Bullet List of Awesome for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Today, please welcome Tracy Faul, who will give us a tour of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz… the book. And compare it to the movie. Oh, the interesting bullet list of awesome that occurs. And oh, how funny it is…

Bullet List of Awesome for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

(no, seriously. Go read the first couple of pages. It’s too long for a list like this, but OMG. It’s so very gray and desolate-sounding; and then it contrasts so mightily with the richness and glorious color words he uses to describe Munchkinland.)

  • It’s incredibly politically incorrect for nowadays, but it always makes me giggle a bit when Baum describes something as “queer” – for example, the Munchkins: “[S]he noticed coming toward her a group of the queerest people she had ever seen. They were not as big as the grown folk she had always been used to; but neither were they very small. In fact, they seemed about as tall as Dorothy, who was a well-grown child for her age, although they were, so far as  looks go, many years older.” {Side note: Notice Dorothy is the *same height* as fully grown Munchkins. Think what this says about her age. Now, think about the movie…}
  • ‘Silver Shoes’ are so much better – to me, anyway – than ‘Ruby Slippers,’ which seem rather impractical for a long-distance journey by foot over uncertain terrain.
  • Miss Practicality: Dorothy, before setting out on her journey, changes into her only other dress (serendipitously clean), washes her face, makes sure she and Toto are well-rested, fed and watered, packs a basket with fruit and bread, and changes into the apparently most practical Silver Shoes. Then she locks the door of the little one-room cottage and puts the key in the pocket of her apron. She LOCKS THE DOOR.
  • Baum liked things neat: all the farms she passes on the first part of her journey are picture-perfect little plots, with perfectly straight lines and picket fences. And everything – EVERYTHING – is painted blue.
  • If it has a mouth, it talks, and is sentient. (Except, apparently, Toto. But if I recall correctly, he actually *does* talk in a later book; and tells Dorothy that he never felt it necessary to do so before. Wise dog; we should all take a leaf from his book – except that then Twitter would be no fun at all…)
  • Dorothy says, “There is no place like home” on page 30 of my copy of the book. No clicking of heels, just says it. Of course, she’s not whisked away immediately; that would be too easy.
  • Miss Practicality, again: when stopping for the night, Dorothy insists on fresh water nearby, and walls and a roof to protect her. Serendipity, again, is looking out for her – she finds the Tin Man’s little cottage, although she doesn’t realize that till a bit later.
  • After meeting up with and liberating the Tin Man, Dorothy & her companions enter a sort of Forest Primeval, all overgrown and dark and creepy, and just to make it a little MORE creepy, Tin Man starts telling his story, in which he loses bits in service of luuuurve. Lots of lovely gore. And aborted romance. (Actually, this is important. A later book — #12, The Tin Woodman of Oz – reunites him with Nimmee Amee, his sweetie, and he has lots of adventures to try to win her back. I forget how it ends.)
  • Kalidahs! Baum had a genius for creating unusual beasts to populate his world, and providing descriptions that leant themselves to artistic rendering. “’What are Kalidahs?’ asked the girl. ‘They are monstrous beasts with bodies like bears and heads like tigers,’ replied the lion; ‘and with claws so long and sharp that they could tear me in two as easily as I could kill Toto. I’m terribly afraid of the Kalidahs.’”Kalidahs
  • This next bit I love as it deviates somewhat from the movie (Yes, the book was better. The book is nearly always better.) Dorothy and her companions build a raft to cross a river. The Scarecrow and the Tin Man are poling them across, and the Scarecrow’s pole gets stuck {side note: I can’t seem to write this without giggling. Sorry. But not really.} They end up floating quite a way downstream from the Yellow Brick Road. A very kind Stork rescues and delivers the Scarecrow unto them from his perch in the center of the river. {*snicker*} Next up: The Poppy Field!
  • I think it’s worth noting that, in the movie, by this point the Wicked Witch of the West has been doing her best to eliminate our intrepid group of travelers. In the book? She’s had a mention, briefly, back when Dorothy first arrived in Munchkinland, and hasn’t been heard of since. The poppy field is entirely natural. However, the opiates are derived from the seeds, so simply smelling the flowers will probably NOT put you to sleep. But the mythology behind it is lovely. Anyway, the poppies put Dorothy & Toto to sleep, but the Tin Man and the Scarecrow are able to carry them out. The Lion is not so fortunate, so….
