Otis and the Scarecrow: 01/12/18
Otis and the Scarecrow by Loren Long is the sixth book in the Otis picture book series. I read it as part of my on-going exploration of the crossing the cornfield category of road narratives.
If cornfields are magical barriers between worlds, or supernatural prisons, there needs to be a warden. The scarecrow, a mundane creation of straw and old clothes and a painted on face, is there to keep away the birds who want to eat the corn. But when the supernatural is brought into play, the scarecrow is often brought to life as a warden or bogeyman.
In Otis and the Scarecrow, there is a disconnect of expected tropes and actual outcomes. It's not a deconstruction of the tropes — just an oversight due to the way the series is set up. Otis, for his many years of service the farm tractor has gained sentiency and freewill — something the farmer realizes at the end of Otis. The story here, then, is Otis — a living tractor — being jealous of the newcomer — a scarecrow put up near the cornfield by the farmer.
Otis, who is friends with the farm animals, takes in instant dislike to the scarecrow because it doesn't frolic. It's rather neutrally painted face is rendered in a chiaroscuro fashion making it appear rather threatening. Except throughout the book — even in a driving rain storm — the scarecrow is shown to be an inanimate object.
The book ends with a close up of the scarecrow's face after Otis has decided that the scarecrow isn't like his other friends, but also isn't a threat. It's subtly implied that maybe in the distant future there might be a spark of life in it — but only after years of service.
Regardless, the scarecrow / cornfield part of this book is set apart from the crossing the cornfield road narrative. The farm is already isolated, with a set cast, and with the central character being a tractor. With the scarecrow being the outsider set to work at guarding the cornfield, there's no real threat to the other characters. If anything, the scarecrow is at the mercy of the other characters should one of them decide that it's not welcome.
This scarecrow might fall into the category of "reluctant scarecrow" which would include the Scarecrow from the Oz series and Feathertop, a creation of Nathaniel Hawthorne. At this juncture, though, I'm not sure how relevant the "reluctant scarecrow" tangent is to my road narrative project.