The Wonderful Wizard of Oz | L. Frank Baum

“I think you are wrong to want a heart. It makes most people unhappy. If you only knew it, you are in luck not to have a heart.”

— L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

A timeless adventure

L. Frank Baum’s classic of American children’s literature “was written solely to please children of today” (of course…) and “aspires to be a modernized fairy tale”, as its author explains in his introduction.  If “today” referred, for him, to 1900, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz will undoubtedly appeal to modern-day children too with blatant yet thought-provoking messages such as the excerpt above. Fairy tales never grow old

The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum, Penguin, 2014
Source: Penguin

This story’s endearing cast of characters is its main strength. Dorothy, whose house was carried away by a cyclone, lands with her dog Toto in a strange land: the Land of Oz. Although its inhabitants celebrate her arrival, for it has caused one of the Wicked Witches’ death, Dorothy only wants to go back to Kansas.

To do so, she resolves to cross the country and find Oz, the Great Wizard who rules the City of Emeralds. As you might expect, she will have to overcome many hurdles on her quest and will make a few friends…

A tale of friendship in a magical world

Friendship is at the core of the book, which provides Dorothy with very different and unexpected fellow travellers. While traditional fairy tale characters such as witches and wizards represent figures of power and the duality of living beings, Dorothy also makes surprising friends you are more likely to come across in Kansas than in one of Perrault’s stories. The scarecrow and the tin woodman will never give up on Dorothy, nor will the cowardly lion. Many other animals feature in the story, including mice and winged monkeys… The Land of Oz really is fascinating!

It is a very structured world, divided into the equivalent of counties that all have their peculiarities and are associated with a particular colour. I especially loved The Dainty China Country, which, exceptionally, isn’t ruled by a Witch.

The presence of Good and Wicked Witches reminds readers that all is not what it seems, as Dorothy finds out although she “thought all witches were wicked”. In Baum’s world, the Power of Good “is greater than the Power of Evil” and real, important values are courage, kindness, self-confidence and being able to think for oneself. And experimenting! Here’s my favourite passage from the book beyond the well-known quote “There’s no place like home”:

“Experience is the only thing that brings knowledge, and the longer you are on earth the more experience you are sure to get.”

— L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Oz might be full of surprises, but he is nonetheless a very wise man…

A tale to draw lessons from

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a very empowering read. It stresses how important it is to stand on one’s feet and use all of the resources at one’s disposal to solve problems, and makes much more sense than Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – even though their main characters and structures (one short adventure after the other adding up to a short novel) are not dissimilar.

Dorothy is an independent, yet not infallible little girl who can count on her brains, her bravery and the people she meets to – hopefully – find her way back to Texas. This definitely is a tale I would tell my children… Sadly, however, I might be too old to be truly marked by this story, and I could not really relate to Dorothy as an adult, but she certainly is a memorable character I was more than happy to travel with to discover Baum’s wonderful world.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is an accessible and mesmerising story, perfect for those who would have liked to love Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland but found it too quirky to fall for it.

My grading

3,5 out of 5: to discover

The atmosphere

The atmosphere of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

About the book

Author: Frank L. Baum
Publisher: Penguin
Publication year: 2014 (first published in 1900)
Pages: 208
ISBN: 978-0142427507

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