Monday, July 09, 2012

"It isn't an Oz story without her."

One of the most popular characters in the Oz books is without question Dorothy Gale. She is the first character introduced in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and not only goes on a wonderful adventure, she also serves as an audience surrogate. Baum tells the reader Dorothy's simple thoughts and concerns throughout the journey, reminding us that she is just a little girl who has been taken from an ordinary, mundane world to a fantastic one.

When Dorothy reappears in Ozma of Oz, she is less of an audience surrogate. Rather than get into her mind, Baum lets her speak for herself, even using some baby talk. (Girl slang of 1907.) Dorothy graduates to a leading role in The Road to Oz, but when you've been reading the books in order, this progression feels natural.

In later Oz books, Dorothy fluctuates from lead character to secondary to minor. Virtually every writer of the Famous Forty Oz books used Dorothy as a lead character once, except for John R. Neill.

When you venture into pastiches, Dorothy does get used often, but some writers decide not to use her. Sometimes they want to use other characters or create new ones.

When I was writing Outsiders from Oz, I decided not to use Dorothy as a lead character. I wanted to focus on Ozma, and Dorothy's presence would change the dynamic I wanted. In any case, my plot left virtually no one to act as Ozma's regent while she'd be away, and Dorothy needed to fill that role, I thought. (I actually came up with this before reading Jack Snow's The Magical Mimics in Oz, and was a little surprised to see the same thing happen there.)

In any future Oz stories, I don't really have any plans for Dorothy. I'm sure she'll show up, just as she did in Outsiders, and that will require that she be in the next book I plan.

It's probably just me, but I don't find Dorothy that interesting to work with. Her character has been delved into quite thoroughly by Baum and even further by others. There are things in her past Baum didn't flesh out, and I, for one, think it's best that he didn't. People who wonder about Dorothy's history are welcome to try to work it out, and I've even done so, though I doubt I'll use it in an Oz story.

1 comment:

Marcus said...

Indeed. In ROYAL EXPLORERS OF OZ, Dorothy actually gets frustrated that she's not in the thick of it, and has to settle for letting others have the grand adventure.