  • The Tin Man, who has by this point rusted his own jaw shut several times crying over accidentally stepping on ants, chops off a critter’s head and rescues a mouse. Coincidentally, she’s the Queen of all field-mice. Hmmm… This seems familiar somehow… could it be that the Queen mouse will be able to help the—Oh. Why, yes, the Lion *is* rescued by hundreds of teeny squeaky little mice. (Although I do have to admit, I always wondered why, since the Lion fell near the edge of the field, they didn’t just tear up enough poppies in a path around the Lion to allow him to breathe fresh air, wake up, and make his own way out. Granted, that would have taken a fair bit of time, but it’s not like they’re exactly on a strict schedule.)
  • In the forest, the Yellow Brick Road was poorly tended, pot-holey and torn up, but on this side of the river, it’s once again well-tended, and the primary paint-and-clothing color is veering toward the green, indicating we’re on the outskirts of the Emerald City. Finally. But after speaking with the locals, we learn that “No one has ever actually been permitted into the presence” of the All-Powerful Wizard of Oz. Oh, noes! How will we get our brains/heart/courage/travel plans now?
  • The Gate-Keeper to the City of Emeralds is a green-tinted man who fits all our traveling companions – including Toto – with spectacles locked on with a key, with green glass in the frames to protect the eyes from the glory of the city.   The Wizard of Oz
  •  Everything is GREEN in the Emerald City. Green marble, emeralds everywhere, green glass windows, green skin and hair… I asked my kids if they thought everything was really green, or if it just seemed that way to every single person because they all wore the green glass spectacles. We voted a solid 50-50 between the four of us. I have insider information, but I still voted for the green glass making everything look green, even if it’s really not.
  • Baum never really says why Oz decided to see Dorothy and her companions, but he does. And, essentially, orders them separated. He will only see one at a time, one per day. They are each shown to a room; Dorothy’s is described as having a closet full of dresses in rich fabrics, all green, and all fitting her perfectly. Creepy but very magical.
  • The Many Faces of Oz: To Dorothy, he is a giant, disembodied head; to the Scarecrow, she appears as a beautiful lady. To the Tin Man, he is a terrible Beast, nearly as big as an elephant, with a face like a rhinoceros with five eyes, five long arms growing out of its body, and five long, slim legs, all covered in thick wooly hair. The Cowardly Lion is faced with a giant Ball of Fire {and ZOMG now I have Jerry Lee Lewis singing in my head! EARWORM! Make it stop! *whimper*} and all four companions are exhorted that, if one of them will but kill the Wicked Witch of the West, who has enslaved the Winkies, they shall all receive their requested reward.
  • Note of the most mundane: after determining that they shall, indeed, travel to the land of the Winkies and attempt to free them from the dominion of the Wicked Witch {Dear Gods and Goddesses, now I have a dominatrix in green pleather and a tall hat strutting through my brain; what is *WRONG* with me!} they get a good night’s sleep in their green rooms and are awakened by a crowing green cock {Not gonna say it, not gonna say it, not gonna say it} and the cackling of a green hen who laid a green egg {Hey! Who invited Dr. Seuss??}.
  • They set off toward the West, where there are no roads, for no one wishes to go that way and be enslaved, but they’re assured that they’ll have no problem locating the Wicked Witch as she’ll surely enslave them as well. And after the green glass spectacles are removed, the dress Dorothy acquired from the Emerald Palace turns out to be white, rather than green. Whodathunkit? And, oh, goodies, here come the Witch’s outliers:
  • The Witch sends out a pack of wolves. The Tin Woodman and his axe kill all 40 of them while Dorothy sleeps.
  • The Witch sends a flock of crows; the Scarecrow wrings 40 crows’ necks.
  • The Witch sends deadly black bees. Somehow, the Scarecrow’s straw is enough to cover Dorothy, the Lion, and Toto sufficiently to keep them from being stung, and all the stingers are broken off on the Tin Man’s body, thus killing the bees. My, they are just leaving behind them a path of death and destruction, are they not?
  • So the Witch turns to her Last Resort – a Golden Cap with a charm inside that will allow her to summon three times the Winged Monkeys. She’s used them twice already: Once to enslave the Winkies, and once to drive the Great and Powerful Oz out of the West. Dorothy and her traveling companions are enough of a threat to make her use up this last summoning, and lucky her, it works – the Scarecrow is taken apart and scattered across a forest; the Tin Man is dropped to the bottom of a rocky ravine; and the others are taken to the Witch, who puts Dorothy to work in the kitchen and attempts to starve the Lion into working as a beast of burden (of course Dorothy manages to foil this.)
