Archive for the ‘Bufo in Oz’ Category

Emerald City is the Oz TV series L. Frank Baum would make today

February 3, 2017

Emerald City is the Oz TV series L. Frank Baum would make today

Note: this post is going to compare the current NBC TV series with the original L. Frank Baum book series and the 1939 Judy Garland musical version. There is no way to do that effectively without revealing elements of the three works which would be a surprise the first time someone reads/watches them. Therefore, this is part of our Spoiler Zone category of analysis and this is a

SPOILER ALERT

No doubt, some people watching the

Emerald City TV series on NBC

are shocked and offended that a beloved children’s classic has been turned into a depraved show with sex and violence.

Others are probably delighted that a daring reimagination has taken a namby pamby, bland story and made it into something more mature, relevant, and realistic.

As a long-time Oz fan, my guess is that people of either opinion haven’t read the “famous 14” original L. Frank Baum books in the main series.

The Wonderful Stories of Oz (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Oh, they may have read the first book, perhaps, or seen the 1939 musical with Judy Garland. The most famous book actually doesn’t match the rest of the series very well (for a good in-universe reason) and is one of my least favorites, and the movie was so different that it wasn’t a hit when it was first released (despite what had been a very solid “fanbase”, arguably one of the earliest).

L. Frank Baum himself makes a statement before the first book starts which could lead to the idea of Oz being just all happy:

“Yet the old time fairy tale, having served for generations, may now be classed as “historical” in the children’s library; for the time has come for a series of newer “wonder tales” in which the stereotyped genie, dwarf and fairy are eliminated, together with all the horrible and blood-curdling incidents devised by their authors to point a fearsome moral to each tale. Modern education includes morality; therefore the modern child seeks only entertainment in its wonder tales and gladly dispenses with all disagreeable incident.

Having this thought in mind, the story of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” was written solely to please children of today. It aspires to being a modernized fairy tale, in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heartaches and nightmares are left out.”

That last line is simply not true, especially if you continue through the other books.

No nightmares and heartaches? In the first book, there are over 100 deaths (mostly animals hacked to death with an ax by the Tin Woodman). Slavery is common and an ongoing theme in Oz. The Scarecrow is dismembered.

Now, you could argue that the tone is different: that this is “fantasy violence”, like cartoon violence. You might guess that the emotional anguish we see in Emerald City is not like the way people react in the books. Violence is committed against animals and “non-meat” people who can’t be killed anyway (after the big change in Oz). The gun violence in Emerald City would never happen in Baum’s Oz.

You could argue that…but it’s pretty easily refuted.

Take this passage from Rinktink in Oz:

“They found on every hand ruin and desolation. The houses of the people had been pilfered of all valuables and then torn down or burned. Not a boat had been left upon the shore, nor was there a single person, man or woman or child, remaining upon the island, save themselves. The only inhabitants of Pingaree now consisted of a fat little King, a boy and a goat.

Even Rinkitink, merry hearted as he was, found it hard to laugh in the face of this mighty disaster. Even the goat, contrary to its usual habit, refrained from saying anything disagreeable. As for the poor boy whose home was now a wilderness, the tears came often to his eyes as he marked the ruin of his dearly loved island.

When, at nightfall, they reached the lower end of Pingaree and found it swept as bare as the rest, Inga’s grief was almost more than he could bear. Everything had been swept from him—parents, home and country—in so brief a time that his bewilderment was equal to his sorrow.

Since no house remained standing, in which they might sleep, the three wanderers crept beneath the overhanging branches of a cassa tree and curled themselves up as comfortably as possible. So tired and exhausted were they by the day’s anxieties and griefs that their troubles soon faded into the mists of dreamland.”

This was devastation perpetrated by humans on humans, out of a motive of greed. They destroyed everything in wanton violence and enslaved the people. This had a genuine emotional impact on the survivors.

Okay, yes, one of the survivors is a talking goat, but still. 😉

This takes place outside of Oz proper, but is in a nearby land and it is part of the Oz series (and the Land of Oz and characters from it are part of the book).

