The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, XV.—The Discovery of Oz, the Terrible
Tonight’s Soundtrack: The Beatles, "Two of Us"
A few administrative notes, and then we can begin. Are you sitting comfortably?
1) I was wrong. Baum does let children in on the sham green of the Emerald City and the trick with the goggles, but long, I feel, after you can feel that giddy head murmur of figuring it out yourself.
2) If I were making Disney Oz prequels, a) I wouldn’t, I would make Oz sequels with Ozma as the next Disney Princess, and b) the first one I didn’t make would be Oz the Great, with the sequel Oz the Terrible.
3) There’s a short line in this chapter that I can’t believe I’ve glossed over or forgotten all these years, and either the Scarecrow really is as dim as he makes out, or the Wizard is sexier than we imagined, and the only reason that’s not the subject of this short essay is…
* * *
It’s all about Toto.
That dog is… it’s impossible to overstate the importance of that dog. You’d love him no matter what, given a certain tolerance for canine companions, because he’s small and scrappy and cute and loyal. In this story, though, he’s crucial. He never stops being crucial.
Without Toto, there is no story. Without Toto, there is no laughter. Without Toto, a little girl turns, day by gray day, into a dried up old hag in the dirt of Kansas. Baum misdirected us with the title. Should’ve called the book, How the Dog Rescued Dorothy.
Toto uniquely has no origin story. There’s no hint of how the black dog came to the gray prairies. But he runs under the bed, and so Dorothy can’t get to the cellar, and so she goes to Oz. From then on, every time Dorothy might go off the plot, or lose a resource she needs in the future, the little dog is there to restore the narrative.
He is, I suppose, the R2D2 of this fairy tale.
And in this chapter, he almost tips his paw as the architect of this rescue mission. Supposedly it’s the Lion’s roar that sends him skittering into the Wizard’s hiding place, but come on. It totally reads like Toto is fed up with everyone not noticing the one screen in the room and decides to knock it over himself.
His Dorothy needs to learn about humbugs.