The Wizard of Oz: Honorary Free-Ranger

Readers — One of you just sent in this remarkable excerpt from “The Emerald City of Oz,” one of 13 “Wizard of Oz” sequels L. Frank Baum  churned out. Interestingly, Baum’s Wikipedia bio says that, “His works anticipated such century-later commonplaces as televisionaugmented reality, laptop computers…and the ubiquity of advertising on clothing.”  Looks like he also anticipated “worst-first thinking.”  Read my recent posts and you’ll see how they almost ALL would fit into this Oz story:

Lions and tigers and bears are nothing compared to predators, plastic and disappointing playdates!

Lions and tigers and bears are nothing compared to predators, Pop-Tart guns and disappointing playdates!

23. How They Encountered the Flutterbudgets

They were soon among the pretty hills and valleys again, and the Sawhorse sped up hill and down at a fast and easy pace, the roads being hard and smooth. Mile after mile was speedily covered, and before the ride had grown at all tiresome they sighted another village. The place seemed even larger than Rigmarole Town, but was not so attractive in appearance.

“This must be Flutterbudget Center,” declared the Wizard. “You see, it’s no trouble at all to find places if you keep to the right road.”

“What are the Flutterbudgets like?” inquired Dorothy.

“I do not know, my dear. But Ozma has given them a town all their own, and I’ve heard that whenever one of the people becomes a Flutterbudget he is sent to this place to live.”

“That is true,” Omby Amby added; “Flutterbudget Center and Rigmarole Town are called ‘the Defensive Settlements of Oz.'”

The village they now approached was not built in a valley, but on top of a hill, and the road they followed wound around the hill, like a corkscrew, ascending the hill easily until it came to the town.

“Look out!” screamed a voice. “Look out, or you’ll run over my child!”

They gazed around and saw a woman standing upon the sidewalk nervously wringing her hands as she gazed at them appealingly.

“Where is your child?” asked the Sawhorse.

“In the house,” said the woman, bursting into tears; “but if it should happen to be in the road, and you ran over it, those great wheels would crush my darling to jelly. Oh dear! oh dear! Think of my darling child being crushed into jelly by those great wheels!”

“Gid-dap!” said the Wizard sharply, and the Sawhorse started on.

They had not gone far before a man ran out of a house shouting wildly, “Help! Help!”

The Sawhorse stopped short and the Wizard and Uncle Henry and the Shaggy Man and Omby Amby jumped out of the wagon and ran to the poor man’s assistance. Dorothy followed them as quickly as she could.

“What’s the matter?” asked the Wizard.

“Help! help!” screamed the man; “my wife has cut her finger off and she’s bleeding to death!”

Then he turned and rushed back to the house, and all the party went with him. They found a woman in the front dooryard moaning and groaning as if in great pain.

“Be brave, madam!” said the Wizard, consolingly. “You won’t die just because you have cut off a finger, you may be sure.”

“But I haven’t cut off a finger!” she sobbed.

“Then what HAS happened?” asked Dorothy.

“I–I pricked my finger with a needle while I was sewing, and–and the blood came!” she replied. “And now I’ll have blood-poisoning, and the doctors will cut off my finger, and that will give me a fever and I shall die!”

“Pshaw!” said Dorothy; “I’ve pricked my finger many a time, and nothing happened.”

“Really?” asked the woman, brightening and wiping her eyes upon her apron.

“Why, it’s nothing at all,” declared the girl. “You’re more scared than hurt.”

“Ah, that’s because she’s a Flutterbudget,” said the Wizard, nodding wisely. “I think I know now what these people are like.”

“So do I,” announced Dorothy.

“Oh, boo-hoo-hoo!” sobbed the woman, giving way to a fresh burst of grief.

“What’s wrong now?” asked the Shaggy Man.

“Oh, suppose I had pricked my foot!” she wailed. “Then the doctors would have cut my foot off, and I’d be lamed for life!”

“Surely, ma’am,” replied the Wizard, “and if you’d pricked your nose they might cut your head off. But you see you didn’t.”

“But I might have!” she exclaimed, and began to cry again. So they left her and drove away in their wagon. And her husband came out and began calling “Help!” as he had before; but no one seemed to pay any attention to him….

