Everyone remembers 1939’s The Wizard of Oz, starring young Judy Garland; the classic tale that teaches you that there is no place like home, that the greatest weapon is water, and that we all have what we seek within ourselves. The popularity of the movie has, for decades, spawned all manner of spinoffs, merchandise, and even a creepy Wizard of Oz theme park.
The kinds of lessons weaved throughout the movie are also present in the original Wizard of Oz books, on which the film is loosely based, but in the original stories there are so many limbs being lost in any given chapter that the heartfelt message gets a little buried. The original Wizard of Oz stories were told through a series of 14 episodic novels by Frank L. Baum, who wrote them in the early 1900s. They find Dorothy and her Yellow Brick Road Gang meeting strange foes and strange friends alike on their road to Oz, chapter by chapter, book by book. They’re whimsical tales set in a magical land but there are many characters and sequences that are downright dark, and there's a lot of dark political symbolism also embedded into the tales.
Reading The Wizard of Oz and its subsequent series will probably have you wondering how filmmakers of the 1930s even decided to adapt such sordid tales into a movie, and how said movie turned out to be so charming. But the books reveal fascinating insight into turn-of-the-century children's literature, and what a contrast the original stories are from the beloved film. You might never watch Judy Garland's version in the same way again — or you might vow never to stray from it.
The Tinman Is A Tin Man Because He Hacked Off His Own Body Parts
The book's Tinman character actually has a bloody beginning. Born and raised in Oz, he was originally a human man who worked as a lumberjack aptly named Nick Chopper. Nick Chopper fell in love with one of the Wicked Witch's munchkin servants, so to keep them apart the witch put a spell on his ax so that he began to involuntarily hack off his own limbs. With each self-inflicted dismemberment, he would replace the body part with a tin replica until he was made entirely out of tin. Except his heart, of course. The movie, of course, skipped this gruesome origin story.
The Wizard of Oz Lobotomizes A See-Through Cat
One of the magical creatures that shows up in Baum’s seventh book, The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1913), is Bungle the glass cat. Bungle is an entirely see-through cat and her heart and brains are visible through the glass. Bungle is cool and aloof but serves as an ally to Dorothy and her friends on multiple occasions. The Wizard himself takes issue with how conceited Bungle is and performs an aggressive lobotomy to make her less autonomous and more obedient. He replaces her pink brains with clear ones and all consider her more agreeable post-op.
Forget The Wicked Witch, The Books Have A Princess Who Steals Heads
Like any spoiled royal, Princess Langwidere has her choice of accessories. She has beautiful jewels and dresses but she doesn’t care too much about them. Her pride and joy is her cabinet of severed heads. When she’s bored of one head she takes it off her body and switches it out for a one with a different look. Langwidere gets bored of her appearance easily and finds this to be the best solution. The heads themselves are stolen from beautiful maidens in the surrounding kingdom. When Dorothy encounters her, Langwidere very much wants to steal her head. So much worse than stealing ruby slippers!
The Scarecrow Is Great At Snapping Necks
In movie when Dorothy first meets Scarecrow they dance off together down the yellow brick road. In the book, Scarecrow takes his newly found freedom after Dorothy cuts him down as a chance to mercilessly seek revenge on the crows that tormented him during his active duty as a scarecrow. In front of Dorothy, he proceeds to snap the necks of hundreds of crows and is described as standing in a pile of black feathers and blood. Dorothy then realizes he’s going to be a great road trip partner and invites him along on the adventure.