The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, XII.—The Search for the Wicked Witch

Tonight’s Soundtrack: Electric Light Orchestra, “Evil Woman”

 

One chapter. One Chapter!

That’s all the witch gets. She’s a name, then she’s a threat, she sends out some minions, then she’s got some prisoners, and then they kill her. Boom, she’s done.

That’s how little power Baum is willing to cede to evil. That’s all the room for it in the overall picture. “Yes, that was a bad person who probably should have known better even though they happen to have an eye patch and black umbrella and a silver whistle and do things with strange magic and winged monkeys,” Baum says. “But come on, let me show you something interesting.”

* * *

What’s also relevant, though, is how well crafted this entire book is. The original book isn’t just illustrated, it’s designed. The words and pictures flow into each other, wrap around each other and inform each other. The colors serve as a map, changing as the story travels to each land. The book is a single piece of art, but made from stout elements firmly joined and woven.

So what I’ve been noticing of late is that these chapters read more like a raft of short stories. Each is its own set of concerns, rhythms, and wonders. That’s why the witch doesn’t send fire or water after the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman - those concerns were from a different story. The story this chapter is the fairy tale with the scary witch in the woods, so it needs wolves and crows.

This is the part of the architecture that shows you what happens when you try to pull those gloomy old European tricks in our fairy land. You’re mud, sister.

* * *

Okay, Dorothy killed the witch, quest’s over! Let’s get— seriously? 12 more chapters?

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