The Woodman’s Story | Oz – Day 11

“After this the enchanted axe cut off my arms, one after the other; but, nothing daunted, I had them replaced with tin ones.”

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum

Thoughts for today

I think the Tin Woodman’s story in Baum’s original story is just about the most heartbreaking story in the book. It is also one of the most problematic. It’s never discussed in the film, and rightfully so, it’s gruesome.

Essentially, the Woodman falls in love with a Munchkin girl but SHE only promises to marry HIM if he’ll build her a better house. (Male authors, male authors in the 20th century,… are these the views we have on women?)

Reading this automatically bothers me; why can’t it be that the Woodman is so in love that he wants to show his affection by building her a house? Why can’t it be that she is the one who doesn’t care about such things?

Baum’s story goes on to tell us that the girl lives with an awful old woman who is SO LAZY (really???) that she goes to the Wicked Witch of the East because she’ll do anything to have this girl continue to do the cooking and the housework. (Getting a better feel of Baum’s feelings about women yet?)

So the old woman gives the witch two sheep and a cow because witches care about these things? The Witch enchants the Woodman’s axe and it systematically begins to chop off his limps. But Woodman is honestly like, “This at first seemed a great misfortune, for I knew a one-legged man could not do very well as a wood chopper.”

Yep, that’s his response to getting a leg chopped off which he has replaced with a tin one. Finally, all of his limbs are chopped off and then his head and eventually his body is chopped in half. He no longer has a heart, could care less for the girl and her tortured life as a slave to a selfish old woman, and egocentrically is in love with his tin body that can no longer be hurt by an axe, plus, you know, it shines in the sunlight.

Yeah, that’s the story of the Woodman. I just have to do better. Let me know what you think of the Woodman’s story in the comments below.

This is an ongoing NaNoWriMo project in which I retell The Wizard of Oz. You can read about my project here or start with the first chapter here.

Chapter 6 continued, Raw Writing Day 11

The Woodman’s Story

“Of course you can come to the Emerald City with us!” said Dorothy.

“We would be grateful for your company,” said the Scarecrow.  

Toto barked and hung back, hiding behind the trees.  He was not as comfortable with the man made of tin, but he had not seemed comfortable with the scarecrow at first either.  

They all walked back to the cabin, Toto trailing far behind.  Dorothy picked up the funnel lying next to the stream and repacked the little bit that was left of her breakfast.   

Once near the cabin, the Woodman said, “I will need to bring the oil can, in case we meet a storm.  I would like to fill it before we leave, with your help?”

Inside, the Woodman looked around at his cabin and the trees growing through the walls.  “It was not like this when I left the last time.  It used to be a home, and now it is a forest.”  His voice was low and regretful and Dorothy could feel his sadness.  “I guess I will not need this place anymore, and should I someday come back, I will build another.”  The Tin Woodman walked to what looked to Dorothy like a dairy can in the corner.  She hadn’t noticed it earlier as a tree had grown in front of it and it appeared to be lodged in place. 

“What is that?” asked Dorothy.

“It is all the oil I own in the world.” It took some time for the Woodman to free it and then walked to the cook stove, looking at the shelf that hung above it.

“I wonder where my funnel has gone?”

“Oh!  I have it here,” said Dorothy, pulling it from her lunch pail.

Scarecrow held the small oilcan still on the floor while Dorothy held the funnel in place over its opening.  The Woodman lifted and poured the oil until the can was full.

“This will have to do until we reach the Emerald City,” he said.  He closed the large oil can and placed it near the wall. Dorthy closed the small oil can so that it would not spill.  She took the food out of her lunch pail, there was so little of it now, and placed the oil can in the bottom where it sat crookedly, tight against the sides. She rewrapped the food and set it on top.

“I will carry the lunch pail for you Dorothy,” said the Scarecrow.

“And I will hold the axe, in case we have need of it,” said the Tin Man.

