Meeting the Woodman | Oz – Day 10

One of the big trees had been partly chopped through, and standing beside it, with an uplifted axe in his hands, was a man made entirely of tin. His head and arms and legs were jointed upon his body, but he stood perfectly motionless, as if he could not stir at all.

L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Questions I had for today

What would the cabin look like in the daylight? Does it hint at the passage of time for the Woodman? In the book, the Woodman can already talk and can ask for oil, but if he has rusted, wouldn’t his mouth also be shut? How can Dorothy find the oil can without the Woodman’s help? In the original, the Woodman is standing. Would he still be standing after the passage of time, especially if he was chopping wood as he rusted?

This is an ongoing NaNoWriMo project in which I work to retell The Wizard of Oz. The original Wizard of Oz is a straightforward tale and I wanted to play with the emotions and details of the story. You can read about my project here and read the first chapter here.

Raw Writing Day 10

Meeting the Woodman

When Dorothy awoke in the morning, she saw that an old and tattered blanket had been laid over her.  Light was streaming through the holes in the roof.  There were ferns growing through the floor and trees were pushing between the wall boards, branches growing in and out of the windows. 

In the corner sat an old bed, the mattress rotten and collapsed to the floor.  A mouse stood on the edge of the blackened mattress, rubbing its little black eyes, and then darted back into a fabric hole.  In the other corner stood a rusted cookstove with an iron soup pot and a wooden spoon leaning against the inside.

Above the stove was a shelf with an old metal funnel and a can with a handle and a spout.   The can seemed familiar to her, something from Kansas, but she could not place it.

“Where is Toto?” Dorothy asked, sitting up and rubbing her eyes.

“Toto woke with the sunrise and has been in and out checking on you while you sleep.  I saw him, through the window, chasing a squirrel.”

“Did you find this blanket?”

“Yes, it was lying over the end of this bed.  I hope you don’t mind, you were shaking and I thought perhaps you were cold.”

“That was very thoughtful of you,” said Dorothy as she stood up, brushing the leaves from her hair and her dress.  She folded the mouse-eaten blanket and laid it over the end of the bed.  Walking to the old stove, she looked in the pot and saw that whatever had once been in it had long dried to the bottom, the spoon appeared stuck.  She couldn’t reach the shelf.  

“Scarecrow, can you reach that can with the handle?”

Scarecrow brought the can down and Dorothy could hear liquid sloshing about inside.  She opened the top and smelled it.  The smell was also familiar, but she wasn’t sure why.  Closing it up again, she poured a tiny bit from the spout onto the top of the stove.  It was a dark brown color.  She rubbed a tiny bit between two fingers. It was slippery and did not come off easily.  She wiped her fingers on the corner of the torn blanket.

“What is it?” asked the Scarecrow.

“I’m not sure.  I think it may be some type of oil, but I don’t know what it’s for.”  She set it on the cookstove.  “Scarecrow, can you reach that funnel for me?”

“What is a funnel?” he asked.

“The metal cup that is large at the top, but skinny and open at the bottom.”

The scarecrow reached up, took it from the shelf, and gave it to her.  Dorothy rubbed her finger on the inside. Whatever had run through it had become sticky and could not be wiped away. She set it back on the cookstove and turned back to Scarecrow. 

“We need to find water.”


“I’m thirsty, and I’d like to wash my face.  I feel the dust from the leaves all over me.  I’d like to try to wash this funnel too, it may be helpful to us later.”

As they left the small cabin in the woods, Toto ran up to Dorothy.  He carried a rat in his mouth, his tail wagging. 
“I see that you have caught yourself breakfast.”

Toto dropped it at her feet.

“No, you caught that yourself, you can eat it.  I have a bit of bread and cheese left”

Toto picked up the rat and followed them proudly as they walked back behind the cabin.  Soon, Dorothy heard the trickle of water and, following the sound, led them all to a little creek.  Dorothy wondered if it was an extension of the creek they sat at last night.  

Toto sat next to a tree and ate his catch while Dorothy splashed the cold water over her face.  She unbraided her hair and using her fingers, did her best to comb the tangles back into place.  She tried scrubbing the funnel, but whatever had once run through it was mixed with dirt and it was unyielding. 

Finally, she sat to eat.  She had only bread and cheese and a bit of dried fruit left and was grateful that the scarecrow didn’t need food and that Toto had found his own meal.

“It seems a hassle to be human,” the scarecrow said.  He was standing near the tree where Toto was eating.

“What do you mean?” asked Dorothy, between bites.

“You must eat, and sleep, and drink, and wash, all while having thoughts in your head.”

Dorothy started to laugh, “I suppose you are right.  It is quite a lot of work.  Perhaps you  are lucky after all, to be made of straw.”  

As she said the words, she thought she heard a groan coming from behind her.  The scarecrow gave a little jump and Toto began to bark.

“What do you think that was?” she asked quietly.

“I don’t know, I have never heard a sound like that before.”

Dorothy stood, leaving her pail and the funnel on the creek bank.

“There is is again!” she said.  It was louder this time.

Dorothy turned and began to walk slowly towards the sound.  Toto growled at her feet and the Scarecrow followed a few steps behind.

