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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 Blue Land and the Quadlings of Rose Land. The Winkies, however, live in VIOLET Land, while 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 Quadlings come up with plenty of cock-and-bull stories! But in all its essentials, Volkov's treatment of the opening story is the same tale that 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. Elli and Totoshka are carried 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 has examples of:

  • 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.
  • Alien Invasion: The Mystery of the Deserted Castle has a very Sci-Fi alien invasion of the Magic Land by the means of a sleeper ship and an additional enslaved alien race.
  • Alternate Continuity
  • 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).
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: The personality of a creature animated by the Powder of Life is defined by his face. Averted with Tilly Willy (possibly due to an extensive education at the assembly stage).
  • Bears Are Bad News: Inverted, Urfin's bear is a Token Good Teammate.
  • Being Evil Sucks: much of the Urfin Jus books are spent focusing on him rather than the actual heroes, and all of it emphasizes this. 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 the new villain, Arachna.
  • Body Paint: The wooden soldiers are mocked because they are naked. Followed by Urfin ordering to bring a few buckets of paint.
  • Breakout Villain / Ensemble Dark Horse: Urfin Jus
  • The Brute: every single soldier in Urfin Jus' army. Twice. (Once with magically animated wooden soldiers, the second time with a primitive tribe.)
  • Captured by Cannibals: Subverted. Charlie Black was presumed dead for years after being captured by a cannibal tribe. When he turns up alive in the second book, Ellie asked whether he managed defeat them in combat. Charlie stated 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.
  • Carnivore Confusion: Well, there is certainly no hunting, except for one savage tribe hunting young ducks (it's possible the cattle aren't sentient or speaking), and the predators have to survive on plants a couple of times (due to wars or disasters). They don't like it, but manage.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: Magic Land has different coloured lands like Oz but Volkov changes some of the colours. He changes the Winkie land from yellow to violet. The northern quadrant is now yellow.
  • 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: recurring villain Ruf Bilan.
  • Disney Villain Death: Arachna in The Yellow Fog.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Some effects of the Yellow Fog can read as rather similar to chemical warfare.
  • The Dreaded: Witches have this reputation among the residents of the Magic Land, who are not known for their overwhelming bravery. Bastinda actively exaggerated her powers to keep her land under control, and once she loses all of her minions to the main characters' party and spends her last remaining summon of the Flying Monkeys to finally deal with them, her reputation as The Dreaded is literally the only thing that stops her from being immediately dethroned.
  • Drugs Are Bad: The negative characters are explicitly shown to use alcohol in considerable qualities. It is mentioned a few times that some of them obtained wine by completely legal means, but the good guys aren't drinking it much. Of course, it may have something to do with most of them being either children or incapable of eating.
  • Expy
  • Evil Sorceress: Arachna and the Wicked Witches.
  • Fan Sequel: Volkov's other Magic Land books 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 Drug: In the fourth book, Urfin has a problem with his soldiers never staying awake. The owl recommends some nuts which cause insomnia. He makes a drink from it. It works, except that that there are unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. For some reason, the habit spreads (a counter is found later).
  • Fog of Doom: The titular curse in The Yellow Fog.
  • Foreshadowing: Ramina (the queen of the field mice) tells Ellie towards the end of The Seven Underground Kings about her feeling 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.
  • For the Evulz: Most of the Wicked Witches, probably. Most notably Arachna: the book flat-out tells us that to her, any day on which she doesn't make someone miserable is a day wasted.
  • Generation Xerox: In The Seven Underground Kings 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.
  • Gentle Giant: Gurrikap from The Yellow Fog. Actual Pacifist, too. Tilli-Willi as well, when not in battle.
  • God Guise: Urfin Jus in The Fiery God of the Marrans.
  • Good Feels Good:
    • In the fourth book, the wooden soldiers run away rather than become evil again.
    • Urfin feels much better after his reformation.
  • The Good Kingdom: The Magic Land or it's other name, Goodvinia
  • 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 (which earns them their name, the Chewers), albeit with great difficulty. Even after his Heel–Face Turn, he continues living mostly alone and remains a Knight In Sour Armor.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Urfin Jus in the fifth book.
  • 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 screen time along with the Chatterboxes 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 from 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.
  • Implausible Deniability: The Seven Underground Kings has an argument between two doctors about 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!"
  • Kick the Dog: Arachna ends her first failed attempt to conquer the Magic Land with angrily smashing a cat.
  • Magical Land
  • Meaningful Name
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Arachna from The Yellow Fog
  • Neglectful Precursors: Ancient good wizard Gurricap, being an Actual Pacifist, didn't want to kill the evil sorceres 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.
  • Ominous Owl: Guamokolatokint (usually shortened to Guamoko), an old and devious Horned 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.
  • One Steve Limit: averted with Ann and Annie.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: Gingema (Wicked Witch of the East), summoned the hurricane to exterminate the human race.
  • Our Giants Are Bigger: Arachna is not only a Wicked Witch, but also a Giant as well.
  • Pet the Dog: the only people that Arachna is genuinely good to are her loyal servants Gnomes.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Ramina, queen of the mice, is tiny enough that even Totoshka dwarfs her, but she still has impressive magical powers.
  • Popcultural Osmosis
  • 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.
  • 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 was a much more gradual process, and Arachna expected (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 ruled out flooding rains, since it would look to much as natural disaster and thus hard to prove that it is her doing. Yellow fog, on the contrary, could be created and dispelled instantly, thus clearly proving Arachna's control over it.
  • Proud Warrior Race: The Marrans.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: The Dr. Robil who was alive at the beginning of the The Seven Underground Kings tended to talk like this.
  • Refusal of the Second Call: in the second book, when the heroes attempt to recruit James Goodwin to their cause, he refuses outright, saying he had enough of magic, and never appears afterwards.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Arachna.
  • Sequel Hook: two particular parts of Urfin Jus and his Wooden Soldiers are these for the following book, The Seven Underground Kings:
    • Ellie and Charlie discover the 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 cohorts decide to leave him alone. In The Seven Underground Kings, Bilan is the one who accidentally sets off the plot of the book.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: In the final book, Annie decides not to bring her dog Arto to the Magic Land.
  • Some Call Me "Tim": The second book has 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.
  • Spanner in the Works: Willina (Good Witch of the North) managed to weaken Gingema's world-destroying hurricane so that it would only target one house, which she knew to have a tornado shelter (unfortunately Totoshka in turn became a spanner in Willina's own works, which caused Ellie to wind up swept by the hurricane).
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: From the fourth book onwards, Ellie's place as the main character is taken by her little sister Annie (born during the ten-year-long Time Skip) and Toto is replaced by his grandson Arto.
  • Talking Animal: Totoshka, unlike his Oz counterpart speaks a lot more in Magic Land.
  • Terror Hero: Tilly-Willy was designed to look terrifying, but is very firmly on the side of good.
  • Time Skip: Ten years pass between The Seven Underground Kings and The Fiery God of the Marrans.
  • Translation Correction: Tin doesn't rust, so in the Russian version, the Tin Man is made of iron (and his name is changed to reflect that.
  • 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.
  • Villainous Harlequin: Eot Ling, Urfin's evil wooden clown.
  • 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. After he gains a conscience, he starts making smiling toys.
  • Wicked Witch: Bastinda (Witch of the West), Gingema (her promptly-squished equivalent of the East)
  • World Building


Example of: