Having watched the movie The Wizard of Oz numerous times since childhood, I was interested to read the novel of that same movie. I assumed that they would be roughly the same in content, plot, setting, and characters. However, I found after reading the novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, there were substantial and surprising differences between the two formats.
The first significant difference is in the opening of each of the formats. The movie version has an extensive opening scene that places Dorothy, Aunt Em, Uncle Henry, and Toto as well as the farm workers in a calm, serene farm working environment that soon gives way to the anticipation of the cyclone. The novel opens with the same general scene, but it is far less detailed and much shorter. In the movie, Dorothy loses Toto when he runs off. She chases after him, and along her way sees the traveling salesman who foresees her future. When she returns home, she cannot get into the storm cellar and falls to her bed. when the house is lifted by the storm, she sees the evil neighbor lady flying by her bedroom window. In the novel, though, the traveling salesman is missing. This is important because later in the movie, the travelin salesman is actually the Great Wizard of Oz, and this scene is a precursor as to what is to come.
The next chapter in the novel describes the house landing in a beautiful place with green grass and a babbling brook, and when Dorothy emerges from the house, she sees small people who were dressed strangely. This is parallel to the movie, where black and white film turns to color upon the house landing. The Munchkins hesitantly greet Dorothy at first, assuming she is a witch or sorceress (as the novel calls her) because her house has landed on the Wicked Witch of the East and killed her. As in the movie, the novel depicts the feet of the witch sticking out from under the house. The Witch of the North, as the novel calls her, then appears in both the novel and the movie and explains to Dorothy what has happened and she also tells Dorothy about the Great Wizard of Oz. While they were talking, in both the movie and the novel, the feet of the dead witch shrivel and disappear.
There is a yellow brick road in both the movie and the novel, and Dorothy travels along it to find the wizard so she may find her way home. She packs a lunch for herself and Toto in the novel, and puts on a red and blue gingham dress to prepare for the journey along the yellow brick road. In the movie, her dress was blue and white with no read. Also, the shoes that Dorothy chooses to wear are those of the dead witch – silver in the novel and red in the movie. The journey along the yellow brick road has several differences between the novel and the movie. In the novel, Dorothy encounters kind strangers in a house who fed her and entertained her and told her she was a good witch. They let her stay the night. In the movie, the first person Dorothy encounters is a scarecrow who comes to life and joins her on her journey, as he wants to find a brain since he has none. Dorothy did encounter the scarecrow in the movie as well.
The interaction with the tin man is relatively the same in the movie and the novel with the exception that the novel refers to him as the woodman. However, in the novel, the scarecrow and the tin man have a philosophical discussion about having a brain versus having a heart, and this is not in the dialogue of the movie. The trio meets the lion in both the movie and the novel, and they all continued on to Oz. There are details along the journey at this juncture in the novel that do not appear in the movie and vice versa, but they are relatively insignificant, such as the tin man stepping on a beetle and killing it, which made him cry and rusted his mouth shut.
Next, in the Novel, there is talk of the Kalidahs. The movie inserts a song about lions, tigers, and bears to cover this discussion form the novel. That’s another difference in general from the novel to the movie. The novel never describes anyone singing, but the movie is a musical, and inserts several songs throughout. Additionally, in the novel, the journey along the yellow brick road takes several days, where in the novel, there is only one night and two partial days.
The characters in the novel encounter a stork, and wildcat, a Queen, her mice, and a couple of farm houses and their inhabitants. These are not present in the movie. Also, there is no field of poppies in the novel as there is in the movie, only a reference to Dorothy smelling a flower. Emerald City is described in the novel much as it is depicted in the movie. Trouble seeing the wizard is also similar. When Dorothy finally sees Oz, he tells her she must kill the Wicked Witch of the West before she can return to Kansas. He tells the same thing to the other characters on subsequent days. The process of meeting with Oz is shorter in the movie, and Dorothy calls out Oz in the movie as a fake. In the novel, the main characters try to find the Wicked Witch of the West by going to the land of the Winkies. Here, Dorothy and crew encounter crows that the scarecrow takes care of. In the novel, the characters also need the lion to scare away the Winkies and the woodman to fend off bees. None of this was present in the movie.
In the movie, the wicked witch of the West has flying monkeys that are dealt with before reaching the land of Oz, but in the novel, the flying moneys appear after the characters have visited the Emerald City. In both the novel and the film, the Wicked Witch of the West is melted, and Dorothy goes home and her travel companions receive their wishes. This process is more drawn out in the novel than in the film, just opposite of the opening of the film and novel. Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, appears at the end of the novel. The scarecrow is appointed ruler of the Emerald City in the novel but not in the movie. The time continuum is much longer in the novel than in the film, particularly at the end of the novel and during the journey home.