We've been reading L. Frank Baum's Oz books to the kids at bedtime this summer. So far we've read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
and The Marvelous Land of Oz
and are in the middle of Ozma of Oz
. Despite the rather formal and occasionally antiquated narrative and dialogue, the kids seem quite taken with it, just as I was in my childhood. And as a grown-up writer now, I still bow in supreme admiration to Baum's wildly creative imagination. Further notes, adapted from some I posted on Facebook:
Started reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
to the kids last night. They seem to like it. Differences from the movie I'm noting now (which I once knew but had forgotten):
There's a "Wonderful" in the title.
They're silver shoes, not ruby slippers.
No long lead-in with Dorothy running away and thinking of a place over the rainbow. It's more like, "Once upon a time, CYCLONE." Which works fine, actually. (Also, it isn't a "twister" or a "tornado;" it's apparently a "cyclone.")
The good witch they meet in Munchkinland isn't named and isn't Glinda; she's just the good Witch of the North. Unlike Glinda, she is a small, wrinkled, white-haired old woman.
Yes, I'm sure there are webpages detailing all the differences. It's fun to use my own brain, though. Once in a while.
kids: The Wizard of Oz
, following up on our reading the book with them. It's still mostly awesome! The Lion is the weak point, with his corny 1930s comic relief stuff, but there is still plenty of good acting and gorgeous filming to make up for that. I especially liked the Scarecrow's physicality, adroitly flopping and tumbling about as if actually made of straw. The kids really liked the movie too. (Toto was their favorite.)
And it's been long noted by Oz fans, but L. Frank Baum's books, and this film accordingly, pass the Bechdel Test, and not just barely, but soaring over the requirements. Heck, women, good and evil, pretty much rule the land of Oz. Well, the Wizard rules too, but he's a humbug. Now that I look up Baum on Wikipedia, having realized I know almost nothing about him or his life, I learn his wife was from a family of women's suffrage activists, so indeed, he was well up in the progressive stuff.
On the music side, I never noticed before that they use Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain" in the score for a short time, during the fight in the Witch's castle. Cool.
The 5-year-old: I want to be the Wicked Witch of the West for Halloween.
Steve: Cool. Maybe your brother can be your Winged Monkey.
Me: And I can finally realize my childhood dream and be Dorothy. Dad can be Toto.
Steve: Or the Scarecrow.
Me: Ooh! Yes! We can have a Dorothy/Scarecrow thing going on.
Steve covers his face.
Me: I've traumatized Daddy.
Steve: I'm broken.
Kids, meanwhile, are doing a rather excellent job cackling like Margaret Hamilton.
We finished reading The Marvelous Land of Oz
(book 2) to the kids last night, and ha! I had forgotten that the boy Tip turns out to be, unbeknownst to himself, the princess Ozma under a magical disguise, and he gets changed back into his true feminine form and takes the throne. Yes. Ozma is a trans woman. Kind of.
Considering that chapter came with this Glinda/Ozma illustration as the header, we can at least safely say Baum is a treasure trove for LGBTQ/progressive-thinking type fans, even if he didn't anticipate all the ways in which he might be interpreted:
(I mean, sure, this is likely a "magical kiss of life" kind of thing, but the kiss wasn't actually in the text, so, up to interpretation...)