That is hardly the only part of Oz that deals with “dark” cruelty. Some characters enjoy inflicting pain…here’s an example of torture from The Emerald City of Oz (one of the famous fourteen, not the TV series):

“By this time the jailer had tired of sticking pins in the General, and was amusing himself by carefully pulling the Nome’s whiskers out by the roots, one at a time. This enjoyment was interrupted by the Grand Gallipoot sending for the prisoner.”

That was pain for pain’s sake, and the General was being tortured.

In the books, the Tin Man becoming the Tin Man is very different from Emerald City, although I liked the way they did it on TV, making it more integral to main character relationships.

In the books, a regular human falls in love with a young woman who lives with a woman who doesn’t want her to marry. The older woman pays a wicked witch to prevent the marriage. The witch enchants the woodchopper’s ax to cut off his leg. It’s replaced with a tin leg, and that doesn’t discourage the chopper. The witch continues the enchantment, and eventually, the woodchopper has had all of his parts replaced with tin ones…which ironically makes him not love the girl any more.

What about guns?

There are many guns in Oz…even a gun-tree where a musket is picked. At one point, someone is instructed to only use a gun as a last resort: “…I do not wish to be cruel or to shed any blood–unless it is absolutely necessary”.

The Wizard in the books, by the way, is much more like the one in the TV series than in the Judy Garland version…he does some very self-serving things, and while he later becomes a member of the “cabinet” of the ruler, he wasn’t an innocent, sweet person in the early stories.

There is one big difference between the Oz books and Emerald City: sex. Sex is a big part of the TV series, and it gets talked about (not explicitly shown) a lot. That doesn’t happen in the Oz books…although there may be an argument for why that is true, besides simply the cultural standards of the time. No one ages in Oz (after a change happens): babies stay babies, and have to be cared for by other people. It’s unclear what would happen if someone became pregnant. People who come to Oz from the outside world do remark on people (and I’m using that term broadly to include supernatural beings) being attractive, but Emerald City’s libido is front and center.

Baum did have “dancing girls” in his stage productions, and I suspect that if he was making a TV series today, it would be as “sexy” as Emerald City is.

My guess is that he would also produce child-friendly versions: in the early 1900s, he was trying a lot of things…silent movies, stage shows, crossovers, tie-in books. Disney had nothing on Baum in multi-platform use of characters.

I’m a fan of the Oz books, and I look forward to and enjoy the episodes of Emerald City. Before criticizing or praising the TV series for being different from the books, you might want to read the books…and then decide. Even if you disagree with me about what Baum would do, you still will have read the books…and that’s a good thing. 😉

Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think about this by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard !

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This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

My take on…Emerald City

January 23, 2017

My take on…Emerald City

“Your past does not define you. Your mother does not define you. All that matters is who you wish to be…and how hard you’re willing to fight for it.”
The Wizard of Oz (Frank Morgan) played by Vincent D’Onofrio
Mistress – New Mistress episode of Emerald City
teleplay by Justin Doble and David Schulner
based on the books by L. Frank Baum

L. Frank Baum would have turned the Wizard of Oz books into a television series.

He was personally involved in taking them onto the silent silver screen, the stage, and in tie-in books.

It’s reasonable to assume that in today’s market, it would have been cutting edge. Baum had “dancing girls”, and ethnic humor.

The books brought in contemporary events, and commented on them (even if one ignores a theory that the first book had to do with the gold standard).

As a big Oz fan, I can take that into account in watching the new adaptation on NBC:

Emerald City

If the series feels a bit “Game of Thrones”…well, it would have. Baum would have looked at what was successful (and loved and critically lauded)…although he would also have walked his own path.

Given all that, how faithful is Emerald City? How do I like it?

I am always careful about spoilers, so I will warn you ahead of time that I will reveal some small details in this post, while avoiding major plot points. If you’d like to be surprised by every allusion, I’d watch the first four episodes before reading this (you may find the first two episodes bundled together). Outside of that, you should be good.

So, MINOR SPOILER ALERT: DETAILS

I’m quite pleased to see that the people writing Emerald City are clearly very familiar with the “Famous 14”, the first main 14 books written by L. Frank Baum. There are many familiar names and locations, even if the characters (both of people and places) aren’t the same.

It’s important to be clear that it is the books, and not the 1939 movie with Judy Garland, that form the basis. It’s also not just the first book, the one most people know (and which is one of my least favorite of the series).

