We all know The Wizard of Oz, of course. From the Judy Garland childhood favourite to The Wiz to assorted modern day-set adaptations (Zooey Deschanel in Tin Man is a favourite), that magical land over the rainbow is even more entrenched in our collective zeitgeist than Lilliput or Fantasia or even Westeros.
A few years back, when a new box set of all L. Frank Baum’s fourteen Oz stories was released (plus one follow up by a different author, for some reason), Amazon suggested it to me as something I might like, and it occurred to me that I had never read the original stories on which this cultural touchstone was based. Amazon’s logarithms know me way better than I’d like, actually.
So I bought them, and admired them, and only now have gotten around to reading them. (That old chestnut…) This first book of the series is actually surprisingly close to the film version we all know and love so well, with Dorothy blown in her house by a tornado and landing on the Wicked Witch of the East and freeing the Munchkins from her terrible rule. Certainly, there are differences: the magic shoes are silver, not red; backstory is missing; the winged monkeys are enslaved; the Queen of the Field Mice saves Dorothy from the poppy field; and Glinda the Good shows up way later, which actually makes sense, because WHY did Glinda send Dorothy off to the Emerald City if all she had to do was click her heels together to go home? Also, the Wizard changes shape a bunch, and the rewards he gives to the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and Cowardly Lion are different, and the people of Oz wear green glasses to make the Emerald City green (which I don’t understand), and Dorothy did not dream it all in the book version, which I like way, way better. Plus, in print she’s only nine years old. (Oh, and the witch doesn’t say “I’ll get you, my pretty! And your little dog, too!” Impressive work, then, screenwriters!)
Bus aside from all that — and really, most of it is pretty incidental — the movie adhered to the book pretty well, all things considered, and it all developed pretty much as you might expect, except that I for one did not expect the book to be so funny. Baum has a winning way with an epigram, and he makes wry observations throughout the book (especially with regard to the brains, heart and courage sought by Dorothy’s companions) that completely took me by surprise. This book is an early example of that thing Disney does now, throwing in an extra layer for the grownups that fly straight over the kiddies’ heads. I am so glad I am reading it now, when I get the jokes. They are very good jokes.
In all, I find myself — like so very many others, across the century-plus that this book has been in print — entranced by this most magnificent creation, and I am excited to get started on the next one in the series. Like, so excited I’m going to start on it right now.
Whether this says more about this book or about me, I don’t feel qualified to say.
TBR DAY 113: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Oz #1) by L. Frank Baum
GENRE: Children’s Fiction, Classics
TIME ON THE TBR: 3 years.
PURCHASED FROM: Amazon.