Dorothy lived in the midst of the great Kansas prairies, with Uncle Henry, who was a farmer, and Aunt Em, who was the farmer’s wife.
***Read as part of the Through the Wardrobe Debut Novels Challenge***
Whenever the magical world of Oz is mentioned, my mind immediately pictures the technicoloured majesty of the Judy Garland film with Somewhere Over the Rainbow playing on loop in the background and I’m sure I’m not the only one! In modern culture, the story and film are now completely synonymous with each other and yet before the Hollywood-style cart came the literary work of L. Frank Baum.
For those of you unfamiliar with the tale, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz follows Dorothy Gale who is whisked away to the far away land of Oz by a cyclone. Her house lands on and kills the Wicked Witch of the East, immediately freeing the Munchkins from her reign of terror. Despite being hailed as a hero all Dorothy wants to do is find a way back home to Kansas. She follows the infamous yellow brick road to seek guidance from the all-powerful Wizard of Oz and meets a brainless scarecrow, a heartless tin man and a cowardly lion along the way.
What surprised me most about my first venture into the literary world of Oz was how fast paced this story was – I finished it in less than 24 hours and that’s with a good night’s sleep! It does read as a whistle stop tour, with a lot more emphasis placed on the adventures of Dorothy and her friends rather than any sort of character development or detailed insight into Dorothy herself. It is a tale made up of much smaller adventurous episodes and even the evil Wicked Witch of the West is a lot less prominent in this version than I had assumed.
Unsurprisingly, there are elements of the tale that were cut from the film version but some of the uncut sections were either surprisingly violent or surprisingly trippy – extendable bashing heads anyone?! Baum’s narrative style is exceedingly accessible and easy to read but it is also incredibly functional – don’t expect any sumptuous descriptions or turns of phrase here. His purpose as an author is to get Dorothy from A to B (via C,D, E and F) and he does a very commendable job indeed.
However, what becomes more admirable than the delivery of the narrative is the Oz-ian legacy he builds out of such a relatively humble children’s book. In his introduction Baum lays down his aspirations for the book, wishing it to become “a modernized fairy tale” and with the subsequent success of the book, musical and film you could definitely argue the case for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz being a permanent fixture within the consciousness of childhood itself.