Sunday, May 2nd, 2004
7:50 pm - And Now for Something Completely Different...  
The first chapter book I ever read was The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I read it over and over, and it was my favorite book when I was seven or eight. And until this week, I hadn't read it since. I don't know what happened to my original copy. Probably one of my younger sibs colored in it, or otherwise wrecked it.

Now most of this reading occurred before I ever saw the movie version. Back in those days, they didn't show it every year. In fact, as far as I know, it was never on television prior to the first time I saw it. Anyhow, I was appalled by what I saw on the screen. They changed EVERYTHING! Who's this Miss Gulch person? Wait, the slippers are supposed to be silver, not red, and what's the wicked Witch of the West doing there in Munchkin land? Glinda? Wait, Glinda's the good Witch of the South, not the North. That's not what happened in the poppy field. Where's the Mouse Queen? How come they're not wearing green glasses? Surrender Dorothy? The Wicked Witch sky writes? Okay, that's a little cool, but... Where are the wolves and bees? Where are the Winkies? A diploma? Where are the pins and needles? What's a testimonial, mom? Where's the good Witch of the South? Wait a minute? It was all a frelling dream? How lame is that? I was enraged. I hated the movie for years, because it was so WRONG! (Well, that and because the witch scared the everliving crap out of me. Margaret Hamilton once did a guest spot on Sesame Street as the nice old lady she played in Maxwell House commercials, who then transformed into the Witch when the Muppets' backs were turned. Still scary.)

Okay, so eventually I grew up.

Back when I was Christmas shopping, I came across a copy of the 100th Anniversary Edition of the book with all the original plates and illustrations at Powells for cheap, so I ordered it. Finally got around to reading it this week, and it took me all of a hour and a half to get through the 260 some odd pages. Big type, lots of pictures. It really is a beautiful book, all gilt edged with a sewn-in bookmark, and a bunch of color plates.

(I am now pretty sure that my old copy was an abridged version, because I was surprised at how thick this book was, plus there are adventures (the porcelain people land, for one) that I don't remember. The old one also had more modern illustrations than the Denslow drawings in this one.)

No Miss Gulch subplot here. Dorothy never runs away. She just doesn't make it to the storm cellar in time (stoopid dog...). Neither does Uncle Henry for that matter. I wonder how he managed to survive. (One odd thing. In the book, Dorothy only refers to her aunt as "Aunt Em," not "Auntie Em." Also, seeing it written in the book made me realize that her name is probably Emily. Okay two odd things.) Anyway, by page four she's off and flying. And then she's in Oz, where the welcoming committee is a tad smaller than shown on film, just three lousy Munchkins and the Witch of the North (a.k.a. not!Glinda). Not!Glinda sends Dorothy down the road of yellow brick to see the Wizard.

Along the way, Dorothy gathers her forces. Each one she meets has a story, of course. It turns out the Scarecrow is only two days old, which is why he's not especially experienced. The Lion is a coward. The Tin Woodsman's story is the saddest. He was once a real man, in love with a beautiful Munchkin girl, but the wicked Witch of the East put a curse on his axe. The curse caused him to slip and cut off his own left leg with the axe. Fortunately, a local tin smith was able to make a replacement out of tin. But the axe was still cursed, and he cut off his right leg, which the tin smith replaced. You can probably guess the rest. He keeps using the axe, and keeps cutting off body parts. Eventually, he cuts off his own head (no problem, says the smith), and finally cleaves his chest in two, so the smith attaches all the parts to an empty tin torso. The Woodsman is now indestructible, but he no longer feels anything for his true love, because he has no heart. My own thought at this point is that he's more in need of a brain than the Scarecrow. Did it never occur to him to use a different axe?

They have some adventures on the way to the Emerald City where it becomes clear that the Scarecrow is smart, the Woodsman is kind, and the Lion is brave. I think that part went over my head when I read it back in the day. They arrive at Emerald City, and are given green glasses to protect their eyes from the dazzle. (Actually, turns out they're just to make everything look green.) They meet the Wizard, one a day, and the Wizard looks different each time: a giant head, a beautiful woman, a great beast, and a ball of fire. He sends them off to kill you know who, and off they go to the land of the Winkies (no, really) where she lives in a modest castle.

