18 March 2008

Toto Talks!

Here, as promised yesterday, is the scene at the end of Tik-Tok of Oz (1914) in which Dorothy hears Toto speak like a person for the first time. By this point he’s shared several published adventures with her and has never said a word. He's been holding back. That runs the risk of breaking one of Oz and Ends's orts of wisdom: Don't mess with Dorothy Gale.

As they turned away Betsy said wonderingly:

"Do all the animals in Oz talk as we do?

"Almost all," answered Dorothy. "There's a Yellow Hen here, and she can talk, and so can her chickens; and there's a Pink Kitten upstairs in my room who talks very nicely; but I've a little fuzzy black dog, named Toto, who has been with me in Oz a long time, and he's never said a single word but 'Bow-wow!'"

"Do you know why?" asked Ozma.

"Why, he's a Kansas dog; so I s'pose he's different from these fairy animals," replied Dorothy.

"Hank [the Mule] isn't a fairy animal, any more than Toto," said Ozma, "yet as soon as he came under the spell of our fairyland he found he could talk. It was the same way with Billina, the Yellow Hen whom you brought here at one time. The same spell has affected Toto, I assure you; but he's a wise little dog and while he knows everything that is said to him he prefers not to talk."

"Goodness me!" exclaimed Dorothy. "I never s'pected Toto was fooling me all this time." Then she drew a small silver whistle from her pocket and blew a shrill note upon it. A moment later there was a sound of scurrying foot-steps, and a shaggy black dog came running up the path.

Dorothy knelt down before him and shaking her finger just above his nose she said:

"Toto, haven't I always been good to you?"

Toto looked up at her with his bright black eyes and wagged his tail.

"Bow-wow!" he said, and Betsy knew at once that meant yes, as well as Dorothy and Ozma knew it, for there was no mistaking the tone of Toto's voice.

"That's a dog answer," said Dorothy. "How would you like it, Toto, if I said nothing to you but 'bow-wow'?"

Toto's tail was wagging furiously now, but otherwise he was silent.

"Really, Dorothy," said Betsy, "he can talk with his bark and his tail just as well as we can. Don't you understand such dog language?"

"Of course I do," replied Dorothy. "But Toto's got to be more sociable. See here, sir!" she continued, addressing the dog, "I've just learned, for the first time, that you can say words--if you want to. Don't you want to, Toto?"

"Woof!" said Toto, and that meant no.

"Not just one word, Toto, to prove you're as any other animal in Oz?"


"Just one word, Toto--and then you may run away."

He looked at her steadily a moment.

"All right. Here I go!" he said, and darted away as swift as an arrow.
With regret I report that three books later, in The Lost Princess of Oz, Toto talks up a storm. And reveals himself to be as self-centered as any of the other Oz folks proud of their particular makeup and habits. I much prefer to imagine him as quietly devoted to Dorothy.


Glenn Ingersoll said...

One of the nice things about Toto NOT talking was the descriptions we got of his body language.

Monica Edinger said...

Tangentially, that big none-speaking puppy in Alice in Wonderland always bugs me. (She plays with it after leaving the White Rabbit's house.)

J. L. Bell said...

Lewis Carroll's dreamworlds don't have to be logical—indeed, they're supposed to be illogical. So one animal not talking or wearing clothing while others do doesn't seem much more illogical than anything else there.

In contrast, Oz is supposed to be a real place in the books, and as logical according to its possibilities as the Great Outside World. Hence Baum's/Dorothy's need to find an answer to the question of whether Toto can talk and why not.

Nathan said...

Thompson didn't have Toto talk very much (I think he has one line each in KABUMPO and GRAMPA), but I seem to recall him being pretty chatty in MAGICAL MIMICS.

J. L. Bell said...

When I write about Toto, I follow Ruth Plumly Thompson's line: he can talk, but it's out of character for him to talk much. I think she even makes that explicit in Grampa in Oz. It makes a nice contrast with Billina and Eureka, Dorothy's other, talkative companions.

In The Magical Mimics of Oz, Jack Snow indeed followed the model of Baum's Lost Princess of Oz and showed Toto chatting up a storm.

Anonymous said...

Toto rarely talks. But when he does he either talks up a storm or barely a sentence.