  • The Witch is, indeed, melted accidentally by a bucket of water. (C’mon, it’s not a spoiler. It’s one of the few things everybody knows that the movie actually got right!) She is also bloodless (“She was so wicked the blood in her had dried up”) and apparently afraid of the dark.
  • The Winkies, despite having been enslaved, immediately perk right up and suffer no ill effects whatsoever; they rescue the Tin Man and buff him up and lube his joints {OMG, yes, I *KNOW*}, then restuff the Scarecrow {with *STRAW*, people; they’re Winkies and yellow and they grow yellow things like straw and corn!! Sheesh! The dirty minds on you!} and then it’s back to the Emerald City and Oz to make him fulfill his promises. And for some reason, the Winkies have become so very fond of the Tin Man that they ask him to stay and be their ruler. I’m not saying he won’t be a good and caring ruler, I’m just saying we never really hear WHY they want him. And Dorothy finds the Golden Cap which summons the Winged Monkeys, and apparently thinks, “Oh, how interesting,” and carries it off in her little basket which she’s STILL toting around, WEEKS after landing in this queer fairyland.
  • Oh, guess what? They can’t find their way back – no roads, remember? – so they summon the Queen of the field mice. Yep, that’s right. The mouse they rescued on the other side of the COUNTRY has, I can only imagine, been following them around, for no sooner do they think of asking her advice than there she is. That, or she can transport somehow. I want that power. Oh, and the mouse Queen tells them that they’ve been going the wrong way! Does the sun work differently there, or do they none of them know how to tell direction from the sun?? AND the Queen just so happens to know about the charm in the Golden Cap, and suggests that Dorothy summon the Winged Monkeys to fly them back to Oz. And, of course, because she’s just that kind of girl, she listens to their sad story. Of course it’s a sad story; aren’t they all?
  • So, here we are, back in the Emerald City. The Wizard is exposed as a humbug, yet everyone *still* expects him to do for them – he even says himself, “How can I be anything BUT a humbug, when people will keep expecting me to do the impossible for them?” He cooks up a mess to be brains for the Scarecrow, involving many needles and pins; a satin heart stuffed with sawdust for the Tin Man {Build-a-Bear Workshop? RLY?}, and snakeoil courage for the Cowardly Lion. Then he builds a hot air balloon which, sadly, he can’t control, and he leaves while Dorothy Dear is stranded. So Dorothy calls again on the Winged Monkeys, who tell her they can’t fly her to Kansas because they don’t *belong* in Kansas. They suggest she go to see Glinda, the Witch of the South, for help, and oh, yay, we get to cross more of Oz and see more interesting people and possibly animals.
  • South is the Land of the Quadlings, just as Munchkins are East and Winkies are West, and their color is Red. North is the Gillikins and Purple; find yourselves a map sometime (they’re in all the MMPBs I’ve seen). Seriously, the man’s map is DETAILED. Jaw-droppingly. I would love to get it poster-sized.
  • Scarecrow’s brains make him the new Ruler of Oz as a whole. Yep. Pins and needles are what one needs to qualify as a ruler.
  • What fun things do we run into as we travel south? Well, first are the trees whose branches attempt to fling the travelers back in the direction from whence they came – The Tin Man and his axe intimidate them into submission. Next, they discover a high wall surrounding many acres of land; inside everything is made of porcelain, and much destruction and smashing of things is caused by Dorothy and crew. Then there is a forest wherein all manner of beasts dwell; everything except, apparently, a Lion. The Cowardly Lion is invited to kill the giant spidery beast which has eaten all the other lions in the forest. {Oh, ew, spiders! Also, Hagrid would be SO HAPPY here!} Of course, the newly courage-d lion easily defeats the creature and is invited to come and rule over the forest once he’s seen Dorothy to journey’s end. Finally, there is a hill populated by man-like creatures with flat heads and no arms, which can shoot their heads as a projectile at all comers. This sends Dorothy (finally!!) to summon the Winged Monkeys to carry them over the hill and to Glinda’s palace. I think you can figure it out from there. There’s no place like home, after all! {Ok, so that’s not EXACTLY how it happened, but it’s close enough.}

