Thursday, May 26, 2016

So who IS my favourite character in The Wizard of Oz?

I found myself writing this mini-essay in response to someone who posted something on Facebook about The Wizard of Oz. It's something I maybe, oh maybe wrote about already, but I want to write about it again because, ohhhh, I just do!

Everyone plays that game where you ask people, "So. Who was your favorite character in The Wizard of Oz?" Almost everyone chooses the Lion because he does slapstick comedy (really, old-fashioned vaudeville) so well, and sings in that quavery voice like every hammy tenor you've ever heard. But the point of the game is that your choice is supposed to reveal your deepest inner nature. One day it came to me, not so much "who is my favorite" as "who is the most important character?" NO ONE ever mentions this, I swear. It's not Dorothy or the Tin Man or Scarecrow or even the Wizard.

It's Toto.

Think about it: if it weren't for Toto, there would be no story at all. If Toto hadn't (deservedly) bitten Miss Gulch, she wouldn't have taken him away in her basket and Dorothy wouldn't have had to go rescue him (which in fact she didn't have to: he got away!). And thus, when the "twister" came up, she would've been at home and just gotten into the storm cellar with everyone else.

But no! She landed in Oz, where Toto always ran on ahead of her and was her companion and guide. It was Toto who discovered the Scarecrow and Tin Man, Toto who flushed out the lion from the bushes (feisty little thing), Toto who got away from the Witch when Dorothy was imprisoned in the castle (remember him jumping off the drawbridge?) and ran to alert her three friends so they could rescue her.  And all this with the Witch's evil henchmen throwing spears at him!

AND. . . (drum roll, please - this is turning into a blog post!) - just who was it who pulled back the curtain and revealed that the Wonderful Wizard of Oz was in fact a fraud? 

At any rate, this Timeless Tale would not even exist without that scrappy little Cairn terrier, who is not a cute or a glamorous dog at all, nor even a Brave and Noble dog. He's just Toto, scruffy and nondescript. He's a little implausible as a farm dog, unless maybe he was a ratter (and can't you picture it? This dog is not afraid of anything). Dorothy is in some ways the classic heroine in that, at one point, she is literally imprisoned in the tower and must be rescued by the three heroes. But it is Toto who actually does the rescuing, risking his own doggy life in the process.

 I'm not sure what-all this says about me. Hmmmm - greatness is never recognized?

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