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Literature / Tales of the Magic Land

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"Totoshka, I have the feeling we're not in Oz anymore."

A little Kansas girl named Ellie Smith and her faithful dog Totoshka find themselves in Magic Land. In order to get home, Ellie must make a long journey through the magical country. And she must assist three beings in the granting of their fondest wishes. She meets Strasheela the living scarecrow, then the Iron Woodman and the Cowardly Lion, and the four of them continue on to the Emerald City to see the mighty wizard Goodwin the Great and Terrible, in order to ask him to grant those fondest wishes. But after a multitude of adventures, they unmask Goodwin, and he turns out to be a perfectly ordinary balloonist from Kansas, blown there long ago by a windstorm. In spite of that, he does fulfill the wishes of all three of Ellie's friends, and Ellie herself returns home with the help of a pair of silver shoes.


Now if this sounds familiar, it should since this was based on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

In the 1930's, Russian author Alexander Volkov was looking for an English book to translate into Russian as a hobby. He chose L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as his book. He brought out his rather liberal translation of the story in 1939 (the same year MGM released their film). He called it The Wizard of the Emerald City, and the country where the story is set became not Oz, but Magic Land. The Soviet Union was not part of international copyright protection back then, so it was perfectly legal. Modern Russia is, but In Name Only, by the way.

The book was revised in 1959, with illustrations by Leonid Vladimirsky, three years after The Wonderful Wizard of Oz entered public domain. It was later adapted into a stop-motion series of shorts in the 1970s.


What is Volkov's Magic Land like? And how does it differ from Oz?

One of the main differences the reader will find is in the names of the characters. Baum's Dorothy Gale has become Ellie Smith and the Wizard is now James Goodwin. Of the heroine's three friends, the Cowardly Lion is much the same, but the Scarecrow is called Strasheela (derived from a Russian word meaning "terrifying", with a not very serious suffix, with a resulting meaning along the lines of "Scary-pants"), and the Tin Woodman is now the Iron Woodman. It's because tin doesn't rust. All four of the witches, good and bad, have new names: Villina (Baum's Good Witch of the North), Gingema (Wicked Witch of the East), Bastinda (Wicked Witch of the West), and Stella (Baum's Glinda, Good Witch of the South). And there's also an Ogre who captures Ellie early on and is about to devour her when the Woodman makes quick work of the creature with his trusty ax!

Yet many of Baum's features survive intact. The young heroine, as always, comes from Kansas. Readers will find the familiar Yellow Brick Road leading to the same fabulous Emerald City. And we still have the Munchkins who live in the Blue Land and the Quadlings, renamed the Chatterers, of the Rose Land. The Winkies, however, live in the Violet Land, while the Yellow Land, to the north, is seldom mentioned and never described. In Volkov and his successors, Blue Land lies to the west, and Violet Land to the east. (Rose Land is still in the south.) The Munchkins are renowned for their munching, the Winkies are skilled craftsmen, and the Chatterers can never stop talking! But in all its essentials, Volkov's treatment of the opening story is the same tale that the English-speaking readers (and filmgoers) have loved for generations.

Tales of the Magic Land books are:

  • The Wizard of the Emerald City (1939, revised in 1959)
  • Urfin Jus and His Wooden Soldiers (1963)
  • The Seven Underground Kings (1964 )
  • The Fiery God of the Marrans (1968)
  • The Yellow Fog (1970)
  • The Mystery of the Deserted Castle (1975)

The books in the series have been translated into English (or retranslated, in the case of the first book) by Peter L. Blystone, and were published by Red Branch Press in three volumes (two books a volume) in 1991, 1993, and 2007.

In Germany, one author has written his own set of sequels to Volkov's books.

The Wizard of the City of Emeralds, a 1974 Russian television series, brought the first three Volkov books alive with stop-motion animation. Ellie and Totoshka are carried to the Magic Land, meet their three friends and the wizard Goodwin, and destroy the witch Bastinda. Later, they battle Urfin Jus’s wooden army, then defeat his schemes to manipulate the seven underground kings.

