Recycled Childhood: The Land of Oz

What is it with the Land of Oz that inspires so many rehashings, reimaginings, and recyclings? Is it that there’s nobody on the planet who hasn’t heard of the Wizard of Oz? Is it that there’s something in the collective conscience that makes us want to return there? Was it that L. Frank Baum wrote something so magical and personal that it needs to be revisited? Or is it that the Oz books were always told through the sheen and magic of a child’s unquestioning perception and therefore begs to be seen through the eyes of an adult?

Why not Narnia? Prydain? Mount Olympus? Middle Earth? What is it about Oz that keeps people coming back to it? Is it just so endearing? If it’s a part of all our childhoods, then why do we seek to add a dark, gritty, evil tone to it? Maybe Oz is so endearing that we want to go there again and again, but we’ve outgrown that simplistic childhood joy, so we need to taint it with our adult worldview so we can still experience the magic of our youth while being able to accept it with our aged sensibilities.

Or is it simply that the Oz books are in the public domain and therefore open to revisit in any way an author can imagine without the threat of crippling lawsuits? Oz is something we all know, so a good writer with a good twist has a whole world to draw in and one we all know.

I am in the middle of a rabid revisit to Oz. The books touched me as a child and were something I returned to over and over. I’m listening to the audio book for Wicked and plan to make my way through all four of Gregory Maguire’s Wicked Years books (some of which I have not yet read). Just today I’ve found another series of books by Danielle Paige, the first book of which is titled Dorothy Must Die, and it tells of another Kansas girl blown to Oz who finds that Dorothy is now the ruler of Oz…and has gone evil.

There’s a game for the iPhone called Oz: Broken Kingdom which I’m playing the hell out of. The developers of this game did their homework, and any fan of the Oz books will squeal in joy at all their old friends making an appearance: Pollychrome, Jack Pumpkinhead, the Shaggy Man, Ozma, H.M. Woggle-Bug T.E., the Sawhorse, and many others. There’s an old game for the Nintendo DS, The Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road, which I have had and may play sometime soon.

The original books are available for the Kindle with all the original pictures beautifully rendered for the eBook format, published by Eltanin. Also, there are the beautiful comics by Eric Shanower, which I own all of (unfortunately, they seem to have stopped just before doing The Patchwork Girl of Oz, my favorite Oz book). If you have any interest in Oz, you owe it to yourself to check them out.

I’m mixing the old and the new, the childish magic with the adult themes, the old wonder with the new discovery. And I can’t get enough. Does anyone else have a series like this you can dive into again and again, one which can satisfy your craving for the peace and wonder of childhood, yet stimulate your adult mind? Or, rather, how many can you return to? Hogwarts, Narnia, Oz, Middle Earth, any of them…or all of them. Who has the magic portal?

~ by Darren Endymion on November 21, 2016.

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