Ah, the Shaggy Man

The Shaggy Man of Oz

After I finished reading The Road to Oz, by L Frank Baum, I started contemplating on Wednesday that I would like to play the Shaggy Man, in a little theatre presentation of the Road to Oz.  This was after I wrote my short posting yesterday, On the Road to OZ.   I enjoyed the Shaggy Man a good deal, but he was revealed in my mind slowly, and I didn’t really “get” the full character until after I had “encountered” him a few times. As I was looking back over the book some during lunch on Wednesday, I realized that just as it took me many encounters to get fully acquainted with many of the “campers” I have grown to know, so it is with many of the characters in our real and literary worlds.

One of my contemplations (Goals? Fantasies?  Retirement Plans?) is to participate in some amateur theater after I retire.  (Maybe this is one of my okp’s (Off-Kilter Projects) that I wrote about a few weeks ago.  It may keep my brain exercised.)  I know it is good to be off-kilter at least some of the time.

I felt an affinity for the Shaggy man from the start, and he kept calling out to me as I read the book.

Here are some passages from Chapter 19 that I contemplated at lunch on Wednesday:

The shaggy man stood in the great hall, his shaggy hat in his hands, wondering what would become of him.  He had never been a guest in a fine palace before; perhaps he had never been a guest anywhere.  In the big, cold, outside world people did not invite shaggy men to their homes, and this shaggy man of ours had slept more in hay-lofts and stables than in comfortable rooms.  When the others left the great hall he eyed the splendidly dressed servants of the Princess Ozma as if he expected to be ordered out; but one of them bowed before him as respectfully as if he had been a prince, and said:

“Permit me, sir, to conduct you to your apartments.”

The shaggy man drew a long breath and took courage.

“Very well,” he answered.  “I’m ready.”

This reminded me of several of the guests that I have grown to know well, and to love, during my service at the Divine Intervention ministry.  It reminded me of some learning in a Bible study on “home” in 2011.  Until the end, I had never recognized the Shaggy Man as a homeless man.  I saw him only as a wise and good man.  Over time, that is how I came to see a good many other men these past few years.

“Be good enough to enter, sir, and make yourself at home in the rooms our Royal Ozma has ordered prepared for you.  Whatever you see is for you to use and enjoy, as if your own.  The Princess dines at seven, and I shall be here in time to lead you to the drawing-room, where you will be privileged to meet the lovely Ruler of Oz.  Is there any command, in the meantime, with which you desire to honor me?”

“No,” said the shaggy man; “but I’m much obliged.”

He entered the room and shut the door, and for a time stood in bewilderment, admiring the grandeur before him.

I think back to my youth and my young adult-hood and I know that feeling.  I have seen that bewilderment anew these past few years.

For a time the shaggy man gazed upon all this luxury with silent amazement.  Then he decided, being wise in his way, to take advantage of his good fortune.  He removed his shaggy boots and his shaggy clothing, and bathed in the pool with rare enjoyment.  After he had dried himself with the soft towels he went into the dressing-room and took fresh linen from the drawers and put it on, finding that everything fitted him exactly.  He examined the contents of the closets and selected an elegant suit of clothing.  Strangely enough, everything about it was shaggy, although so new and beautiful, and he sighed with contentment to realize that he could now be finely dressed and still be the shaggy man.  His coat was of rose-colored velvet, trimmed with shags and bobtails, with buttons of blood-red rubies and golden shags around the edges.  His vest was a shaggy satin of a delicate cream color, and his knee-breeches of rose velvet trimmed like the coat. Shaggy creamy stockings of silk, and shaggy slippers of rose leather with ruby buckles, completed his costume, and when he was thus attired the shaggy man looked at himself in a long mirror with great admiration.

I have seen these moments too!

Later, in chapter 20,

Now the shaggy man appeared, and so startling was his appearance, all clad in shaggy new raiment, that Dorothy cried “Oh!” and clasped her hands impulsively as she examined her friend with pleased eyes.

“He’s still shaggy, all right,” remarked Button-Bright; and Ozma nodded brightly because she had meant the shaggy man to remain shaggy when she provided his new clothes for him.

Dorothy led him toward the throne, as he was shy in such fine company, and presented him gracefully to the Princess, saying:

“This, your Highness, is my friend, the shaggy man, who owns the Love Magnet.”

There is then a confession, and, I think, some wonderful observations about love and feelings of being loved:

“You are welcome to Oz,” said the girl Ruler, in gracious accents. “But tell me, sir, where did you get the Love Magnet which you say you own?”

The shaggy man grew red and looked downcast, as he answered in a low voice:

“I stole it, your Majesty.”

“Oh, Shaggy Man!” cried Dorothy.  “How dreadful!  And you told me the Eskimo gave you the Love Magnet.”

He shuffled first on one foot and then on the other, much embarrassed.

“I told you a falsehood, Dorothy,” he said; “but now, having bathed in the Truth Pond, I must tell nothing but the truth.”

“Why did you steal it?” asked Ozma, gently.

“Because no one loved me, or cared for me,” said the shaggy man, “and I wanted to be loved a great deal.  It was owned by a girl in Butterfield who was loved too much, so that the young men quarreled over her, which made her unhappy.  After I had stolen the Magnet from her, only one young man continued to love the girl, and she married him and regained her happiness.”

“Are you sorry you stole it?” asked the Princess.

“No, your Highness; I’m glad,” he answered; “for it has pleased me to be loved, and if Dorothy had not cared for me I could not have accompanied her to this beautiful Land of Oz, or met its kind-hearted Ruler.  Now that I’m here, I hope to remain, and to become one of your Majesty’s most faithful subjects.”

“But in Oz we are loved for ourselves alone, and for our kindness to one another, and for our good deeds,” she said.

I love this simple resolution in a children’s book:

“All my people love the Wizard, too,” announced the Princess, laughing; “so we will hang the Love Magnet over the gates of the Emerald City, that whoever shall enter or leave the gates may be loved and loving.”

“That is a good idea,” said the shaggy man; “I agree to it most willingly.”

I think I shall look for a “love magnet” to put in the doorway–perhaps in several doorways, so that all who enter may know they are loved and are loving.

I do want to play the Shaggy Man.  Perhaps I may write an adaptation of the book some time!

No more OZ for a few weeks, my friends!

Back to poetry next Tuesday.  And it is about LOVE.

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About Tom Bolton

I'm a Husband and Dad, an Enterprise Systems Manager at the City of Milwaukee, and a Disciple and Lay Servant at First United Methodist of West Allis. I love working beside young people. As I study the Bible, sometimes I feel moved to work through my understanding by writing poetry. I also am going through a process to discern my calling, and to learn more about Christian Leadership. Sometimes I just feel like writing about something that grabs my attention too.
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