Tuesday, 10 April 2012
Review: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
The same basic plot is there, of course. Dorothy and her dog Toto get whisked up in their house in a tornado, travelling from Kansas to the land of Oz. She immediately wants to go back home, and has to travel to the Emerald City along the Yellow Brick Road to request the help of the great wizard Oz. Along the way, she picks up friends in a Scarecrow who wants brains, a Tin Man who wants a heart, and a Lion who wants courage.
But while the movie intertwines the worlds of Kansas and Oz, as the latter is a manifestation of Dorothy's subconcious, the book presents all the events as real within the world of the story. Dorothy really does travel to the land of Oz. While there, her adventures are a series of disconnected incidents with no cohesive thread - other than the fact that Dorothy wants to get home, of course. The Wicked Witch of the West does not hound Dorothy out of revenge or a desire to claim the silver slippers as her own. In fact, she doesn't even appear until the second part of the story. She attacks Dorothy and her friends purely because she's wicked.
Given the fact that L. Frank Baum states in the introduction that he wanted to create a modern-day fairy tale without the violence and horror of traditional stories, there was a suprising amount of gore and death. All of the characters, Dorothy included, attack others in gruesome ways with few qualms. Granted, it's often in self-defence, but it's still pretty disturbing. This didn't help me connect or sympathise with the characters. On top of that, they all repeat themselves so often (the Scarecrow on his lack of brains, the Tin Man on his lack of heart and so on) that it gets quite tedious. I know it's a children's story, but I got tired of reading the same things in every bit of dialogue.
There were some wonderful parts to the story, of course. A highlight for me was the charming china village. The prose is lovely. Perhaps I would have adored the book if I had read it as a child. As an adult, I wanted it to be half the length and twice as enchanting.