Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Reflections: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Adam C. Zern shares his thoughts on L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz:

"It is a testament to how deeply the 1939 film—The Wizard of Oz—is ingrained in our cultural psyche that for years I didn't even realize the film was based on a book.  L. Frank Baum's myth for children feels like the classic fairy tales we've all heard before, both in our childhood and in adulthood.  It's simple in its prose and execution and that's probably why it has become such a part of our culture.  It's a story, first and foremost, and we love stories.

For those who have watched the 1939 film, and especially for those who love the 1939 film, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz may feel a little jarring.  The plot points, character details, back-stories or lack thereof, is quite apparent at the beginning of the book.  The infamous cyclone which carries Dorothy away to Oz occurs within the first or second page of the book, not after the reader is sufficiently introduced to Dorothy, farm hands, or grumpy, bike-riding ladies.  The book is far more violent, although not gratuitous, than the film.  The ruby slippers aren't ruby at all in the book but silver.  I could list other differences, but I think we get the point.  The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is the source material for one of America's most beloved films, but perhaps there is a reason that the book doesn’t seem as beloved.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz didn't stay with me the way that other surreal childhood stories have, such as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.  Although they're not perfectly comparable, they're pretty close.  Without delving too deeply into literary criticism, I liked Alice's Adventures in Wonderland more.  I think children would like either story well enough. (In fact, at several points during my reading of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz my oldest daughters asked me to read it out loud and remained relatively attentive). 

I enjoyed The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  I like having it on my Thousander List since it is the source material for one of America's most enduring and recognizable films and all of the cultural references and influences it brings.  I liked it but didn't love it as a book.  But I was never in love with the film either."

1 comment:

  1. It's not one book. There is an entire series of books. Very popular in their day.