This chapter is really more of a transition chapter where not a lot happens. It’s the calm before the storm. That honestly made it a lot harder for me to write–I fought my way through this chapter. In the original book, the transition from the Kalidahs to the Poison Poppies is only half a page. A half a page! I just couldn’t leave it at that. It felt like nothing was explained, building the raft was glossed over, and nothing happened in those few paragraphs other than they prepare to cross the river. But these characters have souls and I wanted to honor that in whatever way I could.
On a personal note, this raw writing took place on November 15th, 2021, day 15 of NaNoWriMo. It is now the beginning of January as I prepare to post this blog. I used the end of November to finish NaNo and was successful in my 50,000 words. I didn’t finish rewriting Oz (and didn’t expect that I would at that time) and I am certainly not up to date on sharing the chapters I did write; there was just too much to tell. December moved quickly, as it so often does, amidst family and holidays and bringing things to a close for the cycle of the year.
I will continue posting the raw writing from NaNo 2021 through the coming months. I hope you will join me as we get to know Dorothy and her friends; one of my favorite chapters is coming up and doesn’t resemble the original story at all. I will be working on finishing the story–Dorothy has been locked in her room in Oz, dressed in green silk, since the end of November. I think she’s waited long enough. Happy 2022.
This is an ongoing NaNoWriMo project in which I work to retell The Wizard of Oz. You can read about my project here and start with the first chapter here. You can read the original Wizard of Oz through the Guttenberg Project, and the very short section I am referring to can be found in the middle of Chapter 7, The Journey to the Great Oz.
Raw Writing Day 15
Coming to the River
Dorothy began to shake as they continued through the forest. She felt so tired and could hear the echo of the Kalidah’s screams behind her. She had seen them fall to their deaths; she knew they were dead, and yet their voices rattled through her memory. She had almost lost the Lion and the Woodman at the first divide. She had almost lost all of her friends at the second. She kept seeing the Kalidahs as they fell and the tears on the Woodman’s face, wishing that he did not have to kill. She began to weep quietly as they walked, looking only at the ground. Her pace slowed amongst the giant dark trees of the forest.
Dorothy opened her eyes and found that she was at the edge of the yellow brick road, the tips of her silver shoes in the dirt, trees just before her eyes. The Scarecrow, the Woodman, and the Lion had all stopped and were staring at her. Toto sat at her feet looking up at her with devotion. Dorothy realized that she had been walking half asleep, lost in her visions of the day.
“I’m so tired,” said Dorothy, turning back to her friends. “I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going.”
The Lion laid down upon his haunches. “Get on my back and I will carry you.”
“No, I can walk! Really I can. I don’t want you to have to carry me.”
Lion gave a little growl that was almost a purr. “Get on my back, Dorothy.”
Dorothy relented and climbed upon his back; the Scarecrow and Woodman helping her from each side. She wrapped her hands into the Lion’s mane and laid forward on her belly. Feeling safe and warm, she fell fast asleep.
She awoke when the pace of the Lion slowed. Opening her eyes she saw that the trees had thinned and there were blue skies stretching to the horizon. There was a large and swift river which roared before them. The yellow brick road traveled down to the river’s edge and disappeared beneath the swirling currents, reappearing at the far side.
On the other side of the river were open rolling hills covered thickly with deep scarlet flowers. The brick road on that side was lined with fruit trees; the fruit dripping like jewels in deep sapphire and ruby and gold.
“It’s so beautiful!” said Dorothy, sitting up on the lion’s back. “I can walk now, Lion.”
The Lion stopped and lay on his haunches and she slid to the ground. The trees were tall and willowy here and the Woodman and the Scarecrow stood back among them, talking quietly and looking at the river before them. Dorothy watched as the Lion and Toto lapped up water from the river’s edge and she realized how dry her throat was. She carefully made her way to the edge and cupped the water into her mouth, delighted at the cold as it wet her parched throat.
When her thirst was somewhat satisfied, although not completely quenched, Dorothy felt the grumble of hunger coming from her empty belly. She found a grassy spot near the edge and began to snack on the nuts from her pail. Soon, a gloved hand came to rest on her shoulder and Dorothy looked up into the Scarecrow’s torn face.
“The Woodman can’t cross without rusting,” he said. “How ever will we get across?”
Dorothy realized that she had given no thought to how they would actually cross the river. She stood and turned to look at her companions; the Woodman looked mournfully at the water.
“Do you think that he could ride on your back, Lion?” asked Dorothy.
“Let me see how deep it is,” responded the Lion and began to wade into the water. A few steps in and they could all see that the water deepened quickly, the current wrapping around his shoulders and pulling at his mane. He seemed to stumble as he turned back to the shore.
“It is possible that I could swim it, but it would pull me downstream some distance. The water is much faster deep under the surface, even near the edge, and it pulls the river bottom out from under my feet. Anyone on my back would have to hold on tightly, and even then, I am not sure that I could keep them above water.”
Again, they all looked at the river as it tumbled past.