At the next street corner a woman rushed up to them crying:

“Save my baby! Oh, good, kind people, save my baby!”

“Is it in danger?” asked Dorothy, noticing that the child was clasped in her arms and seemed sleeping peacefully.

“Yes, indeed,” said the woman, nervously. “If I should go into the house and throw my child out of the window, it would roll way down to the bottom of the hill; and then if there were a lot of tigers and bears down there, they would tear my darling babe to pieces and eat it up!”

“Are there any tigers and bears in this neighborhood?” the Wizard asked.

“I’ve never heard of any,” admitted the woman, “but if there were–“

“Have you any idea of throwing your baby out of the window?” questioned the little man.

“None at all,” she said; “but if–“

“All your troubles are due to those ‘ifs’,” declared the Wizard. “If you were not a Flutterbudget you wouldn’t worry.”

“There’s another ‘if’,” replied the woman. “Are you a Flutterbudget, too?”

“I will be, if I stay here long,” exclaimed the Wizard, nervously.

“Another ‘if’!” cried the woman.

But the Wizard did not stop to argue with her. He made the Sawhorse canter all the way down the hill, and only breathed easily when they were miles away from the village.

After they had ridden in silence for a while Dorothy turned to the little man and asked:

“Do ‘ifs’ really make Flutterbudgets?”

“I think the ‘ifs’ help,” he answered seriously. “Foolish fears, and worries over nothing, with a mixture of nerves and ifs, will soon make a Flutterbudget of any one.”

Then there was another long silence, for all the travelers were thinking over this statement, and nearly all decided it must be true. 

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24 Responses to The Wizard of Oz: Honorary Free-Ranger

  1. Nate May 1, 2014 at 7:33 am #

    This is a great example of how the Oz series was as much satire as it was a children’s book.

    Like Gulliver’s Travels, parts of this series have many hidden layers of subtlety.

  2. MichaelF May 1, 2014 at 8:20 am #

    hahahaha…I’ve only read one of the books to my sons so far, and like Alice in Wonderland it goes over their heads. I have noticed some subtlety in there and some sarcasm on the state of society. Baum definitely knows how to skewer.

    Swift was a political satirist, so his books were not meant to be children’s stories at all, but I agree he did put many layers of subtext in especially on the politics of his day.

  3. Crystal May 1, 2014 at 8:23 am #

    That is BRILLIANT.

  4. Suzanne May 1, 2014 at 8:28 am #

    Now I want to read the whole book

  5. BL May 1, 2014 at 8:59 am #

    Evem the most hard-core free-rangers might have trouble with recommending that their kids take tornado rides in farmhouses.

    I’m just sayin’.

  6. Silver Fang May 1, 2014 at 9:04 am #

    I read this years ago and was floored by what a brilliant prophet Baum was.

  7. Warren May 1, 2014 at 9:05 am #

    Shhhhhhhhh, dont say he predicted anything. They will want the books pulled from libraries for promoting witchcraft.

  8. Emily May 1, 2014 at 9:59 am #

    I’ve tried to watch The Wizard of Oz, and I’ve tried to like it, but I just can’t–it was much too saccharine. I might try the book, though, because judging from this excerpt, it’s pretty funny and thought-provoking. I love some good satire, and it’s even funnier/sadder/more poignant, because that level of worry and hysteria has gotten close to the new reality. It reminded me of the story about Girl Scouts making “safe” s’mores with Marshmallow Fluff instead of roasting real marshmallows, because “What if someone gets burned? What if someone’s hair catches on fire?”; et cetera. My answers are, the adults (and in some cases the Scouts) are trained in First Aid, so if someone burns her fingers (or gets a more serious burn), then you run a first-degree burn under cold water, put a more serious burn in still water, and apply a burn dressing if you have one. If someone’s hair catches on fire, you should have a bucket of water by the campfire to put it out, but more than that, those kids should have learned fire safety while they were still in Daisies/Sparks/Gumnuts/Rainbows whatever the first level is called where you are, and they should all have their hair tied back. “What if” is no reason to stop sewing, making s’mores, going on field trips with a supervision ratio that’s less stringent than 1:1, swimming without a life jacket, sending kids to walk to school independently, and living life in general. Actually, “What if?” is a very good reason TO do a lot of these things–What if a child falls into water without a life jacket on? What if a child gets lost, and has to find the way back to a certain point? What if there’s a power outage for a few days, or a scenario like a camping trip where the portable stove doesn’t work? What if something gets ripped and needs to be mended? If kids are raised in perpetual “uber-safety,” and don’t get to learn these mildly “dangerous” skills (air quotes because they’re only dangerous if done recklessly), then they’ll be in far more trouble than they would if they’d been allowed to take age-appropriate risks throughout their youth.

