Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Book Review - L. Frank Baum's The Marvelous Land of Oz

The Marvelous Land of Oz (Oz Book 2) by L. Frank Baum
Published by: Everyman's Library
Publication Date: 1904
Format: Paperback, 624 Pages
Rating: ★
To Buy

Tip lives with the wicked witch Mombi. Though she's not technically allowed to call herself a witch, she is truly wicked. Tip has been with her as long as he remembers. Basically a glorified slave or indentured servant, Tip takes every opportunity to get one over on Mombi. So one day when she heads over to a neighboring warlock's house to swap secrets, Tip laboriously creates Jack Pumpkinhead. Jack is a tall scarecrow like creation with a face carved out of a pumpkin with a maniacal grin. Tip even gives Jack working joints. Tip places Jack where he's sure he will startle Mombi on her return. Mombi is a hard one to scare, so instead she sees in Jack the perfect experiment. She has just gotten some "Powder of Life" and decides to test one of her precious three doses on Jack. It works marvelously. Jack is brought to life. What's more, Jack will be a far better servant than Tip, who has to eat and sleep, so Tip is thrown out. As revenge Tip steals the "Powder of Life" and Jack and heads south in order to find a new life in the Emerald City of Oz.

Soon it become apparent that Jack isn't as well made as Tip thought he was. He might rot or his joints might break from all the walking. Tip decides that Jack needs a stead, and makes a saw horse come to life as a real horse. The three continue on their way to the Emerald City but are soon separated and set upon by an approaching army. General Jinjur and her comely all-girl army of revolt are on their way to the Emerald City to depose the Scarecrow and claim the city and all it's jewels for themselves, armed only with their indignation that they have to do all the household work and knitting needles. Jinjer is successful in becoming queen, but she soon looses her Scarecrow captive who, with the help of Tip and his unlikely allies, rescues the Scarecrow and heads off to the Tin Man's Empire, where dear old Nick Chopper is a benevolent leader to the Winkie's, unlike the Wicked Witch before him. Soon the motley crew is planning on reclaiming the thrown, but things never go to plan... and it soon falls to Glinda to straighten things out and bring back the rightful ruler of Oz, Ozma, who has been missing these many years.

This book sets out to establish more of a history to Oz, with it's hidden princess and the evils the Wizard of Oz wrought, some with Mombi's assistance. The fault though lies in the fact there is no Dorothy. Dorothy was our access into the world, because she, like us, is an outsider. We have no literary conduit, instead we have a rag-tag group of self centered and self impressed asses. Each character spends almost the entire time saying how they are better that the others. The Scarecrow has the best brains, but Nick assures him, that without a great heart like his, he's nothing. How are these people friends? They never converse, they only shout monologues out into the air and occasionally they offend someone and use their superiority as an excuse. They grate on the readers nerves. But the egocentric character flaws are nothing compared to General Jinjer.

General Jinjer and her very attractive army are my problem! They are all "very attractive" and no longer want to do "women's work" so with a symbol of their imprisonment they march on the Emerald City, knitting needles in hand. Why do they really want the throne? For the jewels of course! For Baum, who was supposedly a big supporter of the Suffragettes, his depiction of these soldiers is rather sexist. They just want to be lazy and pretty, but are easily defeated the first time because some mice scare them. Talk about stereotype! Also, the women of Oz gladly taking back their chores at the end of the book because their husbands where useless, seems... stupid. It says to anyone reading this book that girls are only good for domesticity. Which is odd considering that the power base of Glinda is based on girl power as well... but a far more dangerous sword wielding kind. But Glinda's army is an army to maintain the status quo. But the status is not quo. This book implies that women should stay home and only take up arms if that status is upset. EXCUSE ME! Fight for your right for household chores? Mr. Baum, I think you really need to look to yourself. I think you're a hypocrite and I think this might be the worst Oz novel, if I remember correctly from my previous readings.


thanks for sharing..

I'm so glad someone has rediscovered these wonderful books!!!
Few know that Baum wrote 16 books and other authors added over 20 more.
Baum's wrting style was simple but exceedingly clear and descriptive. I highly recommend that any author wanting to improve their style read them for the educational value.

grace (Dallas Cold Laser)

I hope to one day have the time to finally get beyond 'The Emerald City of Oz'.

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