Scarecrow (Oz)

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Scarecrow (Oz)
Oz character
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, 009.png
The Scarecrow (Oz)--illustration by W. W. Denslow in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)
First appearance The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)
Created by L. Frank Baum
Portrayed by Ray Bolger in The Wizard of Oz (1939), Michael Jackson in The Wiz (1978), Justin Case in Return to Oz (1985)
Nickname(s) Straw man
Aliases Scarecrow of Oz
Species Living Scarecrow
Gender Male
Occupation Crow scarer, ruler of Oz (temporarily), royal treasurer
Title His Majesty the Scarecrow/ royal treasurer of the Tin Woodman/ Emperor of the Silver Islands
Family none
Spouse(s) Tsing Tsing (in his former incarnation)
Children none
Relatives none
Nationality Munchkinlander

The Scarecrow is a (Oz) character in the fictional Land of Oz created by American author L. Frank Baum. He appears as a main character in Baum's classic children's novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900). The Scarecrow reveals that he lacks a brain and desires above all else to have one. In reality, he is only two days old and merely ignorant. Throughout the course of the story, he demonstrates that he already has the brains he seeks and is later recognized as "the wisest man in all of Oz," although he continues to credit the Wizard for them. He is, however, wise enough to know his own limitations and all too happy to hand the rulership of Oz, passed to him by the Wizard, to the true heir of the throne, the child Queen Princess Ozma. He becomes one of her trusted advisors, though he typically spends more time playing games and having fun than doing any serious advising.

In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)[edit]

When the Scarecrow is introduced in the The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, he is encountered upon by a lost little farm girl from Kansas named Dorothy Gale who is the main protagonist and heroine of Baum's novel. She is accompanied by her pet dog Toto as they are on the yellow brick road while traveling to Oz's imperial capital called Emerald City.

The following is an excerpt from the third chapter of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, titled How Dorothy Saved the Scarecrow, in which Dorothy comes across the Scarecrow :

"Dorothy leaned her chin upon her hand and gazed thoughtfully at the Scarecrow. Its head was a small sack stuffed with straw, with eyes, nose, and mouth painted on it to represent a face. An old, pointed blue hat, that had belonged to some Munchkin, was perched on his head, and the rest of the figure was a blue suit of clothes, worn and faded, which had also been stuffed with straw. On the feet were some old boots with blue tops, such as every man wore in this country, and the figure was raised above the stalks of corn by means of the pole stuck up its back." (One of his eyes is said to be slightly larger than the other).

  • The Scarecrow wears all blue because he is from Oz's eastern quadrant called Munchkin Country. Blue is the Munchkins' favorite colour.

Dorothy is quite startled at first when seeing the Scarecrow wink. But after being acquainted she liberates him off the wooden pole from which he is hanging on. He tells the girl about his creation by the Munchkin farmer only two days prior, and of how he was at first put in the cornfield to scare away the crows. This worked until an older and wiser crow was not fooled like the rest, and realized he was a mere straw man, causing the other crows to start eating away at all the ripe corn. The old crow then told him about the importance of owning brains. Scarecrow's longing for brains motivates him to join Dorothy on her quest in hopes that the great and powerful Wizard will give him some, thus becoming wise like the old crow who saw through him. At first, Scarecrow does not understand why Dorothy wants to return to her homeland when she describes the setting as being so mundane and gray. It is then when Dorothy tells him that he cannot comprehend her desire to go home because he has no brain. Therefore he is simply unable to grasp the concept of yearning to return to where one belongs, no matter how beautiful or appealing any other place may seem to be.

The two are later accompanied by the Tin Woodman and the Cowardly Lion, both of whom also intend to ask the Wizard for his help in gaining a heart and courage. After having several adventures throughout the land, the group of comrades reach the city and are sent by the Wizard to the Winkie Country to kill the Wicked Witch of the West to prove themselves worthy of the Wizard's assistance. During this time the Scarecrow defeats the witch's flock of black crows (one pack of the many hostile creatures she possesses) that she sicks on them by twisting all their necks. However, he is eventually taken apart by the Winged Monkeys who are the eternal slaves of the Golden Cap the Wicked Witch used to control them. The monkeys unsuff the Scarecrow and rip him to shreads, scattering his straw and throwing his clothes high up in the braches of a tree. When Dorothy finally kills the Wicked Witch by slaying her with a bucket of water, the Winkies are freed from her bondage and help Dorothy retrieve his clothes and mend him back together again until he is as good as new. The Winkies even give the Scarecrow a solid gold cane to walk with, lessening the chance of him falling (as he has a tendency of being naturally very clumsy). After Dorothy becomes the new owner of the Golden Cap and her friends have completed their mission, she orders the Winged Monkeys to fly them all back to the Emerald City.

