59 pages 1 hour read

L. Frank Baum

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 1900

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Summary and Study Guide


Published in 1900, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a beloved children’s classic by L. Frank Baum. It was adapted in 1939 into an iconic film starring Judy Garland. L. Frank Baum went on to write 13 further books set in the Land of Oz. This guide refers to the 2008 Puffin Books edition of The Wizard of Oz.

Plot Summary

Dorothy is a young girl living with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry on a farm on the Kansas prairie. Dorothy’s best friend and playmate is her loyal dog, Toto.

When a cyclone strikes, Aunt Em yells for Dorothy to join her in the storm shelter (located under the house and accessed via a trapdoor), but Dorothy delays because her beloved Toto is under her bed and she runs across the room to save him. Suddenly, the entire house is lifted into the air. It is carried for miles by the cyclone, with Dorothy and Toto inside. The frightened and exhausted Dorothy falls asleep.

Dorothy wakes up in the beautiful, colorful Land of Oz. A group of three very short men dressed completely in blue—who Dorothy discovers are called Munchkins—approach her. They are joined by the Witch of the North, who thanks Dorothy for killing the Witch of the East, the evil ruler of Munchkin Territory.

Unbeknownst to Dorothy, her house landed on the Wicked Witch of the East and killed her. The witch’s legs stick out from under the house, shod in silver shoes. The Witch of the North presents the shoes to Dorothy.

Dorothy is very confused and does not understand where she is. She does not remember killing anyone, and she believes that all witches are evil. The Witch of the North explains that there are good witches and evil witches. The witches of the North and South are good, while those of the East and West are evil. She also mentions a Great Wizard named Oz.

Dorothy asks the Witch of the North and the Munchkins how to get home to Kansas. The Witch of the North—who has never heard of Kansas—tells Dorothy to follow the yellow-brick road to Oz, as the Great Wizard might know what to do. She kisses Dorothy on her forehead to grant her safe passage for her journey to Oz; the kiss leaves a distinctive mark. Before setting off on her journey, Dorothy changes into a blue gingham dress and the silver slippers.

On her journey, Dorothy sees a Scarecrow who gives her a friendly wink. After her initial surprise, she helps the Scarecrow off his pole, introduces herself, and explains where she is going. The Scarecrow asks to join Dorothy on her journey to Oz so that he can ask the Wizard for a brain to replace his head of straw.

Dorothy, Toto, and the Scarecrow continue their journey to Oz together. They come across a rusted Tin Woodman. The Woodman is thrilled when Dorothy oils his joints and he can finally move again. After hearing that they are going to Oz, the Woodman asks if he can join them to ask the Wizard of Oz for a heart.

Joined now by the Tin Woodman, the group walks deeper into the frightening woods. A large lion jumps out and is about to attack Toto. Dorothy saves Toto by slapping the lion on his nose and yelling at him not to bite her dog. The Cowardly Lion apologizes and explains that to hide his cowardice, he roars to scare everyone. He asks to join them on their journey to Oz to ask the Wizard for courage.

Dorothy, Toto, and their three companions finally reach Oz and are taken to see the Wizard one by one. Dorothy explains to the Wizard how she got the silver shoes and the mark on her head and asks for help to get home to Kansas. Oz says he will grant their wishes only if they kill the Wicked Witch of the West.

They travel to the land of the Winkies to kill the Witch of the West. The witch attacks Dorothy and her friends with wolves, crows, bees, and armed Winkies, which they are able to fight off. The witch uses a Golden Cap to send Winged Monkeys to enslave the Lion, drop the Tin Woodman on sharp rocks, and break apart the Scarecrow. Dorothy is captured and forced to work in the witch’s kitchen. The witch wants Dorothy’s powerful silver shoes but cannot figure out how to take them from her. She trips Dorothy with an invisible bar, which causes a shoe to fall off. Angered, Dorothy throws a bucket of water on the witch, which causes her to melt away.

Dorothy reunites with her friends and heads back to Oz to ask the Wizard to fulfill his end of their bargain. They discover that the great and powerful Oz is just an old man who uses disguises to appear to be a great wizard. The next morning, Oz gives the Scarecrow a new head filled with a brain made of bran, pins, and needles. He gives the Tin Woodman a silk heart stuffed with sawdust. He gives the Lion a courage potion. The Wizard agrees to take Dorothy and Toto home in a hot air balloon, but it flies away before Dorothy and Toto board it.

Dorothy is told that Glinda, the good Witch of the South, may be able to help her. After a taxing journey, they reach the land of the South. Glinda tells Dorothy that the silver shoes she wears can take her anywhere she wants to go. Dorothy clicks her heels together three times and wishes to go home to Aunt Em. She whirls through the air back to her family in Kansas.