Saturday, June 28, 2008

Alice VS. Dorothy

Two characters who are often compared but are oh, so different...

Alice of Wonderland and Looking-Glass land and Dorothy Gale of Oz.

Some time back, someone mentioned that a lot of pictures of Dorothy look like they were based on Alice...

Gee, who'da thunk?

Compare the original illustrations of them...

Ah, now without the confusion of adaptation we begin to see some difference.

Really the big difference between the two is simple: Alice is British and Dorothy is American.

Now here's another one, Alice comes from a well-to-do family while Dorothy lives on a farm in Kansas.

Dorothy's origin is simple, but with Alice, I promise I'm not grabbing straws, but honestly, one could claim that Alice's family isn't "well-to-do." I base my claim on the fact that Lewis Carroll based Alice on his child-friends (as he called them), especially Alice Liddell. Seeing as Mr. Liddell was a dean at Christchurch, I'd say my claim that they were "well-to-do" is valid.

Following their family, next is upbringing.

Dorothy has definitely become a humble child. From having both of her parents dying to living on a farm in Kansas that didn't make enough to pay off the mortages (maybe even living in an orphanage), she doesn't hold her head too high. She even introduces herself to the Wizard as "Dorothy the small and meek."

In "Ozma of Oz," Dorothy does let some importance go to her head, but, subtly, Princess Langwidere brings back Dorothy's humility by locking her in the tower, where she must be rescued by her friends again. (She does get a little snippy towards the Wizard's warnings in one of the "Little Wizard Stories," but the Wizard teaches her that she should listen by pulling a rather extreme trick on her.)

Alice, however, is a snob. In a recent instant message session with Oz fan Nathan DeHoff, he agreed by saying "I remember how, in Alice in Wonderland, she didn't want to be Mabel, because Mabel was poor." We are never given many details on Alice's upbringing. One could argue that of course a seven-year old (as revealed in Through the Looking-Glass) wouldn't look far beyond material possessions when evaluating a person, but as we're comparing ages, many Oz fans place Dorothy around Alice's age.

That is not to say that Alice is not courteous. She does care for others, take for example the Duchess' baby. She tries to tell the Cook and Duchess to treat it better, and finally takes it away because "Wouldn't it be murder to leave it behind?" She can't really be blamed for not wanting to carry a pig.

Another comparison is the lands they visit. Wonderland and Looking-Glass land are both obviously dreams where very little makes sense. Alice, however, isn't really affected by her visits.

Oz (in the book) is a real place. While some natural laws have are a little different, for the most part, Oz does follow normal rules. Dorothy is affected by her journey. She has come to realize how much she needs her aunt and uncle. (I also theorize that they have come to realize how much they needed her, but as that is not directly supported by the book, I can't use it here.)

Dorothy and Alice are alike only in their ages, gender, and that they are both the main character of children's fantasy novels that, for the most part, take place in fantasy worlds. Other than that, we have two very different little girls.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Alice Effect, Not The Oz Effect

All right, I recently decided to take a look at the work that Oz has been compared to (and paired up with) most often. Lewis Carroll's Alice books.

I know Lewis Carroll was a pen name of the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, but for the sake of simplicity, I shall refer to him by the pseudonym.

It seems that many characters in Wonderland and the land through the looking-glass were actually based on Carroll's friends and people he knew. (Click here for some examples.)

Also, take into consideration that Alice's adventures both end up being dreams. Does this sound familiar at all to a popular adaptation of Oz?

Yes... The MGM movie. It is noted that the 1925 silent comedy version also featured Dorothy's farmhand friends becoming her classic Oz friends. However, this was done in a literal sense. (Well, not quite, as the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Lion were just the farmhands in costumes.)

It is also noted that when making the MGM Oz movie, that the makeup artists were very careful to make sure that the costumes and makeup did not conceal the stars. Why? Well, back in 1933, Paramount was going under. They put an all-star cast in a lavish fantasy film that ultimately flopped. (The studio was saved by two other films made that year.) The reason? No one recognized the stars in costume. The movie? An adaptation of Alice. So, yes, it does seem that somewhere at MGM, Carroll's tale was kept in mind.

