Okay, so the Wizard of Oz is a cliché classic. Everyone loves it, don’t they?
The childish me had mixed feelings about the Wizard of Oz. I liked the story, but this particular 1903 edition (the one on the left in the photo above), gave me a bit of the creeps. (Yes, it was probably from a library sale. Seriously, in the 60s you could buy wonderful old books by the grocery bag for 50 cents.) While today I recognize the brilliance of the W. W. Denslow illustrations, when I was 9 they gave me a slight chill. Well, actually, they still make me slightly uneasy.
I think that the idea of “cute” was different at the beginning of the twentieth century. While Dorothy looks sweet in her thick, half-done braids (a hair-style I, with a fashionable 60s pixie-style foisted upon me by my overworked mother, could never aspire to), Toto looks a trifle dangerous. Maybe more dangerous than the lion.
The tin man looks friendly enough in this plate. For a guy with an axe.
The scarecrow’s head got all lumpy and pokey when the wizard filled his head with pins and needles. Childish takeaway? Brains are sharp and pointy, and maybe painful.
And the witch had braids! Three of them. And decidedly bad fashion sense; no wonder she wanted Dorothy’s shoes.
This is a beautifully printed book, and it’s amazing to think of quality that lasted 100 years through repeated readings. For some reason I didn’t mark up this book, probably because I was afraid of the illustrations.
The other book on the right, (in the top photo) I did mark up. I colored away in it. Boo on me. But it’s not nearly as commanding as the 1903 book. Maybe I liked it better, or got it when I was younger. It was a gift from a family friend, a woman who was moving and cleaning out her possessions. I think it had been her book, and possibly her mother’s before that.
Caveat: This may look like a valuable book, but it’s not. I got all excited when I Googled it, and saw the price on a first edition. But this is not a first edition. Not even a second edition. Not even a first printing of a third edition. It’s not worth much more than a dinner at a fancy restaurant (without the wine). My childhood is worth ever so much more than that. So I’m keeping this beautiful, slightly creepy book, and the other one too.