07 September 2006

The Scarecrow meets Button-Bright

This passage from The Road to Oz has long been one of my favorite exchanges from L. Frank Baum's books. Even as a little kid, I could empathize with the Scarecrow when faced with an even littler kid.

For those unfamiliar with the Oz saga, the Scarecrow is the famous straw man, his powerful brains intact. Button-Bright is a young lost boy Dorothy has brought to Oz with her on her fourth journey. Button-Bright's young brains are not powerful.

While they waited, the Scarecrow, who was near the little boy, asked: "Why are you called Button-Bright?"

"Don't know," was the answer.

"Oh yes, you do, dear," said Dorothy. "Tell the Scarecrow how you got your name."

"Papa always said I was bright as a button, so Mama always called me Button-Bright," announced the boy.

"Where is your mama?" asked the Scarecrow.

"Don't know," said Button-Bright.

"Where is your home?" asked the Scarecrow.

"Don't know," said Button-Bright.

"Don't you want to find your mama again?" asked the Scarecrow.

"Don't know," said Button-Bright, calmly.

The Scarecrow looked thoughtful.

"Your papa may have been right," he observed; "but there are many kinds of buttons, you see. There are silver and gold buttons, which are highly polished and glitter brightly. There are pearl and rubber buttons, and other kinds, with surfaces more or less bright. But there is still another sort of button which is covered with dull cloth, and that must be the sort your papa meant when he said you were bright as a button. Don't you think so?"

"Don't know," said Button-Bright.


David Lee Ingersoll said...

I love Button Bright. He's achieved a perfect zen attitude about life. He's never bored. He doesn't worry. No where he goes, there he is. (To paraphrase another hero of mine.)

J. L. Bell said...

Yes, that's the beauty and dignity of Button-Bright's character. Now it usually makes him a poor protagonist, I think. In the brief episodes of Scarecrow, Lost Princess, and Glinda of Oz when he's on his own, he wanders aimlessly, never worrying or trying very hard to achieve a goal. He doesn't have Dorothy's drive. But he does have her luck at stumbling across something important.

David Lee Ingersoll said...

I meant "no matter where he goes, there he is". Sigh.

But, yeah, Button Bright isn't much of a protagonist. He's a good side kick. He doesn't get ruffled about anything.