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Debra Hamel is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.


Books by Debra Hamel:

THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


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READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


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THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


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TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


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SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


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PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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Baum, L. Frank: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

  Amazon  

4 stars

Like many, perhaps most, adults, I had only been familiar with L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz from the classic 1939 movie. It was therefore an interesting exercise to read the original version of Dorothy's story--the first book, published in 1899, of what came to be a very lengthy series--and compare it with the film version. There are some substantial differences between the two. In the film version, Dorothy's journey to Oz is an unreal episode, an elaborate dream experienced after being hit on the head. Her dream world and her real life, meanwhile, were symmetrical insofar as some of the principal characters from Kansas were translated into characters in Oz.  There is no such symmetry in Baum's version. The witch-like Miss Gulch and humbuggy Professor Marvel, the farm hands Hickory, Huck, and Zeke do not appear in the book. Further, Dorothy's house really is transported to Oz in the cyclone, and when she returns to Kansas Dorothy does so bodily: that is, she travels from Oz and does not merely wake from a dream. Smaller differences between the book and film versions are numerous.

On the whole, I think that the movie tells a tighter, more interesting story than does the book. The Wicked Witch of the West--whose demise in the book is strangely anticlimactic--plays a much bigger role in the film. This holds the story together nicely just as does the symmetry between Dorothy's real and  unreal worlds. The movie also omits a good many of the less interesting episodes included in the book, such as Dorothy's adventures among the Dainty China people. What the book has to offer, in turn, is more on the characters' back stories, in particular those of the Tin Woodman and, of all creatures, the Flying Monkeys--much maligned, misunderstood beasts that they are. Who would have guessed their sad plight from the Monkeys' nightmare-inducing depiction in the movie?

While some of Baum's book could have been excised without losing anything, and though the movie tells an arguably better story, Baum's writing is pleasant and his characters well-developed and interesting. It's not surprising that the book has inspired so much affection over the years.

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