Feb 8, 2011

About Books Blog 33: The Wonderful Wizard of OZ


Author: L. Frank Baum
Genre: Classic, Children’s, Fantasy, Adventure

Favorite Line

“No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there than in any other country, be it ever so beautiful. There is no place like home.”


 (In the unlikely case you don’t know what this is about already.)

Dorothy Gale and her faithful dog Toto get caught up in a tornado, which lands them in the magical land of OZ. With the help of a Scarecrow, a Tin Man, and a Lion, Dorothy must find her way back to her home in Kansas, by traveling to the Emerald City to meet great Wizard.

What I Thought of This Book

I’ve always wanted to read the OZ books. I have a strange affinity for all things OZ, yet I had never read the book until now. I also took the book on because I thought it would be a nice story to read before going to sleep. It was in fact a nice bedtime read. The story was formulated for children and is thus simplistically written, and has a pleasant fairy tale quality. The Wizard of OZ captures the imagination.

The characters aren’t incredibly layered by any means. I didn’t expect that out of the story anyway since it is written almost in the manner of Grimm’s fairy tales which don’t often give much characterization. I did occasionally wish that the author would stop repeating how the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion didn’t have their brain, heart, and courage. I mean I got it the first time the characters were introduced, no need to harp on it endlessly.

There were several elements of the book I found a bit disturbing. For example how the Tin Woodman came to be made of tin. The man was cursed by a the Witch of The East to cut off his own limbs one by one until all of him was replaced with tin. Call me crazy but that just gives me the wiggins. I was also disturbed by the lengths in which the not so Wonderful Wizard of OZ would go to make the people of OZ think he was great and powerful. Oh yes, and let’s not forget the fact that he essentially asks a little girl to go out and murder his enemy for him. I mean that is pretty low. Aside from the few unsettling moments I couldn’t help but enjoy myself while reading this. I’m excited to read some of the other OZ books. I can totally get some of them for free from the many e-readers on my phone. Public Domain rocks!

Facts I Found Interesting

There are so many interesting facts I can’t put them all down here. I’ve limited myself to the four facts.

1. The protagonist of Wizard of Oz takes her the niece of L. Frank Baum’s wife, Dorothy Louise Gage. Dorothy died as a baby and Baum named his main character after her to ease some of his wife’s grief.

2. The book is said by many to be a social, economic, and political allegory for the events of America in the 1890’s. L. Frank Baum never officially confirmed that this was his intention with the book. Whether it was his intention or not I’m inclined to believe there is political symbolism wrapped in the tale. (See Political Interpretations of The Wizard of OZ.)

3. Originally The Wonderful Wizard of OZ was written with no intention of a sequel. However, after its release thousands of children wrote the author asking for more OZ stories. L. Frank Baum completed thirteen novels for the series. After his death the publishers assigned Ruth Plumly Thompson to write twenty-one more OZ novels. After her retirement four other authors jumped on the OZ book band wagon leaving forty books in the entire series.

4. In 1995 author Gregory Maguire published Wicked: The Life and Times of The Wicked Witch of the West. It is parallel novel exploring the time before Dorothy came to OZ from the perspective of the Wicked Witch of The West also known as Elphaba. I flipping love this book and will probably re-read it and review it. I now know that Wicked actually draws more from the film adaption than the OZ novel. I just realized that Wicked explains why I disliked the Wizard so much while reading this book.

Musicals, Movies, and TV Oh My!

This book has been adapted since the author himself created the musical version in 1902. Since then there have been several stage, film, and television creations offering ode to OZ. Obviously I can’t go into all of them, and I haven’t seen all of them anyway. However, I will give my points of view on what I have seen. Most of what is below focuses on my experiences with film and television adaptations, because they are the most widely accessible format. The titles above each film are link to IMDb, so you can watch trailers and such.

