I hope you are enjoying your summer as much as we are! To escape the endless packing (is that the worst, or what?!), we headed on a road trip this week to visit my grandparents. And we enjoyed listening to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. I remember this story based on the movie. I think I might have read this novel when I was a kid–but I didn’t remember the details. So we were excited to check it out.
- This book reminds me of the tone of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland but with more of a coherent story running throughout. Fun fact, its considered the first American fairy tale.
- The movie does a good job of keeping the story happy and light. The book is a lot darker than we expected. In fact, we want to watch the movie again now (especially because my husband only saw it once when he was like 6 years old)!
- Did you know there are 13 sequels to this book?!
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum follows the familiar story of Dorothy and her dog Toto who are transported to Oz by a tornado. Dorothy then goes on a quest to find the Wizard of Oz and get back to her Kansas home. Along the way, she meets a scarecrow looking for a brain, a tin man looking for a heart, and a lion looking for courage. Together, they overcome difficulties and obstacles to reach the Emerald City and speak with the wizard. But the wizard is not what they expect. And he demands for them to kill the Wicked Witch of the West before he helps them. Will he grant their requests? Can they defeat the witch? And can Dorothy really get back to Kansas?
I honestly am not sure which of the main characters is my favorite. I liked and disliked something about everyone. Dorothy was almost annoyingly naive but also brave in a new place. The scarecrow was both intelligent and stupid. The tin man worked hard for his friends but also didn’t go back and marry that girl. The lion was cowardly but also full of himself. Perhaps who I like more are the secondary characters. The Wizard is intriguing because he fears rebellion but creates peace. We really don’t get enough of the background on the Wicked Witch of the West–I want to know more about her and her past (hello, Wicked 🙂 ). And I actually really enjoyed the complexities of the flying monkeys. I would have liked more development of some of these characters instead of some of the random plot twists.
Speaking of, the plot was interesting at the beginning but dragged at the end of the novel. I enjoyed the fairy tale style and fun encounters with different sorts of creatures. But we get to the Emerald City and defeat the Wicked Witch with another two thirds of the novel to go. But the action after that defeat is slow and random. It seemed like Baum just had a bunch of interesting ideas and underdeveloped them–the china town, the hammerheads, crazy spider monster in the forest. They aren’t related the rest of the story and we don’t see the characters really change. Glinda seems to be the only smart one at the last half of the book because she decides to give the cap back to the monkeys (finally!) and knows just how to get Dorothy home. The ending seemed far away for so long then quickly wrapped up–I would have liked more details with their visit to Glinda and Dorothy getting home to Aunt Em and Uncle Henry. What surprised me most about the novel was the darkness of the story. I am familiar with the movie version of the events, but did not expect the violence–cutting off heads of wolves, breaking crows necks, the tin man’s backstory. It was pretty intense!
What I liked best in the novel was the conversations and personalities connected with the search for the brain, heart, and courage. My husband and I talked a lot about the ways these items are desired and also possessed. The scarecrow wants brains because he only has straw in his head making him stumble along the road. But he thinks of some of their best ideas before he even gets the brains. The tin man desires a heart and always talks about how he doesn’t feel enough. Yet, he is very concerned about helping others and shows his emotions the most (always crying and rusting). The lion seeks courage and is scared by Dorothy in their first meeting (such a funny moment!). But he also has a ferocious roar and seeks to save his friends before his official “courage” comes. All three of these characters continually seek for what they want. They won’t accept anything less. But I think they had it all the time. And I think the Wizard of Oz knew it as well.
The title of this novel intrigues me because it puts the focus on the wizard–a character who we don’t get much interaction with in the book. But he really is at the center of the novel. The 4 main characters seek him to solve their problems. Then they must do him the favor of killing the Wicked Witch of the West in order for him to help them. And even after they discover his true identity, they want his help. While he isn’t the great sorcerer they expect, he is intriguing because he has built a beautiful city and a beautiful persona. Everyone loves the wizard! My favorite part of the book comes when he gives the scarecrow brains, tin man a heart, and lion courage because he tells them what really matters. Although they don’t really figure it out. 😉
Some of my favorite quotes come from the wizard too.
Overall, this is a fun fairy tale that could be even better with more character development and less of the journey at the end.