Rereading: THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ by L. Frank Baum

The second Oz book by Baum is where the series really began for me when I was a child, I didn’t care for the first book, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” very much. Here illustrator John R. Neill takes over for the rest of Baum’s series, and many more beyond it. I like his drawing style better, his human figures are more realistic yet he manages to present the characters first drawn by W. W. Denslow in a way that retains their general look integrated into Neill’s own style. Several important new characters are introduced that will become mainstays of the series, and the book has humor and satire for adults as well as plenty of adventure for kids.

Tip is a boy living in the Gillikin country, the north quadrant of Oz in the hands of a disagreeable witch, Mombi, who uses Tip as a servant and works him hard. Tip dislikes Mombi, and sometimes plays jokes on her even though he knows he’ll be punished. One such joke is a scarecrow-like figure made of wooden sticks and wearing old clothes with the head of a pumpkin that Tip has carved like a Halloween pumpkin with a wide grin. He puts it outside their house where Mombi will find it when she comes back from visiting a fellow magician. Mombi is startled by Jack Pumpkinhead, but decides to use a new magic powder she’s just acquired to bring him to life. The pumpkin man proves to be somewhat simple-minded, but docile and obedient, and Mombi declares she will use him for all her chores, and do away with Tip as revenge. When Tip hears this, he decides to run away, and he takes Jack with him. Later, to help Jack move faster, he makes a wooden horse brought to life with the magic powder, which he’s also stolen. The Sawhorse is temperamental, but also willing to do as told, and he provides a mount for Jack. Both characters became series regulars. The three head south to the Emerald City to visit its ruler, the Scarecrow.

That ruler welcomes them, and takes a liking to Jack and Tip, but no sooner are they friends than the Emerald City is attacked and conquered by a female warrior, General Jin-Jur and her army of women who have decided that men have ruled long enough, and it’s time for them to have a turn, adding social satire on the women’s suffrage movement to the story. The Scarecrow and his new friends manage to escape, and they seek out The Tin Woodman, who is now the ruler of the Winkies in the western country of Oz, and with his help, they plan to reconquer the Emerald City. Many more adventures follow, and other new characters are introduced, including The Woggle-Bug, The Gump, and eventually Oz’s new ruler Ozma.

I enjoyed rereading this, I feel Baum’s writing skill had improved from the first book, and the story moves along well. The characters and events are interesting and appealing, and at times surprising. My copy is the Dover edition of 1969, their second printing with a new informative introduction by Martin Gardner. It has all the art from the first edition of 1904, including the color plates, though the reproduction of those is not as good as their facsimile of “Wizard.” Recommended.

The Marvelous Land of Oz by L Frank Baum

One thought on “Rereading: THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ by L. Frank Baum

  1. Eric G

    I’m not sure it’s that the reproduction of the color plates in the Dover edition you have aren’t as good, it’s that the production of the original plates wasn’t as good for some of the early books from Reilly & Britton. (Other publisher had the rights to the first book.) The plate you shared looks very close to the quality of the plate in my copy of the book, which dates to around 1918. For Ozma of Oz they went to printing most of the images in color, back to plates for Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, colored paper (no color to the art otherwise) in Road to Oz, and all images in color in Patchwork Girl of Oz.

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