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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
The Oz Chronicles Vol. 1 by L. Frank Baum 
26th-Apr-2006 03:12 pm
Long time no (public) post! Real life has been getting very much in the way of my reading pleasure of late, but I have managed to finish the first seven Oz novels in the past week.

FYI: I've decided that, from now on, the cover image will be 25% larger than usual for omnibus volumes. We'll see how it works out. ^_^

Baum, L. Frank. The Oz Chronicles. Vol. 1. Ann Arbor: Borders Classics, 2003.
-The Wonderful Wizard of Oz- (1900)
Summary: A cyclone sweeps Dorothy Gale from Kansas to Oz, where she befriends a Scarecrow, a Tin Woodman, and a Cowardly Lion, helps them achieve what they most desire and their own kingdoms, and defeats two wicked witches. Though the "Wizard of Oz" is actually a humbug whose balloon does not take her home, Dorothy, after traveling to meet Glinda, the Witch of the South, learns that her silver shoes, which she has had all the while, will take her home.
Comments: Thanks to the famous Hollywood adaptation, the plot of this classic children's tale is something that everyone already "knows." Sort of. There's a lot more traveling in Baum's original story--and a lot more adventures to boot. The story tosses about descriptions of the killing and destruction of monsters with an almost shocking casualness, especially given the humanistic, cooperative nature of the story and the Tin Woodman's one-time profession of non-violence. Slavery, interestingly, is so readily assumed to be evil that it barely merits further description, though I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Though Baum professes not to be writing a moral tale, there are certainly lessons to be learned here about common sense, compassion, and courage, and it's always a pleasure to read a heroine on a hero's journey.
-The Marvelous Land of Oz- (1904)
Summary: The boy Tip escapes the evil witch Mombi and travels to the Emerald City, only to discover that it has been taken over by General Jinjur and her all-female Army of Revolt. With the help of new friends Jack Pumpkinhead, the Saw-Horse, and the Woggle-Bug, as well as the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman, enlists the help of Glinda to retake the city. Tip discovers that he is actually a she transformed into a boy by Mombi to hide her--the Princess Ozma and rightful ruler of the Emerald City and Oz.
Comments: Baum really starts to hit his stride with a world that is both fantastic, fleshed out, and a legitimate "character" in its own right. The tone of series grows noticeably lighter as well, with plenty of satire poking gentle fun at over-education, feminism, vanity, etc. Oddly, Tip has even less personality than Dorothy did in the first book; he just seems to passively flow along with events for the most part, even though he is Jack's "father." I suppose, in that light, it's fitting that the boy is actually a girl--a child's tale these days appropriate to budding transsexuals everywhere and oddly subversive in its implications, even today. No one would write a story about a spunky little boy growing up to be a beautiful fairy princess these days; it would be taken as camp, not seriousness. A shame, perhaps. I was also surprised by how thoroughly modern the prose was; without a personage from the United States to do a running commentary, there is little overt to betray the story's age.
-Ozma of Oz- (1907)
Summary: Dorothy is on her way to Australia with her Uncle Henry when a storm blows her overboard and washes her, along with Billina the yellow hen, to the shores of Ev. There, she discovers that the royal family of Ev has been sold into slavery to the Nome King, who has turned them all into trinkets, and, with the help of Princess Ozma and her entourage, endeavors to free them.
Comments: The most smoothly-narrated and beautifully-constructed yet of the Oz stories, bringing back Dorothy as the protagonist of the story. Interestingly, no one in the story is truly "evil," so much as vain, selfish, and/or fearful. The characters get more and more fascinating and creative, with notable entries such as the princess with thirty heads and the Nome King with his dastardly challenge to the Oz characters stoke the imagination. It's a shame that the Hungry Tiger isn't better-known (he's a great lesson in temperance), and Tik-Tok has got to be one of the earliest depictions of an android that I've ever seen anywhere.
-Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz- (1908)
Summary: Upon arriving to San Francisco, Dorothy and her new friend Zeb and the cab-horse Jim are swallowed up by an Earthquake. There, they are reunited with the humbug Wizard of Oz and journey through a number of strange lands, including those of plant people, invisible people, and wooden gargoyles, in their quest to reach the surface. In the end, though, Ozma rescues the group with her magic belt and they return for a brief stay in Oz, interrupted only by unreasoned fear that Dorothy's kitten Eureka has eaten one of the Wizard's piglets. The wizard decides to remain for good.
Comments: Not much in the way of a story, alas. The goal is simple: To get to the surface. Which, in fact, they are never able to do directly under their own efforts. Indeed, had they, they might not have visited Oz at all, and once they do get there, again, nothing much happens. It's like a utopian fantasy comedy of manners. Mostly, this installment was all about visiting strange new lands, some of which, admittedly, where interesting...especially the plant people world. The wizard proves himself to be a far more noble character than he first appeared, fighting enemies with his sword and whatnot. Also, with the inclusion of a human boy character, Dorothy's femininity becomes further highlighted...in a way that I don't necessarily think is positive or even especially constructive from a narrative perspective. Still, she's a wonderful character with a bit of a phonemic hick accent who's got her head firmly on her shoulders.
-The Road to Oz- (1909)
Summary: While helping a Shaggy Man carrying the Love Magnet, which makes everyone love him instantly, find his way in Kansas, Dorothy gets lost along with and the Shaggy Man and Toto. They find themselves in Fairyland, sojourning in the kingdom of the foxes and the donkeys, and learning from them that Ozma is preparing her birthday celebration. They are able to cross the desert surrounding Oz to join in the festivities, where all manner of strange and fantastical personages make their appearance.
Comments: Another placeholder volume that, once the party finally got underway, felt like an advertisement for all of Baum's other non-Oz children's novels in that all the other characters, including Santa Claus!, appear in cameo roles. I find myself a bit baffled by Oz's legal system. So, there are no laws because no one ever commits crime but there is a death penalty for murder? Huh??? Maybe I'm just too logical for Oz, but this makes no sense to me whatsoever. I'm even more baffled by the fact that Toto is the only animal that is unable to talk in Oz. How come? The love magnet, along with the possibility that one can be loved TOO MUCH, is an interesting concept. However, what really made this novel worthwhile at all was the organ man, whose internal organs played music with ever breath he took. What a delightful pun!
-The Emerald City of Oz- (1910)
Summary: Uncle Henry and Aunt Em are going to lose the farm and, meanwhile, the Nome King is plotting to conquer the Emerald City and reclaim his Magic Belt by tunneling under the desert. So, Dorothy brings her family to live in Oz permanently. While they are on tour through Oz, the Nome King's general is gathering allies for the invasion. Fortunately, though, the fight ends war ends without a shot fired when the Nome army is tricked into drinking from the Fountain of Oblivion. However, lessons are learned and Ozma decides that Oz must, from now on, be cut off from the rest of the world.
Comments: This is one of the most important Oz books, firstly in that it was INTENDED by Baum to be the climatic final installment to the series. Once the world is cut off from ours, Baum reasoned, he could stop telling Oz tales. (Fortunately or unfortunately, it didn't work out that way.) Secondly, more than any other so far, this novel outlines the functions of the utopian society and economy of Oz. It is a world that the author envisions as perfect in an American Transcendental fashion (the simple life, no scholarly pretensions, etc.)--indeed, perhaps even more real than our own world--and therefore must remain wholly unsullied by prosaic reality. So, forget "There's no place like home." Home isn't Kansas; it's Oz. I suspect that the anxieties of World War I was reverberating in this story, and I would guess that Baum favored American isolationism.
