identified in Patchwork Girl as "the only Woozy that has ever lived," yet a letter from Baum to Neill specifies that he wasn't brought to life by magical means; does this imply that he's the result of some bizarre mutation?), some apocryphal works have given explanations for his singular existence. March Laumer's "The Woozy's Tricky Beginning" makes him the offspring of a union between a bear and a beehive (with some help from a mischievous pixie), and Gili Bar-Hillel's "The Woozy's Tale" claims that he was made of leather and brought to life by the Wicked Witch of the East. I'm not totally satisfied with either origin story, but I do like Gili's explanation as to why the words "krizzle-kroo" make the Woozy so angry.

And to close out this post, characters that I might well address in later installments of this series include Professor Wogglebug, Jellia Jamb, the Guardian of the Gates, Omby Amby, Kaliko, the Ork, Wag, Bill the Weather-Cock, Carter Green, and Herby. Any other suggestions?
Tags: books, oz
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