As she moved deeper into the forest, she thought she saw a glint of something on the ground.  It was covered in leaves and a heavy branch lay over it, but the sun was hitting it and she could see it glimmer in the morning light. Again she heard a moan, this time coming from the drift of leaves.

Toto ran up to it sniffing and growling, but then he began to dig and Dorothy saw more metal.

“What is it?” asked the Scarecrow.

“I’m not sure, can you move the branch?” 

While the Scarecrow lifted the wood, Dorothy knelt at the side of the pile and began brushing off the dirt and leaves. Underneath the leaves, she found an oddly shaped pile of metal.  It appeared to be a man made of tin, his body turned onto his left side, his face twisted into the dirt, his left arm twisted underneath him and buried in the ground.  Dorothy could see the shape of an axe extending from his hand.  

The man grunted a long moan, his mouth unmoving.  “Hlllllllmmmm Mmmmmm.”

Suddenly Dorothy remembered the strange can with the spout and the oil inside.  

“Oh!” She exclaimed, knowing now where she had seen it before.  Uncle Henry had one like it that he kept to keep the hitch on the wagon moving smoothly.  “I’ll be right back!”  She lept to her feet and ran back to the cabin, grabbing the oil can from the stovetop and the thin blanket from the edge of the bed.

When she returned, she found that the scarecrow had removed the rest of the leaves.  The Tin Man was tarnished and covered in brown-orange rust. The man continued to groan, the words inside his mouth stretching out insistently. 

“Hllllmmmmm Mmmmm!”

“I’m going to help.  Is this what you need?” She asked and held the can up.


Dorothy poured a bit of oil on the tattered edges of the blanket and began to rub it into the corners of Tin Man’s mouth.  Rust rubbed off on the blanket, but in time the tin man’s lips began to open and close.  Dorothy poured more oil directly onto the joints at the jaw and rubbed with the blanket until the tin was shiny and smooth.

“Ahhhh, my mouth moves.” The tin man let out a great sigh of relief as he lay there on the ground.  “Will you oil my eyes?  They have sat open for so long.”

Dorothy carefully ran the oil over the man’s eyelids and massaged with her cloth until they could close on their own.  

“Please, will you oil my neck?  I would like to turn my head again.”

Dorothy poured the oil at the base of the skull and around the jawline.  She poured the oil down the man’s spine.

“Scarecrow, I will rub the oil in with the cloth, but can you try to loosen the joints by moving them?”

And so while Dorothy went to oiling the man’s neck, Scarecrow gently tried to turn the head back and forth.  The rust and dirt were thick and, at first, the metal was frozen solid.  Scarecrow continued to work the metal as it began to squeak in protest.  Finally, the Tin Woodman was able to turn his neck on his own.

As Dorothy began to oil the man’s shoulder, she asked him, “How ever did this happen to you?”

“I was chopping wood to keep the cabin warm when a storm came in from nowhere.  It was very cold and I was moving slowly.  It began to snow and suddenly, I was frozen in place from the ice.  I could not lift my axe. I could not take a single step.” 

“I stood there while the rust took the place of the ice, growing thicker.  I waited for someone to come along, but no one ever did.  And then one day, I began to lean.  There was nothing I could do but wait.  Finally, I fell over, my face pressed into the dirt.  I have watched the seasons pass as the leaves and dirt pile up around me.  I could not close my eyes.  I could only watch the passing of time.”

Because of how he had fallen, Dorothy could only oil the tin man’s right side, and so she moved from his shoulder and arm, down to his hip, and finally his knee and ankle.  Scarecrow worked, bending each of the joints until the Woodman could do it on his own.  

“I’m not able to oil the parts of you against the ground, but once Scarecrow has your right side working, we will try to roll you on your back so that I can do the rest.”

Soon, Dorothy was working on the man’s left hip, and the man could sit.  And then he could stand.  Finally, all of his joints had been oiled and the man, with the Scarecrow’s help, was able to stand.  

“I would have laid there forever if you hadn’t come along.  I am eternally grateful.  What has brought you to this forest?”

“We are going to see the Great Oz who lives in the Emerald City.  We were told to follow the yellow brick road and we came across your cabin.  It was dark and so we stayed the night.”

“Why are you going to see Oz?” asked the tin man.

“I am going to ask him to help me find my way home to Kansas.  And Scarecrow is going to ask him for a brain.”

The Tin Man stood silent for a moment and then asked, “Would it be possible that I come along?”

Continue Reading – The Woodman’s Story (Day 11)

Chapters so far

NaNoWriMo Goals 2021

Day 1 – How Uncle Henry and Aunt Em find Dorothy

Day 2 – The tornado

Day 3 – Arriving in Munchkinland

Day 4 – The Munchkins and the Good Witch of the North

Day 5 – The Shoes and preparing for a journey

Day 6 – The Yellow Brick Road

Day 7 – Boq and the Birds

Day 8 – Helping the Scarecrow Down

Day 9 – Scarecrow’s Story

Today’s Curiosities

Vintage Oil Can Images

What Dogs Eat in the Wild

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