To their dismay, the companions learn the Wizard is actually a mortal humbug by the name of Oscar Diggs. After a small confrontation, they see that Oscar isn't such a bad man after all, just a very bad Wizard. The Wizard then gives the Scarecrow brains (made out of bran, pins and needles – in reality a placebo, as he has been the most intelligent of the travelers all along). Before he leaves Oz in his hot air balloon, the Wizard appoints the Scarecrow to rule the Emerald City and its residents in his stead. He then accompanies Dorothy and the others to the palace of Glinda the Good in the land of the southern Quadlings. After Dorothy is sent back to Kansas by the power of the charmed Silver Shoes she wore, Glinda uses the Golden Cap to summon the Winged Monkeys yet again, and orders them to take the Scarecrow back to the Emerald City to rule there wisely.

His desire for a brain notably contrasts with the Tin Woodman's desire for a heart, reflecting a common debate between the relative importance of the mind and the emotions. Indeed, both believe they have neither. This occasions philosophical debate between the two friends as to why their own choices are superior; neither convinces the other, and Dorothy, listening, is unable to decide which one is right. Symbolically, because they remain with Dorothy throughout her quest, she is provided with both and need not select.[1]

In Wicked Musical[edit]

In the musical version of Gregory Maguire's interpretation of the Oz franchise, here the Scarecrow is the reincarnation of a young Prince named Fiyero Tigelaar. He is also the love interest of Elphaba Thropp. Fiyero attended the Ozian college "Shiz University" with Elphaba and Glinda the Good, while they were all still young friends. Fiyero takes a special interest in Elphaba, however he is highly sought after by Elphaba's roommate, Glinda. Fiyero and Elphaba share a secret romance, and when she leaves for the Emerald City, he gives her a long and meaningful good bye. Many years later, after Elphaba goes into hiding, we are shown that Glinda and Fiyero are to be wed. However this is not because of love, at least not on Fiyero's part, for he still loves Elphaba. Once she reappears in the Emerald city, they escape together, much to Glinda's discontent. Elphaba then goes to the site of her sister Nessarose's tragic death caused by the unexpected arrival of the little farm girl, Dorothy Gale from Kansas. Here she is ambushed by several guards, and about to be taken away, when Fiyero saves her, but he is merely sacrificing himself to save her. Elphaba in a fit of rage and heartbreak reads a spell to keep Fiyero safe. It is not until the end of the production that we are shown that Fiyero is still alive, and has been transformed into the "brainless" Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz.

In the Novel "Wicked" by Gregory Maguire[edit]

In Gregory Maguire's 1995 adult novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, the Scarecrow is a comrade of Dorothy Gale. When the girl and her companions the Scarecrow, Tinman, and Lion approach the Kiamo ko castle in the land of the Vinkus, Elphaba sees them coming and in a crazed delusion thinks for a moment that the Scarecrow is her long dead lover Fiyero simply coming back to her in a clever disguise. Elphaba sends her collection of animal minions after him to tear his clothes apart and scatter his stuffed straw in order for her to see if Fiyero is inside the costume, but to her dismay he is not. In the novel it is made clear that the Scarecrow is not Fiyero in anyway, shape or form. However, this is probably where Broadway got the idea for the concept of the character in the stage version adapted from Maguire's story.

In the Novel "Son of a Witch" by Gregory Maguire[edit]

In Wicked's 2005 sequel Son of a Witch, the Scarecrow appears briefly in the beginning of the novel, as Elphaba's son Liir accompanies Dorothy and her company back to the Emerald City after Elphaba has been tragically melted. Upon Dorothy's departure from Oz, the Scarecrow crosses paths with Liir again and gives him advice before parting ways, seemingly for good. Later, when the Scarecrow supposedly appears at Glinda's induction to temporarily be established on the throne, Liir notes that it is an obvious impostor being used as a political puppet, and not the same Scarecrow that was friends with Dorothy, (yet Liir is the only one who can see through this elaborate ruse). Whatever happens to the real Scarecrow in Maguire's series is left a mystery.

Scholarly interpretations[edit]

Denslow's drawing of scarecrow hung up on pole and helpless, from first edition of book, 1900
July 1896 Puck cartoon shows farmer hung up on pole and helpless; was this Denslow's inspiration? The hat says "silverite"; the locomotive is gold

Economics and history professors have published scholarly studies that indicate the images and characters used by Baum and Denslow closely resembled political images that were well known in the 1890s. The Scarecrow, like other characters and elements in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, was a common theme found in editorial cartoons of the previous decade. Baum and Denslow, like most writers, used the materials at hand that they knew best. They built a story around them, added Dorothy, and added a series of lessons to the effect that everyone possesses the resources they need (such as brains, a heart and courage) if only they had self-confidence. Although it was a children’s book, of course, Baum noted in the preface that it was a "modernized" fairy tale as well.

Those who interpret The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as a political allegory often see the Scarecrow, a central figure, as a reflection of the popular image of the American farmer—although he has been persuaded that he is only a dumb hick, he possesses a strong common sense, remarkable insight and quick-wittedness that needs only to be reinforced by self-confidence.

The blackface minstrel star, Fred Stone, was the first to play the Scarecrow on stage, and he brought his minstrel style of performance to the role of the Scarecrow. Baum was delighted with Stone's performance, and he wrote subsequent Oz books with Stone's minstrel-style in mind.[2]

Later Oz books[edit]

Cover of The Scarecrow of Oz (1915) by L. Frank Baum; illustration by John R. Neill

The Scarecrow also appears in several sequel Oz books originally started by Baum, sharing further adventures with the Ozites. His reign as king of the Emerald City ends in The Marvelous Land of Oz (1904), when General Jinjur and her all female Army of Revolt oust him in a coup. He manages to escape the royal palace and joins Tip and his companions the Sawhorse and Jack Pumpkinhead in seeking the aid of Glinda the Good.

He spars with H. M. Woggle-Bug T. E. on the value of education. Although he claims to be educated himself and to value education, he finds the Woggle-Bug's learning rote and without wisdom. He commonly is the companion of Dorothy, the Cowardly Lion, or The Tin Woodman.

By The Road to Oz (1909), he is acknowledged, at least by the Tin Woodman, to be "probably the wisest man in all Oz," and this is the caption of an illustration, suggesting that the reader take his comment at face value. Dorothy Gale herself, in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz (1908), praises the Scarecrow's wisdom and says the Scarecrow seemed just as wise before the Wizard gave him brains as after.

In The Emerald City of Oz (1910), the Scarecrow lives in a house shaped like a giant ear of corn in Winkie Country. In The Scarecrow of Oz (1915), the Scarecrow travels to Jinxland, where he helps Cap'n Bill, Trot and Button-Bright overthrow the villainous King Krewl.

In Glinda of Oz (1920), the Scarecrow travels with Glinda to the land of the Flatheads, where he helps save Dorothy and Ozma from the underwater palace.

In the continued Oz series after Baum's death beginning with The Royal Book of Oz (1921) by Ruth Plumly Thompson, Baum's authorized successor as "Royal Historian of Oz", Professor Woggle-Bug accused the Scarecrow of having no ancestry, so he returns to the pole at the cornfield where he was once hung. Sliding down it and descending underground, he first encounters the Midlings and then the Silver Islands, whose people believe themselves to be the ancestors of the Chinese. Apparently, when Emperor Chang Wang Woe defeated the king of the Golden Islands in battle, the king hired a sorcerer to sneak into the palace and transform the Emperor into a crocus, which later sprouted into a bean pole, preceding a prophecy that the first being to touch the bean pole would become possessed by the spirit of the Emperor. As it turned out, the first thing to touch the pole was the straw-stuffed human, which would become the Scarecrow. This account is not consistent with the Scarecrow's story in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz of becoming aware of each sense as the relevant organs were painted on his head.

Film portrayals[edit]

Early films[edit]

The Scarecrow has appeared in nearly every early Oz film, portrayed by different actors each time.

The Wizard of Oz[edit]

In the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, the Scarecrow was played by Ray Bolger in what is arguably the actor's most famous role. He was originally cast as the Tin Woodsman, but Bolger had always wanted to play the Scarecrow, so he was upset about it since he wanted to switch roles with Buddy Ebsen, who was originally going to play the Scarecrow. Ebsen didn't mind the swap, so Bolger and Ebsen swapped roles. While Ray was pleased with his role as the Scarecrow, the aluminum dust from Ebsen's Tin Man make-up nearly choked him to the edge of death (causing Ebsen to have to give up that role). Ebsen was replaced by Jack Haley for his role of the Tin Man. Bolger's costume consisted of a straw-stuffed suit and a light face mask of rubber designed to simulate burlap. The mask was fragile, and usually had to be completely replaced at the start of each new day of filming.[3] Bolger's Scarecrow costume, minus the mask, is part of the collections of the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution.[4] Bolger was a talented dancer, so The Scarecrow was given an extended dance sequence in the movie. However, to shorten the movie, much of this sequence was edited out since it would slow down the film. While Bolger admitted in a 1939 radio broadcast that he was too young to have seen Fred Stone play the Scarecrow in the 1902 musical extravaganza, he told Stone on the broadcast that the first play he was allowed to see was The Red Mill featuring Stone, and that his performance in that play was an inspiration.

During the scene where the Wizard gives him his brains, the Scarecrow makes a mistake in his first educated pronouncement. He recites the Pythagorean theorem stating that it applies to an isosceles triangle, which is incorrect, as it applies to a right triangle; he also refers to square roots, not to squares. This probably reflects ignorance by the scriptwriters, not the Scarecrow

Bolger also portrayed the Scarecrow's Kansas counterpart, Hunk (one of Aunt Em and Uncle Henry's farmworkers), newly created for the film by screenwriter Noel Langley.[5] A scene which was written in the script, but dropped before filming commenced, ended the movie by sending Hunk off to agricultural college, with Dorothy promising to write. The scene implied the potential for a romance between the two characters.[citation needed]

He helps Zeke (Cowardly Lion's alter ego) and Hickory (Tin Man's alter ego) repair a wagon. Unlike Zeke, Hickory and Hunk lose their hats with Uncle Henry as they struggle to open the cellar when the tornado approaches their farm. He closes and locks the cellar with Zeke when Dorothy arrives at the farmhouse. Hunk reunites with Dorothy when she awakens from being unconscious. He is seen with Aunt Em, Uncle Henry, Zeke, Hickory, and Professor Marvel (The Wizard's alter ego).

The Oz Kids[edit]

In 1996, they made a cartoon animated The Oz Kids. He has a son named Scarescrow, Jr. His son is smart and knows everything just like him. Scarescrow, Sr. is voiced by Andy Milder.

Oz the Great and Powerful[edit]

In the 2013 film Oz the Great and Powerful, the Scarecrow's origins are explained; being fabricated by the townspeople of Oz as a diversionary tactic during the retaliatory attack on the Emerald City.[6]

Other adaptations[edit]

Hinton Battle originated the role of the Scarecrow in the 1975 Broadway musical The Wiz, and Michael Jackson played the Scarecrow in the 1978 film adaptation. This version of the Scarecrow was a more tragic character before Dorothy rescues him; while hung on his pole, the crows he is unable to scare, who force him to humiliate himself and entertain them, torment him day and night. They force him to sing the song, "You Can't Win", meaning that he cannot escape the crows' rule and his bad luck. While Stan Winston created Jackson's makeup, it was applied to Jackson's face by Michael R. Thomas who portrayed the Scarecrow in Barry Mahon's The Wonderful Land of Oz (1969), as well as doing the makeup for that film.

In the animated film Journey Back to Oz (produced in 1964 but not released until the 1970s), the Scarecrow was voiced by Mickey Rooney.

In an episode of The World's Greatest Super Friends, Aquaman temporarily became the Scarecrow after a tornado took him, Superman and Wonder Woman to Mister Mxyzptlk’s planet of Oz.

In a 1981 episode of Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo, Shaggy is dressed as the Scarecrow after a tornado took him, Scooby, and Scrappy to "Ahz", a direct spoof of Oz with a different spelling by its enunciation.

Justin Case, an English bicycle acrobat, appeared briefly as the Scarecrow in the 1985 film Return to Oz.

American voice actor Michael Gough voices the Scarecrow in 2011's direct-to-DVD animated film Tom and Jerry and the Wizard of Oz.

The Scarecrow appears as a main character in Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return (which is based on Dorothy of Oz) voiced by Dan Aykroyd.

