27 February 2010

“The Little Dried-Up Cookie Cook”

This afternoon I finally got to listening to the Royal Podcast of Oz’s discussion of John R. Neill’s illustrations for The Lost Princess of Oz. The conversants were:

I won’t recommend this recording for anyone who isn’t a hard-core fan of the Oz books, but of course that doesn’t bother me.

One detail of Neill’s Lost Princess illustrations that the gents didn’t talk about was how the artist depicted the character of Cayke the Cookie Cook. L. Frank Baum offers no physical description of the character when he introduces her in chapter 3, but chapter 13 refers to “the little dried-up Cookie Cook.”

“Dried up” is a term Baum usually used for very old people. Both the Wicked Witches in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz are described as “dried up.” The Road to Oz calls the Wizard “a dried-up, little, old man,” and The Emerald City of Oz says he is “little and old and withered and dried up, but as merry and active as a child.”

That phrase implies that Baum envisioned Cayke as an elderly woman, and there’s nothing in the story that would contradict that. Of course, there’s very little description at all, but the last chapter mentions the cook’s “skinny arms,” and Baum didn’t use that adjective as a compliment. Yet Neill gave Cayke the face he usually gave to pretty young women. Probably he started sketching her like that from the early chapters, and never revised his mental picture, even after the “dried-up” passage.

No comments: