Wednesday, July 09, 2014

The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum (e-book)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

There are a lot of movies based on books.  I didn’t realize it at first, but The Wizard of Oz was based on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.  He never intended to write any sequels, but he did.  The first of these was The Marvelous Land of Oz.  (Since the books have long since fallen into the public domain, I was able to download both as ebooks from Project Gutenberg.)  Granted, this is a children’s book.  As such, it is somewhat simple.  However, this isn’t to say the book isn’t worth reading.

The movie.roughly follows the first book. Dorothy Gale travels to a strange land and is sent to The Wizard of Oz to find a way back to Kansas, which she does.  This book picks up some time after that.  A boy named Tip wants to get away from Mombi, who has ‘cared’ for him since birth.  (I say ‘cared’ because he’s more of a servant.)  He intends to scare Mombi with a scarecrow, but the best he can do is Jack Pumpkinhead.  (As you might expect, his distinguishing feature is a pumpkin for a head.)  When Mombi finds him she uses her powder of life to animate him.  Tip and Jack run away, taking the powder of life and a sawhorse, which they also animate.

They eventually meet General Jinjur and her all-girl army.  They plan to take over The Emerald City (the seat of power for Oz) with knitting needles.  They feel that it’s unfair that the central city has all the wealth and that women are subservient to men.  (While their complaints may be fair, who brings a knitting needle to a knife fight?)  Tip, Jack and the sawhorse have to get to the Emerald City to warn the Scarecrow, who has been ruling in The Wizard's absence.

Despite the fact that they get there first, Jinjur and her army succeed.  The Scarecrow is chased out of The Emarald City on a Gump. (Actually, it’s a collection of items with a Gump’s head, which was made to fly and brought to life with the powder of life.  As if that’s any less confusing.)  They meet The Highly Magnified and Thoroughly Educated Wogglebug, who agrees to help them reclaim the city.

Meanwhile, Jinjur enlists the help of Mombi.  She’s able to use trickery to help Jinjur, but it’s not enough.  Jinjur’s army is chased out of the palace and eventually the city.  It turns out that the Scarecrow doesn’t reclaim his throne, which he didn’t particularly want to keep in the first place.  Tip has a little secret, which I won’t spoil.

Just like the first book was made into The Wizard of Oz, elements of this book and Ozma of Oz were made into the 1975 movie Return to Oz.  There’s also a prequel movie that came out called Oz the Great and Powerful.  I’d imagine that there will be a lot of interest in the books.

From what I’ve seen of the first two books, it’s probably best to read them in order.  Even though Dorothy and several other characters from the first book don’t make an appearance in this one, they are mentioned.  I don’t know that you’d be lost, but you probably would miss a lot if you read this book before The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

As it is intended for children, there will be a lot of things that seem silly.  (Take the use of knitting needles as weapons.)  There are a lot of contradictions, as in the first book, though.  The Scarecrow rules Oz, but would be just as happy not to.  You have The Gump, a being that doesn’t want to be.  And then there’s the Wogglebug, a creature that you wouldn’t think would be capable of intelligence, but is able to help.

I really only found out about the first book through the first movie.  It wasn’t until I looked up the book that I found out about the sequels.  If you have children, this would be a good book to read them, although you might want to get a copy with the illustrations.  If you’re just interested in reading the books for yourself, the ebooks are probably the way to go.  They lack the illustrations, but they’re free and you can probably find a version for your device.  (I was able to download both books for the iPod touch.)

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