Every time I revisit Oz, I discover new layers to the narrative. I’m currently in the middle of reading the first book aloud to my sons, ages 7 and 8 (and occasionally the 11-year-old Girl-child will sit and listen as well). I don’t know if they’ll all watch the movie; the 8YO can be a bit odd about stuff like that. He plays Halo but won’t watch Harry Potter and called the Spiderwick movie a “horror” movie, but his little brother thinks that Voldemort is cool. L. Frank Baum wrote 14 books and numerous short stories, scripts and supplemental materials in the Oz canon, and at least half a dozen or more stories set in the same fairy universe (many of the characters from those “other” fairylands make an appearance in various Oz books as supporting characters; some over and over again.) And eventually, Dorothy is invited to live permanently in Oz, and is allowed to bring with her Uncle Henry and Aunt Em, who have finally been defeated by the reality of trying to eke a living out of farming in Kansas as a small-holder. Altogether, I’m finding myself drawn to the idea of re-reading as many of these books as I can, and looking forward to sharing them with my children. The rich descriptions and depths of the characterizations, even more than the Fairy setting, make these books set outside of Time, and thus timeless in their appeal. And they’re whimsical enough to amuse while being complex enough to challenge. Baum himself, in an introduction he wrote in 1900, stated that he had no intention of using his books to teach lessons; they were solely intended for the amusement of children. So many of the books of the time were of the “Elsie Dinsmore” bent; that is, they were designed to teach a moral lesson, rather than allowing the reader to escape into a world of pure fantasy, and they were more popular with parents and educators than they were with children. Yet, whether he intended it or not, Baum inserted gentle lessons on humanity, politics, manners and more into his stories, for, after all, if Dorothy seems in many respects to be a static character, she spurs those around her to growth and development, and we cannot grow or develop without learning a few things about ourselves and others.


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mark S. Deniz
    Jun 02, 2012 @ 08:54:09

    Fantastic stuff! Thanks ever so much for this!


  2. Tracy Faul (@tracykitn)
    Jun 02, 2012 @ 11:06:39

    Awww, thanks! I had a lot of fun writing it; almost as much fun as reading aloud and listening to my kids’ comments on some of it.


  3. kvtaylor
    Jun 02, 2012 @ 12:36:33

    Tracy, I LOVE your bullet list. For one, it’s hilarious, and for another, god I really, really need to go and read this again. Like, yesterday. ❤


  4. carollanham
    Jun 04, 2012 @ 00:09:30

    Simply lovely! I’ve never read the book and suddenly this seems downright shameful. Your bullet list was riveting. I thought the movie was magical but the way you describe the book – the colors, the beasts, the map – wow. I need to read this book!


  5. Jess
    Jun 16, 2012 @ 01:59:22

    Thanks for your bullet list of difference between the book and the movie. Truly an imaginative book.


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