They are tiny and curiously formed. Their skins are dusky and their brilliant scarlet hair stands straight up like wires. They are bare except for the skins around their waists, and their necklaces, bracelets, and earrings.
The Tottenhots live in a small village set among a stand of palm trees near a desert area where the Winkie plains end and the rougher Quadling region begins. Their houses are small black domes that look like upside-down kettles, with trap doors in their tops. Inside there is no furniture, but cushions are strewn about the floor.
The Tottenhots sleep during the day and come out to play in the evenings. Their behavior can be rough, but also childish. Their total population may be only a hundred or so.
Ojo, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Patchwork Girl encountered the Tottenhots while on a journey. The playful creatures found that the Scarecrow and Patchwork Girl were light enough to toss around. Dorothy was so indignant at this treatment of her friends that she pushed and slapped the Tottenhots around while Toto nipped at their bare legs. The Tottenhots left their play and retreated to their houses, some of them crying at Dorothy's treatment. An arrangement was negotiated, and the travelers slept in one of the Tottenhot domes while their hosts played outside. (The Patchwork Girl of Oz)
Baum's Tottenhots are clearly caricatures of the Hottentots of southern Africa, an impression accentuated by Neill's pictures of them. Modern critics identify the depiction of the Tottenhots as one of the most blatant instances of racism to be found in Baum's books. This is re-enforced by the second reference to Tottenhots in the Oz books, in Rinkitink in Oz, Chapter 22, where they are identified as "a lower form of a man." [See: Bilbil.]
In Patchwork Girl, Chapter 19, Baum refers to the Tottenhots as both "people" ("tiny and curiously formed, but still people") and as "imps." Elsewhere in his works Baums employs the term "imp" to refer to orders of being other than human, but here the term seems metaphoric. It was also typical of Baum's cultural frame and era: fantasist Winsor McCay, Baum's contemporary, refers to black Africans as "jungle imps" in his comics, and in his masterwork Little Nemo in Slumberland (published contemporaneously with many of the Oz books), a key supporting character is a black African tribal boy called Impie.
Tottenhots also appear in the 1914 film The Patchwork Girl of Oz.
Curiously, Baum was not the first writer to employ the coinage "Tottenhot" for Hottentot. The same word occurs in Frank Lee Benedict's novel Miss Van Kortland (1875), and in Edward Sylvester Ellis's A Young Hero: or Fighting to Win (1888), where it refers to the Hottenhots who accompany a traveling circus.
- ↑ Linda Evi Merians, Envisioning the Worst: Representations of "Hottentots" in Early-Modern England, Newark, DE, University of Delaware Press, 2001; pp. 239-40.
- ↑ Katharine M. Rogers, L. Frank Baum, Creator of Oz: A Biography, New York, St. Martin's Press, 2002; p. 272.
- ↑ Richard Tuerk, Oz in Perspective: Magic and Myth in the L. Frank Baum Books, Jefferson, NC, McFarland, 2007; pp. 132-3.