Modern works[edit]

  • The Scarecrow is also a minor character in author Gregory Maguire's revisionist novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West and is made a more prominent character in its Broadway musical adaptation Wicked. In the musical, the Scarecrow is revealed to be the remnants of Fiyero after he was captured by the Wizard's officials, but made impervious to injury by Elphaba's incomplete spell. The Fiyero-Scarecrow executes a plan to save Elphaba through using the rumor that water will melt her; thus she stays alive and the two move out of Oz. This has no basis in the book other than that in the final scenes Elphaba hopes that the Scarecrow is really her beloved Fiyero in disguise, which is proven to be a false hope when he is attacked and she sees that he is nothing but straw. The Scarecrow is featured more prominently in Son of a Witch, Maguire's sequel to Wicked. In that novel, the Scarecrow helps the Witch's son Liir avoid political turmoil in the Emerald City after the Wizard's departure. Later, various powerful interests place a different Scarecrow on the throne of Oz to serve as a puppet ruler; the suggestion is that most residents of Oz are unable to distinguish one Scarecrow from another. In the musical, the Fiyero-Scarecrow's appearance and style of walking are based on Bolger's portrayal of the Scarecrow in the 1939 film.
  • Jackson Browne performed this character in the 1995 television special The Wizard of Oz in Concert: Dreams Come True. The Kansas farmworker Hunk does not appear in this production. Browne sang a folk music tempo of If I Only Had a Brain and the bridge verses sung by the Scarecrow in Nathan Lane's longer version of If I Only Had the Nerve.
  • In the 2005 ABC television movie The Muppets' Wizard of Oz, Kermit the Frog plays the role of the Scarecrow. Kermit's other role was himself. Prior to Dorothy's journey, he organizes a talent scout for a star for a new show. After Dorothy's return, he hires her.
  • In the VeggieTales episode The Wonderful Wizard of Ha's, the Scarecrow and his Kansas counterpart from the 1939 film were played by Mr. Lunt the Gourd.
  • In the 2007 Sci Fi television miniseries Tin Man, the Scarecrow is re-imagined as the character named "Glitch" (played by Alan Cumming). Formerly a chief adviser to the queen of the Outer Zone (O.Z.) named Ambrose, he resists her usurper (and daughter), the evil sorceress Azkadellia and has his brain removed by the physician as a reeducation measure. In the series, he wanders the O.Z. searching for his brain and becomes a companion of the protagonist, a girl named DG.
  • The Scarecrow appears in Dorothy and the Witches of Oz played by Ari Zigaris. He appears on Earth in the form of a man named Allen Denslow who works as the illustrator of Dorothy Gale's books.
  • A commercial for GE smart-grid technology, which first aired during the Super Bowl XLIII, featured a computerized Scarecrow dancing clumsily on a radio tower singing "If I Only Had a Brain".
  • A character inspired by the Scarecrow appears in Alan Moore's Lost Girls. In the work, a young farmboy becomes Dorothy Gale's first sex partner. However, she soon grows bored of him because of his lack of intelligence and imagination, comparing it to having sex with something you use to scare the crows. The "scarecrow" tries to prove to Dorothy that he does have a brain and writes her a poem.
  • The Scarecrow (along with his other friends from OZ) are playable in the Nintendo 3DS game Code Name: S.T.E.A.M.
  • The Scarecrow appears in the Lego Dimensions video game voiced by William Salyers.
  • The Scarecrow character is played by Jermel Nakia in After the Wizard.


  1. ^ L. Frank Baum, Michael Patrick Hearn, The Annotated Wizard of Oz, p 141, ISBN 0-517-50086-8
  2. ^ Robin Bernstein, Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights, (New York: New York University Press, 2011), 159-168.
  3. ^ "Scarecrow from "The Wizard of Oz"". National Museum of American History. Retrieved 2008-05-22. 
  4. ^ "Treasures of American History: The Wizard of Oz". National Museum of American History. Retrieved 2011-06-29. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Allport, Lee (8 March 2013). "Oz the Great and Powerful: A Prequel at Its Best". Retrieved 10 March 2013. There are other interesting "that explains it" moments as well. We get up close and personal with The Cowardly Lion and find out what spooked him into being afraid of his own shadow. We get to know the Tin Man's father and the creators of the Scarecrow and learn more about Munchkinland. 
Preceded by
The Wizard of Oz
Monarch of Oz Succeeded by