"Dorothy lived in the midst of the great Kansas prairies."
The opening line of "The Wizard of Oz" won't be considered as among the memorable one-liners in literature. But a writer like Cornelia Funke would learn to love L. Frank Baum's story.
"It was a movie - a famous movie, with an adult woman dressed up as a girl, with lots of singing and very evil witches - wasn't it?"
Baum's beloved book was overshadowed by its celluloid version, which became an instant Hollywood classic. Judy Garland may be a bit too old to play Dorothy Gale, but her singing voice won legions of fans. They still forgot the book.
Characters make a special book. Readers could identify with them, even learn from them. In this case, the Cowardly Lion who thought his kindred were embarrassed of him. The Tin Woodsman who don't have a heart. The Scarecrow who believed he don't have a brain. They put their worst forward to the readers, and they won't forget them. But what really made "The Wizard of Oz" a masterpiece. Let's analyze it:
Dorothy could be the daughter of English immigrants. The Englishman is a painfully polite individual, who refuses to ask help for directions. This is a reflection of the strength of his character. Dorothy could be one as well, as she was unaware of the danger she was being lured to. This is far from Alice's case, whose experience in Wonderland forced her into adulthood a bit too early. Everyone knew what happened to Dorothy in the end. They even sensed it midway. The young girl might be aware of her capabilities, but she chose to look at the good side of things. It was the only way to keep her from the jaded aspects of this mysterious realm.
Baum's story deserves another reading. There was no doubt that "Wizard of Oz" would thrill young readers. They must revisit the story ten years afterwards, as they would discover some things they overlook on their first reading. They would know more of Dorothy's friends, whose flaws would endear them. After all, their vulnerability made them more human than we thought.
The illustration would tell you an important message. One edition of the book featured illustrations by David McKee. They were crude sketches, in black and white, which wouldn't merit a second glance. But look again. They would suggest that every new edition of the book would mean a slight change from Baum's original story. (Dorothy had pigtails on the early version.) But she would remain the same adorable lass that readers grew to love. Ditto with the Cowardly Lion, Tin Woodsman, and the Scarecrow. Some truths remain unchanged.
There's no place like Kansas. The concept of a home was discussed, albeit subtly. But Baum didn't let his readers think too hard. Only a fool would trade a warm place, with a loving family, for something else. Dorothy find this out, which made her the wise beyond her years.
Oz would never lose its appeal. Unlike Neverland, where children don't want to grow old, Oz offered something else. And readers don't have to think too hard. Baum's story oozes with goodness. No one would get tired of it.