The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: The movie leaves out so much

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewschildren's fantasy book review L. Frank Baum The Wonderful Wizard of OzThe Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

In his introduction to the first American fairytale that went on to become one of the most famous and beloved movies of all time, author L. Frank Baum says a rather extraordinary thing. Discussing the purpose of the old fairytales by Grimm and Andersen, Baum tells us that such tales existed both to entertain children and provide a moral by means of “horrible and blood-curdling” incident. True enough, but Baum goes on to say that his book falls outside this typical definition of a fairytale, telling us that: “the story of the Wizard of Oz was written solely to pleasure children of today. It aspires to being a modernized fairytale, in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heartaches and nightmares are left out.”

Reading The Wizard of Oz for the first time made me wonder if Baum was even aware of what he’d written, or if perhaps someone else had written this introduction (someone who hadn’t read the book), for The Wizard of Oz is positively jam-packed full of beheadings, monsters, witches, deaths and other terrors, all focused on a character that embodies the quintessential childhood fear: that of being lost and unable to return home. Indeed, with his description of Uncle Henry in the very first chapter, Baum writes: “He worked hard from morning till night and did not know what joy was. He was gray, from his long beard to his rough boots, and he looked stern and solemn, and rarely spoke.” Not quite the cheerful fairytale Baum promises, is it?

But of course, this isn’t a bad thing. If we want to enjoy the light, then there has to be some shadows, and throughout Baum’s story there is a perfect blend of happiness and pain, wonderment and horror as Dorothy Gale traverses the Land of Oz in her attempts to get home to Kansas. I just find it rather bemusing that the author was apparently wholly unaware of this!

Inevitably, one can’t help but compare Baum’s original story with the movie version, and it’s interesting to compare the areas in which the two differ. There’s still a little girl called Dorothy who lives with her Uncle Henry, Aunt Em, and her dog Toto, and she’s still caught up in a cyclone that whisks her away to the Land of Oz. On waking up, she finds that her house has landed on the Wicked Witch of the East, much to the delight of the diminutive Munchkins, who have been slaves under her rule. Rewarded with the Witch’s Silver Shoes (not Ruby Slippers, which were an innovation of the movie in order to make the most of Technicolor), Dorothy is told to follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City and the Wizard of Oz, a mysterious figure who holds the best hope of getting her home again.

And of course there are the familiar and beloved figures of the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman and the Cowardly Lion, stalwart friends to Dorothy on her journey, and all desiring some internal quality (a brain, a heart, and courage, respectively), completely unaware that they already have these traits in abundance. There’s also the surprising Wizard of Oz, the evil Wicked Witch of the West (not as prevalent here as she was in the movie) and the good witches of the North and South (who in the movie are combined into the singular character of Glinda).

But there are plenty of things of Baum’s creation that the movie left out, such as a community of talking field mice and their Queen, a city of tiny china people, and a whole range of other bizarre inhabitants that would have been entirely impossible for the movie to recreate. The book also gives us more background into certain people and places. For example, I was delighted to find that the book gives us background on the Tin Woodman, detailing how exactly he came to be made of tin, which is a rather poignant tale of lost love. And as it turns out, there is a lot more to those creepy flying monkeys and the Emerald City than the movie shows us.

In the movie, marvels are introduced one after the other in quick succession, making Oz a rather abstract and random place, much akin to Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland in the “Alice” stories, (which makes a sort-of sense considering the film presents Oz as a dream that takes place in a concussed Dorothy’s mind), but the literary Oz has some semblance of order and symmetry to it. The country is divided by color and direction, with the yellow-clad Winkies in the west, the red-clad Quadlings in the south, the blue-clad Munchkins in the east, and of course the green inhabitants of the Emerald City.

Apologies if this review has ended up more like a comparison piece between the film and the book, but having been brought up with fond memories of the film, and approaching the book for the first time in adulthood, it was rather inevitable that the two would be held up against one another. In any case, reading the original story served to convince me that both the book and the film are necessary to appreciate each one, and any childhood would be all the richer for having been exposed to both!

