Jason's Reviews > The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
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's review
Feb 22, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: classics, child-lit, adventure, 2011
Recommended to Jason by: Eddie & Susannah Dean/Jake Chambers
Recommended for: Children's fantasy peeps
Read from February 20 to 24, 2011

** spoiler alert ** Howdy. Let me say right off the bat that this review will discuss both the movie and the book. The movie is such an integral part of that section of my brain that deals with fantasy that I can't put the book in there as well and expect them to remain completely separate. Besides, I think a comparison will be fun.

The movie seems to have a nodding acquaintance with the book, and this is pretty clear from the first chapter. They resemble each other in the way that humans resemble each other by all of them (barring some physical malady) are bipedal, stand erect, and one skeleton pretty much looks like another. But there, the similarities end when you start adding flesh, skin, features, hair, etc... In this way the book and movie are as similar as Madonna and al-Gaddafi. I was quite surprised to discover this.

There is a cyclone which blows the house to Oz, the house lands on the Wicked Witch of the East, Dorothy takes her shoes, the Munchkins tell Dorothy and Toto to go to Oz who may be able to send her home, she follows a yellow brick road to get there, collects the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion on the way, Oz tells them to kill the Wicked Witch of the West, they go there and do so, return to Oz, discover he's a fraud, he gets in a balloon which Dorothy misses, she clicks her heels to get home.

Now, I know you're saying "Well, that's basically the story, isn't it?" Yes, but just basically. The devil is in the details. Dorothy is about six years old, playing in the yard when a cyclone comes. Uncle Henry runs after the livestock, Auntie Em gets into the trapdoor inside the house in time, but when Dorothy gets to it the house is blown away into the sky. Completely absent are the three farm hands Hunk, Hank, and Zeke, Almira Gulch, and Professor Marvel. Absent also is Dorothy's runaway scene. Without that, the entire "looking-for-greener-pastures-and-finding-spinach" moral of the story at the end of the movie is made moot. Due to those things not being there, we almost have a completely different story from the cerebral aspect.

We meet three Munchkins at the house, and perhaps half a dozen more on the road at farms (they all wear blue hats, and that's it for their exuberant colors), and the Witch of the North is munchkin size herself. The shoes Dorothy gets are silver, not ruby. The scarecrow is quite smart throughout the entire story, but convinced he's stupid. The Tin Woodman possesses much love, but is convinced he's heartless. He was building a cottage for the love of his life, actually. Then we have some violence that surprised me. The Tinman was actually a man. For some reason the Witch of the East was mad at him, and caused his axe to cut off his leg. He went to a tinsmith and had a new leg made. The Witch was still mad, so we repeat this process with his other leg, then an arm, then the other arm, then his head, then his torso, and finally he's all tin, but there's no heart in him. The Cowardly Lion is anything but; he's quite brave and ferocious, but is convinced he's a coward because he's scared when he does his courageous deeds. By the time they all get to the Emerald City, the Tinman's kill count is three. He seems to think nothing of beheading a wildcat with his axe as it rushes by chasing a mouse, but becomes completely unglued when he almost steps on a beetle.

At the Emerald City, the doorbell not only works just fine, but even causes the door to open up for them. There is no horse of a different color, but everything in the city is green, or at least looks that way, because everyone is forced to wear green spectacles. The wizard tells all of them, one at a time on separate days, that he will grant their requests if they kill the Wicked Witch of the West, so they set off to do just that, and go into the ONLY chapter that has the Witch in it. That's right; the driving antagonist force in the movie gets one chapter. Not only that, but the crew marches up to her castle like the frocking Fellowship of the Ring, killing or frightening off her minions along the way. The Tin Woodman kills more than Gimli manages in the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy (he kills 40 wolves, and an unspecified number of bees and wasps). The Scarecrow himself breaks the necks of 40 crows. Dorothy kills the witch with a bucket of water, and the Winkies love her for it.

The winged monkeys were responsible for getting Dorothy and the Lion to the Witch's castle, but it wasn't because they obey the witch just to be doing it; she controls them with a cap which enables the wearer to be granted three favors from the monkeys. Her first use was to help take over the land of the Winkies, the second to drive the Wizard out of her realm, and the third to get Dorothy after all her other minions died in the attempt. They also ripped apart the scarecrow, and dented the hell out of the tinman.

They return to Oz where they discover the wizard is a humbug, yet they still insist on getting the gifts they already have. This causes the wizard to reflect that he loves Oz because the people there are so stupid that they think they need him. So, to get them to shut up, he stuffs the Scarecrow's head with a pin cushion, puts a heart pillow in the Tinman, and makes the Lion drink something he just found in a bottle somewhere and called it courage. He then builds the balloon, and floats away. Afterward, someone tells them that maybe Glinda, the good witch of the south (yes, a completely different character who answers the question "is there a witch in the South?)," can probably help them. So they go to see her.

They encounter trees that hold them out of the woods. Since the woodman has no trouble axing sentient beings, he goes right on ahead and chops them up. Inside all the beasts of the woods are upset about one of Shelob/Aragog/It/Mordred's siblings creating a ruckus. The Lion beheads the Acromantula while it's sleeping. They cross a china doll land, and break a church all to pieces in the bargain. They come across the Hammerheads, who are armless dudes whose heads spring out of their torsos and retract, and they use these heads to beat our protagonists back. (One assumes that this was the point in writing where Baum was doing the most opium). Dorothy uses the Winged Monkey cap for her third time to get them over the Hammerheads to Glinda. Glinda gets the cap, and uses her three monkey uses to send the Lion back to the Acromantula forest to rule over the beasts, the Tin Woodman back to the West's castle to rule over the Winkies, and the Scarecrow to the Emerald City to rule over the denizens there. She then tells Dorothy how the silver shoes work. Just click the heels thrice, say where you want to go, and there you will be. Dorothy's reaction to this news is along the lines of "Well, fuck a duck! I coulda done that when I landed in Munchkinland!" Needless to say her three companions are glad she didn't, or else they wouldn't have gotten their brain, heart, or courage.

She does the deed, gets back to Kansas, discovers Uncle Henry has built a new house to replace the one that blew away, sees Aunt Em, gives her a hug, and that's the end of that. Turns out the adventure is, no doubt about it, real in the book and not a dream at all. Hopefully the sequel book doesn't start with Dorothy getting electroshock therapy for believing in Oz like the sequel movie. I don't know if I'll ever find out, though. I might read the sequels one day (and will probably hit the two that relate to the second movie at least), but I have too much other stuff on my to-read list right now to tackle more Oz any time soon.

As much as I love the movie, and all the glamor and music that goes with it, I must say I kind of like the story as presented in the book better. Several things glossed over in the movie are explained, and I don't come away from the book thinking of Glinda as a such a bitch for not telling Dorothy how to get home from the git-go. Course, that wouldn't be much of a movie. Movie and book are apples and oranges. Both are delicious, and it's not fair to compare the flavors as both of them have their own charms.

I highly suggest reading this book if you're into children's fantasy. If you're reading it just to find out what happens to Miss Gulch and if she's still after Toto after Dorothy awakens, don't waste your time; she doesn't exist in the book.
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08/24/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Leslie If you like the first Oz book, you should read the other dozen!

Jason I hope to check out a couple others one day. It sucks having 100 books on your to-read list, ha ha.

Art (Posting elsewhere as Whistler Reads) I found an Omnibus edition of all 14 on Amazon...under $4.00 I think, if not free...Public domain by now...

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