That said, there is one startling reference to the 1939 movie which I think is a mistake (and for the reason that it is too meta, too much of a distraction for me). The Wizard (Vincent D’Onofrio, adding another geek-friendly credit to the resume, following playing Wilson “The Kingpin” Fisk on Daredevil…and of course, Edgar in the original Men in Black) reveals his true name to be “Frank Morgan”. That’s the name of the actor who played the Wizard in the MGM musical…it’s not from the books (where the Wizard’s name was Oscar Diggs…with a lot more in-between).

The names in Emerald City otherwise mostly come from the books: Ojo, Mombi, Ev (another “land” in the Oz books), Tip, and so on. I don’t think we needed that fourth-wall break here.

The universe rules in Emerald City are more akin to rules in the first book than in the latter ones…which does make sense, based on the chronology. People (and animals) in Oz can die, and do…frequently and sometimes violently, in the TV series. In the first book, there are over 100 deaths delineated.

Later in the book series, the rules change and no one dies (although it’s never quite clear if visitors to Oz, such as Dorothy, can die in Oz…not just the readers, but the characters don’t know, and the latter speculate about it). People can be destroyed and feel pain, but can’t be killed. There is a reason for that…

Will that happen in the TV series?

Seems unlikely. Emerald City is what I call “a real Bleak Show” (as opposed to a “Freak Show”). That is certainly a popular tone now: “the world is bad and people are worse” (see, for example, Zack Snyder’s version of DC). It’s not at all new: stories like that go back a very long time. It’s just not my preference, and not my world view, but clearly, it can be resonant. Just about everybody in Emerald City does…at least questionable things, including Dorothy. In the original books, they weren’t all sweetness and light: characters often argued with each other, although after the significant shift happens, most people have the goal of getting along (they just aren’t always perfect at it). That’s one of the things that sets the original Oz books apart from many other putative children’s books.

This series is likely to revel in violence and sex (although not shown explicitly…while sex is certainly implied and discussed, this is still a network show. Violence is shown), so I think deathlessness is an unlikely choice.

Overall, the acting is good, the writing is good, and the direction seems good. I like the art direction and some of the Easter Eggs (with the exception of the reference to the 1939 movie). In particular, I thought having “Cassidy” show up on a poster for a lottery (which, interestingly, uses dollar signs for amounts…but that could be the Wizard’s doing) was a cute reference to Executive Producer Shaun Cassidy.

One change I might have made is that I find the score a bit intrusive…it’s almost always there telling us how to feel, like a laugh track in a 1960s sitcom. That’s not to say that the music is bad or jarring, it’s not (I like the themes)…it’s just that I don’t need it there as much.

So, Oz with reference to drones, crop circles, opium, physical therapy, transgender bathroom use, and a cellphone (although the last one isn’t new: The Wizard of Oz invented the cellphone)? For me, that works. Would I still like to see a series that was tonally more like the later Oz books? Sure, and I think we will. For me, one of the signifiers of great art is that it can be adapted in many different ways and still survive…they become more than plots, and characters, and settings. As with Shakespeare and West Side Story and Forbidden Planet, Oz is greater than any given adaptation, and enhanced by divergent visions.

That’s what I think…feel free to tell me and my readers what you think (or to ask questions about how Emerald City relates to the Famous 14…I’ll mask spoilers if necessary) by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard !

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project! Join the TMCGTT Timeblazers!

* When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Stupid pitch: Ozpocalypse (Ozquad #1)

August 19, 2016

Stupid pitch: Ozpocalypse (Ozquad #1)

This may be the first in a series of humor pieces where I propose what I really think are stupid ideas for movies, TV  shows,  and so on. The purpose is to shine a light on something serious with humor.

Studio executive: “Okay, whaddaya got?”

Moviemaker: “It’s got everything you like. It’s perfect for the summer!”

Studio executive: “Blah, blah. Why is it safe and how will it make me money?”

Moviemaker: “It’s a reboot of a well-known property with a built-in fanbase. Yet, it’s been modernized to swim with the blockbuster tentpoles.”

Studio executive: “Three minutes.”

Moviemaker:  “What’s the most beloved movie property of all time?”

Studio executive: “Porn?”

Moviemaker: “The Wizard of Oz. We–“

Studio executive: “We’re done here. Disney just did it. it wasn’t a big hit, and they claim infringement when somebody makes Mickey Mouse pancakes for their kid. Disappointing box office and Disney lawyers? I’m out.”

Moviemaker: “I can see where you are coming from, but the source material is public domain…nobody owns it. That also means no author to pay. Ours isn’t like theirs at all. It’s a mismatched group of heroes fighting a big CGI baddy who uses magic…The Avengers meets Harry Potter!”

Studio executive:  “I’m listening again. Two minutes and thirty five seconds.”

Moviemaker: “Dorothy Gale is a tween in Kansas. She’s using an augmented reality program like Pokémon Go, where she follows an avatar of a little black dog. It’s called TotoGo. She gets caught up in a weird virus thing called Twister, and finds that her social media history has been deleted. A mysterious figure says she should go for help to a government official, The Wizard.

Along the way, she connects with a legendary hacker who uses multiple identities and only appears wearing a mask, like Anonymous…called The Strawman. Despite that name, we want to cast a woman in the part…maybe Jenna Ushkowitz, Aubrey Plaza, or Michelle  Rodriguez.

The Strawman brings along an artificially intelligent war robot which failed to follow instructions, not going into dangerous situations when its existence was threatened. It’s a quadruped, and they call it the Neurologically Enhanced Remote Vehicle Experiment: NERVE. We’ll use Google’s Big Dog robot, and we’re thinking Kevin Hart for the voice.

They also connect with a former Special Forces soldier who favors an axe in battle. Code name: Heartless. His catchphrase: “I couldn’t do this if I cared.” We want Dwayne Johnson. Hart and Johnson already have a hit together.

When they get to The Wizard, he sends them on a suicide mission against the cyberterrorist believed to actually be behind Twister: the Wicked Wicked Witch…Triple Dub, like the World Wide Web.

Turns out Triple Dub is actually possessed by an ancient demon. There’s a huge battle…we’re thinking at least 45 minutes of CGI action. Triple Dub sends flying  monkeys against the four…lots of scenes of Heartless chopping monkeys out of the air. Strawman overcomes NERVE’s programming resistance temporarily, and the robot is fearless and also splashes the screen with monkey guts, which should look great in 3D.

During the battle, we destroy the Yellow Brick Road and knock down large parts of the Emerald City.

The monkeys dismember Strawman. Heartless rides on NERVE to fight a Big Bad Henchman…a flying gorilla, like King Kong size.

That lets Dorothy get to Triple Dub, and the Kansas Kid dumps a sulfuric acid tank on her…we see that death scene in detail.

Heartless, NERVE, and Dorothy are celebrating. Strawman is dying, but manages to croak out, “This is wrong. No computers…no Twister.”

Dorothy realizes that The Wizard must really be responsible:  why would a demon use software?

Dorothy, Heartless, and NERVE head back to expose The Wizard.”

Studio executive: “What about that mystery figure who sent her to The Wizard in the first place?”

Moviemaker: “Good ear! We get shots of her in a monitoring center following Dorothy’s adventures, but she only calls her the ‘asset’. She uses the Magic Picture and the Great Book of Records to track her.”

Studio executive: “Is that going to make the fanboys mad?”

Moviemaker: “That’s one of the best things…Glinda actually does just that in the original books. She has a magic picture which shows her anything she thinks about, and a book that records everything that happens in the world. She really is a magical NSA.”

Studio executive: “Twenty seconds.”

Moviemaker: “Totogo helps Dorothy find The Wizard. They reveal him as a fraud, and he gets kicked out of power and sent to prison. Glinda mysteriously helps Dorothy restore everything (“There’s no page like homepage”) and we set up future Ozquad movies. Oh, and Strawman survived and is now outfitted with prosthetic limbs.”

Studio executive: “Sequels? Prequels?”

Moviemaker: “Tons. We’ve got a major trans character, a feminist overthrow of a city…diversity and action.”

Studio executive: “Give me one trailer: trailers are key.

Moviemaker: “I’ll give you two. The ‘Carnage’ trailer uses the Tim Curry version of “Anyone Who Had a Heart” as a soundtrack, and shows quick cuts of Heartless fighting, and the melting, but we don’t show who that is. The ‘Conspiracy’ trailer plays up the mystery and the tech…maybe Domo Arregato, Mr. Roboto, but we include dialogue. Not too much, of course.”

Studio executive: “Done. You get $125 million, and I want it in theatres in May.”

Moviemaker: “2020?”

Studio executive: “2018. We have an opening.”

Moviemaker: “That’s…um…not enough time to do it right.”

Studio executive: “Who cares about right? Just make it make money.”

Moviemaker: “Are you sure that’s worth the risk? What about those sequels? I’m just thinking about your future profits.”

Studio executive: “Bull. You want to make art. It ain’t about art…there’s a reason it’s called show BUSINESS, not show art. Get down with that, or get out.”

Moviemaker: “You’ll get your movie.”

Studio executive: “You bet I will…and your little avatar, too.”

The Measured Circle thinks this is a bad idea for a movie…and of course, only good ideas are ever made into movies…

Note: thanks to reader davidleeingersoll who pointed out that the initial name I used for the “movie series”, “Oz Squad”, had previously been used for a comic book series (I was unaware of that). To avoid confusion, I’ve made a change…and I’ll explicitly say that this has no connection to the Oz Squad comics (outside of source material, most likely), and I regret the accidental overlap. I have not read the comics myself, but if you are interested, here is the annotated paperback version:

The Complete, Annotated Oz Squad Volume I by Steve Ahlquist (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard !

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project! Join the TMCGTT Timeblazers!

When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

The Wizard of Oz invented the cellphone

April 7, 2014

The Wizard of Oz invented the cellphone

Who invented the cellphone?

Was it Martin Cooper in the 1970s?

Or, perhaps, was it Oscar Diggs in the 1910s?

Never heard of Oscar Diggs?

Oh, but you have…he is better known as the Wizard of Oz.

In L. Frank Baum’s 1914 eighth book in the Oz series, Tik-Tok of Oz (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*), we encounter this remarkable scene (mild spoiler alert).

Ozma, the ruler of Oz, has a magic picture which enables her to see anything happening in the world (although she has to direct the picture to show her something).

Previously, one limitation was that the picture had no sound. Dorothy had to make a hand gesture at a certain time of day (which Ozma could see) in order to communicate.

At this point in the series, Oscar Diggs is essentially part of Ozma’s cabinet. He has learned some real magic, but also dabbles in technology.

The Shaggy Man is a prototypical hippie, with an easy-going philosophy, a disdain for the establishment, and a life built around love…or, a love magnet, at any rate.

Shaggy would be right at home on many tech campuses.

When some magic happens, Shaggy realizes it must be the intervention of Ozma:

“…Shaggy suspected the truth, and believing that Ozma was now taking an interest in the party he drew from his pocket a tiny instrument which he placed against his ear.

Ozma, observing this action in her Magic Picture, at once caught up a similar instrument from a table beside her and held it to her own ear. The two instruments recorded the same delicate vibrations of sound and formed a wireless telephone, an invention of the Wizard. Those separated by any distance were thus enabled to converse together with perfect ease and without any wire connection.

“Do you hear me, Shaggy Man?” asked Ozma.

“Yes, Your Highness,” he replied.”

At the end of the conversation, Ozma puts her phone down, and Shaggy “…replaced the wireless telephone in his pocket”.

So, while you may have heard in the past that the Star Trek communicator inspired the cellphone, here was a clearcut description of one the way we use them now…more than half a century earlier.

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Bufo in Oz: was Dorothy’s house used as a weapon?

April 23, 2013

Bufo in Oz: was Dorothy’s house used as a weapon?

I’ve been a big fan of Oz for a very long time. In this series, Bufo in Oz, I’m going to address specific topics about L. Frank Baum’s Oz.

SPOILER ALERT: This post talk about specific things that happen in the Wizard of Oz series by L. Frank Baum. If you have not read them yet, and would like the joy of discovery, I would skip this post.

While the books can be downloaded individually for free at places like Project Gutenberg, this collection

The Complete Wizard of Oz Collection

has all fourteen of the original books for ninety-nine cents at the time of writing. 

Was Dorothy’s house used as a weapon?

There had been equilibrium in Oz for many years.

After four “wicked” witches had split the country evenly (following one of them, Mombi, abducting the king), two of them were overthrown by “good” witches.

When Oscar Diggs arrived in a balloon, he was believed to be very powerful (flight was, and would remain, unusual in Oz). He was able to have a city built, and ostensibly ruled the whole land.

However, he had been chased out of the West by use of the flying monkeys, and never ventured outside the Emerald City (or even outside of his own living quarters).

It’s safe to assume that the real balance was between the two pairs of aligned witches: Glinda in the South (she is called the Good Witch of the North in the 1939 Judy Garland version, but that was a change) and the Good Witch of the North (who is unnamed) on one side, and the Wicked Witches of the East and West on the other.

Mombi had been part of the Wicked Witches’ alliance, but had been overthrown herself by the Good Witch of the North. She was still around, but being a witch was forbidden, and her power was considerably diminished.

It’s not entirely clear what happened to the Wicked Witch who had ruled the South, except that Glinda had “conquered” her. Glinda later threatens to kill Mombi, although she says it is an idle threat…but Glinda also maintains an army. The fate of the Wicked Witch of the South may not have been as merciful as that of Mombi.

That is where the balance was.

Then, an extraordinary event occurred.

A farmhouse from the Outside World (containing Dorothy Gale, an orphan living with her aunt and uncle, and Toto, a dog) was picked up by a cyclone, blown to Oz, and dropped on the Wicked Witch of the East, killing her…and changing the status quo in a way that led to the defeat of the Wicked Witch of the West and a change in the central authority.

That seems like an amazing coincidence: of all the places in Oz, the house happens to fall on one of the most powerful magic users and important people?

What if it wasn’t a coincidence?

Is it possible that Dorothy’s house was used as a deliberate weapon…that someone used magic to direct its path?

There are some indicators that that’s what happened.

First, who would do it?

Clearly, Glinda, and her ally, the Good Witch of the North, stood to benefit. Rather than two versus two, the “witch war” would become two against one…much better odds.

The Good Witch alliance might also have the power to do it…they are, after all, magic users. Diggs himself later says, “…it is quite beyond my powers to make a cyclone…” Is the Wizard saying it is beyond everyone’s powers, or just his? Does he know that the Witches can do it? Should he have said, “No one can make a cyclone”…or is he being specific about himself?

In fact, L. Frank Baum makes a point about how the house is first lifted by the cyclone:

“From the far north they heard a low wail of the wind, and Uncle Henry and Dorothy could see where the long grass bowed in waves before the coming storm. There now came a sharp whistling in the air from the south, and as they turned their eyes that way they saw ripples in the grass coming from that direction also.”

Notice that the winds came from the north and the south? Those are the parts of the Land of Oz that were under the control of the Good Witches alliance. Could that have been, at the least, symbolic?

I asked Dr. Scott Calvin, a physics professor at Sarah Lawrence College, if what Baum had described was likely without magical intervention:

The Measured Circle: “Does the wind coming from the North and the South make meteorological sense? Does it not make any difference (winds can come from any direction before a cyclone?) or would this be anomalous?”

Professor Calvin: “It’s anomalous. For a typical Kansas (or Dakota, for that matter) tornado, the winds would be from the south. Around the thunderstorm systems that form tornadoes, there could be a lot of variations, but I really don’t understand the kind of converging winds that Baum describes.”

Of course, L. Frank Baum, the “Royal Historian”, could simply have been wrong…but why make up those particular details? Cardinal directions are important in the Oz books, and certainly may matter here.

The house does not break apart and Dorothy and Toto have no trouble surviving the journey (which lasts hours…and crosses the Deadly Deserts surrounding Oz). In fact, we are told

“The cyclone had set the house down very gently–for a cyclone–“

This could suggest a controlled descent…that could have been done to protect Dorothy and Toto, although it could conceivably have been due to a defensive action by the Wicked Witch of the East (who might have slowed the descent without being able to stop it). The Royal Historian says that Dorothy would have been hurt by the jarring landing if she didn’t happen to be on the bed, suggesting that the latter may be more likely.

Suspiciously, the Good Witch of the North is on the scene almost immediately after the house lands.

The witch explains it this way:

“When they saw the Witch of the East was dead the Munchkins sent a swift messenger to me, and I came at once. I am the Witch of the North.”

That would have to have been a very swift messenger indeed. Dorothy is awakened by the shock of the landing, springs from the bed, and runs outside. She is looking at the sights, but there is no suggestion that any real time passes before a group of people, including the Good Witch of the North, come up to her.

People typically travel by foot in Oz (although there are some other methods described in the books). It doesn’t seem likely that there is any swift mass transport, or telecommunication to get the information about the house which has just landed to the Good Witch of the North, and give her time to get there.

It seems much more likely that she was already nearby when her enemy was killed. Did she know where the house was going to land? Was she in some way distracting the Wicked Witch, or even keeping her in the right spot?

The Good Witch doesn’t seem particularly surprised about the death of the Wicked Witch. She even laughs when the woman dissolves.

Then, there is one of the most interesting events in Oz.

While the group tries to assess the situation, the Good Witch does something specific:

“As for the little old woman, she took off her cap and balanced the point on the end of her nose, while she counted “One, two, three” in a solemn voice. At once the cap changed to a slate, on which was written in big, white chalk marks:

“LET DOROTHY GO TO THE CITY OF EMERALDS”

The little old woman took the slate from her nose, and having read the words on it, asked, “Is your name Dorothy, my dear?”

“Yes,” answered the child, looking up and drying her tears.

Who was communicating with the Good Witch of the North? Who knew Dorothy’s name?

It’s possible that this is supposed to be a spirit of some kind. “Slate writing” had been a part of the Spiritualism movement, with which L. Frank Baum would likely have been familiar.

However, we don’t get a lot of communicating with the dead in Oz (or appearances of ghosts).

One possible clue is that the writing is in white letters…and white is the color of witches in Oz. Even the fact that Dorothy’s gingham dress has white checks in it marks her as a witch:

When Boq saw her silver shoes he said, “You must be a great sorceress.”

“Why?” asked the girl. “Because you wear silver shoes and have killed the Wicked Witch. Besides, you have white in your frock, and only witches and sorceresses wear white.”

“My dress is blue and white checked,” said Dorothy, smoothing out the wrinkles in it.

“It is kind of you to wear that,” said Boq. “Blue is the color of the Munchkins, and white is the witch color. So we know you are a friendly witch.”

Could Glinda have been the author of the recommendation that Dorothy be sent to see the Wizard? How would she know Dorothy’s name at that point?

One of Glinda’s specialties is surveillance and knowledge. She talks later on about having “spies” (who gather intelligence on the Wizard…it’s clear that Glinda wasn’t exactly loyal to the Wonderful Wizard).

More importantly, she has the Great Book of Records:

“Among the many wonderful things in Glinda’s palace is the Great Book of Records. In this book is inscribed everything that takes place in all the world, just the instant it happens; so that by referring to its pages Glinda knows what is taking place far and near, in every country that exists.”

While it appears that events can be magically blocked from appearing in the Book (Mombi does that with the location of the rightful ruler of Oz, Ozma), it should have been possible for Glinda to know instantly that “Dorothy Gale’s house has landed on and killed the Wicked Witch of the East” (or some entry like that). It’s also reasonable to assume that you have to be looking for something specific, since the book must be constantly changing with new information.

We don’t hear about the magical slate in later books, but some magic in Oz is limited as the number of times it can be used. Perhaps this was a single use device, or was on its last use.

When Dorothy does meet Glinda towards the end of the first book, we don’t get any indication that Glinda is surprised by her arrival (even though she might not have consulted the Book of Records about it, if she didn’t know what had been happening).

Strategically, Dorothy’s visit works very well for Glinda and her alliance.

The Wicked Witch of the East is killed. Dorothy is armed with a powerful charm, and sent to see the Wizard. The Wicked Witch of the West is killed. The Wizard ends up leaving Oz, ending his reign. Two powerful potential weapons, the silver shoes and the Golden Cap that controls the flying monkeys, are both made harmless.

What does Glinda do with Dorothy, an Outsider and possible loose end (who still has the silver shoes when she meets her)?

She sends her back to Kansas…in such a way that the magical shoes no longer are going to be part of the calculations as the power shifts in Oz.

Glinda will end up being a very powerful advisor to Princess Ozma, who she helps regain her throne.

Dorothy’s house: meteorological accident, or calculated coup? The evidence points to the latter.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.


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