The Wizard of Oz — (1900-1920) Ages 9-12. Publisher: One of the true classics of American literature, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has stirred the imagination of young and old alike for over four generations. Originally published in 1900, it was the first truly American fairy tale, as Baum crafted a wonderful out of such familiar items as a cornfield scarecrow, a mechanical woodman, and a humbug wizard who used old-fashioned hokum to express that universal theme, “There’s no place like home.” Follow the adventures of young Dorothy Gale and her dog, Toto, as their Kansas house is swept away by a cyclone and they find themselves in a strange land called Oz. Here she meets the Munchkins and joins the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion on an unforgettable journey to the Emerald City, where lives the all-powered Wizard of Oz.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz The Marvelous Land of Oz Ozma of Oz Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz The Road to Oz The Emerald City of Oz The Patchwork Girl of Oz Tik-Tok of Oz The Scarecrow of Oz Rinkitink in Oz The Lost Princess of Oz The Tin Woodman of Oz The Magic of Oz Glinda of Oz Little Wizard Stories of Oz L. Frank Baum John R. Neill The Wonderful Wizard of Oz The Marvelous Land of Oz Ozma of Oz Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz The Road to Oz The Emerald City of Oz The Patchwork Girl of Oz Tik-Tok of Oz The Scarecrow of Oz Rinkitink in Oz The Lost Princess of Oz The Tin Woodman of Oz The Magic of Oz Glinda of Oz Little Wizard Stories of Oz L. Frank Baum John R. Neill The Wonderful Wizard of Oz The Marvelous Land of Oz Ozma of Oz Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz The Road to Oz The Emerald City of Oz The Patchwork Girl of Oz Tik-Tok of Oz The Scarecrow of Oz Rinkitink in Oz The Lost Princess of Oz The Tin Woodman of Oz The Magic of Oz Glinda of Oz Little Wizard Stories of Oz L. Frank Baum John R. Neill The Wonderful Wizard of Oz The Marvelous Land of Oz Ozma of Oz Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz The Road to Oz The Emerald City of Oz The Patchwork Girl of Oz Tik-Tok of Oz The Scarecrow of Oz Rinkitink in Oz The Lost Princess of Oz The Tin Woodman of Oz The Magic of Oz Glinda of Oz Little Wizard Stories of Oz L. Frank Baum John R. Neill The Wonderful Wizard of Oz The Marvelous Land of Oz Ozma of Oz Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz The Road to Oz The Emerald City of Oz The Patchwork Girl of Oz Tik-Tok of Oz The Scarecrow of Oz Rinkitink in Oz The Lost Princess of Oz The Tin Woodman of Oz The Magic of Oz Glinda of Oz Little Wizard Stories of Oz L. Frank Baum John R. Neill The Wonderful Wizard of Oz The Marvelous Land of Oz Ozma of Oz Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz The Road to Oz The Emerald City of Oz The Patchwork Girl of Oz Tik-Tok of Oz The Scarecrow of Oz Rinkitink in Oz The Lost Princess of Oz The Tin Woodman of Oz The Magic of Oz Glinda of Oz Little Wizard Stories of Oz L. Frank Baum John R. Neill The Wonderful Wizard of Oz The Marvelous Land of Oz Ozma of Oz Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz The Road to Oz The Emerald City of Oz The Patchwork Girl of Oz Tik-Tok of Oz The Scarecrow of Oz Rinkitink in Oz The Lost Princess of Oz The Tin Woodman of Oz The Magic of Oz Glinda of Oz Little Wizard Stories of Oz L. Frank Baum John R. Neill The Wonderful Wizard of Oz The Marvelous Land of Oz Ozma of Oz Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz The Road to Oz The Emerald City of Oz The Patchwork Girl of Oz Tik-Tok of Oz The Scarecrow of Oz Rinkitink in Oz The Lost Princess of Oz The Tin Woodman of Oz The Magic of Oz Glinda of Oz Little Wizard Stories of Oz L. Frank Baum John R. Neill The Wonderful Wizard of Oz The Marvelous Land of Oz Ozma of Oz Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz The Road to Oz The Emerald City of Oz The Patchwork Girl of Oz Tik-Tok of Oz The Scarecrow of Oz Rinkitink in Oz The Lost Princess of Oz The Tin Woodman of Oz The Magic of Oz Glinda of Oz Little Wizard Stories of Oz L. Frank Baum John R. Neill The Wonderful Wizard of Oz The Marvelous Land of Oz Ozma of Oz Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz The Road to Oz The Emerald City of Oz The Patchwork Girl of Oz Tik-Tok of Oz The Scarecrow of Oz Rinkitink in Oz The Lost Princess of Oz The Tin Woodman of Oz The Magic of Oz Glinda of Oz Little Wizard Stories of Oz L. Frank Baum John R. Neill The Wonderful Wizard of Oz The Marvelous Land of Oz Ozma of Oz Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz The Road to Oz The Emerald City of Oz The Patchwork Girl of Oz Tik-Tok of Oz The Scarecrow of Oz Rinkitink in Oz The Lost Princess of Oz The Tin Woodman of Oz The Magic of Oz Glinda of Oz Little Wizard Stories of Oz L. Frank Baum John R. Neill The Wonderful Wizard of Oz The Marvelous Land of Oz Ozma of Oz Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz The Road to Oz The Emerald City of Oz The Patchwork Girl of Oz Tik-Tok of Oz The Scarecrow of Oz Rinkitink in Oz The Lost Princess of Oz The Tin Woodman of Oz The Magic of Oz Glinda of Oz Little Wizard Stories of Oz L. Frank Baum John R. Neill The Wonderful Wizard of Oz The Marvelous Land of Oz Ozma of Oz Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz The Road to Oz The Emerald City of Oz The Patchwork Girl of Oz Tik-Tok of Oz The Scarecrow of Oz Rinkitink in Oz The Lost Princess of Oz The Tin Woodman of Oz The Magic of Oz Glinda of Oz Little Wizard Stories of Oz L. Frank Baum John R. Neill The Wonderful Wizard of Oz The Marvelous Land of Oz Ozma of Oz Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz The Road to Oz The Emerald City of Oz The Patchwork Girl of Oz Tik-Tok of Oz The Scarecrow of Oz Rinkitink in Oz The Lost Princess of Oz The Tin Woodman of Oz The Magic of Oz Glinda of Oz Little Wizard Stories of Oz L. Frank Baum John R. Neill The Wonderful Wizard of Oz The Marvelous Land of Oz Ozma of Oz Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz The Road to Oz The Emerald City of Oz The Patchwork Girl of Oz Tik-Tok of Oz The Scarecrow of Oz Rinkitink in Oz The Lost Princess of Oz The Tin Woodman of Oz The Magic of Oz Glinda of Oz Little Wizard Stories of Oz L. Frank Baum John R. Neill


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REBECCA FISHER, with us since January 2008, earned a Masters degree in literature at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her thesis included a comparison of how C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman each use the idea of mankind’s Fall from Grace to structure the worldviews presented in their fantasy series. Rebecca is a firm believer that fantasy books written for children can be just as meaningful, well-written and enjoyable as those for adults, and in some cases, even more so. Rebecca lives in New Zealand. She is the winner of the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SFF Fan Writer.

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