To be precise, in French the word for toto means “other,” in other words, an agent. In the similar term other, the tense denotes that whatever the speaker intends should ultimately come to pass. “Toto! You broke it!” Is the more common usage.
In American English the word for toto is more likely to become “toy,” while in British English it’s more likely to become “dud.” According to American Heritage Dictionary the term toto stands for “a comic play or show (usually humorous), usually featuring a humorous element, but sometimes with a romantic or sentimental bent.” American Heritage Dictionary defines toto as “a story, poem, narrative, or other narrative form in which someone or something is lost, won, or found.” In British English the term toto means “a humorous story, especially one with humor” or “a piece of comedy.” While both use the past participle “to,” in American English, toto appears to become “too,” while Dorothy uses the past participle “doo,” while American Heritage Dictionary defines the word toto as “a humorous or sentimental story, often having moral or topical elements.”
When Tom Hanks and Bill Murray enter the Tin Man suit in the last scene of the movie Wizard of Oz, they’re not speaking to anyone in particular. Instead, they’re talking to a generic, amalgamated personage known as Toto. In the subsequent books, the audience begins to identify Toto with any number of Hollywood personalities Flo Peabody, the lead character from Grease; Mike Teeveen, the lead character from The Mask; and so on. Thus, for almost three decades after the release of The Tin Man, the character of Toto-as he is understood by the audience-was consistently presented as an important part of the story, regardless of whether the characters’ speaking roles required speaking directly to specific people.
Perhaps, in the wake of decades of successful film adaptation, and the unceasing critical acclaim that such films have received, Toto has been reduced to a character in a book. But while adapting a book to a theater play may seem like a difficult task-giving rise to endless discussion about whether or not the character should conform to the source material-it actually isn’t. For example, most of the book’s content is taken from the simple, everyday experience of Oz itself, and to give that material the appropriate shape and voice is simply a matter of assimilating it into the text.
So who was Toto? According to the book’s original story description, Toto was an old cow who lived in an enchanted land ruled over by a fairies-all of whom, apparently, were female. This makes Toto the first and only character to appear in the original story and the first and only fully embodied character to appear in the entire book. And as we’ll see throughout the rest of the book, his story continues on for three sequels.
Toto may be known for his speaking cow voice, but the book’s real strength lies in its visual interpretation of Oz. The book’s scenes are rich with symbolic imagery, each of which is reflected in Oz’s environment and surrounding events. The symbolism is never subtle, and when it is incorporated into a book, it’s never obvious why it should be there; but it is and is beautifully represented in toto by the magnificent paintings that comprise the book.