Sergei Sukhinov wrote his own series of sequels to The Wizard of the Emerald City. Using The Wizard of the Emerald City as a base, he disregarded Volkov's sequels and took his own books in a different direction. Sergei's books have been described as "Wizard of Oz meets Tolkien". In this series of ten books, Ellie and her friends fight the forces of an evil warlock named Pakir in an epic struggle between Good and Evil. It introduces Corina, a stepdaughter of Gingema, The Wicked Witch of the East.

Sukhinov also wrote series of books called Tales of the Emerald City, which covers the childhoods of many of the characters in The Emerald City series and covers details not covered in other series.

  • Goodwin the Great and Terrible (2001): Prequel to the The Emerald City books. Takes place before The Wizard of the City of Emeralds.

The Emerald City series

  • Gingema's Daughter (1997)
  • The Fairy of the Emerald City (1997)
  • The Sorceress Villina's Secret (1997)
  • The Sorcerer's Sword (1998)
  • The Eternally Youthful Stella (1998)
  • Parcelius the Alchemist (1999)
  • Battle in the Underground Kingdom (2000)
  • King Midgety (2002)
  • The Sorcerer of Atlantis (2002)
  • Knights of Light and Darkness (2004)

Tales of the Emerald City (2000)

  • Corina the Lazy Enchantress
  • Corina and the Ogre
  • The Sorceress Villina's Ward
  • The Little Dragon
  • The Crystal Island
  • Corina and the Magic Rhino
  • Three in the Enchanted Forest
  • The Black Fog
  • Master of the Winged Monkeys

Alexander Volkov's Magic Land books have examples of:

