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The original novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” was actually incredibly violent, with Dorothy and friends killing nearly 100 animals during their quest

Domagoj Valjak

Frank Baum’s novel ”The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” was published in 1900 and immediately became one of the most beloved children’s books in the United States. The Library of Congress declared it as “America’s greatest and best-loved homegrown fairytale.”

In 1902, the novel was adapted into an acclaimed Broadway musical, and the 1939 film adaptation caused it to appear in children’s libraries all across the world.

The title page of the original novel.

The title page of the original novel.

The narrative of the novel follows a young farm girl from Kansas named Dorothy and her pet dog Toto as they enter the magical Land of Oz after being swept away by a powerful cyclone. Dorothy and Toto meet many magical characters and seek help from the powerful Wizard of Oz to destroy the evil Wicked Witch of the West.

Publicity photo of Judy Garland as Dorothy and American canine performer Terry as Toto promoting the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.

Publicity photo of Judy Garland as Dorothy and American canine performer Terry as Toto promoting the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.

The novel’s instant success urged Baum to write a series of sequels to the original, and all theater and film adaptations of the story incorporated elements from several books. Therefore, today’s mystical and benign popular version of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” is a censored mash-up of several works.

However, the original novel wasn’t benign at all, as it prominently featured scenes of graphic violence and killing. At one point in the original novel, the Wicked Witch of the West sends a pack of wolves to attack Dorothy and her fellow travelers, and the Tin Woodman prevents the wolves from tearing everyone apart by slaughtering them with an ax.

Dorothy meets the Cowardly Lion, from the first edition.

Dorothy meets the Cowardly Lion, from the first edition.

 

Wizard of Oz movie poster, 1939.

Wizard of Oz movie poster, 1939.

The Wicked Witch later sends her fierce wild crows to gouge out the eyes of the traveling fellowship, but the crows are stopped by Scarecrow who viciously kills them by breaking their necks with his straw hands. Furthermore, the Cowardly Lion becomes an example of terrifying vigilante justice when he kills a giant spider that terrorized the animals of the forest.

The Wicked Witch herself dies in a horrible way when Dorothy splashes her with a bucket of water. She melts away and turns into an amorphous puddle of muddy substance beneath Dorothy’s silver shoes.

The Wicked Witch melts, from the W. W. Denslow illustration of the first edition (1900).

The Wicked Witch melts, from the W. W. Denslow illustration of the first edition (1900).

Although Dorothy’s famous shoes are made of ruby in all adaptations of the novel, the original novel features her wearing shiny silver shoes.

Here is another story from us: The earliest surviving “Wizard of Oz” film from 1910

“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” deserves its praise because of its creative magical setting and a plot that urges children to explore their own imagination, but the original version of the novel might appear frightening and even downright brutal: the kill count of Dorothy and her fellow travelers includes almost a hundred animals.