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Literature / The Road to Oz

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A Yellow Brick Road Trip.

The Road to Oz is the fifth book in L. Frank Baum's Land of Oz book series, published in 1909 and featuring Dorothy's fourth visit to the mythical land of Oz.

The story begins with a homeless vagabond called the Shaggy Man wandering past the Kansas farm where Dorothy Gale lives. He asks for directions, and while Dorothy is showing him the way, Dorothy turns to walk back home only to be surrounded with dozens of roads. They can do nothing else but pick one and see where it goes. Along the way they meet a boy named Button-Bright and later encounter Polychrome, the Rainbow's daughter.

They eventually realize they have been transported to the same fantasy continent that Oz occupies. The travelers visit a city of foxes and a city of donkeys, whose leaders ask Dorothy to invite them to Princess Ozma's birthday party. They meet the Musicker and the Scoodlers and eventually, with the help of Johnny Dooit, cross the Deadly Desert into the Land of Oz. There they participate in a large celebration of Princess Ozma's birthday, attended by a large cast of characters, some from Baum's other fantasy works unrelated to Oz.


  • Ageless Birthday Episode: Much is made over Princess Ozma's birthday, stated to be August 21, but over the course of her enormous birthday party her age is never mentioned. This is likely because everyone in Oz is The Ageless, and although she's described to look somewhere between 12 and 16 years of age we know she was a baby when the Wizard took the throne of the Emerald City, probably several decades before the first book.
  • Breather Episode: If placed in the context of the books that come before and after this one in the series, note  this book can be viewed as a breather episode.
  • Cannibal Tribe: Although non-human, the Scoodlers fit this trope in nearly every other way.
  • Catchphrase: Button-Bright's "Don't know."
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: It was established in the previous book that if Dorothy makes a hand signal at 4pm Ozma will teleport her to Oz. She never thinks to do this. It later turns out Ozma had been watching the whole time, and actually caused Dorothy's journey in the first place with her magic. The thought had crossed the Princess's mind to rescue them a couple times, of course, but they found their own ways out of their predicaments.
  • Deus ex Machina: The entire purpose of Johnny Dooit's character is to come out of nowhere and instantly build the party a boat that can sail across the deadly desert to Oz.
  • "Everyone Comes Back" Fantasy Party Ending: Ozma's birthday party has elements of this, with even characters from other books by Baum in attendance, and doubles as a Dance Party Ending.
  • Fairy Companion: Polychrome becomes this when she joins the group.
  • Forced Transformation: Button-Bright ends up with a fox's head after visiting the fox city, and Shaggy Man ends up with a donkey's head.
  • Funny Animal: The fox city and the donkey city have these.
  • Going to See the Elephant: The main portion of the book pertains to Dorothy's journey to Oz and the people and places she sees along the way. Dorothy doesn't set out on the journey per se, but is forced to go on it because she's lost, and eventually reaches Oz by happenstance.
  • Got Me Doing It: Dorothy almost answers a question with "Don't know" thanks to Button-Bright's overuse of the phrase, but stops herself.
  • Hobo: The Shaggy Man is one.
  • I Choose to Stay: The Shaggy Man decides to stay in Oz rather than return to Kansas with Dorothy, particularly after he learns that Oz doesn't use money.
  • Ironic Nickname: "My father once said I was bright as a button, an' it made ever'body laugh. So they always call me Button-Bright."
  • In-Series Nickname: Dorothy calls Polychrome "Polly."
  • iSophagus: The Musicker, who makes music when he breathes, presumably because he swallowed an accordion.
  • The Load: Button-Bright is a pretty useless traveling companion.
  • Massive Multiplayer Crossover: Many characters from Baum's other fantasy stories appear to attend Princess Ozma's birthday party. Baum likely did this to promote his under-appreciated non-Oz fantasy books. It didn't really work, unfortunately for him.
  • Meaningful Name: Polychrome's name is Greek for "multicolored" as opposed to Monochrome
  • Meet Your Early-Installment Weirdness: In an illustration, John R. Neill lampshades how different his drawings of Dorothy and Toto are from W. W. Denslow's by showing them examining a statue of their earlier selves in the Tin Woodman's garden.
  • Mood-Swinger: Polychrome is usually the happiest, most cheerful person around, laughing and dancing about without a care — but when she's lost, lonely or upset, she'll cry loudly and declare herself "the most miserable girl in the world." Only to be all smiles again when someone shows her any amount of kindness.
  • No Antagonist: With the possible exception of the scoodlers (who are really more of an obstacle and nuisance) there is no main villain.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: The Shaggy Man never given any name other than "The Shaggy Man" or occasionally "Shaggy."
  • Power Perversion Potential: The Love Magnet, which makes everyone unconditionally love the carrier. (It only works on people who have hearts, though, and as the Shaggy Man discovers, just because someone loves you doesn't necessarily mean they won't hurt you.)
  • Road Trip Plot: The rare (at least these days) on foot variant.
  • Sand Is Water: The party builds a boat to sail through the sands of the Deadly Desert.
  • Santa Claus: Santa is one of the invited guests to Ozma's birthday party, and ends up helping to send Button-Bright home.
  • Upgrade Artifact: The Love Magnet.
  • Use Your Head: The main attack of the villainous Scoodlers is to fling their heads at their opponents, which backfires when Shaggy Man tosses their heads into a chasm one by one.
  • Verbal Tic: "Don't know" for Button-Bright.
  • Wacky Wayside Tribe: The main portion of the book involves Dorothy and her friends encountering wacky wayside tribes on their way to Oz.
  • Worldbuilding: Once the party reaches Oz we get quite a bit of worldbuilding. In particular, we learn that no one dies in Oz, at least not anymore.