So, is it at all possible that MGM's famous "foreshadowing" and "it was just a dream" story motifs took from the popular British tale? I'd say yes! In fact, later adaptations of Alice extended and altered the period of time before the White Rabbit's appearance with foreshadowing. In 1949, an adaptation on film had a prologue with Lewis Carroll himself at Christchurch, the deans (including Mr. Liddell, the real Alice's father) and their disapproval of him, a visit from the King and Queen, and other characters. To escape, Carroll takes the Liddell sisters boating and tells them the Alice story. The same actors voice the Wonderland characters, who were achieved with puppets. (This device proves ineffective as the voices weren't very distinct.)

The "foreshadowing" was in another Alice film exactly 50 years later in Robert Halmi's adaptation of Carroll's tale. (It was, incidentally, directed by Nick Willing, and he and Halmi later served the same roles in 2007's Tin Man.) In this one, Alice is afraid of performing for a tea party, the guests (as well as some of her toys and books) all appear in Wonderland as characters they strongly resemble.

Very amusing is that several Alice fans criticized the 1999 movie for doing a Wizard of Oz spin on the story. However, it does seem as if the story copied itself.

The only flaw in my whole theory is that the people who Carroll based his characters on do not appear in the story (except for some characters renamed in the introductory poem "A Golden Afternoon"), but it does not seem that it wasn't common knowledge at the time. And who's to say that the writers of the MGM movie were not familiar with Alice?

So, anyways, when a film revolves around a dream or delirium sequence where characters are "foreshadowed," it may be the Alice effect, not the Oz effect.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bad news, I'm afraid...

It seems Microsoft can't make stable video editing software. On all of my videos, I have used the standard Windows Movie Maker, but now the thing is bugging out on me. It won't play or let me import video (it has no problem with audio, but if I wanted an Audio editor, I have Audacity!), so now it's pretty useless! I've tried every trick in the book, save reformatting my hard drives and starting fresh! (Which I really don't want to do.)

Rest assured, I don't want my videos to stop, so I'm looking into other software. I know many of my blog readers watch my videos, so I'm asking you all to bear with me. I'm very sorry.

EDIT: I found the problem at last and fixed it. Still, you'd think Microsoft could make software that doesn't get corrupted so easily. My problem was that some codecs for the video I was trying to use had disappeared, so it wouldn't work at all.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Live Q & A!

Hey, I'll be doing a live show on BlogTV on July 1st at 7PM Central Standard Time. The show is planned to last one whole hour.

You can send questions via the chatbox. It is not required that you register with BlogTV to post comments, but it is recommended.

You can send questions about me, Oz, Baum, or whatever, and I will try to answer as long as they are appropriate. Please do not try to get my attention by repeating your question, because this will be seen as spam, and BlogTV will automatically block you.

My address is

If you have a webcam and would like to co-host, please contact me.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Never thought I'd do it...

But I've actually bought a copy of Gregory Maguire's Wicked...

I also turned 22 on Tuesday. (And my little brother was visiting, so the two of us went to see the second Narnia movie twice.)

If you haven't quite guessed, the next "Wonders" episode will cover "Wicked," then the next episode will cover pretty much the last miscellany of the past 30 years.

And if you're wondering why I haven't blogged much, or made any new videos: I've had a change in my work schedule, and you have to remember that I have never made one red cent off of my Oz enthusiasm (yep, just being a fan here), so, just like practically every other Oz fan, sometimes Oz has to take a back seat to your real life.

Though, sometimes, you wonder... This year, we've had some odd weather: rainstorms, tornados, hailstorms (get off the balcony), you name it. And I can't help but think: a storm is coming...

Friday, June 13, 2008

Images from John Dough

In my last blog, I mentioned the care that was taken in restoring the illustrations for John Dough. Here is the illustration from page 31 that I mentioned...
This image is from the original edition. A complete series of color scans can be found at Maxine notes the sloppy coloring. It shows...

This is the same image, reproduced in the Dover edition. (Sorry for the very top being cut off in the scanning process. Also sorry for the brown spot, but I had that photo copy for about six or seven years!) This looks like the original version, with every bit of color converted to black.

