Happy Friday to all.
Today we start reading the Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. We will be comparing it to the 1939 MGM film and trying to figure out what people today can gain from reading it.
The first thing that strikes me about the first chapter, The Cyclone is how well they translated the feeling that Baum invokes in the first chapter into the film. He uses the word grey nineteen times. Everything in Kansas is grey. Not just the surroundings, but the people as well. It is only because of Toto that Dorothy herself has not become grey as well. Dorothy is well prepared for her adventures in Oz due to the fact that she has already faced adversity in her life. Dorothy is an orphan, like so many other brave children in literature.
Her bravery I think often goes unnoticed. When she is left alone during the cyclone she does not panic. She saves Toto and falls asleep during the journey from Kansas to Oz.
When she arrives in Oz her house lands on The Wicked Witch of the East. The Muchkins and the Good Witch of the North, Glinda assume she is a sorceress. Much to Dorothy’s credit she doesn’t take advantage of this misunderstanding. Contrast that with what we will learn of another character later. Even though her home doesn’t sound very attractive, especially when compared to Oz, but still all Dorothy wants to do is go home.
Glinda uses her magic hat to help Dorothy to decide that she must follow the yellow brick road to see if the Wizard of Oz can help her.
Book vs. Film
They got the grey atmosphere of Kansas absolutely right and also the spectacular color and contrast of Oz.
MGM complained constantly during the development and filming of the movie that the story itself was too fantastic. Therefore they decided to turn Dorothy’s experience in Oz into a dream. In the book there are no farm hands, no Miss Gulch, No Professor Marvel. There is no reason for Dorothy to want to run away from her life. Oz is a real place, not a dream caused by a knock on the head.
The witches of Oz
Their are only 4 witches in Oz. The good witches live in the North and South. The wicked witches live in the East and West. There is no clear cut reason that they witches of the east and west are evil, except that they enslave the Munchkins and the Winkies in their own lands. The evil witches are not sisters and the Wicked Witch of the West doesn’t menace Dorothy or try to claim the shoes, which are silver, in any way.
The thing that surprised me the most in re-reading the first two chapters. How little The Wicked Witch appears. She is referred to in two or three sentences. She doesn’t seem to be something that anyone is terribly concerned about. When you talk about the Wizard of Oz, it is the Witch that everyone remembers. The terror. It’s just not here. At least not yet.
Dorothy is the antidote to the Disney Princess syndrome. She is just an ordinary little girl and she’s using her brain and her heart to solve her own problems. She’s the little girl that other little girls should be looking up to.
Things to talk about:
Why do you think that Dorothy wants to go home to Kansas when Oz is so beautiful and magical?
Why is Dorothy so brave? How would you feel if you suddenly ended up in Oz? What would you do?
Next week: Dorothy’s journey begins and she meets the Scarecrow.