Tin Woodman - The Books

The Books

In the books, the origins of the character are rather gruesome. Originally an ordinary man by the name of Nick Chopper (the name first appearing in The Marvelous Land of Oz), the Tin Woodman used to make his living chopping down trees in the forests of Oz, as his father had before him. The Wicked Witch of the East enchanted his axe to prevent him from marrying the girl that he loved, after being bribed by the lazy old woman who kept the girl as a servant, and did not wish to lose her. (In a later book of the series, The Tin Woodman of Oz, the girl is said to be the Witch's servant, and it is the Witch herself who decides to enchant Nick's axe.) The enchanted axe chopped off his limbs, one by one. Each time he lost a limb, Nick Chopper replaced it with a prosthetic limb made of tin. Finally, nothing was left of him but tin. However, Ku-Klip, the tinsmith who helped him, neglected to replace his heart. Once Nick Chopper was made entirely of tin, he was no longer able to love the girl he had fallen for.

In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy Gale befriends the Tin Woodman after they find him rusted in the forest, as he was caught in rain, and use his oil can to release him. He follows her to the Emerald City to get a heart from The Wizard of Oz. They are joined on their adventure by the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion. The Wizard sends Dorothy and her friends to the Winkie Country to kill the Wicked Witch of the West. The Tin Woodman's axe proves useful in this journey, both for chopping wood to create a bridge or raft as needed, and for chopping the heads off animals that threaten the party. When the Winged Monkeys are sent by the Witch of the West against the group, they throw the Tin Woodman from a great height, damaging him badly. However Winkie Tinsmiths are able to repair him after the death of the Witch.

His desire for a heart notably contrasts with the Scarecrow's desire for brains, reflecting a common debate between the relative importance of the mind and the emotions. This occasions philosophical debate between the two friends as to why their own choices are superior; neither convinces the other, and Dorothy, listening, is unable to decide which one is right. Symbolically, because they remain with Dorothy throughout her quest, she is provided with both and need not select. The Tin Woodman states unequivocally that he has neither heart nor brain, but cares nothing for the loss of his brain. Towards the end of the novel, though, Glinda praises his brain as not quite that of the Scarecrow's.

The Wizard turns out to be a "humbug" and can only provide a placebo heart made of velvet and filled with sawdust. However, this is enough to please the Tin Woodman, who, with or without a heart, was all along the most tender and emotional of Dorothy's companions (just as the Scarecrow was the wisest and the Cowardly Lion the bravest). When he accidentally crushes an insect, he is grief-stricken and, ironically, claims that he must be careful about such things, while those with hearts do not need such care. This tenderness remains with him throughout the series, as in The Patchwork Girl of Oz, where he refuses to let a butterfly be maimed for the casting of a spell.

When Dorothy returns home to her farm in Kansas, the Tin Woodman returns to the Winkie Country to rule as emperor. Later, he has his subjects construct a palace made entirely of tin — from the architecture all the way down to the flowers in the garden.

Baum emphasized that the Tin Woodman remains alive, in contrast to the windup mechanical man Tik-Tok Dorothy meets in a later book. Nick Chopper was not turned into a machine, but rather had his flesh body replaced by a metal one. Far from missing his original existence, the Tin Woodman is proud (perhaps too proud) of his untiring tin body.

A recurring problem for the Tin Woodman in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and afterward was his tendency to rust when exposed to rain, tears, or other moisture. For this reason, in The Marvelous Land of Oz the character has himself nickel-plated before helping his friend the Scarecrow fight to regain his throne in the Emerald City. Even so, the Tin Woodman continues to worry about rusting throughout the Oz series.

This, of course, is inconsistent, in that tin does not rust; only iron does. This may reflect the usage where an object made of iron or steel but coated with tin (in order to prevent rusting) is called a "Tin" object, as a "tin bath", a "tin toy", or a "tin can"; thus, the Tin Woodman might be interpreted (in English, at least) as being made of steel with a tin veneer. One passage in The Road to Oz, by Baum himself, wherein the Woodman attends Ozma's birthday party accompanied by a Winkie band playing a song called "There's No Plate Like Tin," strongly implies that this is the case. Another explanation may be that the Woodman is chiefly made of tin, with iron joints; in some of the illustrations, his joints are a different color from the rest of his body. In Alexander Volkov's Russian adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Volkov avoided this problem by the translation of "The Tin Woodman" as the "Iron Woodchopper".

The Tin Woodman appeared in most of the Oz books that followed. He is a major character in the comic page Baum wrote with Walt McDougall in 1904-05, Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz. In Ozma of Oz, he commands Princess Ozma's army, and is briefly turned into a tin whistle. In Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, he serves as defense counsel in the trial of Eureka. He affects the plot of a book most notably in The Patchwork Girl of Oz, in which he forbids the young hero from collecting the wing of a butterfly needed for a magical potion because his heart requires him to protect insects from cruelty. Baum also wrote a short book titled The Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman, part of the Little Wizard Stories of Oz series for younger readers.

In The Tin Woodman of Oz, Nick Chopper finally sets out to find his lost love, Nimmie Amee, but discovers that she has already married Chopfyt, a man constructed partly out of his own dismembered and discarded limbs. For the Tin Woodman, this encounter with his former fiancée is almost as jarring as his experiences being transformed into a tin owl, meeting another tin man, Captain Fyter, and conversing with his ill-tempered original head.

Baum's successors in writing the series tended to use the Tin Woodman as a minor character, still ruling the Winkie Country but not governing the stories' outcome. Two exceptions to this pattern are Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz, by Ruth Plumly Thompson, and Lucky Bucky in Oz, by John R. Neill. The biggest exception is in Rachel Cosgrove's The Hidden Valley of Oz, in which the Tin Woodman leads the forces in the defeat of Terp the Terrible and cuts down the Magic Muffin Tree that gives Terp his great size.

The fact that Nick includes the (apparently) natural deaths of his parents in the story of how he came to be made of tin has been a major element of debate. In his eponymous novel, he proclaims that no one in Oz ever died as far back as Lurline's enchantment of the country, which occurred long before the arrival of any outsiders such as the Wizard. (It should be noted, however, that although the living creatures of Oz do not die of age or disease, they may die of accidents or be killed by others.)

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