-The Patchwork Girl of Oz- (1913)
Summary: The Munchkin Ojo the Unlucky's encounter with the Crooked Magician is indeed unlucky--his uncle is turned to marble! So, with the Patchwork Girl and the Glass Cat, two new creatures brought to life by the magician, he quests to find ingredients for a cure for his uncle. Though, ultimately, the last ingredient proves impossible to acquire as it would require taking the wing of a yellow butterfly (therefore hurting it), Ojo in the process has many adventures around Oz and meets both Ozma and Dorothy. In the end, the Crooked Magician is straightened and stripped of his magical powers, and his wife and Unc Nunkie are restored by the Wizard of Oz.
Comments: Well, so much for saying goodbye to Oz! This is a standard boy's coming-of-age tale (complete with girl cheering him on), and it's particularly telling that all of Ojo's adventures were for naught save to make him a more mature Munchkin. This is the first Oz novel to be "graced" with song, most notably from the Patchwork Girl, hearkening (unpleasantly) to Tolkien conceits. Fortunately, though, the characters for the most part decry all "I feel a song coming on" manifestations, and some of it may well be parodic. The story also includes some mistrust of technology in the form of the anachronistic living phonograph, though, oddly, it's an equally anachronistic telegraph that allows the author to "communicate" with his Oz characters. The Patchwork Girl is one of the most interesting characters to appear in these books thus far, though I wonder how many readers today would know what a crazy-quilt is... (^^;
Notes: hardcover, Borders Leatherbound Classics edition, 3rd printing
Rating: 5.5, 6, 6.5, 5, 5, 6.5, 6/10 - A classic series of children's literature that continues to loom large in the popular consciousness. Some installments deserve the widest-possible readership; others are necessary only for those interested in American children's fantasy and/or pop culture.
26th-Apr-2006 09:04 pm (UTC)
how many oz novels are there? how long are they?
26th-Apr-2006 11:34 pm (UTC)
There are 14 total. As for how long? Well, the book above is 671 pages, so figure about 1300 pages total of reasonably dense text.
27th-Apr-2006 05:20 am (UTC)
I remember loving these books as a kid for their imagination (that and Wonderland) and the Patchwork girl was one of my favorite characters.
28th-Apr-2006 11:06 am (UTC)
Review archived.
19th-May-2006 06:24 pm (UTC)
hey, old enough to remember the cartoon series that was on HBO based off 3 of the tales?
19th-May-2006 06:42 pm (UTC)
I've never even heard of them. And "old enough" is probably not the issue. We didn't even get basic cable until I was in my latter years of middle school!
19th-May-2006 07:00 pm (UTC)
Aww. Well reading your reviews reminded me of them. Kinda long series involving the first book, second and I guess the third? I remember it involving the Nome king tunneling. You should try looking them up.
19th-May-2006 07:16 pm (UTC)
If one of the stories involved the Nome King tunneling, it had to have been based on The Emerald City of Oz. ^_^

Do you know if they're on DVD?
19th-May-2006 07:20 pm (UTC)
Not on dvd. :( Actually looked up what little info I could- 52 ep series based on Wizard, Land, Ozma and Emerald City.
19th-May-2006 07:21 pm (UTC)
52 episodes? DAMN...

Have you seen the film Return to Oz? I used to LOVE that one when I was little...
19th-May-2006 07:25 pm (UTC)
The one with Faith from Buffy? Yeah seen it a few times. creepy but decent in its own right. The designs for the classic characters at the end were...blah. You should look up more on that cartoon series!
19th-May-2006 07:28 pm (UTC)
The story of that film was this kind of darker adaptation of a couple of the earlier Oz novels--but, actually, the original characters looked more "authentic" to the original illustrations that went with the books than the classic Judy Garland film. ^_^;

You should look up more on that cartoon series!

What's the point if I can't watch it at all? :P
19th-May-2006 07:34 pm (UTC)
Expand your mind since you're on the Oz kick. No luck finding a torrent for it, before you ask. :P
19th-May-2006 07:39 pm (UTC)
*curious* Did you happen to find any character designs or screencaps from the series?
20th-May-2006 02:00 am (UTC)
Sadly no, found little info. was lucky to find what I could so far. feel free to look yourself!
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