I've Never Read…The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
I’ve Never..is where we share the pop culture mistakes we made by missing out on a popular book, movie, TV show, or video game, and then write about our very first experience with the media.
I’ve gone underground with Alice, explored the streets of London with Sara Crewe, adventured to Hogwarts with Harry, and rode in a great glass elevator with Charlie, however, I have never read one of the most beloved works of children’s literature until now. L. Frank Baum wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1900 and now in 2015, I’ve finally read it. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ve seen the movie in its entirety. It was time to catch up with this children’s literature staple.
This review has spoilers, so click the obscured text to view them!
The first thing that struck me about The Wizard of Oz novel is the language itself. It’s simple yet pleasant, and draws you in immediately. I’d liken the opening to Harry Potter as well.
Dorothy lived in the midst of the great Kansas prairies, with Uncle Henry, who was a farmer, and Aunt Em, who was the farmer’s wife. Their house was small, for the lumber to build it had to be carried by wagon many miles. There were four walls, a floor and a roof, which made one room; and this room contained a rusty looking cookstove, a cupboard for the dishes, a table, three or four chairs, and the beds. Uncle Henry and Aunt Em had a big bed in one corner, and Dorothy a little bed in another corner. There was no garret at all, and no cellar–except a small hole dug in the ground, called a cyclone cellar, where the family could go in case one of those great whirlwinds arose, mighty enough to crush any building in its path. It was reached by a trap door in the middle of the floor, from which a ladder led down into the small, dark hole.
Now, upon reading it, I was immediately remembering the sorta-sequel to the movie, Return to Oz, and imagined the desolate place that film portrayed.
Nearly everyone knows about the silver slippers being changed to red to show up vividly in the Technicolor movie, but I also learned other things from the novel. For instance, I didn’t every understand why the Wicked Witch shriveled up and burst into dust. The book taught me [spoiler]it was because she was so old[/spoiler].
The Munchkins were more central to the plot throughout the novel (I have no idea how much they feature in the subsequent titles), such as the scene where Dorothy stays with them overnight. There’s also a bit of conversation about the significance of her famous gingham dress, and the color blue.
When Boq saw her silver shoes he said, “You must be a great sorceress.”
“Why?” asked the girl.
“Because you wear silver shoes and have killed the Wicked Witch. Besides, you have white in your frock, and only witches and sorceresses wear white.”
“My dress is blue and white checked,” said Dorothy, smoothing out the wrinkles in it.
“It is kind of you to wear that,” said Boq. “Blue is the color of the Munchkins, and white is the witch color. So we know you are a friendly witch.”
Blue comes up again in the novel, such as in the Scarecrow’s eyes, which are painted by his Munchkin creator. The Munchkins wear exclusively blue in both their clothing and their hats. Even their homes are blue. The original art of the novel uses blue throughout even in the colorplate pages for the chapters featuring Munchkins. The color schema for the Land of Oz uses blue for the Munchkin Country as well.
Another difference to the movie, and one that I enjoyed, was the origin stories of the characters. Instead of Dorothy just coming upon the characters of the Scarecrow and the Tin Man, in the book, she meets them and learns their stories. For instance, the Scarecrow tells her how he was made by a Munchkin farmer to protect his crops, but eventually an old crow figured out he was a scarecrow and the birds ignored him. The crow is also the one who tells the Scarecrow that he doesn’t have any brains, so that starts the Scarecrow’s quest. In the movie, he was bewitched by the Wicked Witch of the West. I also learned that the Tin Man was a real man who was cut up by an enchanted axe, because the Wicked Witch of the East was helping a woman who raised the girl the Tin Man was in love with, and she didn’t want to let her household help go. The axe eventually chops him into pieces, and he is gradually replaced by more and more body parts of tin, except for his heart, so he can no longer love the maiden. Depressing, right?! We don’t really learn much of a story for the Cowardly Lion (who displays bravery throughout the book) and he tells Dorothy “It’s a mystery. I suppose I was born that way.”
One of the biggest differences between the book and the movie is that Oz is a real place in the novel, whereas in the movie, Oz is in Dorothy’s dreams. Why they changed this, I don’t know, but I think I like that it’s a fantastical world in the books more. The Great and Powerful Oz’s gifts are a bit different, and there’s a lot more violence than the movie.
I really enjoyed The Wizard of Oz, and will probably either listen to audiobook versions of the subsequent books in the series, or read them, but only if I can see the magnificent illustrations. They’re quite beautiful, aren’t they? I think I can see a copy of the Annotated Wizard of Oz making it into my Amazon cart soon!
Have you read The Wizard of Oz, and if so, what did you think of it?