Sourcing It: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)

Written by: L. Frank Baum

It’s been an interesting month. I didn’t expect to get back into writing because of a single story, but it sure helped get things moving again. The Mrs. suggested I read some classics and month by month I have been consuming both the source novel and their cinematic counterparts. Not being “in the know” about Oz movies, I had no idea that I would find so many that I’d end up making a themed month of movie reviews.

So what about the novel? It was written so long ago that I would imagine the 1939 movie has more prominence in modern culture. This begs the question: Is the book anything like the movie? The short answer is, well, yes… but no. After a month of me prattling on, is there any real surprise that the story involves a girl from Kansas seeking a way home? Or that her unconventional companions are each seeking rewards of their own? If you’ve somehow forgotten or if you’re just joining in, please take some time to look back.

There are two major-MAJOR-major differences between the book and their adaptations. The first is the use of color. As far as I can tell, the 1939 film has the best use of adding color to the story. However, that film shocks an audience unaccustomed to color whereas the book uses color as a main theme. A person wearing blue is defined as a Munchkin, but a person wearing yellow would be a Winkie. While one city is colored Emerald, another is built out of rubies. It is even mentioned that white is the color of witches. There was a definitive stress on color acting as an identifier, perhaps to help young reader remember the differences. Some might see this as a racial issue, but the color is in regards to everything but skin tone, so just shut up.

Each land in Oz is colored differently: blue, green, yellow, red–but there are two other colors worth note.  The first is gold, the color given to the cap that controls the winged monkeys. This cap is seldom seen, but a variation of it does exist in the Muppets rendition. The real deal is briefly seen in the 1939 movie, but there was likely a cut segment so it’s only on screen for a couple of seconds. In the novel, this cap has a reoccurring role that is strangely absent from the big screen versions.

The second color gives a very different look to those iconic ruby slippers. They were actually silver in the novel! I’m sure gold and silver were used as opposites. Besides everyone likes shiny things and red is Glinda’s color. Yup, that same floating fairy-esque redhead everyone is familiar with only appears at the end of the book in her own world of red, but those slippers remain as silver as ever throughout. I’m sure that they wanted the shoes to be more dramatic for the movie so they made them red, but it should be worth noting that it messes with Baum’s coloring system.

Now the second major difference between the book and its film adaptations are chapter after chapter of missing misadventures with our heroes. There was no Queen of the Field Mice; no porcelain people; no Quadlings, it wasn’t even until I watched the Muppets that kalidahs made an appearance (and we all know how much of an issue I’ve had with that)! This was obviously done to save time, and I know, I know: the book isn’t going to be the same as the movie. However, the book did give a fresh perspective on the story. There’s an entire world that Baum created that was barely touched upon in the movies. Heck, the book barely covered some of lands and its people, but from a man who originally didn’t plan on write anymore, Baum sure spent a lot of time balancing out and giving potential to his creation.

And this potential was milked.  With something like 42 books existing in the series, dozens of movies, cartoons, and television episodes inspired by the source, not to mention toys, video games, and an unending sea of references it’s no surprise that the Wizard of Oz is indeed a wonderful experience.

Rating: Read it.

Read: Fans of the story will enjoy having more adventures.
Don’t read: Why are you here?

Please note that this is the last Oz-related post I plan to make for the year, but I still hope to continue writing. Right now I imagine you’re either breathing a sigh of remorse or of relief. If you enjoyed this series, please let me know in the comments! Next year I might just do another round!


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