    open/close all folders 
    In General 
  • Adaptational Villainy: While Baum didn't elaborate on what makes the Wicked Witch of the East evil (allowing for certain Invoked Alternative Character Interpretation), Volkov wastes no time, and opens the series by portraying her as an Omnicidal Maniac. Specifically, she summons the hurricane that brings Ellie's house to the Magic Land in the first place, making her hoist by her own petard.
  • Alternate Continuity: To Baum's universe.
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: Everyone's reaction to the death of the wicked witches. Even the Gnomes who have served Arachna faithfully for millenia don't mourn her.
  • Beary Friendly: Urfin's devoted good-hearted bear Topotun (Stamper) is a Token Good Teammate.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: The personality of a creature animated by the Powder of Life is defined by their looks. The only known exception is the horrendously ugly Tilly-Willy, but he is animated without the use of the powder, thanks to the general prevalence of magic around him, and he has probably been influenced by his creators' kindly personalities.
  • Being Evil Sucks: A large part of the books featuring Urfin Jus is devoted to him rather than the heroes, and his arc is all about him realizing the trope's truth. He raises and trains his army through blood, sweat and tears, actually getting it to the Emerald City always proves painstaking (due to the army's complete stupidity), then after an even more painstaking siege he successfully takes over a population that hates his guts and refuses to obey him, leading to a paranoid, very short reign followed by an eventual shameful dethroning and eviction. It takes him two such failed takeovers to eventually realize his evil deeds have never actually brought him any happiness, at which point he proceeds to Heel–Face Turn and becomes a very useful ally against new villains.
  • The Brute: Every single soldier in Urfin Jus's army. Twice. The first time, he leads magically-animated wooden soldiers, the second, a primitive tribe.
  • Carnivore Confusion: There are some mentions of hunting – though the heroic characters mostly do it in the first book, there is some continuity awkwardness with the Cowardly Lion hunting animals in the early chapters and becoming the king of all animals in the end.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience:
    • Blue for the Munchkins, green for the Emerald City and its vicinity, violet for the Winkies, pink for Stella and the Chatterers, yellow for Villina's country. When Urfin Jus defies his Munchkin identity, he switches from blue to brown and green.
    • In the Underground Land, the seven kings use the seven colors of the rainbow for themselves and their respective subjects.
  • Composite Character: Ellie's uncle Charlie Black, who is a combination of Baum's Cap'n Bill and Johnny Dooit.
  • Derivative Differentiation: It started off as a loose translation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, but later books in the series are original works that use said translation as a basis.
  • Deus Exit Machina: The two Good Witches are rarely mentioned from the second book onwards, with various excuses why they don't personally get involved against Urfin Jus or Arachna, and the protagonists rely on relatively mundane tools and ingenuity to counter the magic-using antagonists.
  • Dirty Coward: Ruf Bilan, the recurring minor villain, whose chief priority is always the safety of his own skin.
  • The Dreaded: Many inhabitants of the Magic Land aren't usually known for their overwhelming bravery, so often a reputation as The Dreaded is enough to keep them in control. All the witches (except for the Mouse Queen), James Goodwin and Urfin Jus use it at different points of the plot, claiming to be able to destroy all their enemies with one puff of magic. Actually, the only ones shown to be really capable of destructive spells are Gingema and Arachna (Bastinda has several armies of magical minions and one last spell of the Golden Cap, but once she wastes all this, she becomes powerless).
  • Evil Virtues: The narrative makes no secret of the fact that any villain who wants to do more than scare their nearest neighbors must have something in them beyond generic wickedness. Urfin Jus is determined, strong-willed and inventive, the Seven Underground Kings, especially Mentaho, and later the Menvits are intelligent and quick-thinking, and even Arachna, though more leaning towards the usual Wicked Witch standard, is quite good with pragmatic strategies.
  • Fan Sequel: Volkov's Magic Land books after the first one can be considered sequels to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz but he took the books in a different direction from Baum. Plus, he borrows certain ideas and characters from the Baum books, like the Powder of Life.
    • Taken Up to Eleven with the above-mentioned German sequels to Volkov's sequels by Klaus and Aljonna Möckel (as Nikolai Bachnow) as well as Sukhinov's Russian-language works based on Volkov's first book. That means that (at least the German and Russian versions of) The Wizard of Oz, in the broadest sense, now has four continuities - Baum's original work, Volkov's translation and his own sequels, the Möckels' German-exclusive sequels set in the same universe and Sukhinov's reboot.
  • Fantastic Fruits and Vegetables:
    • The rabbit trees that grow in the fox kingdom. Their fruit taste just like rabbit meat.