Finally, here is the Hungry Tiger Press restoration. It looks as if they took it straight from the original Neill artwork, though that, if it still exists, would probably be unavailable.

(Permission to use these scans was not acquired from ANYONE. The actual images is public domain, but Maxine might hold a copyright on the restored artwork.)

As I said, Hungry Tiger Press did a magnificent job of making sure this was the best reprint yet.

One little aside is that back in 2001, I had e-mailed Peter Glassman of Books of Wonder, inquiring if they planned to reprint John Dough and Baum's Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz series. He said they were interested in doing it. Well, now, seven years later, Hungry Tiger Press offers both books... Guess they're in the business of making some Baumophiles' dreams come true...

To close, here is a poster that Dover reprinted in their edition. While they billed it as a piece of Neill's work, Eric Shanower has identified it as a Dick Martin piece for a back cover of a 1960's Baum Bugle. (Please excuse the coloring...)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

An Old Recipe Works Best

Hungry Tiger Press' new edition of John Dough and the Cherub shows that often, old ideas work best. It is a black and white facsimile of the original with some corrections. And, in keeping with the older out of print Dover edition, it has a Foreword by a highly respected Oz fan and Baum scholar. The Dover edition had Martin Gardener (the only thing worth getting that edition for), Hungry Tiger Press got J.L. Bell from Oz and Ends.

Now, I am not saying the Dover and Hungry Tiger Press editions are equal. If I had to pick one, I'd take the Hungry Tiger Press edition: it's larger, hardcover, easier-to-read type, and clearer illustrations. Even the pictures that originally appeared in color look better than the Dover reproduction. If you were to compare page 31 with the picture of Monsieur Jules in both editions, you'd see that his face and hands are covered with dots and the "frame" behind him is solid black in Dover's reproduction. In Hungry Tiger Press' restored black and white image, Jules' face and hands are clear and the "frame" is not solid black, but outlined.

It's also been noted that the text was oddly altered in the first edition of "John Dough," and sure enough, the corruption is in Dover's edition. This corruption ruins a fun Baum joke. David Maxine noted it and corrected it for his edition.

The story tells of how an Arab entrusts a color-blind baker's wife with the Great Elixir of Vitality. By a mix-up, the baker ends up using the Elixir in a giant gingerbread man he is making, which brings it to life. Fleeing for his new-found life, John Dough is carried by a rocket to the Island of Phreex, a classic Baum fairyland, where he meets Chick the Cherub, the Incubator Baby. John also meets a host of odd characters who may rival the classic Wonderland characters in terms of selfishness.

Chick and John journey together from island to island, meeting a strange race called the Mifkets, a beautiful young girl named Jacqueline, Pittypat the Rabbit, the Kind of the Fairy Beavers, and a rubber bear named Para Bruin, one of Baum's best characters.

This is certainly an excellent Baum classic and highly reccomended.

As Bell reveals in his foreword, John Dough was originally intended for inclusion in "The Ladies Home Journal," but was rejected. Baum later added more chapters (it was originally four) and it was published by Reilly & Britton, who were ready to make Baum their star author.

John Dough makes a fascinating protagonist for Baum. John is, to an extent, self-centered, as he must be careful not to break or be destroyed or eaten. In fact, Chick is really the hero of the story until Mifket Island, when John finally uses the strength given him by the Elixir to defend his friends, and later sacrifices a part of himself to save Jacqueline.

Neill seems to pick up on this idea himself: Chick, until Mifket Island, is drawn as bold, impetuous and daring, while much of the time, John wears looks of dread and shrinks back. After saving the Island Princess, John suddenly looks much more heroic in most of his pictures: he has come to learn that he is not the only person who needs to fear destruction.

Certainly, this is not Baum's best book, but when he wanted to tell an entertaining, engrossing story, Baum was a master at his art. Even today, his books continue to please readers. Baum made no exception when he wrote John Dough and the Cherub.

Monday, June 09, 2008


Okay, I ravenously read through Hungry Tiger Press' new edition of John Dough and the Cherub, and it's great, it was definitely worth the 11-month wait from the time I ordered it to the time I found a notice in my mailbox that I had a package awaiting in the office. (And what else could it be???)