  9. Emily May 1, 2014 at 10:04 am #

    P.S., Another non-dangerous “What if?” for the life jacket scenario: What if someone is classed as a “non-swimmer” for their entire childhood, and forced to stay in a life jacket, in the shallow end, within arm’s reach of an adult, until they hit the “magic age,” and then they grow up thinking that water is scary and dangerous, never properly learn to swim, and dread every pool party, water park excursion, and cottage weekend that they get invited to?

  10. lollipoplover May 1, 2014 at 10:23 am #

    Love this exerpt. Of children’s books and worst-first thinking, how about “Hop on Pop” by Dr. Suess turning children violent on their fathers?! It COULD happen!

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/apr/30/librarians-pressed-ban-dr-seuss-hop-pop-violent-un/

  11. Papilio May 1, 2014 at 11:08 am #

    Well thank you very much Lenore – now my eyes hurt from rolling so often!

  12. JD May 1, 2014 at 11:25 am #

    This is brilliant! Now I need to find the book and share it. 😀

  13. CLamb May 1, 2014 at 12:02 pm #

    There are many books in the Oz series. Mr. Baum didn’t believe in writing down to children. He didn’t restrict his vocabulary just because of his audience. Several times he tried to quit writing the books but was compelled to write more by the children who wrote to him. You can find the list of Oz books here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Oz_books . Scans of Oz books can be found on the Internet Archive here http://archive.org/search.php?query=-collection%3A%22gutenberg%22%20AND%20%28oz%20baum%29%20AND%20mediatype%3Atexts

  14. Jill May 1, 2014 at 12:37 pm #

    Literary Gold! “Do ‘ifs’ really make Flutterbudgets?”

    “I think the ‘ifs’ help,” he answered seriously. “Foolish fears, and worries over nothing, with a mixture of nerves and ifs, will soon make a Flutterbudget of any one.”

    I’m adding this book to my son’s reading list. And the above quote will be one I commit to memory and repeat often in our house.

  15. Paul May 1, 2014 at 12:41 pm #

    “Surely, ma’am,” replied the Wizard, “and if you’d pricked your nose they might cut your head off. But you see you didn’t.”

    I see Baum also invented trolling a century ahead of its time. You can’t tell me the Wizard wasn’t deliberately needling them for a laugh at that point!

  16. Reziac May 1, 2014 at 12:51 pm #

    Someone says,
    ========
    Another non-dangerous “What if?” for the life jacket scenario: What if someone is classed as a “non-swimmer” for their entire childhood, and forced to stay in a life jacket, in the shallow end, within arm’s reach of an adult, until they hit the “magic age,” and then they grow up thinking that water is scary and dangerous, never properly learn to swim, and dread every pool party, water park excursion, and cottage weekend that they get invited to?
    ========

    These are also the very people who are likely to believe they can never drown (after all they’ve been prevented from doing so all their lives) and the first time they encounter water without their vests, they have no idea what to do and consequently drown.

    Apply broadly to just about anything.

  17. anonymous this time May 1, 2014 at 1:08 pm #

    My daughter had become a flutterbudget (love that word) about every scenario that might lead to someone vomiting. It pretty much meant we couldn’t go anywhere. She was absolutely imprisoned by “what if” thinking.

    She was phobic. It was affecting her life. She’s still struggling with it, but with more of a sense of reality about what the real danger is to her health: “Whacky thoughts,” not some outside circumstance.

    I am amazed, really, that there is this tacit agreement that our (middle class) culture’s phobia about all manner of catastrophes befalling children is taken than anything other than a mass hysterical mental illness.