They walked back to the yellow brick road and the brick eye of Oz showed them their way. Dorothy, Scarecrow, and the Woodman walked side by side while Toto ran ahead.  The road was rough and the trees grew between the bricks.  The further they walked, the closer the forest came to surround them and the thinner the path became; its outer bricks now scattered among the plants.  

Toto had an easy time navigating the spaces as they narrowed but Dorothy found herself squeezing between trees and helping Scarecrow over branches.  Finally, they came to a place in the road that was impassable.  The Woodman held up his axe and began to chop.  He cleared the branches and logs, giving them a new path, walking ahead of them to clear the forest. The bricks were so thick with dirt that only an occasional glint of yellow showed the way.  For some time, the Woodman continued ahead of them. He never spoke, the only sounds were of his chopping blade.

In time, the trees began to recede from the center of the path and their way became clear again, although still worn and dirty and damaged. Dorothy became less attentive to the Scarecrow, watching Toto ahead as he lept at a brilliant blue dragonfly.

Suddenly, with a great crash and a yelp, the Scarecrow went tumbling and rolling to the side of the road.  He sat there, rubbing his head, a bit of old hay falling from his mouth.

“I’m sorry Scarecrow!  I was distracted watching Toto.”

“It’s okay Dorothy. I think that I am starting to figure it out, but I was watching Toto too and was wishing that I could run and jump the way he does.”

“Why do you fall?” asked the Tin Woodman.  

“Because I don’t have a brain and I am a fool,” said Scarecrow sadly.  “That is why I am going to see Oz.”

“I had a brain once,” said the Tin Man, “but it is my heart that I miss.  That is why I wish to go to the Emerald City.  Do you think Oz will give me a heart?”

“It’s hard to know,” said Dorothy, “but if he will give Scarecrow a brain, I don’t know why he would not give you a heart.  What happened to you?”

“Many years ago, I do not know how many because I do not know how long I’ve laid in the forest with my face in the mud and my head buried in leaves, I fell in love with a Munchkin woman.  I had been raised in the forest, flesh and blood, like you Dorothy.

My father was a woodsman and sold the wood to the Munchkin people.  He taught me his trade and as a teen, I worked at his side.  Before I hit my 20th birthday, my father died.  I promised my mother that I would care for her for as long as she lived.  After my father died, her sadness was so deep, there was nothing I could do to bring her out of it.  She wasted away, and in a year, she joined my father in death.

I was lonely in the forest, so began spending more time with the Munchkin people.  I continued to chop the wood for them and traded it for food.  I never starved and the Munchkin people became my friends. They brought me into their homes and told me their stories.  There was a young woman in the flower fields, they called her Iris.  Her eyes were lavender and her hair was a pale red sunrise.  

I fell in love. Deeply in love, and she loved me.  I wanted to marry her, but I wanted to build her a beautiful home first.  She told me it didn’t matter, that she would come live in the small cottage.  But I didn’t want to make her live in the one room and I didn’t want to isolate her deep in the darkness of the forest.  I began to build her a home on the edges of Munchkin Land so that I could return to the forest for wood and she would be close to her people.

Her father, his name was Lox, wanted her to marry one of their own kind. Not someone like me. He was powerful, serving on the Council of the Munchkins.  He dealt directly with the Witch of the East.  She was cruel and she stole from the Munchkins, but there were those on the council who worked with her, willing to sacrifice whatever she asked so that she would leave them in relative peace. They did not want war with the witch.

Lox so desperately wanted me away from his daughter that he went to the witch and, in exchange for her killing me, he would give her the secrets of the council. She agreed and he became her spy.  In return, she put a spell on my axe.

One day, I was out chopping wood to build the house for my Iris, and the axe acted as if it had a life of its own. I swung it at a tree and it turned back on me, opening my right thigh.  I fell to the ground in agony and watched my blood soak into the ground. I wrapped my leg in my coat and pulled myself back to the cabin.

Iris came and found me after I didn’t return to the land of the Munchkins, delirious with fever. Pus and blood had soaked through the wrappings. An infection had set in and I was close to death. She found herbs in the forest that kept me on the edge of life, neither in this world nor the next. She brought the Munchkin doctor, but there was nothing that could be done. He took my leg.

