The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Tin-Woodman, meet the Cowardly Lion.
Written by: L. Frank Baum
Central Theme:
Genre(s): Fantasy
Series: Land of Oz
Followed by: The Marvelous Land of Oz
First published: May 17, 1900
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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, written by Lyman (long for "L.") Frank Baum in 1900, was an instant success, which has been much homaged and parodied, though the 1939 movie version, The Wizard of Oz, may now be better known. Return to Oz, a semi-sequel released in 1985 by Disney, is a cult movie. Many viewers feel that the latter film captures the spirit of the books more than its MGM predecessor does; it certainly looks far more like the books' original illustrations.

The book itself had many sequels; for more about these, see Land of Oz.

Dorothy Gale is a little girl from Kansas whose farmhouse is carried away to Oz by a random tornado, with her and her dog Toto inside. The tornado drops the house on the Wicked Witch of the East, killing her. Dorothy is quickly feted by the native Munchkins as a hero, but wants nothing more than to get home. The (un-named) Good Witch of the North is sympathetic, but unfortunately has never heard of this strange place called "Kansas". So she gives Dorothy the wicked witch's silver shoes, kisses her on the forehead, and sends her off to the capital -- the Emerald City -- to ask the Wizard who rules there for his advice.

Along the way, Dorothy meets the Scarecrow (who wants a brain), the Tin Woodman (who misses his heart) and the Cowardly Lion (who wishes he had courage). Together they travel to the Emerald City to ask for the Wizard's help - having to deal along the way with the aptly named Wicked Witch of the West, who wants revenge for the death of her sister - as well as her magical silver shoes.

Although the basic story is close to that of the film, there are several deviations and extra parts - such as the history of the Tin Woodman, the Wizard's multiple disguises, the fact that there are two Good Witches rather than just one, an extended anticlimactic journey after the defeat of the Wicked Witch, and (most significantly) the ending, which in the movie implied it was All Just a Dream, while in the book it is all most definitely real.

The story is public domain, and can be read in its entirety here.

For a list of the many, many adaptations, see The Wizard of Oz.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is the Trope Namer for:
Tropes used in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz include:
  • Adaptation Overdosed: While the movie is better remembered, the book has a lot of adaptations ranging from comic books to film to cartoons made in Russia.
  • All Just a Dream: Averted in the original books. Baum himself stated that the land of Oz is located somewhere in the world, it's just surrounded by impassable deserts.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: The witch's magic cap, which she uses to control the flying monkeys.
  • Armless Biped: Hammerheads, who attack by extending their necks à la a jack-in-the-box.
  • The Beast Master: the Wicked Witch of the West's main source of power is in her animal servants - a pack of wolves, a murder of crows, a swarm of killer bees and a magical hat that allows her to summon powerful Winged Monkeys thrice. When most of those minions are slain and the hat's powers exhausted, the Witch seems to be almost powerless.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: The Tin Woodsman. Sweetest, nicest, most loyal guy you'd ever encounter. Cried himself rusted over accidentally killing a harmless bug. Threaten an innocent life, and his axe will be used to make the offender a head shorter.
  • Bee-Bee Gun: The Wicked Witch of the West can control a bee swarm.
  • Bridge Logic: The Scarecrow has the Tin Woodman do this by chopping down a tree... and then has him chop it down again, with the pursuing Kalidahs still on it. The book was published in 1900, making this one Older Than Television.
  • City of Gold: The Emerald City.
  • Color Coded for Your Convenience: Blue is the color of the Munchkins and Green is the color of the Emerald City. Witches all wear white so when the Munchkins see Dorothy wearing her white and blue checked dress they assume she is a witch as well as a friend to them because of those colors. Furthermore, yellow is the favorite color of the Winkies in the West (they're even called Yellow Winkies), and red for the Quadlings of the South.
  • Cowardly Lion: Natch.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Surprisingly, the narrator in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz shows this at times.

"For," they said, "there is not another city in all the world that is ruled by a stuffed man." And, so far as they knew, they were quite right.

He seized his axe, which he had made very sharp, and as the leader of the wolves came on the Tin Woodman swung his arm and chopped the wolf’s head from its body, so that it immediately died. As soon as he could raise his axe another wolf came up, and he also fell under the sharp edge of the Tin Woodman’s weapon. There were forty wolves, and forty times a wolf was killed, so that at last they all lay dead in a heap before the Woodman.

The King Crow flew at the Scarecrow, who caught it by the head and twisted its neck until it died. And then another crow flew at him, and the Scarecrow twisted its neck also. There were forty crows, and forty times the Scarecrow twisted a neck, until at last all were lying dead beside him.

