Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

I cannot count the number of times that I have seen the movie "The Wizard of Oz," I can say that it's been so many times I don't really need to watch it anymore. I remember when I was a kid it came on tv every Christmas and we watched it a lot. Between my love of the movie and fantasy novels, it is quite strange that it has taken me until now to read the original work by L. Frank Baum.

As so often lately, I listened to the book while driving to work. It is a very short book compared to many that I read and I finished it in just two days of driving, about 4 hours.

For those readers that might not be familiar with either the book or the movie, let me tell you what happened. No, that's too much, let me sum up.

The story begins with a young farm girl named Dorothy and her dog Toto on a farm in the middle of a Kansas plain. (If you've ever been to Kansas you are aware that it is actually one giant plain, but all places have their conceits.) She lives with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, on account of her parents passing. It is a rather dull and joyless place, except for her time with Toto. One day, while they are all hard at work, a tornado approaches. Dorothy does not make it to the storm cellar with her Aunt and Uncle because Toto (rather foolishly) runs and hides under Dorothy's bed. Dorothy chases him in an attempt to save her closest friend.

This turns out to be a mistake in judgement as the tornado lifts the entire house off its foundation with Dorothy and Toto still inside. This is a regular occurrence in Kansas, don't you know? When the house lands, she is in Oz. It is a vibrant and colorful place. Dorothy's adventures begin immediately when she encounters strange people, the Munchkins. Unbeknownst to Dorothy, her house landed on the Wicked Witch of the East. She is much praised for this accidental homicide, which actually befuddles her but she accepts the compliments as graciously as possible for she is a polite girl.

Despite the wonders of Oz, the only thing that Dorothy wants is to return home to her family. She sets off on a journey to the Emerald City, the capital of Oz. Along the way, she meets three companions: the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodsman, and the Cowardly Lion. They face many dangers on the way to the Emerald City, but safely reach their destination. Some of my favorite trials are ones that they left out of the more familiar film version.

As a child, I may have been on the edge of my seat at some of the misadventures and predicaments that the heroes get into, but as an adult I often found the situations amusing. I do not know if this is due to my knowledge of the outcome from repeated exposures to the movie, or my knowledge of the genre as a whole. Baum caused me to laugh out loud several times in amusement. The ending of the book takes Dorothy on many more adventures than the neat movie ending. I quite prefer the more complex ending from the book to the movie's conclusion.

Happy reading!