The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

>In L. Frank Baum’s introduction to the story, Baum suggests that this story will be different from other fairy tales as it doesn’t deal with the grim horrors of life (or contain the gruesome details) of the fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm. The purpose of the story, or “wonder tale” is solely entertainment. Any intrinsic moral value, since morality was taught in the schools at the time (I’m not sure it is so much today), is the creation of the reader. And from the reviews I’ve read, this particular story can be rather gruesome itself.

At the beginning of the story the narrator points out the dreary greyness of Kansas. The house is grey, the fields are grey, even Aunt Em and Uncle Henry possess a grey quality. The greyness comes from the uninterrupted beat-down of the sun, frying everything its rays touch. Odd, though, that dried grass should be grey and not brown. Maybe the grass dries differently in Kansas than it does in Indiana.

Baum is clearly setting up the transition (via the cyclone) from the natural world into the supernatural world (yes, we are back to the Hero Journey once again). What other reason is there to go on at length to make sure readers understand that the setting is only one color? I am going to use my prior knowledge here and say that clearly Dorothy, our heroine, hits her head. You’re outside the cellar when the tornado comes by and you get knocked around a bit. How do you not get knocked out. It’s the same way I see Alice in Wonderland. Except that I think Alice is suffering from heat stroke when she hallucinates. Or she’s high. One of the two. (Please note here that I have not yet finished the book, and am quite aware that there are somewhere around 14 books in the Oz series total and Dorothy does reappear in Oz.)

Nevertheless, Dorothy and her house and dog are dropped in the middle of Munchkinland, the savior to the people over whom the Wicked Witch of the East was tyrant. As a reward, she receives the witch’s silver shoes. If I had to guess, and I’ll go look it up at some point, I’d guess that they changed the silver shoes to ruby slippers because the red stood out better on film. Gregory Maguire deals with the change from silver shoes to ruby slippers, possibly in an effort to bridge some of the gap from the novel to the film. In Maguire’s Oz the silver shoes are given to a crippled (she was born with no arms) Nessarose. When Glinda charms the shoes so that Nessarose will be able to stand on her own, the shoes take on a red hue.

Color symbolism is clearly important in this novel. Baum spends time setting up the color contrast between Kansas and Munchkinland. The good witch from the North (whose name wasn’t mentioned) was dressed solely in white, while the Munchkinlanders were dressed in blue. Dorothy chooses a frock, after she washes up and is ready to head to the Emerald City, that has blue and white checks. Boq, a Munchkinlander who is kind enough to put her up for the night comments that she must be an okay person since her frock contains blue, the color of the Munchkins, and white, the color of the good witches. The Wicked Witch of the West is, of course, green. The green of evil, the green of rot, the green of death. Maguire offers reason for the Wicked Witch of the West’s hue as well. In the beginning of the story, Elphaba is seen playing with a green glass bottle–

Have another drink my dark-eyed beauty
I’ve got one more night left here in town
Have another drink of green elixir
And we’ll have ourselves a little mixer
Have another little swallow little lady
And follow me down…

–something to do with a tinker who happened across the house of the local minister and his lonely wife. Use your imagination.

That’s it for now, back more later. Maybe they’ll be more photos in future posts. I believe if you click on the picture, it’ll take you to its source page. If it doesn’t, at some point I’ll come back and fix it so it does.

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