Review of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
I have to say I was a bit underwhelmed by The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I was expecting to be magically transported to the Land of Oz and Emerald City with Dorothy and Toto. The imagery of the lands encountered by Dorothy and her companions in their journey fell flat and just did not come through the pages. I also had the nagging of remembrance of Judy Garland wearing those magnificent ruby red shoes in the 1939 film adaptation. Dorothy does not acquire ruby red shoes in the book, thank you once again Hollywood. The edition I have includes black and white reproductions of some of the full color images from the first edition illustrated by W.W. Denslow. These illustrations depict Dorothy to be rather young, nowhere near Dorothy's age in the movie. (As you can see from my cover edition linked to the left.)
When Baum wrote his first children's book Mother Goose in Prose he told his sister "To please a child is a sweet and lovely thing that warms one's heart and brings its own reward. I hope my book will succeed in that way-that the children will like it." His introduction to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz included this passage:
"The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" was written solely to pleasure children of today.
It aspires to being a modernized fairy tale, in which the wonderment and joy are
retained and the heart-aches and nightmare are left out.
Not sure how much I believe he left out heart-aches and nightmares, twisting necks, chopping off of heads, flying attack monkeys and what have you.
I was more drawn to the supporting characters, the Tin Woodman, Scarecrow and Lion all have lessons for Dorothy's moral character. She becomes the center of their universe; they are concerned for her well-being and safety. They each already harbor the thing they wish to seek from the Great and Powerful Oz. The Scarecrow, wishing for a brain has excellent ideas along the way to solve various events. The Tin Woodman seeks a heart, however his caring nature for Dorothy's well-being proves he has one already. The poor courage-less Lion actually has courage, if as with the other, he would believe in himself.
The Oz wraps up some of these life lessons with his responses to the wayward creatures.
“You don’t need them. You are learning something every day. A baby has brains, but it doesn’t know much. Experience is the only thing that brings knowledge, and the longer you are on earth the more experience you are sure to get.”
“You have plenty of courage, I am sure,” answered Oz. “All you need is confidence in yourself. There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces danger. True courage is in facing danger when you are afraid, and that kind of courage you have in plenty.”
"I think you are wrong to want a heart. It makes most people unhappy. If you only knew it, you are in luck not to have a heart.”
Image: The Wicked Witch of The West
Author: William Wallace Denslow
Source: Library of Congress
This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1923.
During reading I posted the following update which include some thoughts and quotes of note at the time.
Thankfully, probably, I don't remember much from the 1939 movie to compare the story with otherwise. I remember bits and pieces but without watching it again right now I don't get the joy of picking it apart for differences from the book or commending it for bringing more of the world to life. I have not seen the latest Disney Oz The Great and Powerful release yet either. I did years ago watch the Sci-Fi channel modernized science-fiction take on the story, Tin Man. While obviously different, I don't mind as much when it is clearly marketed as a work loosely based on the original versus something that tries to sell itself as based-on/adapted from the original. Definitely darker and the flying monkeys summoning method might freak a little kid out, but worth a watch if you are into science-fiction.
[Notice: Original posting 2014-01-27 at Plethora of Books Blog: http://bookchallenges.weebly.com]
Tags: 2014, Children's, Classics