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 L. Frank 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.