Reviews: The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz

A Very Odd Little Thing

I’m reviewing a one hundred year old book that was once described as the modern fairy tale. It doesn’t feel quite so modern any more though, what with its peculiarly stilted writing style, and with many of its more novel ideas (such as the concept of “good witches”) becoming a standard of fantasy story telling, .

Note that I had been reading the kindle edition which lacked any illustrations. The effect is that the plot seems to take great leaps forward within a single paragraph, but of course this would seem far less jarring in a book that spaces out these plot beats with pictures. People often go on about the fact that the 1939 movie had ruby slippers instead of silver, as though this was the most notable change from the book. How about the fact that the Wicked Witch has one eye that acts as a telescope? Or how in one scene, Dorothy wakes up to find herself surrounded by piles of decapitated animals, having slept through a battle between scarecrow, tinman and the witch’s minions? What surprises me the most though is the one thing that the movie did match with the book – that thing where Kansas is viewed in black and white, and the land of Oz in full colour? That's in the book too.

It is however still quite a frightening thing. Outside of the regular bloodthirst it has for wild animals, there are some odd scenes the movie leaves out, such as a race of dudes with spring loaded, battering ram heads, and the tinman’s gritty origin tale of self-mutilation. Most frightening of all is the concept of the “dainty China people”, tiny figurines that live an endlessly precarious life, risking being cracked or shattered at any moment.

However weirdly it reads, Oz is a compelling story that has genuinely endureda great deal more than other children's books from the era. It's just that the particular parts of the story which are compelling, seem to be completely different to those from previous eras.