The Wizard of Oz Summary

L. Frank Baum

The Wizard of Oz

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The Wizard of Oz Summary

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The Wizard of Oz was published in 1900 by author L. Frank Baum. It tells the story of a young girl swept away by a tornado to a magical land where she makes a few close friends and allies and must find her way back home.

The story opens in the bleak landscape of Kansas. Dorothy, a young girl, lives in a little house with her Aunt Em, Uncle Henry, and her little dog, Toto. One day, when a tornado sweeps through the prairie, Dorothy is unable to make it to the storm shelter, and her little house is swept up in the tornado.

When the storm is over, Dorothy steps out, but she is no longer in Kansas. Instead, she finds herself in Munchkin County, a place in the magical land of Oz. She is greeted by the kind Witch of the North, and small men who tell her that her house has fallen on, and killed, the Wicked Witch of the East. The Munchkins are now free from her slavery. Dorothy is horrified.

The Witch of the North presents her with the Witch of the East’s magical silver slippers, and Dorothy asks how she might get home. The Witch of the North tells her that she should ask the powerful Wizard of Oz who lives far away in Emerald City.

She shows Dorothy the yellow brick road and tells her that the road will lead her all the way to Oz. As she leaves, the Witch of the North kisses her on the forehead imparting a magical charm that will protect her from harm.

On her way, she attends a banquet held by a Munchkin man named Boq. She finds and frees a Scarecrow as she is passing a field, and she invites him to come along when he says he is missing brains. Later, they save a Tin Woodman who rusted in the woods. They oil his joints, and he tells him that he’s looking for a heart and wants to come with them to Emerald City. They agree and continue on their journey.

A little while later, they hear scary roaring in the woods. They are afraid, but when they come upon the lion, he admits sheepishly that he has no courage at all. He would like to see the Wizard to ask for courage so that he can be a real king of beasts.

With the lion joining them, their party is complete, and they continue their journey. However, the way is full of obstacles. They cross a huge ditch by jumping across on the back on the lion. They reach a field of beautiful but deadly poppies causing Dorothy, the Lion, and Toto to fall into a deep sleep that would kill them, but the Tin Man and the Scarecrow carry Dorothy and Toto to safety and thousands of field mice help them carry the Lion.

Upon reaching the Emerald City, their request to see the Wizard is met with surprise. As it turns out, no one has requested a visit in years. They are granted their request, but each visits the Wizard on separate days. He appears to them as four different things. To Dorothy, he is a massive head; to the Scarecrow, a beautiful woman; the Tin Woodman sees a scary monster; and the Lion sees only a ball of fire. Each is told by the Wizard that the Wicked Witch of the East must be killed before any request will be granted.

Dejected, they head out of the Emerald City towards the Witch. She sees them coming through her telescopic eye. The Tin Woodman kills the wolves with his ax. The Scarecrow snaps the necks of the crows sent to peck out their eyes. A swarm of bees dies trying to sting the Tin Man, and the Lion repels her Winkie Soldiers. She uses the power of the golden cap to send the flying monkeys who defeat them and carry Dorothy back to the castle. She becomes the Witch’s servant.

The Witch notices the silver slippers, and trips Dorothy so that she loses one of them. Dorothy is so angry that she throws a pail of water on the Witch. To her surprise, the Witch melts. The Tin Woodman agrees to become their ruler after returning Dorothy to Oz, and the monkeys carry them back to Emerald City.

When they see the Wizard again, Toto tips over a screen and it’s revealed that the Wizard is just a simple man who arrived by hot air balloon. He gives each of them a simple gift that helps them to achieve their wishes, and he promises to take Dorothy back to Kansas in his balloon.

Dorothy says goodbye to her friends, but Toto jumps from her arms to chase a kitten in the crowd. Dorothy tries to catch him, but the tethers to the balloon break. It floats away leaving her behind. She summons the Monkeys, but they explain that they cannot cross the great desert surrounding Oz. Instead, she and her friends go to see the Witch of the South on a suggestion that she might be able to help.

Glinda, the Witch of the South, tells her that the silver slippers will return her to her home. With Toto held tightly in her arms, she clicks her heels together three times and wishes for home. She is taken back to the Kansas Prairie, but the silver shoes are lost in the desert.

Critics have long called the story a political allegory though Baum never confirmed this. Major themes include home and the desire for some place to belong. It’s also a coming of age story. Dorothy is young, but through the events of the story, she transforms into a strong, problem solving, young lady who is able to save her friends and find her way back to her home. In the end, each character finds his or her own rightful, fulfilling place.