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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum: rereading for the American road narrative

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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum: rereading for the American road narrative: 06/15/18

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum: rereading for the American road narrative

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum was written over the course of the late 1890s and finalized in 1899. It was published on May 17, 1900, right on the cusp of the close of one century and the opening of a new one. Six years ago, I read the century full color reprint with annotations by Michael Patrick Hearn. Let's just say I was unimpressed with the experience.

Since then, I've restarted my road narrative project I have been revisiting the Oz books. I actually started with The Road to Oz in graphic novel format (illustrated and adapted by Eric Shanower). That one features Dorothy and the Raggedy Man walking back to Oz from Kansas.

As my project has grown and I've come to better understand the American road narrative, I've come to realize all the Oz books I've read over the years qualify. So here I am back at the beginning to understand the origins of Oz.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is the story of a young orphan, Dorothy, and her trip across Oz as she tries to find someone who can help send her home to her aunt and uncle in rural Kansas. Along the way she befriends a Scarecrow, a Tin Woodman, a Cowardly Lion, kills two witches, dethrones a foreign dictator (the Wizard), and befriends two other witches. For more on Dorothy, please read who is Dorothy?

Because Baum and his original illustrator, William Wallace Denslow, were trying to wow the publishing world and their target audience, they went all out with four ink colors. The book was designed to incorporate the illustrations and colors into the text area. It makes it hard to read and that's what left me unimpressed with 2012 re-read.

But the colors also set up the color schema that makes Oz, Oz. There is the blue of the Muchkins (and Dorothy, which marks her as a friendly witch), the Purple of the Gillikins, the Yellow of the Winkie, the Red of the Quadlings, and finally the green of the Emerald City, capitol of Oz.

This book also sets up the upside down, otherwordliness of Oz, though this aspect is refined over future books. As I discussed in In the upside-down: the hobo life in Oz, I explained the narrative significance of the flipped directions of East and West.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a rough start but it gave Baum what he needed to figure out Oz and to be inspired to flesh out the world.

Five stars

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