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READING THE TBR, DAY 117: The Road to Oz (1909) by L. Frank Baum

Dorothy is back on the Kansas farm but gets lost again, because of course she does, as she attempts to lead a seeming vagrant to a nearby town and instead finds herself once more in Oz, because of course she does.

There are a few things to note about this vagrant:

One, a grown man asking a kid for directions should inspire cries of “Stranger danger!” and a possible call to the authorities, but it was a simpler time, and how sad that reading this passage just made me fear for Dorothy’s safety rather than commend her for her kindness. (Although, calling the poor man “stupid” was kind of harsh there, Dot.) 

Two, he is referred to only as “the shaggy man” and never named, though Dorothy dubs him “Shaggy Man”, in capital letters, and introduces him as such, when the occasion arises. That is just some weirdness right there. Maybe someone should call the authorities. Dude doesn’t have a name.

And three, it is eventually revealed that the shaggy man is the proud possessor of a “love magnet”, some kind of talisman that makes everyone he meets immediately adore him and want to do his bidding, hence Dorothy deciding to show him the way to Butterfield because he couldn’t understand her directions (and he also gets them out of quite a bit of strife as a result of this creepy bit of mind-fuckery, as the adventure proceeds, as you can imagine).

Of all the magical items in Oz, this love magnet is without doubt the ickiest, and I’m including here the cap that can make the winged monkeys your genie-style slaves.   

Dorothy’s other new friends include Button-Bright, a simple little lad who is likewise lost and answers most questions with “Don’t know”, and Polychrome, a beautiful daughter of the rainbow who… is beautiful, and together they visit a great many lands in Oz — it encompasses far more than the four direction-based states we have so far become familiar with — the rulers of which all eager to be present at Princess Ozma’s forthcoming birthday party. 

Without too much difficulty, Dorothy and (new) friends arrive in Oz in time to celebrate this event in style, and all her old friends arrive to share the fun, too. In many ways, this feels like it could easily be not the road to but the end of for Oz, as it has a kind of series finale, the-gang’s-all-here vibe about it, but of course there are still 9 Baum-penned books to go in this series (whew!) and so that can’t be it. Mostly, this was probably just a fan-pleasing attempt to bring back all the old favourites, and I kind of wish every author of a long-running series would do that once in a while. It’s… very nice.

Also very nice is the socialist utopia of Emerald City, which isn’t quite as easy a life as the one depicted in the film (“We get up at twelve and start to work at one; take an hour for lunch and then at two we’re done”), but is still pretty sweet. To wit:

“Don’t they work at all?” asked the shaggy man.

“To be sure they work,” replied the Tin Woodman; “this fair city could not be built or cared for without labor, nor could the fruit and vegetables and other food be provided for the inhabitants to eat. But no one works more than half his time, and the people of Oz enjoy their labors as much as they do their play.”

Theirs is also a post-currency economy:

“Fortunately money is not known in the Land of Oz at all. We have no rich, and no poor; for what one wishes the others all try to give him, in order to make him happy, and no one in all Oz cares to have more than he can use.”

Yeah, this isn’t really true of Oz (no more is it true of anywhere), but it’s a lovely dream, isn’t it?

In all, this is a largely uneventful but very enjoyable roam throughout this ever-expanding fairy land, and it is a testament to the writerly skill, especially with regard to character, that every party guest is not only memorable from their earlier appearances, but is also very welcome in the story.

Oh, and Toto! Toto’s here, you guys! Hi, Toto!

Wait… All the other animals from our world enter Oz (or similar) and can immediately speak. Why is Toto still barking his way through these tales? Billina the chicken and Jim the horse could have a chat. Why not Toto? WHY NOT TOTO?

I may be way too invested in this story now. Still, I’m on a roll. Book 6 is up next.

Woggle-Bug Report: YES! He’s here, where he performs a poem of his own composition for Ozma’s birthday: “Ode to Ozma.” It’s very good. 


TBR DAY 117: The Road to Oz (Oz #5) by L. Frank Baum
GENRE: Children’s Fiction, Classics
TIME ON THE TBR: 3 years.  
KEEP: Yep!

Published inTBR

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