I love the films. Well, the original film and it’s sequel, “Return to Oz”. The James Franco film was such a painful experience I like to pretend I haven’t seen it and that it doesn’t actually exist. I also watched an amazing miniseries called Tin Man and that is a gem of a find!
So, with that in mind, I got the whole entire book collection (For free, on Kindle. Thankfully) and set out to read my way through it. I knew people said bad things about it, I knew that he wrote in response to people’s requests, I knew that people lost interest the further along the series they got. I disregarded that and, much like Dorothy, started on the yellow brick road, prepared for the journey that was ahead of me.
I thought I was prepared, anyway. Turns out that I wasn’t prepared at all.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
This first book was alright, actually. All things considered. I think the Judy Garland film represented the first book quite well and some sloppy writing aside, stands up as a good children’s book.
The Marvelous Land of Oz
The second book, part inspiration for the second film, also mostly good. It is a nice little story, written for children.
Ozma of Oz
This book was most of the inspiration for the second film, Return to Oz. But sadly it’s where the problems were becoming too big to go without mention. There’s plot holes and cop out solutions. The story is very dragged out, and I think I would have been unimpressed with the story even as a child.
With the film, I was terrified of The Wheelers. They even unsettle me to this day. Tiktok could only make them behave for a short while and they come back later on in the film, scary as ever.
In the book, however, Tiktok disposes of them swiftly and they’re never seen again.
“Only, you must promise not to try to frighten children any more, if they come near to you.”
“I won’t–indeed I won’t!” promised the Wheeler.
I want to know why that didn’t happen in the film, because I lost a lot of sleepless nights thanks to them. That was the best part of an otherwise below average children’s book. I would not have been impressed if I’d have read it as a child.
Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz
This book was where I realised by what people meant when they say the books lost quality as they go on. I thought they meant further along, I didn’t realise they meant “book 4”. I mean, to put in perspective, I wasn’t that keen on the third book and this was worse.
In this book, we have plotholes, continuity errors and a whole lot of retcons. Dorothy’s personality has been lost somewhere along the way, and her strength as a female adventurer went with it. The blatant sexism just came out of nowhere, as she deferred decisions to her male companion and fainted when things got tough. Her male companion did not faint, because, and I quote, “being a boy, he did not faint”.
I was very unsure about continuing to the next book, but I had the books, they were free, so perservere I did.
The Road to Oz
This was just dire. There’s no other words for it, it was Dire.
This should be named “Don’t Do What Dorothy Does” and used as a teaching device for children’s stranger awareness.
There is a character called The Shaggy Man, and he practically abducts a bunch of children! First Dorothy, who he asks for directions and somehow gets her to show him the way to a specific road, despite actually not wanting that road, he just wants to avoid it. Then there’s Button Bright, who they find crying in the middle of the road, digging, for some bizarre reason.
And then there’s Pollychrome, the daughter of a rainbow man.
It started off pretty much like an episode of Criminal Minds. And said like a true abusive character, the fact they followed him was their own fault, apparently. Or rather, it wasn’t his intention to lead Dorothy away from home and get her lost, nor to find these lost children along the way. But they did, so it’s their fault. I’m not sure how I’d take that as a child, but as an adult, it reads very sinisterly.
And then we have “the Love Magnet”.
This is an actual excerpt of the book:
“The Love Magnet! Why, what’s that?”
“I’ll show you, if you won’t tell any one,” he answered, in a low, mysterious voice.
The warning bells, oh how they rung!
It’s a real magnet, and it makes people fall in love with whoever has possession of it. Right? Because that sounds completely above board.
And then there’s Johnny Dooit, who the Shaggy Man wants “real bad”, who’ll do anything The Shaggy Man asks. We’ve gone beyond Criminal Minds here, and we’re in an episode of Tales from The Crypt.
In essence, the story is about the odd bunch of travellers AKA, The Shaggy Man and his Oblivious Gang of Abductees, going along trying to find the Land of Oz and Ozma’s palace; And they all come across all sorts of people along their way, in true Baum fashion. And the crux of the story is that leaders of all these different groups all want invitations to Ozma’s party.
Well, where I come from, it’s rude to put people in the position of asking for invitations from a mutual friend, but what do you expect from a land where changing people’s heads into animal’s heads is acceptable behaviour? Once that’s considered fine behaviour, a bit social faux pas is hardly going to be on the inettiquette radar!
And then we have the senseless animal abuse, and a good allegory on the topic of disability. The Musicker man can’t help but make music, it was the way he was born. Think of something like a musical-orientated tourettes. He makes music and it is out of his control. Everybody shuns him and feels sorry for him. Nobody wants to be around him because of the music he can’t help making. He’s considered annoying. There’s no disguising the lack of acceptance, and they are cruel about it. It’s ableism at it’s most basic form. It is childhood classroom bullying and I couldn’t stand reading it.
I skipped a lot because the formula had well and truly worn thin by that point, and the ending was no different.
That was me done for Baum’s Oz series.
Read the series at your own risk.