    I do think it may have reached its apex, however, and the tide is turning. It has to. If it gets any worse, we’re really hooped.

  18. parallel May 1, 2014 at 3:12 pm #

    I actually dealt with severe emetophobia (phobia of vomiting or witnessing someone vomit) most of my life. I avoided ever going in public restrooms or being around people who were drinking, just in case I might witness someone vomiting. I also had to research films and shows, because you never knew when vomiting would make an appearance. If I was ever nauseated, I fought it with every ounce of self control and successfully avoided vomiting for over two decades.

    The only thing that actually helped was winding up with a serious stomach virus while away from home at a video game con. I spent twenty-four hours stuck in the hotel room bathroom, and there was no fighting it. I had built up so much anxiety over how *terrible* and *awful* and *out of control* vomiting was, that when it actually happened, I realized it wasn’t really that big a deal. Yes, it was deeply unpleasant, but I didn’t burst into tears like I always assumed I would. Having had the experience of vomiting again also helped me learn what being nauseated really felt like, so then I wasn’t freaking out every time my stomach rumbled. It was like I went through my worst fear and *survived*, and now I don’t have to be so afraid anymore.

  19. A Dad May 1, 2014 at 3:58 pm #

    @parallel
    Congratulations on overcoming your fear.

    You may now have newfound freedom.

    Again, congratulations !!!

  20. parallel May 1, 2014 at 4:37 pm #

    I think my experience and the experience of the other poster’s daughter is a really good example of combating ‘what if’s’. My fear of vomiting was instinctive and not at all rational. My lizard brain had built the entire thing up to the point it had very little connection to the reality of the situation.

    And as much as I could rationalize that I was being irrational, I couldn’t *stop* myself from being afraid. The only thing that made any difference was enduring the experience and coming out the other side.

    Which is why Lenore’s advice to nervous parents is so valid. When they ask “If I’m so scared, how can I let my child out alone?” the only valid option is to force yourself to do so and see that they (and you) survive. Because all the statistics in the world won’t shut up that little lizard brain that we all carry.

    I know that other people with severe vomit-phobia will sometimes force themselves to vomit, usually with a support person close at hand. It breaks that cycle of thinking the worst. With kids, all we can do is take it in steps so we can prove to our lizard brains that they will come home again. Facts are facts, but experience makes the difference.

  21. everydayrose May 1, 2014 at 8:55 pm #

    “These are also the very people who are likely to believe they can never drown (after all they’ve been prevented from doing so all their lives) and the first time they encounter water without their vests, they have no idea what to do and consequently drown.”

    Yup. That exact thing happened to a girl that I grew up with. When I was 12 I went to a party at a teacher’s lakehouse where everyone was swimming. This one girl who was there didn’t know how to swim but told us as that she did. She was the smartest kid in her grade, athletic, talented, good at everything she ever tried to do, so I guess she figured how hard could it be to swim? She jumped in the lake and drowned, almost taking my teacher’s husband with her. Thirteen years old. It was one of the worst things I ever lived through and I definitely never forgot the lesson.

  22. QuicoT May 1, 2014 at 10:18 pm #

    “All your troubles are due to those ‘ifs’,”

    Put THAT on a bumper-sticker!

  23. brian May 2, 2014 at 9:12 am #

    I am in the midst of reading this series with my son. It is fantastic.

    My favorite line from the first book deals with Kansas.

    The scarecrow asks Dorthy why anyone would want to live in a bleak place like Kansas instead of a beautiful one like Oz. She says “because it is home, you wouldn’t understand because you don’t have brains.” The scarecrow responds “well it is a good thing for Kansas that people have brains for if they didn’t, they would all live someplace beautiful and Kansas wouldn’t have anyone living there at all”

  24. ebohlman May 6, 2014 at 3:23 pm #

    There’s actually a psychiatric term for what the Flutterbudgets were suffering from: “obsessive-only OCD”. Some people with the condition are absolutely convinced that they’re about to murder someone, molest a child, etc. despite being absolutely horrified at the thought and having absolutely no actual desire to do it (they never actually do it). There could also be a touch of Histrionic Personality Disorder.