Tik-Tok as he appears in Ozma of Oz
illustrated by John R. Neill
|First appearance||Ozma of Oz (1907)|
|Created by||L. Frank Baum|
|Gender||male in likeness|
|Title||Adviser to Ozma of Oz|
Tik-Tok is a fictional character from the Oz books by American author L. Frank Baum. He has been termed "the prototype robot," and is widely considered to be the one of the first robots (preceded by Edward S. Ellis' Huge Hunter, or The Steam Man of the Prairies, in 1868) to appear in modern literature, though the term "Robot" wouldn't be used until the 1920s by the play Rossum's Universal Robots.
Tik-Tok (sometimes spelled Tiktok) is a round-bodied mechanical man made of copper, that runs on clockwork springs which periodically need to be wound, like a wind-up toy or mechanical clock. He has separate windings for thought, action, and speech. Tik-Tok is unable to wind any of them up himself. When his works run down, he becomes frozen or mute or, for one memorable moment in The Road to Oz, continues to speak but utters gibberish. When he speaks, only his teeth move. His knees and elbows are described as resembling those in a knight's suit of armor.
As Baum repeatedly mentions, Tik-Tok is not alive and feels no emotions. He therefore can no more love or be loved than a sewing machine, but as a servant he is utterly truthful and loyal. He describes himself as a "slave" to Dorothy and defers to her.
Tik-Tok was invented by Smith & Tinker at their workshop in Evna. He was the only model of his kind made before the two disappeared. He was purchased by the king of Ev, Evoldo, who gave him the name Tik-Tok because of the sound he made when wound. The cruel king also whipped his mechanical servant, but his whippings caused no pain and merely kept Tik-Tok's round copper body polished.
Tik-Tok first appears in Ozma of Oz (1907) where Dorothy Gale discovers him locked up in a cave, immobilized. He becomes Dorothy's servant and protector, and, despite his tendency to run down at crucial moments, helps to subdue the Nome King. That novel also introduces Tik-Tok's monotonic, halting mode of speech: "Good morn-ing, lit-tle girl."
Later Baum published "Tik-Tok and the Nome King," a short tale in his Little Wizard Stories of Oz series (1914). In this story, the Nome King, angered by Tik-Tok's calling him a "fat nome", smashes him to pieces. Kaliko secretly reassembled Tik-Tok, but does not tell his master. Ruggedo then mistook the rebuilt Tik-Tok for a ghost. Ever after, he was colored whitish-grey in color plates, apparently a mistake.
The Tik-Tok Man of Oz was a stage musical loosely adapted from Ozma of Oz; and the play was adapted back into a novel called Tik-Tok of Oz (1914). Although Tik-Tok is a major character in that latter book, he in no way drives the plot. Tik-Tok also appears in most other Oz novels as a notable inhabitant of the Emerald City, most prominently in The Scalawagons of Oz, in which he operates the production of the Scalawagons.
Tik-Tok was played by Wallace Illington in the 1908 film, The Fairylogue and Radio-Plays, which is now known only from a production still or two. In 1913, the comedian James C. Morton played Tik-Tok in The Tik-Tok Man of Oz, a musical play by Baum, Louis F. Gottschalk, Victor Schertzinger, and Oliver Morosco. The role of Tik-Tok was a straight man role similar to that of David C. Montgomery's Tin Woodman in The Wizard of Oz. Corresponding to Fred Stone Scarecrow or clown part was Shaggy Man, played by Frank F. Moore, who would later play the Scarecrow in His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz. Tik-Tok did not appear in any of the productions of The Oz Film Manufacturing Company.
Tik-Tok appeared in the Thanksgiving special Dorothy in the Land of Oz voiced by Joan Gerber.
Tik-Tok was a main character in Disney's Return to Oz, adapted from The Marvelous Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz. His legs are very stout and he speaks with his mustache rather than his teeth. In the movie, he is the entire Royal Army of Oz, which is ironic considering his general haplessness. In an interview for the Elstree project, director Walter Murch explained that Tik-Tok's physical performance was created by acrobat Michael Sundin: "he would put his legs down into Tik-Tok's legs, and then he would bend over looking through his legs, through his thighs, and then he would cross his arms [across his chest] to operate Tik-Tok's arms." He used an LCD feed inside the costume to monitor his movements. Due to the heat and physical exertion of being upside-down, according to Murch, Sundin's "limit was two and half minutes from the moment the lid went on." Sean Barrett provided his voice, while Tim Rose operated the head.
Appearances in adult fiction
In the comic book, Oz Squad, Tik-Tok's "Internal Clockwork Morality Spring" winds down and causes him to act violent and sexual, though he closely resembles Neill's depiction.
A somewhat sinister version of Tik-Tok is a minor character in Gregory Maguire's revisionist Oz novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. In the novel, tiktok is used as an adjective for any mechanical or robotic being. The character Madame Morrible has a tiktok servant, called Grommetik, whose description matches Baum's Tik-Tok; however, this character's speech key is never wound. It is strongly implied that this tiktok servant kills Doctor Dillamond, on Madame Morrible's orders. Though no great detail is spent on the topic, Grommetik eventually becomes independent, and, possibly due to disgust of the things he was forced to do, tries to foment rebellion among the tik-toks.
Gregory Benford's 1997 novel Foundation's Fear, set tens of thousands of years in the future, depicts a group of robots named tik-toks, who are responsible for supervising the automated farms on the planet Trantor. A tik-tok revolt against the forces of the Galactic Empire play a major role in the novel.
Tik-Tok's design was used in the video game Epic Mickey 2 as a design for the "Basher" Beetleworx.
- Jack Snow, Who's Who in Oz, Chicago, Reilly & lee, 1954; New York, Peter Bedrick Books, 1988; p. 213.
- Thomas P. Dunn and Richard D. Erlich, eds., The Mechanical God: Machines in Science Fiction, Westport, CT, Greenwood Press, 1982; p. 85.
- Raylyn Moore, Wonderful Wizard, Marvelous Land, Bowling Green, OH, Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1974; p. 144.
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