Thursday, June 27, 2013

"Why it's a man! A man made out of tin!"

This is how L. Frank Baum introduces the Tin Woodman:
"Just then another groan reached their ears, and the sound seemed to come from behind them. They turned and walked through the forest a few steps, when Dorothy discovered something shining in a ray of sunshine that fell between the trees. She ran to the place, and then stopped short, with a cry of surprise.
One of the big trees had been partly chopped through, and standing beside it, with an uplifted axe in his hands, was made entirely out of tin. His head and arms and legs were jointed upon his body, but he stood perfectly motionless, as if he could not stir at all."
The illustrator of the original publication, William Wallace Denslow, drew him like this.
This 1899 soap ad features a man made out of pots and pans. One theory behind the creation of the Tin Man was the author's earlier job as window dresser. He created a man out of washboiler, saucepans, and stovepipes parts and capped him with a funnel according to Michael Patrick Hearn.
According to Hearn, the biggest success for L. Frank Baum was taking the story from the page to the stage, and this happened as a vaudeville musical review as early as 1902. 
When MGM was in production for the 1939 movie, Buddy Epsen, known to millions for his role as Jed Clampett in The Beverly Hillbillies, was cast as the Tin Man. Unfortunately he had a terrible reaction to the make-up and was replaced by Jack Haley.
The story of how the Tin Man came to be is included in the original Wizard of Oz narrative. He was born human, the son of a woodman. After falling in love with a Munchkin girl whose mother did not want her to marry. The woman convinced the Witch of the East to enchant the young man's axe. It began to chop of various parts of his body. The local tin-smith fashioned one body part after the other until he was completely metal. In his haste, the tin-smith forgot to include a heart. He soon lost all the love he had for the Munchkin maiden. The story is more fully told in the 12th book in the Oz series, The Tin Woodman of Oz in which we learn the young man's name is Nick Chopper. 

The web if full of images of the Tin Man. This Steampunk version was created by Chaz Kemp. I also love the I (heart) Tin Man tee-shirt that is missing the heart. 
 So in thinking about our project, the illustrator Aaron Miller had to put on his thinking cap. This image of the Tin Man missing his funnel is by Ingvard the Terrible and is a perfect image for keeping an open mind.
Chicago illustrator Aaron Miller's task was complex. Not only did he have to re-think the Tin Man image for himself, despite the hundreds of Tin Man images already in existence, but he also had to conjure him as a faerie.
According to Miller, "He was inspired by some Christmas ornaments from when I was a kid. He's like a wind-up toy I guess. I wanted the idea to be that he needs a key to keep him wound rather than an oil can."

According to Miller, "He's made out of copper, tin, and aluminum I think. I'm pretty sure you can't mention iron. I think that's faerie kryptonite or something."
In making the faerie version, the wings were added and the traditional funnel needed to be swapped out for something more in scale with a faerie. Miller's thimble is the perfect solution.
Introducing the Tin Man Faerie for the Wee Faerie Village in the Land of Oz.

David D.J. Rau
Director of Education and Outreach

David D.J. Rau coordinates as well as participates in the Museum’s October creative endeavors. You can contact him at

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