"The Tinsmith's Lament" is a short story I wrote for the 2018 Oz-Stravaganza! Writing Contest held annually in Chittenango, NY, by The International Wizard of Oz Club! I received a fourth place award in the "Adult" category for my story.
The criteria for the contest required my short story to be 500 words or less and had to be about the "Land of Oz" and the characters that live and visit there. I also had the choice of using the original Oz characters, creating my own Oz characters or using a combination of both to form my story.
My story examines the origin of the Tin Man from the perspective of Oz's Tinsmith who fabricated and replaced each of the Tin Man's body parts as he lost them. This was one of my favorite segments in the original "Wizard of Oz" story, and I had fun developing my own story from the viewpoint of the Tinsmith as the Tin Man came into being. I hope you enjoy it! Ben
The Tinsmith’s Lament
By: Benjamin K.M. Kellogg
Very few remember the Tin Woodman from his “ordinary man” days; I had a hand in his ultimate transformation. Sometimes I wish I had seen the problem sooner, but to be quite honest, I was just so excited to get a series of jobs more complex than a routine roof patch or machine part fabrication. True, he saved the world countless times afterward, but there was plenty of anguish in his voice those few weeks I knew him best, the kind of feeling the royal accounts typically shy away from but which really ought to be addressed so the whole story may be told properly.
He hobbled into my shop one morning, brandishing a wooden crutch he’d evidently whittled some time before; a credit to his work, it was remarkably crafted. He requested a prosthetic left leg, one which could withstand errant axe blows. An exotic order, perhaps, but I’d repaired tin dolls with similar “defects” in the past; I’d just have to scale up. I had some surplus tin in my inventory (Oz jobs had been drying up prior to the Woodman’s arrival), so I fabricated a leg right there on the spot.
Meanwhile, with considerable pain in his voice, he supplied a supremely sad story about how his wife’s mother despised him for taking her daughter away. The mother went to a certain “East Witch” (his words, not mine; I’d only ever heard rumors concerning her myself, but given what’s in the royal account, which he had a considerable hand in the making of, I feel I wouldn’t have wanted her darkening my doorway anyhow) who, keen on bringing a little pain into someone else’s life, put a spell on the Woodman’s axe. Sure as shooting, the very next day, he’d accidentally lopped off his left leg; whether through the means of the spell or his own admitted eagerness to get a nice log cabin for him and the missus made as soon as possible, he didn’t know or even care. Once he finished his tale, I helped set his new leg, he paid me my just due, and he ventured off a good deal more confident than when he’d come in.
That winning attitude, however, slowly faded over the next several weeks. More “axe-idents” befell him, and I made more and more tin replacements as he requested them. He tried to remain upbeat, but I could feel his heart breaking with each new calamity. He spoke less and less of the women in his life, or of anything else really, growing more subdued and withdrawn until one day, he clanked into my shop, robotically announced he no longer required my services, then clunked back out of my life entirely. Our conversations had been replaced by silence and increasing melancholy; soon, no sense of him having actual feelings remained. By now, he was far removed from the man I had known.
I’ve read the rest: saved from eternal rust, got a new heart, and a new life.