The Wizard of Oz is a quick, delightful read. I think it’s safe to say more people have seen the movie than read the book, and while this is one of those rare situations where the movie was better executed than the book, it’s important to remember that the original brilliance of the author is what allows a great story like The Wizard of Oz to come to life at all.
The book is simple; it’s a children’s story in the truest sense. It’s only 187 pages, and each chapter is an isolated event; the cyclone, the scarecrow, the tin woodsman – these are almost like short stories within the greater story line. In five short pages you’re transported from Kansas to Oz, from the beginning of the tornado to the final resting place of the house, and the Wicked Witch of the East. The journey down the yellow brick road takes no more than a paragraph.
The movie expounded on all the good parts of the book, making it a musical masterpiece. We’re told in the book that the munchkins dance – in the movie we’re shown. In the book, the ruby slippers are a boring silver, but silver didn’t come across well in the new technicolor of the 1940’s, so the glamorous ruby slippers were brought to life on screen.
The violence in the book was greatly left out of the movie. Evidently, the Tin Man cutting the heads off of 40 wolves and a mountain lion wouldn’t be very well received, so like Disney did with Grimm’s fairy tales, they toned down the shocking violence of the Wizard of Oz (do you know the true story of how the Tin Man came to be?).
It was pretty cool to read this book now that Wicked, The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West is so popular. I read Wicked before I read The Wizard of Oz, so there were a lot of references I didn’t understand (the Quadling people, the Winkies, the Flying Monkeys’ story), and it was a nice tie in to see where the author got the original references. It reminded me of how well Wicked was executed (read that if you get a chance).
Another movie, Oz – the Great and Powerful, was released in 2013, and while it was visually stunning, the acting was just horrible. Still, it was the first reference to the Dainty China City, which seems kind of random if you haven’t read the book. Part of why I enjoy reading the classics is because I get more references in general, and there are so many in today’s popular culture.
It is a complicated world L. Frank Baum created, whether he knew it or not, and 114 years later The Wizard of Oz is an unforgettable classic.