I'd write more about the story, what I think of it and all, but tonight, I'm just too dag-blasted tired! (Dang job, making me get up early...)

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Dorothy's Hero Quest

As something I'll try to do from time to time, I'll compare themes in Baum's books to older types of tales. Please remember that I am not claiming that Baum got his inspiration from the stories I'll mention, because I have no proof to prove it did, but then, on the other hand, I've no proof to disprove it, either...

Some time ago, I thought about the archetypical "Hero's Quest." I mentioned that it follows these steps:

- Loss
- Preparation
- Struggles
- A Task To Finish
- Battle
- Victory
- Recovery

When you think about it, many great adventure stories follow this motif to some form, like The Lord of the Rings, the myth of Gorgon's head, even, to some degrees, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is no exception.

The first point, Loss is of course when Dorothy is seperated from her family, such as they are. And really, the way I see the story, she has already lost quite a bit when the story begins: her parents are dead, and notice how the books tells us that Uncle Henry seldom speaks, and in fact, the only character in Kansas she completely connects with is Toto. Something has happened to her Aunt and Uncle that has made them close up and they no longer relate to her. So, in more ways than one, Dorothy has lost her family.

The next point is Preparation. In our story, Dorothy discovers what she must do, where she must go, recieves an important item (the Silver Shoes), and even gains companions.

Each of Dorothy's companions, to some extremes, also have experienced Loss. The Scarecrow has lost what self-respect he had when he discovers his lack of brains. The Tin Woodman's loss is the most obvious, as he has lost his original human body (including his heart) and his girlfriend. The Cowardly Lion has lost his confidence when he realizes he gets scared. Also, all of Dorothy's friends have lost their freedom when she meets them. The Scarecrow and Tin Woodman are respectively stuck on a pole and rusted stiff, and the Lion is restricted to his area of the forest because of his fear. Dorothy helps them all escape.

In the theme of Struggle, the story in the book gives the characters many troubles to overcome on their way to the Emerald City, in the Land of the Winkies, and on the way to Glinda's Palace. The Kalidahs, the gaps in the road, the Poppy Field, the river, it's there.

Some stories integrate the Task into the main plot of the tale. The MGM movie adaptation did this with the task the Wizard gives Dorothy: to kill the Wicked Witch of the West. In many "Hero's Quest" stories, the task is used for the Hero to prove themselves. Here, the Wizard has asked Dorothy to defeat the Witch to remove a problem he's had for a long time. (More on this in a moment.)

This leads into the Battle theme. Dorothy's friends, after battling the Witch's forces, have been defeated, and it is up to Dorothy to finally face her own battle. Of course, as she is a little girl, she cannot be expected to do a traditional battle. In fact, her Victory is accomplished quite by accident.

When the Wizard is uncovered, though Baum bills him as a humbug (characters he had in many of his stories), the Wizard has been having his own "Hero's Quest" of his own. He's lost his home simply by being carried away from his old friends. In Oz, he is made the ruler, so he builds the defensible Emerald City (except those Winged Monkeys and other flying beasts could pass the wall easily), and makes the ruse that he is a great and powerful Wizard, as the Good Witch of North states, more powerful than all the Witches put together. In order to keep this ruse going and keep the Wicked Witches at bay, he must lock himself away (although, even though Baum never mentions it, I am sure the Wizard had some confidant in the Palace) so no one can discover his secret. In the end, he gets to return to his old home, getting his own Recovery recovery. (Though, as he reveals later when he goes back to Oz, that all his old friends were dead or very old.)

As Dorothy is disappointed by the Wizard's attempt to take her home, she goes through more struggles to reach Glinda, who holds the answer to her Quest.

When Dorothy returns home, Aunt Em is very open to her. Though Uncle Henry is not mentioned in the last chapter, in Ozma of Oz, he does seem to have a healthy relationship with Dorothy again. Perhaps whatever happened in their past that caused them to seperate emotionally from Dorothy has been finally resolved while she was absent, making for a much stronger Recovery all around.

So, here it is: how The Wonderful Wizard of Oz earned, through it's following of the classic "Hero's Quest" story arc, it's place as an American classic.