Oh, who doesn’t know this story? I met someone once who said, “Dorothy, we’re not in Kansas anymore” and when I made a further reference to the story, he looked at me blankly. I was pretty horrified to realize the possibility that there were people in the world who used that phrase without even knowing its origin. Tut, tut, shame! If you’re one of those people, I’ll look the other way while you run to rent the movie or pick up the book. Understand that you must.
Again, here’s a situation where I had seen the movie dozens of times and have finally gotten around to reading the book. I feel slightly less guilty about it, because the movie had actually stayed quite true to the book in terms of the storyline. The book was more of a fun guide for me, because it gave me more backstory on characters that I had loved since I was a child–the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Lion, and Oz.
The book and the movie are actually the perfect complements to each other. Where one lacked, the other made up. For instance, in the movie I always found Dorothy slightly annoying because she acts more like a damsel in distress than anything else. In the book, she’s much spunkier. While the movie doesn’t delve into why how the Scarecrow came to be, or why the Tin Man was made of tin, the book does.
Most of all, I was grateful for the theme that ran through the book which was very much lacking from the movie. In the movie, it was taken for granted that the Scarecrow indeed had no brains, the Tin Man didn’t have a heart, and the Lion most definitely had no courage. The book indicates that all three had these qualities, they simply lacked the self-confidence to realize it. It’s important for children to realize that all the important traits for people are within them, if only they took the time to recognize it. Everyone can be smart, brave, and kind. I uttered a silent thank you to Baum as he wrote the scene where the Tin Man takes special care not to trod over even the tiniest of creatures, like ants. “The Tin Woodman knew very well he had no heart, and therefore he took great care never to be cruel or unkind to anything. ‘You people with hearts,’ he said,’have something to guide you, and need never do wrong; but I have no heart and so I must be very careful.” How important of a character lesson is that!? It’s both humorous and something to think about. Recent events around the world have shown us now more than ever that a heart is nothing more than an organ that circulates blood. It is our character, shaped by our conscience, and will power that makes us who we are. I hope children everywhere have the luck to be exposed to this simple lesson that the Tin Man unknowingly passes on.
The Wizard of Oz is a classic for a reason. Whether you loved the movie as a child or have never been exposed to the story, everyone should enjoy L. Frank Baum’s wonderful tale.