Ever since becoming a family man, I’ve discovered myself lacking funds with which to buy books. I just finished reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, mostly because it was a free Kindle download and it’s too cold to go out to the library.
It’s a quick read, which, with three young children, means I can read it in a month. Books that aren’t quick reads I can’t read at all.
You may recall a movie of a similar title. All movies take liberties with the original text, and this movie took its fair share.
In the book, there is no mean schoolmarm, out for Toto’s blood. There are no farm hands and no traveling sideshow man. The good witch of the North is an old lady. Glinda represents the South. The Munchkins are as tall as Dorothy and don’t glow Technicolor. The shoes Dorothy loots from the dear departed feet of the Witch of the East are silver, not ruby.
I’ve always thought there must be more to recommend the character of the flying monkeys than was depicted in the film. I was right. The monkeys only do the witch’s bidding because they are duty-bound to obey. When their required submission to the witch ends, they become helpful little fellows.
The most surprising difference is that the Wicked Witch plays only a minor role. The Wizard plays a larger role, and is perhaps worse than the witch. Rather than merely giving Dorothy a difficult time about her request to go home, as everyone knows is a Wonderful Wizard’s prerogative, this one demands that she kill the Wicked Witch if she ever wants to see Kansas again. He doesn’t just want the witch’s broom, or anything else that might be merely swiped from her, he wants that hag D. E. A. D.
Having given Dorothy her homework, he insists that her companions help her in order to get hearts and brains and stuff. But it is clear that he expects Dorothy, among all her adult associates, to lead the operation.
The Wizard was wise in picking Dorothy to lead the hit. She makes short work of the witch, without much help from her team. As in the film, the witch is taken down with water and Dorothy claims it was an accident; in the film, you are disposed to believe her.
Book and film agree, the Wizard is a fraud – an old man from Omaha whose hot air balloon got away from him. Unable to hand over the promised rewards, he plies Dorothy’s companions with platitudes, which satisfies them since they unwittingly had everything they sought all along.
He accomplishes nothing on Dorothy’s behalf. She must rely upon Glinda to get her home.
The silver shoes take Dorothy home and the conspiracy to murder the Wicked Witch shouldn’t haunt Dorothy’s conscience, because it was all a dream.
Well, in the film it was all a dream.
*Illustrations by W. W. Denslow, from the original edition.