She found me a small, one-roomed home just outside of town and cared for me while I healed, never staying too long for fear of retribution from her father. She knew that he did not want us to marry, but she didn’t suspect how much he hated me. She had other healers care for me when she couldn’t. My dear Iris brought in a tin smith who created me a leg of metal.  In time I healed and returned to the forest to chop wood.

She begged me to marry her. She said she would come with me to the forest, or we could live in the small house outside of town. But I was stubborn and wanted to build her a house with my own hands.

Iris’s father was angry that I had not died.  He watched as she cared for me and when I lived, he went back to the Witch and threatened that he would stop giving her the secrets of the council.  The Witch told him that her magic continued to work in me and that magic, dark magic, often took time.

When I went back to the forest, my axe again turned on me. This time it chopped deep into my left hip.  Unknowingly, Iris had sent a very small Munchkin man who hid within the trees to watch over me. She gave him herbs and instructions on how to care for me, should I be hurt again. He was able to move me to the cabin and give me the herbs that kept me alive. Then, riding his pony which had been left to graze just beyond the trees, he rode to Iris who again brought the doctor. I did not get an infection, but the wound was too deep and the Munchkin doctor took my left leg and hip. 

Again, Iris took me to the small home outside of town and cared for me. The tinsmith made for me my left leg. The little Munchkin who had watched over me in the forest told Iris that it was as if my axe had been bewitched, that it had flown from my hands. She pleaded with me to find another axe, but this one had been my father’s. I did not believe in bewitchment and thought that perhaps I had been clumsy.

Her father, angrier than before, went back to the witch and the witch told him to wait. That the spell was working its magic and it was only a matter of time.

Iris begged for me to marry her so that she could be with me always. She wanted to live in the cabin in the woods.  She wanted to leave Munchkinland. Still, I was stubborn.

Again, the axe turned on me, chopping off my left arm in a single stroke.  Iris, by this time, had begun to follow me into the forest and she heard my cries.  She took me to the cabin and cared for me there, not caring that the Munchkin people would spread gossip about us, alone together in the forest.  She brought her medicines and in time, the tinsmith created for me an arm.

Iris begged me to go away, to go with her to the Emerald City.  I believe that she had begun to suspect her father, but she did not know how he had bewitched the blade.  He never spoke kindly of me and told her that he did not wish for her life to be difficult, that he only wanted for her to marry someone like them.  He told her that her life would be hard, much harder if she married a man outside of the Munchkin tradition.

Still, I believed that I could change his mind.  But I would not change his mind if I took her away, and so I begged that she stay with her family until our house was finished.  She, afraid of what would happen to me, but also trying to keep peace with her family, sent a Munchkin to watch over me through the days.

When I swung my axe once again, the axe took my right arm.  I watched it fall to the ground as if in a dream.  The little Munchkin carried me back to the cottage.  I begged him not to tell Iris of my arm, and to please bring the tinsmith.  Instead, he brought Lox, Iris’s father.

“Haven’t you had enough?” her father asked me.

“All I want is to build your daughter a home.”

He grew suddenly angry, “I do not want my daughter to marry you!  You are not her equal.”

He did not know that Iris was standing outside the door.  When she heard his words, she no longer cared what the world thought.  She came into the cabin and told her father, ‘This is the one that I love.  Why can you not understand?’

Her father left, he was full of anger.  He went to the witch, threatening to expose her to the people of Oz, threatening to expose the council for working with her.

The witch of the East was not used to his anger. She held her tongue and told him, “The time is coming.”

Iris stayed with me in the cottage and begged me not to go out.  She sent a crow to bring the tinsmith and he once again created for me an arm. She begged me to leave with her as soon as possible, to leave the land of the Munchkins.  But I was stubborn. I did not want to prove to her father that I was not worthy of her.  

I told her that there was nothing left that the axe could do to me.  It had already taken my legs and my arms.   I told her that I was quite safe.  But I was wrong.