You can’t even think the words Wizard of OZ without thinking about the most well known 1939 classic adaptation. This film includes fabulous scenes in Technicolor, wonderful storytelling, and of course the memorable and endearing songs. There are said to be at least 44 identifiable differences between the film and the book, most notably the fact that the slippers in the novel were sliver not ruby red. The color was changed to take advantage of the brilliance of Technicolor, and I believe because the red appeared better against the yellow brick road. I suppose the only thing I might change about this film is the fact that Dorothy is often portrayed in the light of a damsel in distress, where as in the book she is often the one saving everyone else. Aside from the changes it is so similar to the novel that you barely notice the big changes. I basically love the film to pieces. You just can’t beat Judy Garland entering the land of OZ.

The Wiz is a retelling of the story featured in the context of African American culture. I say if you get a chance to see the stage version of The Wiz please do. It is very lively with wonderful music. Even my dad who is not a musical theater fan like me likes the stage version of The Wiz. If you are planning on buying/renting a copy of the film The Wiz avoid it like the plague. The music is still good. The rest of the film is a complete waste of time. This is one of the worse films I’ve ever seen. It has no pacing and seems to drag on for eternity and balk of the scenes are just plain stupid. I seriously think they only made it so they could put Dianna Ross and Michael Jackson could be in the same movie. Can you tell how much I dislike this film?

I’ve always loved Disney’s 1985 film Return To OZ. It’s a bit of an unofficial sequel to the 1939 film which contains characters from later books in the series. It definitely not as cute as the previous classic film. In fact the imagery in Return To OZ is occasionally so creepy it makes you giddy, and I still have a hard time believing it was made by Disney. However, I think the imagery is what I liked the best about it. I’m amused that Dorothy is played by a young Fairuza Balk, who later appeared in the film The Craft. From Dorothy to a wicked witch... Come on it is a little funny right?

Tin Man was a television mini-series created by the Syfy Channel. Tin Man was advertised as futuristic imagining of the original story, but it isn’t really that at all. In fact it is actually a tale about a woman named DG, a descendant of Dorothy Gale, caught in the O.Z. (Outer Zone). Tin Man wasn’t my cup of tea. Maybe I was just distracted by the fact that it had so very little to do with the original story. Parts of it bored me to tears the rest of it had a lack of direction. I found it rather disappointing. The acting is good and it is very visually appealing, but that’s really all it’s got.

If you want to know about more adaptations click here. In my research I discovered that there were many new stage and film productions being developed as we speak. Some of them are set debut this year.

Music To Read By

I didn’t listen to music at all for The Wonderful Wizard of OZ. I think perhaps I am not alone in the idea that it would be difficult to read this book without thinking about songs from the musicals. That does not facilitate the idea of listening to various amounts of music. It was only after I finished the book I realized I could have created a playlist of my favorite songs from the musicals and other renditions of the songs by various artists. I don’t know why I didn’t occur to me before. Silly me, that is the whole point of the playlist section on this blog. Oh well, I’ve made a playlist now, just in case I read it again.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Playlist

Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Judy Garland
The Feeling We Once Had - The Wiz Cast
Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead - Maureen McGovern
If I Only Had A Brain - Mandy Patinkin
The Jitterbug - Wizard of OZ Cast or Wizard of Oz in Concert Version
(Note: This song was in the film, but later ended up on the cutting room floor. I still love it. I couldn't decide which version I liked best, so I just put them both on here.)
Ease On Down The Road - The Wiz Cast
The Return of Glinda - Wizard of OZ Cast
Home - Glee Cast
Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Melody Gardot

I hope you guys had fun reading this. I felt like it was crazy long. I tried not to go crazy with words, but you know I love to babble. Ha ha! See you all later. Keep it shiny!


Teacher/Learner said...

Wow, great review! Thanks for all the information about the movies. I didn't know about some of them. I'm hoping to read the original Baum-written series some time.

Unknown said...

I read this book outloud to my daughter and had to do a bit of self censoring when it come to the violent parts. I also couldn't believe how much different (and better) it is than the movie.

Here are my thoughts on it: http://manoflabook.com/wp/?p=47