The Witch sees them coming, and sends in the troops. The Woodsman saves the day, killing forty wolves with his axe. Next she sends bees, but they all try to sting the Woodsman, and they all die, too. Finally she send in the flying monkeys. The monkeys drop the Scarecrow and Woodsman into a chasm, and take the Lion and Dorothy to the castle where the Witch enslaves them. While there, the Witch tricks Dorothy, and grabs one of the ruby silver slippers. Dorothy throws a hissy fit, and then a bucket of water at the Witch, who melts. Triumphant, Dorothy frees the Lion, they get the Winkies to collect and repair the Scarecrow and the Woodsman, and then they go back to Oz to collect their rewards.

They discover the secret of the Wizard, but he does his best. He tells the companions that they've amply proved that they have the qualities they're seeking, but the three are adamant. The Wiz stuffs the Scarecrow's head with a mixture of needles, pins, and bran, while making terrible puns about how sharp he'll be. He installs a cloth heart inside the Tim Woodsman's chest, and gives the Lion a shot of liquid courage (which went way over my head forty years ago). Then he comes up with the balloon idea, but of course Toto frells everything up AGAIN, and Dorothy is left behind.

So they take another little journey to visit Actual!Glinda, the good Witch of the South, who is the brightest and fairest of all the Witches. (Okay, the fairest thing is because she's cast a spell to stay young, probably involving a portrait or something, but hey...) On the road south, they meet a lot of strange folk that I don't recollect reading about way back when, probably because they were abridged from that edition. The Lion once again proves his courage by slaying a giant spider, bravely sneaking up on it in the middle of the night, and killing it in it's sleep. They also meet a talking cow creamer, which I now find hilarious. (The only creature in the entire book that doesn't talk is Toto.) They finally make it to Actual!Glinda's castle, and she tells Dorothy about the shoes. Click your heels three times, take three steps, and you're home. They say their goodbyes. Oz left the Scarecrow in charge of the Emerald City, the Lion was named King of the Forest for killing Shelob, and the Tin Woodsman, in a really ironic turn considering his creation story is basically a tale of castration, is named King of the Winkies. Dorothy clicks her heels, takes three steps, loses the shoes in transit, "Hi, Aunt Em," the end.

I've grown to appreciate the movie over the years, but you know what? I still like the book better. Making it a dream is still lame...
 
 
 
Current Mood: childish
Current Music: "If I Only Had a Brain" -- Ray Bolger
 
 
( Post a new comment )
Larisa Grahamlarisa57 on May 2nd, 2004 - 09:55 pm
Making it a dream is still lame...

Did you ever read Salman Rushdie's analysis of the film? It's pretty interesting. He also objected to making it a dream. His argument was that the "If I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look further than my own back yard. And if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with," speech near the end contradicts the entire "search for what you seek" theme of the movie, and that, if it's a dream, then the message of the movie is that "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" is a lie, there's nothing over the rainbow, and that you should just be happy with what you've got, rather than searching for anything more.
(Reply) (Thread) (Link)
DXMachinadxmachina on May 3rd, 2004 - 07:49 am
I'll have to look up the Rushdie thing, because I agree with what you say. The movie is all about smacking Dorothy with a moral lesson, that there's no place like home, because home and family are the most important things in the world, and the whole adventure is shown as a nightmare that convinces her of this. In the book, sure, she wants to go home, but it's because, as she says to the Scarecrow when she meets him, there's no place like home because it's familiar and comfortable, not because it's better than anyplace else. The adventure is just an adventure, mostly wondrous, occasionally scary, but certainly not a nightmare.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Link)
noumignon on May 10th, 2004 - 01:52 am
gives the Lion a shot of liquid courage (which went way over my head forty years ago).

I just reread the book last year, and I still didn't get that! You'd be a great guy to have at a book club. I don't remember noticing the irony of the courage-filled lion killing the spider in its sleep either.

Catching up, I hope you're feeling much better after your bike accident and your new bike never treats you so poorly. I'm glad you didn't hit your brain.

Thanks for keeping me on your friends list to read locked posts.
(Reply) (Thread) (Link)
DXMachinadxmachina on May 10th, 2004 - 04:38 am
No problem, Noum, it's good to see you around.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Link)