Nitpicking in Oz, part I

So OK, I realise that The Wizard of Oz was originally a one-off deal. The first sequel was intended as a cash-in once the original became a  hit stage play, and the others were written pretty much as a favour to the fans (partly because, frankly, Baum needed the money too much to refuse them).

All that said… you do sometimes wonder, coming back to the original, if Baum ever bothered to reread it himself before embarking on the embellishment. Oz in the first book is — in keeping with the preface — a determinedly mundane fairyland, designed deliberately as an antidote to the vivid and grotesque European classics. (We will skip lightly over the fact that Wizard nevertheless has a body count in the dozens, largely of animals who get their heads chopped off by the Tin Woodman. It’s entirely possible that in Grimm, he would’ve carefully kept the severed heads to put in the Wicked Witch’s bed later, where they would recite doggerel predicting her gruesome demise. So it works out.)

In Oz the original, then, there is death. There is aging. They use money. The Tin Woodman’s retro-hilarious backstory involves him staying with his mother after his father’s death, until she too dies and he decides to get married on his inheritance.
There is suspicion, fear and stinginess. The Emerald City — in a bit that always struck us as goofily random, even at ten — is one gigantic fake, involving green glasses perma-locked to everyone’s head. (Couldn’t have called it, say, the Rose Quartz City and been halfway-clever with the glasses, noooooooo, it has to be green.)
There is no mention of a ruling dynasty of Oz. While trolling Wikipedia we were surprised and amused to note that the bit in the second book, that has the Wizard overthrowing same and sneaking the true heir away to be hidden by a Witch, is a direct offshoot of the decision in the original play to drop the Wicked Witch and go with the Wizard as the villain. The play also has a dancing cow named Imogene replacing Toto, so you can guess which version stuck in the popular imagination. In that version, of course, the Wizard is genial and loveable and please, Mr. Baum, can’t you bring him back to Oz again?
Thus Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, and the famous ‘What did the Wizard know, and when did he know it?’ conudrum was born. So was Ozma of Oz. We have already made it pretty clear what we think of that decision.


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