The Scarecrow turned to look at the tall, narrow trees around them, dotting the landscape. If Dorothy hadn’t known that the Scarecrow lacked a brain, she would have been sure that he was contemplating something. Finally, the Scarecrow said, “Woodman, can you build us a raft?”
The Woodman looked at the thinning trees around them, many of them were young and narrow.
“I can cut them down and perhaps make a raft of these, but I will need something to help tie them together. Vines or long grasses that can be braided.”
The Woodman began to chop. Scarecrow walked down the river as the water flowed, looking for anything that might help bind the logs. Dorothy and Toto walked up the river, seeing what they could find to tie their raft. The lion stayed with the Woodman and carried the logs in his mouth, lining them up side-by-side on the shore.
Dorothy found beautiful stones and delicate trees, but nothing like the Woodman described. Toto sniffed and dug and jumped and played, but discovered nothing that would hold the logs together.
By the time she and the little dog returned, she found Scarecrow sitting next to the cut logs, braiding together long vine-like branches that were soft and pliable. The Woodman was at his side, twisting the braids around the logs, weaving the strips in and out. Sitting where she had left her bucket of nuts was a pile of fruit in various shades of purple.
“Scarecrow! Did you find these for me?”
“Yes, Dorothy. They are just beyond the curve of the river, and it seemed that you would like something after only eating the dry nuts all day.”
Dorothy took a deep bite and her taste buds prickled as the sweet juice ran down her chin. She hadn’t realized how hungry she was for something fresh. She ate three of the round, plump fruit, choosing those that were the deepest colors. They were soft to her touch, neither too hard nor bruised nor squishy.
Lion was laying away from the rest in tall grass, his head upon his paws.
“Lion,” said Dorothy, “while Woodman finishes the raft, would you like to take Toto to find some food?”
Toto jumped up, having heard his name, and ran to the Lion, running in circles around him. The Lion stretched longly and said, “Thank you, Dorothy. I believe I smelled deer not far from here.” Then he bounded back into the trees with the little dog at his side.
“What are you doing?” asked Dorothy and came to look over the Woodman’s shoulder.
“Scarecrow found us these branches and stripped them of their leaves. I showed him how to braid them and now I am tying the logs together. ”
Dorothy saw that the branches were very thin and had tiny curved diamond leaves. Scarecrow had made a pile of the leaves and was twisting the branches together to form long ropes.
“Where did you find these?” she asked the Scarecrow.
“The tree sat right on the edge of the river, just past the fruit tree. You could see it’s roots stretching out into the water. The branches curved up to the sky before bending down and hanging like hair. Under the branches, it was like being in a little house.”
“Is it far from here?” asked Dorothy.
“No,” answered the Scarecrow, pausing for a moment. “It is only a little past the fruit tree. Would you like to see it?”
“Yes, when you are finished doing what you are doing, I would.”
Scarecrow continued his rope-making and Woodman continued to weave the ropes through the logs. Dorothy lay on her back and watched the clouds pass overhead. She ate a bit more fruit and daydreamed of crossing the river. She imagined Oz welcoming her with a hug, his arms wide to her and her friends, happy to grant each of them their wishes.
The sun was low in the sky and the clouds were beginning to take on reds and yellows on the edge of the horizon when Scarecrow told Dorothy that he could show her the tree. The walk was much shorter than she expected and soon they were passing a tree thickly draped in fruit. Just beyond, at a curve ahead in the river, Dorothy saw the silhouette, sitting along the edge of the water. It appeared to be crying, hunched over the river, its roots stretching into the water as its leaves draped to the ground.
Scarecrow and Dorothy crawled through the outer branches and underneath was, as Scarecrow described, a little house. The side that faced the river protected a calm little shallow, where fish darted amongst the long branches.
Dorothy lay on the ground away from the water and said, “Scarecrow, do you think that we could sleep here tonight? I think that it would be warmer than out in the open. What do you think?”
Scarecrow seemed to think for a moment, pausing in his response, and finally, he looked down at her and said, “I think that that would be a very good idea.”
They returned to the Woodman to tell them their plan; only a deep purple was left fill the sky. The stars had begun to blink and twinkle and Lion was back with Toto at his side. Toto ran excitedly up to Dorothy, happy to see her, wagging his tail and telling her all about their adventure in his way of barks and yips.
The raft lay beautifully fashioned on the ground, tied with ropes made of the thin branches. It was large enough to hold even the Lion.
“I have almost finished,” said the Woodman, “but because it is dark, I will wait until morning.”
“The tree that Scarecrow found seems like a good place to sleep, ” said Dorothy. “It is covered and it seems warmer under the branches. Would that be okay with all of you? It’s not far from here.” Dorothy’s voice was hopeful.
They left the raft on the ground, for it was far too heavy to carry, and walked together to the weeping tree.
Under its branches, the Lion lay down and Dorothy cuddled close into his thick mane. Toto cuddled into her chest and fell fast asleep. The Woodman stood guard outside of the tree with his axe held ready. Scarecrow sat next to Woodman and watched the river flow, listening for any sounds that might mean danger.
The night passed and Dorothy began to feel like she was home.