I’ve been rereading the Baum Oz books. I skipped the first three (Wonderful Wizard, Marvelous Land and Ozma) and started with Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz. Chris Reilly (Steve Ahlquist’s writing partner for the relaunch of Oz Squad) says that’s his favorite Oz book. In that one the Wizard gets pyro on a few of the uncivil critters that stand between him and getting back to Oz. Not that the Wizard is trying to get back to Oz – he and Dorothy are stuck in the fairy underground and are just trying to get out again.
I’m just finished The Scarecrow of Oz. By this book Baum had decided that no one (at least, no one ever born in Oz) ever died in Oz. That actually doesn’t make Oz any safer of a place. In this book, a couple of the kings of Jinxland got offed prior to the events of the book. One got sunk in a bog and the other fell into a bottomless pit. So they didn’t die, they’re just spending eternity not being dead. And no one bothers rescuing them. The idea isn’t even brought up.
Oz is a cruel place when you think about it. Ozma has the Magic Picture which allows her to see anyone anywhere in the world anytime she wants. Glinda has the Book of Records that writes down everything that happens everywhere in the world while it’s happening. Ozma has the Magic Belt which can move transport thousands of people across great distances, move tons of earth and transform matter. Glinda and the Wizard can do just about anything if they set their minds to it.
Ozma regularly observes her friends in mortal peril and does nothing. Glinda must be able to view the future because she certainly doesn’t respond to crises very practically. It’s a good thing most of the people in Oz are so good natured.
The Oz books were written in a less sophisticated time for less sophisticated readers. Unlike so many other “Children’s Classics” they were actually written for children. At the moment I can’t think of another contemporaneous children’s book series that remains in print. Tom Sawyer, Treasure Island, Gulliver’s Travels, Oliver Twist – all had adult audiences in mind. Now they are foisted upon the young to ruin their love of reading.
I notice the plot holes (and lack of plot) and uncivilized behavior because I’ve absorbed the rules of plot and logic and characterization – late twentieth century issues that, really, most authors still don’t have a grasp on. Yesterday the Nizz and I watched Hellboy. I loved the movie. And it had plot holes the size of Cleveland. (It was an improvement on the source material – Mike Mignola’s Hellboy comic – which I love and adore. The last movie I can think of that improved on its source was The Crow. Shame about all those sequels. And the dead guy.)
At the moment, the Oz books are just my speed. I can read them in moments between duties. I’ve got a few other books that I’m saving until after Aged Mother passes on. Books that I think will have complex plots and writing that (possibly) attempts to sing.
That might sound as if I’m dissing the Oz but that ain’t it. I grew up in Oz. I come back to it every day as I work on Oz Squad. Baum’s Oz and Oz Squad are different critters, built for different times. You can’t complain that a Model-T doesn’t go zero to sixty in a minute. L. Frank Baum wasn’t writing for the Children of the Revolution (or the Apocalypse). He didn’t actually want to write all those books. He kept trying to end the series. The damned children wouldn’t let him succeed at anything else.