November 4, 2007

The Wizard of Oz: The Book

Like many great Hollywood films of this year, yesteryear, and probably next year, beloved classic The Wizard of Oz was adapted from a book. Written by L. Frank Baum in 1900, when queer meant strange and gay meant happy, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was meant to be a modern fairytale devoid of all the depressing endings of Grimm's classics. They weren't called "Grimm" for nothing. If you only know this tale by the similarly titled movie, you'd probably be surprised to know that it's only the first of FOURTEEN stories that took place in the fantastic world of Oz. The only known sequels to the The Wizard of Oz film are the animated Journey Back to Oz and Return to Oz, the latter being one of my favorite movies. Walt Disney Studios, who produced Return to Oz, never took advantage of the cash cow the Oz series could have been. I'm not sure who holds the film rights to the books now, but I feel if they could get their act together they could produce a movie franchise of Lord of the Rings proportions.

There is always a debate about whether or not the book a movie is derived from is the superior version, but I feel The Wizard of Oz is different enough to stand on its own. While the movie is a whimsical musical, the original work is a darker tale full of unknown danger and amazing discoveries. Let's examine some of the unique qualities of the book:
-More oddball lands to explore and the citizens who reside in them.
-The Wicked Witch of the West isn't the "be all to end all" evil here.
-The Cowardly Lion is a real lion, and still talks.
-Glinda is the witch of the south, not the north, and only plays a part in the end.
-The slippers are silver rather than ruby.
-Descriptive origins of Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and the Lion, as well as what they do with their lives at the conclusion.
-The Land of Oz is real as opposed to a dream.
-The story is far from over after the Wizard takes off in the balloon. If Metro Goldwyn Myer wanted to faithfully adapt the pages to celluloid, the movie would have been at least four hours as opposed to 103 minutes. And it's not even wordy padding either, there's a lot more to the adventure than you've ever seen.

There are countless more differences between the two versions to make the book worth checking out for fans of the movie. I also wholly recommend the book to people who are fans of the fantasy genre itself. Personally, I'm not that big a fan of the movie, but the book it's based on I can't suggest for you to check out enough. Even though it was written at the start of the twentieth century, it doesn't contain any old-time words that have fallen into disuse. It's easy enough for today's children to understand, but a great read for all ages.

And that's just the way it is.
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