    • The golden carrots, blue cucumbers and many more hybrid species grown in the sixth book by Urfin.
  • For the Evulz: The Wicked Witches' motivation for being, well, wicked. Most notably, in the case of Arachna: the book flat-out tells us that to her, any day on which she doesn't make someone miserable is a day wasted.
  • Gentle Giant:
    • Gurrikap, the founder of the Magic Land, who didn't want to kill even Arachna.
    • Tilly-Willy, when not in battle, of course.
  • Good Feels Good:
    • In the fourth book, the wooden soldiers run away rather than become evil again.
    • Urfin feels much better after his reformation.
  • Grumpy Bear: Urfin Jus is this trope taken to a villainous extent. In a country filled with people who love all things bright, colorful and fun and get along splendidly, Urfin is a loner who dresses in dark clothing, dislikes his neighbors and has unhealthy ambitions that push him into becoming an Evil Overlord as soon as the occasion presents itself. In fact, he dislikes his happy-go-lucky compatriots so much that he even forces himself to abandon their habit of always moving their mouths as if chewing something, albeit with great difficulty. Even after his Heel–Face Turn, he continues living mostly alone and remains a Knight in Sour Armor.
  • Hufflepuff House: The Good Witches and their subjects. They are nice and happy, and that's practically all we know. The villains are too scared to attack them, but for unknown reasons the heroes don't visit them often either. They do some good things far away in the background, but little more.
    • Villina, if she appears, pops up in the beginning of the book with a prophecy about the plot and promptly disappears into thin air (literally) again. The Yellow Land is never a plot location, never gets described, and we never learn the name of its inhabitants.
    • Stella gets a bit more page time along with the Chatterers and Flying Monkeys of hers, but still she doesn't even appear after the first book. The longtime trade between the Rose Land and the Leaper tribe is mentioned but not elaborated upon. Basically, the only truly plot-relevant thing coming from the Rose Land was the magical television.
  • Humongous Mecha: Tilly-Willy, built in The Yellow Fog. Features an interesting subversion, because Tilly-Willy, while definitely created as a mecha, ends up sentient and completely autonomous like much of the Magic Land's other denizens. He still has backup manual controls.
  • Meaningful Name: Ellie's second cousin is called Fred Cunning. He is a resourceful boy who grows up to be a clever and inventive engineer.
  • Myopic Conqueror: Urfin Jus conquers the Emerald City twice, only to become ultimately disappointed when it brings him no joy, his subjects, except for a few cowardly lickspittles, hate him with a passion, and he gets increasingly paranoid to the point of madness. He is overthrown both times and ends up doing a Heel–Face Turn and living a peaceful life near the Magic Land's border as a gardener, toymaker and inventor.
  • Ominous Owl: Guamokolatokint (usually shortened to Guamoko), an old and devious owl. He was Gingema's familiar, and became Urfin Jus' ally and friend after the death of the Witch. His ancient wisdom is absolutely vital to Urfin's conquests, though he occasionally does backstab him out of spite as well.
  • Pink Means Feminine: Not only is the Rose Land ruled by young, beautiful and feminine Stella, but her guards at the Rose Palace are also an exclusively-female Amazon Brigade.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Ramina, queen of the mice, is so tiny that even Totoshka dwarfs her, but she still has impressive magical powers.
  • Power Crystal: Some ordinary gemstones are revealed to have magical powers.
    • Diamonds are used as protection from the magic water's effects.
    • Emeralds are revealed as a means of protection against the Menvits' hypnosis.
  • Self-Imposed Exile: Urfin Jus goes into this twice, both times after a failed attempt to conquer the eponymous land. In both cases, the heroes contemplate sending him into an actual exile, or even imprisoning him, but decide that the universal ostracizing of The Usurper by the people would be punishment enough.
  • Terror Hero: Tilly-Willy is designed to look terrifying, but is very firmly on the side of good.
  • Took a Level in Badass: All the people of the Magic Land, but especially the Winkies who are initially stated to be the most fearful. Compare their situation in book one (frightened to death of Bastinda and everyone and everything else) and book five (nearly killing Arachna).
  • Victory Is Boring: A constant problem for Strasheela. When everything in the Emerald City goes smoothly, he is always faced with trying to find something to do.
  • Villainous Harlequin: Eot Ling, Urfin's evil wooden clown.
    The Wizard of the Emerald City 
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Bastinda.
    Bastinda: No, who put you u… fffffff… (melts)
  • Meaningful Rename: After Goodwin gives him a courage potion (actually, a mix of carbonated kvass and valerian extract), the Cowardly Lion changes his name to the Courageous Lion.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: Gingema summons the hurricane to exterminate the human race.