  • Family-Unfriendly Violence: The Tin Woodsman's origin among others.
  • Faux Symbolism: So much. There's a reason some historians see it as a Farmer's Movie. To name a few for the history buffs, Dorothy has silver shoes and walks on a yellow brick road to get to the Emerald City, Dorothy ends up missing the Scarecrow the most... Though it's all highly debated, and not everyone believes it.
    • There was considerable in-depth analysis of it... the author was allegedly an outspoken advocate of the dual-metal standard-- gold and silver, specifically (SILVER shoes on a YELLOW (gold) brick road leading to an EMERALD city of prosperity), and opposed the use of fiat currency which we use now... money that's valuable because the government says so (hence the Wizard making everyone believe the city was truly solid emerald by making everyone wear tinted spectacles. The situation-- as with fiat money-- was illusory.) Also at the time scarecrows, tin men, references to (at the time struggling) Kansas and tornadoes were regular tropes in editorial cartoons... Deliberate or picked up by osmosis, it's hard to deny there was some contamination by sociopolitics of the time. The emeralds being illusion was retconned in the second book.
    • The whole "Wizard of Oz is a Populist tract about the gold standard" thing was made up by a history teacher trying to get his kids to pay attention. It just fit so well it stuck.
    • Many allege that the book is a Marxist tract, with Dorothy's companions representing the proletarian masses. The Scarecrow stands in for agrarian labor, the Tin Woodsman is an avatar of industrial labor, and the Cowardly Lion is a symbol for how the masses undermine their own power by refusing to recognize or act on it. Weirdly, world events that had not yet occurred at the time of the book's publication increase this resonance. For example, the death of the Wicked Witch of the East could be interpreted as representing the decline of capitalism in the Eastern hemisphere... had it happened yet.
  • Feet of Clay: The wizard himself.
  • Forbidden Zone: The Deadly Desert.
  • Full Set Bonus: While you need both slippers to get wishes, just wearing one is a powerful Protective Charm.
  • God Guise: The wizard is just a fraud from Omaha.
  • Good All Along: The flying monkeys.
  • Heart Trauma: The Tin Woodsman's entire motivation in the original book that he erroneously believed he was experiencing this. Since he had literally lost his heart, he thought he had lost his capacity for kindness and love. In fact, he was almost saintlike in his love and kindness toward nearly everything he met; he just wasn't sentimental or strongly emotional.
  • Hitman with a Heart: Dorothy Gale is a hired assassin who kills the Wicked Witch of the West for the Wizard of Oz.
  • Home, Sweet Home
  • The Homeward Journey
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: To give him a brain, the Wizard replaces the straw in the Scarecrow's head with bran and needles -- and tells him his "bran-new" brains will always be "sharp".
  • Irony: The Scarecrow wants a brain, the Tin Woodman wants a heart, and the Cowardly Lion wants courage. Throughout their adventures, guess who comes up with all the plans, is unusually tender-hearted, and casually displays real courage? Yeah...
  • It Sucks to Be the Chosen One: Dorothy sure has to go through a lot because of those shoes.
  • It Was with You All Along: Dorothy is an example.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Aunt Em is said to have been cheerful and pretty when she came to live in Kansas but the sun and wind took away her sparkle and left her sad and grey.
  • Literal Change of Heart: The Tin Man, who wants to get a heart from the Wizard. (May be a subversion, in that he's just as nice without it.)
  • Made a Slave
  • Magic Feather: Dorothy's friends insist on getting a Magic Feather from the Wizard, not knowing that they already possess the qualities they sought to gain from it.
  • Magic Kiss: Dorothy receives a kiss which marks her as under the protection of the Witch of the North.
  • Magical Land: Oz and the countries around it.
  • The Magocracy: The Quadling (South) Country of Oz is this, being ruled by Glinda.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: The winged monkeys, and the Kalidahs (part tiger, part bear).
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Lots of them.
  • Offered the Crown
  • Outside the Box Tactic: See Weaksauce Weakness below.
  • Parental Bonus
  • Public Domain Character: The book is now public domain.
  • Protective Charm: The good witch's kiss, the silver shoes.
  • The Quest: Dorothy's quest to go home
  • Real Life Writes the Plot / Write Who You Know: Dorothy was named after Baum's niece, who died as a little girl. Aunt Em and Uncle Henry were based on Baum and his wife Maud.
  • Serial Prostheses: The Tin Woodman is an extreme example, having literally replaced his entire body serially.
  • Shadow Dictator: The Wizard.
  • Shining City: The Emerald City.
  • Shrouded in Myth: The Wizard.
  • Single Palette Town: The Emerald City and each of the four quadrants of Oz: East, Munchkins, blue; West, Winkies, yellow; North, Gilikins, purple; South, Quadlings, red.
  • Talking Animal: The Cowardly Lion.
  • Tears of Remorse
  • Technicolor Death: The Wicked Witch of the West melts after being thrown a bucket of water, her weakness.
  • Tender Tears
  • "There and Back" Story: Dorothy's journey from Kansas to Oz and back. The same is true of the adaptations that don't make it All Just a Dream.
  • Threshold Guardians: The Guardian of the Gates of the Emerald City
  • Trapped in Another World: Dorothy in Oz.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: the Wicked Witch of the West may be Ur Example, as her weakness is water.
  • When Trees Attack: The Fighting Trees they run into while they going to Glinda's palace in the south.
  • Wicked Witch: Obviously, the Wicked Witches of the West and East. The Good Witches of the North and South are a subversion. A special subversion, as the notion of a good witch was alien at the time.
  • Witch Species
  • The Wonderland: Oz itself, with talking scarecrows and robots before there were robots...