Books: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Lately I’ve been writing just a paragraph about each book I read, in a monthly summary. But as I wrote a draft of the paragraph for the book I just finished today, it got way too long for a paragraph, and I decided it might as well have a blog post of its own.

I was initially thinking of reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz for “a book that makes you nostalgic” (for the PopSugar 2019 Reading Challenge), since I remember how asd a child I enjoyed reading the Oz books by L. Frank Baum, not only this first one but several of the others he wrote (my favorite has always been The Marvelous Land of Oz.) But then I saw this book as a suggestion for “a book that has inspired a common phrase or idiom (e.g. Big Brother from 1984),” which is a more challenging category. I wasn’t interesting in re-reading 1984 or Catch-22 or some of the other suggestions, but as I was going to read this one anyway, I decided it would be a good choice for this category.

I had seen the movie adaptation of the story, The Wizard of Oz, a few times as a child, when it was shown on TV, though after the first time I preferred to leave the room when it got to the part with the flying monkeys and the Wicked Witch and the hourglass, which I found considerably scarier than the book (there are flying monkeys in the book but they treat Dorothy well because she bears the mark of the Good Witch of the North on her forehead, and the whole thing with the hourglass was invented for the movie).

While I read the book several times as a child, I had not read it since I grew up, while I had seen the movie several times. And after so long, I had forgotten most of the scenes that were omitted from the movie, especially the trip through the country of the Quadlings in the South to reach Glinda’s castle (in the movie, Glinda simply shows up). If you’re interested in learning some of the differences, this article lists several, and this one discusses not just the differences in details but in the characterization of Dorothy and her adventures as a whole.

Having now re-read the book, I definitely think it is better than the movie. What it doesn’t have, though, is the phrase “the man behind the curtain,” which is the “common phrase or idiom” that was the reason for suggesting this book. In the book, the Wizard is behind a screen, not a curtain, and when Toto knocks down the screen, he just stands there. And the other lines given as reasons for the book to fit this category, “I’m melting” and “there’s no place like home,” also come from the movie, not the book.

So does that mean I need to find another book for this category? I decided not. For one thing, the idea of the book prompts is to get you to read books you might not otherwise consider, and I had not thought of re-reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz until I started working on this year’s reading challenge. Besides, “a book that has inspired a common phrase or idiom” isn’t necessarily “a book containing a phrase or idiom that has become common.” While the movie differs considerably from the book, it was undeniably inspired by the book, so the phrases in the movie were in some sense inspired by the book, even if a bit more indirectly than people who haven’t read the book might imagine.

One last note of interest: while looking at various web pages related to Oz, I noticed a map of Oz, showing the country of the Munchkins on the left and the country of the Winkies on the right. That is how I have always visualized Oz, I’m sure from seeing the map in the book I had as a child. I realized this time, while reading the book, that I had it backwards, since the Munchkins are in the east and the Winkies are in the west. I tried to reorient my thinking, but it didn’t work very well. It is just too ingrained in me that Dorothy traveled from left to right to reach first the Emerald City, then the Wicked Witch of the West. Now that I have read about how east and west came to be reversed in that map, I wonder if that is why I have had trouble my whole life remembering that west is to the left when facing north, not to the right. (I had long thought it might be because our next-door neighbors to the east when I was growing up were the Wests.) Such is the power of books on a developing mind…

One Response to Books: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

  1. Kizzie says:

    Thanks for sharing those links about the differences between the book and the movie. They are on my list of articles to read.

    I may not comment a lot, but I do enjoy reading your posts.

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