  • Placebo Effect: Goodwin's gifts to Strasheela, the Iron Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion. Strasheela's new brain is actually a mix of bran, pins and needles. The Iron Woodman's new heart is a bag full of sawdust. And the Cowardly Lion's courage potion is a mix of carbonated kvass and valerian extract (kvass is a very mild alcoholic beverage and valerian extract is a powerful stimulant for cats).
  • Spanner in the Works: Villina manages to weaken Gingema's world-destroying hurricane so that it would only target one house, which she knows to have a tornado shelter (unfortunately, Totoshka in turn becomes a spanner in Villina's own works, running into the house as the tornado's approaching, which causes Ellie to rush after him and end up swept by the hurricane).
    Urfin Jus and His Wooden Soldiers 
  • Body Paint: The wooden soldiers are mocked because they are naked. Urfin solves the problem by painting them.
  • Captured by Cannibals: Subverted. Charlie Black was presumed dead for years after being captured by a cannibal tribe. When he turns up alive, Ellie askes whether he managed defeat them in combat. Charlie states there was no way for him to have fought off thousands of people, but the cannibals turned out to be quite nice guys, and once he showed himself to be more useful alive than cooked, they were all too happy to leave him alive, accepted him into the tribe, and, eventually, helped him return home.
  • Contrasting Sequel Antagonist: In the first book, every antagonist the characters face is a non-human Flat Character and only terrorizes the region where they actually live (the wicked witches are tyrants of their respective countries and the sabertooth tigers never venture beyond the Tiger Forest). Urfin Jus, however, is a human Self-Made Man, whose point of view is shown so thoroughly he's close to being the Villain Protagonist and who plans to conquer the Magic Land and briefly succeeds.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Most of the Scarecrow's courtiers are Idle Rich who spend their days chattering and laughing and only pretend to be occupied with state matters. Nevertheless, when Urfin Jus offers them to swear allegiance to him, they refuse even to send back a reply, and the very few people who do begin to serve Jus are universally viewed with scorn and disgust.
  • Put on a Bus: Guamoko abandons Urfin after the latter's defeat, becomes the ruler of the local birds, and doesn't appear again until midway through The Fiery God of the Marrans.
  • Refusal of the Second Call: When the heroes attempt to recruit James Goodwin for their cause, he refuses outright, saying he has had enough of magic, and never appears afterwards.
  • Sequel Hook: Two instances of it.
    • Ellie and Charlie discover the seven kings' city while travelling through an underground passage, but it has no influence on the plot.
    • When Ruf Bilan runs away after Urfin's defeat, he hides underground. Ellie and everyone else decide to leave him alone. In The Seven Underground Kings, Bilan is the one who accidentally sets off the plot of the book.
  • Some Call Me "Tim": There is a long dispute between Urfin and his owl about what the owl should be called. Urfin insists on Guam, the owl demands that the full name be used – Guamokolatokint. They compromise on Guamoko, though the owl is still not satisfied and makes it amply clear.
  • Try to Fit THAT on a Business Card!: Urfin had to cut his title in half after his ministers provided a funny moment when attempting to repeat it.
  • Wicked Toymaker: Urfin Jus starts out making dolls with horrific grimaces that scare children, before progressing to magical golems with horrific grimaces that scare adults.
    The Seven Underground Kings 
  • Foreshadowing: Ramina says that Ellie will never return to the Magic Land ever again. The next book introduces us to a Time Skip and Ellie's Suspiciously Similar Substitute.
  • Generation Xerox: Early in the book, it's shown the Cave has two rival doctors Boril and Robil. A Time Skip of several generations later… there are still two rival doctors Boril and Robil. Justified, since it's stated explicitly that the profession is passed from father to son.
  • Implausible Deniability: Boril and Robil argue whether a certain man is dead – the magic water even stops breathing and heartbeat, but the body is still warm and there is no rigor mortis. In the middle of the argument, the person stirs and opens his eyes. The pro-dead doctor, mocked by his colleague, merely states "It's! still! necessary! to! prove! that! he's! alive!"
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: The Dr. Robil who was alive at the time of the magic water’s discovery tended to talk like this.
  • Rainbow Motif: The Rainbow Palace, made of seven respectively colored wings, is built by the underground kings specifically in memory of the rainbow that they could no longer see. Each of the kings has the furnishings in his wing, the clothes he wears etc. of a single color.
    The Fiery God of the Marrans 
  • Fantastic Drug: Urfin has a problem with his soldiers never staying awake. The owl recommends some nuts which cause insomnia. Unfortunately, these nuts also work as a powerful drug, and soon many Marrans become addicted to them. The Sleeping Water is revealed to be an antidote to the addiction.
  • God Guise: With the help of a giant eagle, some red dye and a lighter, Urfin poses as the god of fire to impress the Marrans.
