The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, III.— How Dorothy Saved the Scarecrow

Tonight's Soundtrack: Led Zeppelin, "Ramble On"

 

What Baum has is a remarkable rhythm and sense of story telling. He knows that what matters is not just that Dorothy saves a scarecrow, but how she does it. 

What also matters is how he does it. His sentences are poetic, even musical, with charming cadences: "silver shoes tinkling merrily on the hard, yellow roadbed." And though his readers might be a thousand miles or a hundred years away, he senses what words and notions need repeating, and how often, just as if he were in the room, searching your face by firelight for signs of confusion.

This isn't just Dorothy's journey; it's yours. You, there, now, spending an hour or a day with this book. This is a book that knows it's being read. It's not there to just report some facts about fictional people. It's not there just so you can imagine you're a little girl waking up in blue sheets. It's there to create an experience of joy and wonder, right then, as it is read. That's part of why the illustrations are so important:  they're the literary equivalent of talking with your hands.

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A Couple Thoughts:

1. For us, they're spoilers, but for the first time reader, each chapter title is instead curious and counterintuitive, a mystery to be solved. I. What's a cyclone doing in a fairy tale? II. What are Munchkins? III. Why would a scarecrow need saving?

2. I don't mean to find the sinister in everything, I promise. But if Boq the Munchkin is so rich, and the Witch oppressed his people for so long, well, isn't he a cinch to be a Wicked collaborator?

3. The Scarecrow says he's only afraid of one thing. Out of nowhere, Dorothy asks if he means the farmer who made him. Not going too far down this dark road, let's say Baum did not see much value in father figures.

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