The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum


Goodreads: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Series: Oz #1
Source: Library
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.

3 starsKrysta 64

4 thoughts on “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

  1. Laura says:

    I read this a while ago and I remember thinking the irony of the Tin Man, Lion and Scarecrow characters was a lot stronger in the book then the movie. If I remember correctly it was the Scarecrow that was in search of brains, but he was the one to plan everything. And the Tin Man needed a heart but continually displayed his compassion. The movie really toned these aspects down. This is definitely one case where I liked the movie more. I’d love to hear what someone who read the book first and then saw the film thinks.


    • Krysta says:

      The irony was definitely strong. As you say, the Scarecrow makes all the plans, the Tin Man feels compassion for everyone, and the Lion fights everyone. Still, even though it helped play up the irony, I kind of wished the characters had more traits than the ones associated with their quest. They just felt kind like one-note characters to me. What else makes the Scarecrow tick besides his need for a brain (that he already clearly has)?

      I wonder how many people have read the book first. The movie seems like such a cultural phenomenon that I wonder if it’s common for small children to watch it before they’re even old enough to read and understand the book. I know someone in the family was always showing it when I was growing up. I wasn’t entirely too sure why. The witch seemed pretty scary. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Lunch-Time Librarian says:

    I’ve always wondered what this book would be like. I had a brief period where I was reading classic children’s books, but I didn’t get to this one. I kind of thought the movie was saccharine enough, but it seems like the book probably is as well, at least in terms of how easy it was to get through obstacles. At least you can say you’ve read it now!


    • Krysta says:

      I’ve actually read this before, but didn’t remember it very well, so thought I’d give it another go. I’m actually more interested in the sequels, though, because they’ll feel newer since there’s no classic movie of, I don’t know, Glinda of Oz.

      Liked by 1 person

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