Monday, May 19, 2008

The Marvelous Land of Oz

Finished The Marvelous Land of Oz, the second of L. Frank Baum's 14 Oz books. It was delightful. I read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz aloud to my daughter about eight years ago and at the time was surprised by the violence of the book. I suspect she was just too young for it. There did not appear to be any unnecessary violence in this book. It's very fanciful and humorous, with unique characters who are brought to life by a magic powder. Jack Pumpkinhead and the sawhorse are especially amusing. The illustrations for this and all of the following Oz books were drawn by John R. Neill, who years later actually wrote a few Oz books himself. These black and white drawings are so charming and plentiful, they really added to my enjoyment of the book.

There are many feminist undertones to the story. Tip, the main character of the book, is really a princess transformed into a boy (unbeknownst to him/her), Jinjur's army of girls which dethrones the Scarecrow seems a bit of a joke with their vain priorities and their knitting needles for weapons. However, Glinda's army of women with sabers is very professional and efficient.

Glinda, Tip, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man (aka Jack Chopper), Jack Pumpkinhead, the Highly Magnified and Thoroughly Educated Wogglebug and the Sawhorse are all trying to locate Ozma, the lost Princess of Oz. They suspect that Mombi the witch knows where the princess is and try to question her about this. Mombi works various transformations of herself and others to fool Glinda. Glinda is too clever to be fooled for long and at one point remarks that no self respecting sorceress would work a transformation because it is dishonest. This line really stood out to me.

When I was little I used to be dropped off for story hour on Saturday morning at the Children's Room of the Nantucket Atheneum. They had all the Oz books in hardcover on a shelf. I used to look at them lined up, with a character's face on each spine, and long to read them all someday. I guess I will.

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