Nathan (vovat) wrote,

Shaggy Is the New Well-Groomed

One character L. Frank Baum seemed to really enjoy writing was the Shaggy Man, a homeless tramp from the United States who had spent years wandering. He apparently moved around quite a bit, too, as The Emerald City of Oz has him mention visiting Mexico and Boston, yet we first see him in Kansas. In The Road to Oz, he comes to Dorothy's farm to ask which is the road to Butterfield, presumably the nearest town, so he wouldn't accidentally go there. He claims that the reason for this is that someone in town owes him fifteen cents and he doesn't want to collect it, but he later reveals that he stole a talisman called the Love Magnet from a girl there. As getting mixed up with Dorothy pretty much always results in adventures, it should come as no surprise that Shaggy and the Kansas girl ended up in a fairyland near Oz. Shaggy takes the odd events that transpire with an easy-going attitude, even when the King of Dunkiton gives him a donkey head. He also finds a way out of some of the more difficult situations, like when his baseball skills enable him to catch and dispose of the Scoodlers' heads. When he reaches Oz, Ozma offers him a home there, despite knowing that he stole the Love Magnet and then lied about it. Then again, the last American man she'd offered a home in Oz was the Wizard, who had conned the entire country for years. While I think it's foolish to read too many Christian themes into Oz (it's not Narnia, after all), I can't help thinking that repentant sinners like those two are people Jesus would have loved. Anyway, when Shaggy comes to live in Oz, it's definitely a change in his fortunes, yet his basic personality doesn't change. He still spends most of his time wandering, and while he wears much nicer clothes, they're still shaggy. His official job, according to the next book, is Keeper of the Royal Storehouses, but as Emerald City is the only book that really says anything about these storehouses, nothing comes of this later on in the series.

One thing I find interesting about Shaggy is that, after introducing him, Baum seemed eager to give him a significant role in every Oz book for a while. In Emerald City, he's part of the retinue that accompanies Dorothy and her aunt and uncle on their tour of Oz. In Patchwork Girl, he rescues Ojo and his friends from the man-eating plants, and then leads them to the Emerald City. As for Tik-Tok, while it's a little difficult to determine who the main character is, I think there's a good case that can be made for Shaggy filling this role. The story centers around his search for his lost brother, who's a prisoner of the Nome King. After that, however, Shaggy is given only minor roles, as if Baum realized he'd been overusing the character. Ruth Plumly Thompson never featured him at all, although she gave him a brief mention when recapping the plot of Tik-Tok in Kabumpo. As for John R. Neill, Shaggy MIGHT have been the "elderly man in scraggly clothes" who helps Tik-Tok with his painting, but it isn't entirely clear. Jack Snow, however, finally gives Shaggy his own book, in which he seeks out the Love Magnet's creator to have the talisman prepared, and ends up journeying back to Oz in the company of the American twins Twink and Tom.

An oddity of the Shaggy Man is that he's never officially given a name. Road refers to him simply as "the shaggy man," and later books capitalize this phrase and treat it as if it's his name. Even March Laumer, who gave names to a lot of established characters who didn't have them yet, refused to come up with one for Shaggy. In fact, I think the only book that does name him is Karyl Carlson and Eric Gjovaag's Queen Ann, in which he reveals to Ozma that his name really IS Shaggy, or, more accurately, Shagrick Mann. Shaggy's brother is even more mysterious. Tik-Tok reveals that he was a miner in Colorado before being kidnapped by the Nome King, who placed an enchantment of ugliness on him. Because of this, he's sometimes referred to as the Ugly One, but since that enchantment is broken before the end of the book, it's no longer accurate. Even though he comes to Oz to live with his brother, he's never given a major role after that, and the brief references he does receive simply call him "the Shaggy Man's brother." I've heard that the play on which Tik-Tok is based refers to the brother as "Wiggy," which is presumably a nickname, but still better than nothing. I've seen a few apocryphal books that named the character Ichabod, and Mark Haas's Emerald Mountain calls him Daniel. I've also seen it suggested (by Aaron Adelman, I think) that "Wiggy" could be short for William.

Before I close out this post, I feel I should mention Laumer's take on the character, which is that he's secretly in love with Dorothy. That's why he shows up at her farm in Road, and while they become close friends, he's too conscientious to ever actually do anything about it. This is an interesting interpretation, and a good lesson in this era of To Catch a Predator that not all pedophiles act on their urges (it's a mental illness, not a crime), but not how I prefer to see Shaggy. To me, he gets on so well with children because he's still childish himself in many ways.
Tags: books, characters, oz, religion

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