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The Little Man and His Little Gun

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"The Little Man and His Little Gun" is a short story by L. Frank Baum. It is one of the tales in his 1897 collection Mother Goose in Prose. Baum draws upon one of the less well-known nursery rhymes for this story, about a hunter who fires bullets of lead, lead, lead, and shoots a duck in the head, head, head.

Summary

Jimson is a middle-aged man, with a bald head and gray whiskers; but in stature he is no taller than a boy. He is morbidly sensitive about his lack of height, and always strives to do what normal-sized men do; he wears a top hat, and has had a miniature cane and umbrella crafted for his use. When hunting season arrives, Jimson must hunt like other men; he acquires a little gun to match his little frame. His wife Joan (who is a very large woman) advises him to use bullets made of bread, so he won't hurt anything — but Jimson will shoot lead like all other hunters.

Through a stroke of beginner's luck, Jimson manages to bag a duck the first day; the recoil of his weapon knocks him into a brook, but when he surfaces he finds that his shot struck the target. He assumes he has shot a wild duck, not realizing that the bird was the pet of his neighbor Johnny Sprigg.

Jimson takes the duck home, but Joan complains about its small size; she advises him to try to shoot the drake. Unsuccessful that first day, Jimson goes out again the next morning. His wife helpfully explains that a drake has red on its wing and a curl to its tail.

Meanwhile, Johnny Sprigg has missed his pet duck, and gone out in search of the hunter who he suspects has killed it. Sprigg is a large man, and totally bald; he wears a curly red wig. Jimson, spotting something red and curly in the bushes, fires, and shoots Johnny's wig off his head. Sprigg demands monetary compensation for both duck and wig; Jimson pays him twelve dollars.

Jimson soon finds that his hunting prowess is ridiculed in verse in the local newspaper. Disgusted with the outcome of his adventure, he trades his little gun for a lawn mower, and gives up hunting.

Background

"The Little Man and His Little Gun" is one of the dozen selections in its collection that bears a Maxfield Parrish illustration. The picture for this story serves as the frontispiece to the book.

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