20 November 2006

The Return of Button-Bright

Button-Bright first appears in the Oz books in The Road to Oz as a little boy, perhaps kindergarten age, who perplexes the Scarecrow and others with his frequent answer, "Don't know."

L. Frank Baum brought the boy back, older and smarter, in Sky Island, one of his best and most original fantasies. And finally he decided to move Button-Bright to Oz permanently in The Scarecrow of Oz, his book for 1915. In that book and from then on the boy seems to revert to his original character, clueless and contented. He has a knack for being in just the right place at the right time, with neither ability nor desire to explain how he got there.

That pattern is established as soon as Button-Bright makes his entrance in chapter 8 of The Scarecrow of Oz:

The little girl went to the window and looked out. The air was filled with falling white flakes, so large in size and so queer in form that she was puzzled.

"Are you certain this is snow?" she asked.

"To be sure. I must get my snow-shovel and turn out to shovel a path. Would you like to come with me?"

"Yes," she said, and followed the Bumpy Man out when he opened the door. Then she exclaimed: "Why, it isn't cold a bit!"

"Of course not," replied the man. "It was cold last night, before the snowstorm; but snow, when it falls, is always crisp and warm."

Trot gathered a handful of it.

"Why, it's popcorn?" she cried.

"Certainly; all snow is popcorn. What did you expect it to be?"

"Popcorn is not snow in my country."

"Well, it is the only snow we have in the Land of Mo, so you may as well make the best of it," said he, a little impatiently. "I'm not responsible for the absurd things that happen in your country, and when you're in Mo you must do as the Momen do. Eat some of our snow, and you will find it is good. The only fault I find with our snow is that we get too much of it at times."

With this the Bumpy Man set to work shoveling a path and he was so quick and industrious that he piled up the popcorn in great banks on either side of the trail that led to the mountain-top from the plains below. While he worked, Trot ate popcorn and found it crisp and slightly warm, as well as nicely salted and buttered. Presently Cap'n Bill came out of the house and joined her. . . .

Suddenly Trot heard [the Bumpy Man] call out:

"Goodness gracious--mince pie and pancakes!--here is some one buried in the snow."

She ran toward him at once and the others followed, wading through the corn and crunching it underneath their feet. The Mo snow was pretty deep where the Bumpy Man was shoveling and from beneath a great bank of it he had uncovered a pair of feet.

"Dear me! Someone has been lost in the storm," said Cap'n Bill. "I hope he is still alive. Let's pull him out and see."

He took hold of one foot and the Bumpy Man took hold of the other. Then they both pulled and out from the heap of popcorn came a little boy. He was dressed in a brown velvet jacket and knickerbockers, with brown stockings, buckled shoes and a blue shirt-waist that had frills down its front. When drawn from the heap the boy was chewing a mouthful of popcorn and both his hands were full of it. So at first he couldn't speak to his rescuers but lay quite still and eyed them calmly until he had swallowed his mouthful. Then he said:

"Get my cap," and stuffed more popcorn into his mouth.
And here's a fine picture of how Button-Bright might look today by David Lee Ingersoll.

1 comment:

David Lee said...

J.L. -

Thanks for the link!

Happy Thanksgiving!