  • Mechanical Horse: Fred Cunning builds solar-powered mechanical mules named Caesar and Hannibal for Annie and Tim. Upon entering the Magic Land, the mules become alive and are able to speak. Later on, they become such hard workers that Ellie and Annie's dad has tons of free time, so he hires himself out to help plow and harvest his neighbors' lands, earning a decent profit.
  • Pet the Dog: Urfin saves the life of Karfax, a giant eagle, from two other giant eagles, before he decides to manipulate Karfax into assisting his own plans.
  • Population Control: The giant eagle tribe is limited to a hundred birds, with the order of having a baby being set according to a long-standing custom. A coup started when the chief attempted to put himself in the beginning of the queue.
  • Proud Warrior Race: The Marrans, strong and resilient and at the same time very impressionable and barely acquainted with civilization – that's why Urfin chooses them as his next army.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: From this book onwards, Ellie's place as the main character is taken by her little sister Annie (born during the events of The Seven Underground Kings) and Toto is replaced by his grandson Arto.
  • Time Skip: Eight to ten years (there are some slight contradictions in the narration) pass between The Seven Underground Kings and The Fiery God of the Marrans.
    The Yellow Fog 
  • Artistic License – Physics: Tilly-Willy designs a perpetual motion machine. And it works. The magical nature of the land they are in may have something to do with it.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Caught between two enemies, Arachna throws herself off the Cliff of Doom.
  • Disney Villain Death: Arachna falls down from a cliff.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Some effects of the Yellow Fog can read as rather similar to chemical warfare.
  • Fog of Doom: The titular curse.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Urfin Jus, after thinking long and hard about his previous life, decides to change his ways.
  • Kick the Dog: Arachna ends her first failed attempt to conquer the Magic Land with angrily smashing a cat.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: When Strasheela refuses Arachna’s terms of surrender, he almost blurts it out they’ve found a way to protect themselves from the fog. He saves the situation by saying "We’ve found... it more appropriate to refuse her insolent demands!"
  • Loophole Abuse: The Gnomes swore an oath of fealty to Arachna long ago, but it didn't mention fighting against her enemies, so they never do it.
  • Neglectful Precursors: The ancient good wizard Gurrikap, being an Actual Pacifist, didn't want to kill the evil sorceress Arachna, so he did the next best thing in his (magical) book: he put her to sleep for five thousand years, hoping against all reasons that in that time she would loose her taste for evil (which, big shock, didn't happen), and he didn't even care to properly seal her away or at least arrange for some warning to the future generations.
  • Pet the Dog: The only people that Arachna is genuinely good to are her loyal servants, the Gnomes.
  • Pragmatic Villain: Arachna considers using locusts to make the Magic Land submit, but decides she can't tax people whose cattle has starved to death. She instead unleashes a spell that essentially causes eternal winter with a side-order of toxic air (the Yellow Fog), but it is a much more gradual process, and Arachna expects (based on precedents) that the people will surrender before the climate changes set in. (Un?)fortunately, they managed to deal with every other effect of the fog.
    • She also rules out flooding rains, since it would look too much like natural disaster and thus hard to prove that it is her doing. The Yellow Fog, on the contrary, can be created and dispelled instantly, thus clearly proving Arachna's control over it.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Arachna, asleep in her cage for five thousand years.
  • We Can Rule Together:
    • Arachna offers Urfin a chance to join forces with her and have his revenge. He firmly refuses and predicts her downfall.
    • Later, after yet another of her attacks fails, Arachna thinks that had she had just a squad of such brave people, she would have conquered the entire continent.
    The Mystery of the Deserted Castle 
  • Alien Invasion: The plot centers on a very Sci-Fi alien invasion of the Magic Land by the means of a sleeper ship and an additional enslaved alien race.
  • Back for the Finale: Fred Cunning travels to the Magic Land again.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: Annie decides not to bring her dog Arto to the Magic Land this time.

The adaptations contain examples of:

    The Wizard of the Emerald City, 1973 
A stop-motion adaptation of the first three books.
    The Wizard of the Emerald City, 1994 
A live-action film adaptation of the first book.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Instead of the one-eyed old hag from the book, Bastinda is a beautiful and elegant Lady of Black Magic, played by Natalya Varley who was only in her late forties at that point.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Both the Ogre and the sabertooth tigers are sent by Bastinda to kill Ellie and her friends. In the book, they are independent villains, and Bastinda only starts sending her minions against Ellie when the latter enters Violet Land.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: The Hurricane is sapient and can appear as a human.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


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