Review of Oz Book 12: The Tin Woodman of Oz (1918)
The twelfth book in Baum’s Oz series was The Tin Woodman of Oz and it was published in 1918.
This was a surprisingly good book that actually has a very relevant title as opposed to a few other books in this series (I’m looking at you, Tik-Tok of Oz). And the book’s plot fills in a lot of back story to the original Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
Ol’ Nick Chopper and The Wizard (he actually has no name and is only ever called The Wizard or Little Wizard) are telling tales in Chopper’s palace in the Winkie country. A wandering Gillikin boy named Woot arrives at the palace and begins asking how Tin Man became tin. Nick tells his origin in more detail about the witch Mombi cursing his axe and having his limbs cut off one by one. After each limb is cut off, he goes to a tinsmith friend of his named Ku-Klip to replace the limb until he was entirely made out of tin. After his accidents, Nick felt it wasn’t fair to marry his sweetheart, Nimmie Amee, since he didn’t truly love her any more due to not having a heart. So he leaves. This reminiscing causes Chopper to wonder what Amee is doing and to realize that he really should have married her like he promised.
So Nick Chopper, the Scarecrow, the Wizard and Woot travel to Munchkinland to see if Amee will still marry the tin woodman. They meet lots of adventures on the way and even come upon another tin man in the munchkin forest. This new tin man was a soldier named Capt Fyter who also fell in love with Nimmie Amee and had his sword cursed by Mombi in the exact same way as Nick Chopper. Which of course led him to Ku-Klip. He was caught in the forest many years ago and rusted in a rain storm. Obviously shocked by the similar circumstances of their creation this leads the group to seek out Ku-Klip the tinsmith to discover the whereabouts of Nimmie Amee. They also discover that Ku-Klip used the cut off human body parts of Nick Chopper and the Tin Soldier to create another person, Chopfyt (combination of the two names Chopper and Fyter).
From there they travel across Oz to where Nimmie currently resides to see if she wants to marry one of the tin men.
Aside from the copious amounts of back story we get on Nick Chopper, we also get a lot of back story about the Land of Oz itself. We learn that Oz wasn’t always a magical fairyland in which no one ages or dies. We learn that a fairy queen named Lurline bestowed upon Oz the fairy status and left one of her fairies to be its guardian. That fairy is Ozma. This sort of flies in the face of the second book, Marvelous Land of Oz, in which it was said that Ozma was just a long lost royal who was rightly returned to her family’s throne. Regardless, I really like this new back story. It was interesting from the beginning and Baum had a few nice surprises in store. I also really liked meeting Ku-Klip, the tinsmith who created the Tin Woodman.
From what I’ve read, the Oz books had begun to decline in popularity right before this book, but it became a huge hit and started a resurgence in Oz popularity. It even carried over into some of Baum’s other non-Oz books like John Dough and the Cherub.