Goodreads: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Series: Oz #1
Publication Date: 1900
When a cyclone drops Dorothy in the land of Oz, all she wants to do is return home to Kansas. Along with her new friends the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion, she will go on a dangerous journey to ask the wizard of Oz for help.
The movie The Wizard of Oz is, of course, a classic and when reading the book once again, I could not help but compare the two. The movie version works so well–and, in the end, I think that the movie version made several desirable changes.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is obviously a children’s book–the kind where the author seems vaguely to be speaking down to his audience and also simplifies the story. The episodic nature of the narrative feels far more pronounced here than it does in the film, as the characters seem to bypass obstacles with astounding ease and each segment lasts only a few moments. Impassable chasm? No problem–the Lion can jump it. Impassable wood? No problem. The Tin Man will chop it. Monstrous beast that has eaten all the other lions and various other animals? No problem. Its head rolls with one swipe of the lion’s paws. (Also notable: The Tin Man won’t step on an ant, but if you’re a monster, your death will be swift and merciless–no tears shed.)
It was an interesting story, to be sure, and I liked following Dorothy and her friends on their adventures, but I never felt invested. If one of the main characters had died, I would have felt bad, but hardly devastated. None of them had much personality, aside from their desire for a heart, a brain, courage, or home and everything that came to them seemed too easy for me to even need to root for them. Every time they set off they are told the road is long and dangerous–but they seem barely inconvenienced by this and in the end have incredible rewards dropped into their laps–rewards that seem seem a little ambiguous, much like a Shakespearean marriage at the end of a play. (Spoiler: Each of Dorothy’s friends ends up ruling a people. Because all peoples are totally cool with having an outsider with no qualifications waltz in and take over one day. Surely nothing could go wrong, right?)
Eventually I will probably carry on with the series to see what other oddities Baum’s imagination invented, but I don’t feel the need to return to Oz to be particularly pressing. The book is a nice story, but not particularly memorable. I think it could have benefited from the compression that the movie made.