Shoshana's Reviews > Glinda of Oz

Glinda of Oz by L. Frank Baum
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's review
Mar 18, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: childrens, classics, fantasy, old-favorite
Recommended for: everyone
Read in March, 2012

(4.5, but for Oz's sake I'll err up instead of down.)

I've read reviews that suggest that Glinda of Oz is the darkest, possibly because Baum knew he was dying at that point. I don't actually see explicit darkness, but I do think that there is an element of fear in this one that there isn't in the rest, that things might not actually turn out right. Of course, as an adult, it is clear to me that they're going to figure it out, but I remember as a kid liking Glinda of Oz less even while knowing that it was one of the better ones, because it felt - I think I would have described it as frustrating, but I think what I was really feeling was stress. It's stressful, because (for a kid) it's suspenseful. Your worried. They try everything they (and you) can think of, and Ozma and Dorothy and the island are still underwater, and Glinda, who you're accustomed to seeing swoop in to save the day with ease, is just as helpless as the rest of them.

It's also one of the more powerful books in the series, not just because the problem is hard to solve but because when they do solve it it takes all of them - Ozma, Glinda, Dorothy, the Skeezers, Red Reera the Yookoohoo (my favorite character in this one! She's in only two chapters, but they're by far my favorite chapters of the whole book!), and the three Adepts. Although Ozians are accustomed to discussing what to do, coming to agreement, and carrying out their decisions, there is nowhere where the teamwork is so clear and so participatory, where if even one person weren't there they would not have succeeded. Most of the time in the Oz books there are actually a lot of potential solutions, given the range of magic they have at their disposal, and everyone's personality kind of blends into everyone else's (although they certainly have defining traits and characteristics) in the sense that anyone could have thought of anything. It's not true in Glinda of Oz.

It did occur to me a while ago and re-occurred to me in this book that the Oz books are all a little imperialist. In Baum's world, Ozma rules Oz and all the Ozians by right of the fairy queen passed over Oz and decided to drop Ozma off and make her the ruler (at least that's the latest story; it used to be that Ozma's father used to rule Oz, and I believe in the Ruth Plumly Thompson books that becomes true again) - and this goes even for the people who live within the geographic boundaries of Oz (aka bounded by the Deadly Desert) but who have their own states and don't even know that Oz exists. It is actually presented as the duty of Ozma and her friends to tell people who don't know they're her subjects that in fact they are, and they owe her allegiance and obedience to her laws; and the "good" people always acquiesce with little fuss. Ozma takes the trip to the Skeezers and Flatheads because it is her duty to ensure peace in her realm even when she has no idea who these people are and what they're fighting about, and is pretty sure that they know equally little about her. Does this seem a little White-Man's-Burden-y to anyone else?

And then there's that last line - the last line of all of the Baum Oz books, and the only one with an explicit moral, and it really is funny because it's like the moral at the end of an Aesop's fable or something, and it's also kind of interesting and grim, especially given the context in which he wrote the book, and it also, now that the reminiscence of Kipling has occurred to me, strengthens that aspect a little creepily. All that in one tiny sentence! Here it is: "Which proves that it is always wise to do one's duty, however unpleasant that duty may seem to be."

Still, it's a strong book in a series I love, and I'm sad to see the end of the Baum ones (although as far as I remember Thompson is actually just as good, and I've already started hers). Good ol' Dorothy is up for anything, as usual - "Whatever happens it's going to be fun - 'cause all excitement is fun - and I wouldn't miss it for the world!" And this book is actually one of the best examples of Baum's seemingly casual but so wonderful habit of having lots of female characters, all of whom are active not just as adventurers but as problem solvers. Looking over whom I mentioned as important to the resolution of the story, they're all but one (Ervic the Skeezer) female, and it is never never commented on. The prominence and complexity and strength of female characters in the Oz books really for me adds up to so much more than do his flaws, that I am willing to forgive him almost anything, and it's not just because of sentiment over books from my youth.
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