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The Road to Oz: 04/05/19

The Road to Oz

The Road to Oz by L. Frank Baum is the fifth of the Oz books. I've reviewed the graphic novelization by Eric Shanower back in 2016. It is Dorothy's fourth trip to Oz and her second with a human companion.

By now readers know that Oz is a fantasy land that can be traveled to. There's no need in setting the scene or reintroducing his most famous protagonist: Dorothy. Thus the book begins with the Shaggy Man asking for the "road to Butterfield."

Dorothy knows the way in the way a local would. In the days before even the first Blue Highway (the Lincoln Highway which opened in 1913), travel wasn't as defined by roads as it is now. Her instructions are: "'You cross the ten-acre lot, follow the lane to the highway, go north to the five branches, and take—" at which point she stops, unsure how to describe the next step(s) (p. 13). After a few more attempts, she ends with "I shall have to show you the way; your so stupid." (p. 14)

By the time they get to the "five branches" it's clear that something is wrong. There are now "as many as the spokes of a wheel," meaning she can't find her way to the highway. Nor can she find her way home.

Dorothy, not planning to go on another trip has ended up forced to take one. As she at no point considers the Shaggy Man or any of the other individuals they meet along the way, equals, she is traveling as an orphan (lone traveler). She is also a literal orphan. By crossing through the "ten acre lot", aka a cornfield, she has invoked her orphan magic. The road whether she wants it to or not is taking her to Oz.

Looking at this novel in terms of the road narrative spectrum, The Road to Oz comes in as a FF00FF. I realize in past articles and reviews, I've said I count the most extreme part of a narrative element when determining placement. I could put this book in the same category as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, namely FFFFFF, if I count the final destination as utopia.

I don't believe utopia is the correct destination for this book, even though Oz is a "no place." This book chronicles Dorothy's fourth trip to Oz and she is basically over the excitement of going there. Or put more bluntly, she's as skilled a navigator to and through Oz as she is Kansas. Oz may be utopia to you and me, but to her, it's a known place.

If Oz is mappable by Dorothy, then she can navigate herself and her companions to somewhere safe. Her goal throughout this book, once she realizes she can't get back to the family farm, is the Emerald City. It is there that she can find a means home via Ozma's magic. Therefore, I'm putting the destination at the other extreme, at city (00).

Road to Oz is significant for one last reason: it's the book where Dorothy decides to stay. It's not until book six, though, The Emerald City that Dorothy's aunt and uncle emigrate to Oz. Later stories of travel from the real world to Oz will be done by new travelers.

The next book is The Emerald City (1910).

Four stars

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