Friday, 5 April 2013

The Marvellous Land of Oz

The Marvelous Land of Oz
L. Frank Baum

The second of the fourteen Oz books by L. Frank Baum is, by his own admission, a book he never intended to write. In his introduction he says that the book is written in response to thousands of letters he received from children begging for a  sequel and that he didn’t intend to write one himself.
This confirms a felling
I had reading the novel which is that it feels a little forced. The plot feels a little less spontaneous than the first book and suffers by occasionally wandering into the same territory of the first plot, a child travelling to the Emerald City, inanimate objects magically given life, a wicked witch are just a few of the more obvious  examples.

That is not to say it is not an enjoyable novel, far from it. It retains much o the magic of the first book while giving us a lot of new characters and adventures. The scarecrow, Tin woodsman (here called Nick Chopper) and Glinda all return and we’re given new characters Tip, a young boy escaping a witch, an animated saw horse, H.M Wogglebug T.E (A highly magnified, and thoroughly educated insect), the Gump and Jack Pumpkinhead.
Jack was by far my favourite of the new characters, a shoddily constructed scarecrow with a pumpkin for a head, he is brought to life unexpectedly and  spends the rest of the novel wracked with concern that either his body will fall apart or his head will  rot. Almost every adventure the gang partake in will elicit some comment from Jack along the lines of “Are rivers bad for pumpkins?” or “Will flying so high damage my head?”
His constant paranoia make him an endearing character, if a little pathetic at times.
The return of the scarecrow and Nick Chopper make the book feel a little more legit, rather than just recasting the whole tale, it’s good to see them return.

The book is very obviously a product of a different time and there are a few  moments  that will make you cringe, most of these are to do with the female cast. One of the villains of the novel is a teenage girl named Jinjur. She leads an all female army against the Emerald City to usurp the Scarecrow. This is done for no political reasons, instead the girls in the army think it is a shame to build a city out of emeralds when they could be used to make pretty things like hair clips and jewellery (The fact that the city is revealed to be fake in the first book is not mentioned and appears to have been retconed). Yeah it’s pretty cringe worthy.
These sexist attitudes harm the book from a  modern standpoint but If you put them aside and consider the book in the context of when it was written you’ll be able to get through it.

Overall this is a book that struggles to be as good as the first in the series but it’s still a very enjoyable tale with a great cast of original and magical characters.

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