The witch’s spell continued to work upon my axe and as I raised it to chop down a tree, the axe turned on me and I watched as my head fell from my body.  My head lay in the leaves and I watched my body fall to the ground. 

I should have been dead, but Iris had begged Locasta, the good witch of the North to put a spell over me.  Locasta was not as strong as the witch of the North, but her spell allowed Iris to keep a small part of me alive until the tinsmith could build me a head.  The spell of the Good Witch kept my spirit around me so that even though I was mostly made of tin, I could still remember all that Iris and I had shared.

Oh, how I still loved her, even though I no longer had a brain.  For it was my heart that belonged to her.  My recovery was long and she cared for me every day.  She made me her medicines and they were full of love. I believe it was the love she put in her medicines that truly kept me alive, more than the spells of the Good Witch would.

One day she could not find the exact plant she needed so she returned to the village, knowing it grew along the river there. While there, people turned and whispered. Finally, she overheard someone speaking that her father had made a deal with the witch and that I would continue to die, bit by bit, until there was nothing left of me.  She tried to get back to me, tried sending a message with the crows, but she was too late.

I had gone into the forest.  The only thing left of me was my chest and deep inside, my heart, so full of love for her.  She was all I could see of my future, this woman.  I was blinded to the evil nature of the witch, blind to my own stubborn nature. I never understood why her father hated me so much. I knew I was a good man.

I raised my axe and when I swung it, it cut through the tree in a single stroke. Through the tree, it turned on me, cutting me open.  It left my heart exposed and the corner of the axe nicked my beating heart. I lay on the ground, feeling the love beat out of me, listening to my heart slow.  When it stopped, I had become so much Tin Man, that I did not die.  But I no longer felt anything.  

The crows that Iris had sent gathered around me. They sang a song of sadness as I lay in a world of nothing.

Iris followed their song and found me, falling to her knees.  She screamed at the world around us, wailed in grief.  I felt nothing.  The tinsmith came and built me a chest, but it was hollow.  He attached my head, my arms, and my legs, but I was empty.  

Iris tried to make me love her again, but I could feel nothing for her.  I told her to return home where she would find someone else to love.  She begged me to let me stay, but I was indifferent.  In time she returned to the Munchkin people.  I have never seen her again.

In the years that I lay in the forest, unable to move, I thought about Iris.  I realized what a great loss it was, to have no heart.  It made me wish to love again, to not feel this emptiness inside.  Perhaps, if Oz sees fit to give me a heart, perhaps I will find Iris again.  Perhaps she will forgive me. 

I expect that she is married now. Perhaps she has grown old. I wish to tell her how I felt and that I am sorry that I was a stubborn man. I should have done as she asked and married her. I should have taken her away. But how was I to know?”

Dorothy found that she had tears running down her cheeks.  Their walking had slowed as the Tin Woodman told his story.  Now they stopped and Dorothy turned to look at him, “You are a great man,” she said.  “It is my dearest wish that Oz gives you a heart.”

Scarecrow, not having the capacity to think before he spoke, said, “I don’t know what I would do with a heart if I did not have a brain to understand love.”

To this, the Tin Woodman responded, “Having had both, I know that it is our hearts and not our brains that make us happy.”

Dorothy stood and thought about what each had just said.  She wasn’t sure if either of them was right or if either of them was wrong.  Was it the ability to think that allowed someone to love?  If she did not have a brain and only had a heart, could she live a truly happy life?  What she did know was that she was feeling very hungry and that the tiny bit of food left in her pail would not last long.  

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

Day 10 – Meeting the Tin Woodman

No Research Today…

Just my feelings about the original that you read at the top.

You can read Baum’s original story here.

Similar Posts


  1. For such a gruesome chapter, you made it very lovely! I hope the Tin Woodsman will be able to find his way back to his true love. Great job Anna!

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting! Poor Iris, I think she must be traumatized. I’m not sure on her story yet, but I would love if she isn’t yet too old, and maybe they can have another chance once Woodman has a heart (or realizes he can still love after all)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *