By Chet Yarbrough
Narrated by: Anne Hathaway
It is nearing that time of year when Judy Garland and Toto will, once again, follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City. Listening to the original book, written by L. Frank Baum, Anne Hathaway’s narration reminds one of a loving parent telling a story to an excited child. Excitement begins with a tornado bearing down on a one room farm-house and a little girl running for her dog when the storm strikes. The house is ripped from its foundations, spiraling upward in the wind, but Dorothy feels calm like she is in the eye of a hurricane, waiting for what happens next. With a thud, the house settles; Dorothy and Toto arrive in Oz.
A wizened lady carefully approaches the fallen house. She is the good witch of the north. Dorothy finds that the house has fallen on the wicked witch of the east and that the Land of Oz is peopled by Munchkins, merry little people who never grow big but do grow old, just like Dorothy’s Aunt y Em and Uncle Henry. Dorothy is thought by the Munchkins to be a good witch that has come to Oz to kill the wicked witch. However, Dorothy tells of the Tornado and what really happened. As the Munchkins realize Dorothy’s wish to return to Kansas, they say they cannot help; however, they explain that the Great and Powerful Wizard who lives in Emerald City may know what to do. Dorothy asks for directions to Emerald City and is told that all she needs to do is follow the yellow brick road. Dorothy’s shoes are not very good for walking, so she is given silver slippers that were worn by the dead witch. She thanks the Munchkins who welcomed her to Oz and then provided food for her journey to the Emerald City. She begins her adventure on the yellow brick road.
A listener who has seen the film hears that the wizened lady is the good witch of the north; not fairy tale beautiful, and that the Wicked Witch’s slippers are silver; not ruby-red. And now, Dorothy and Toto leave the Munchkins to walk on the yellow brick road. Dorothy meets the scarecrow near the road and finds he is stuck in a corn field. To Dorothy’s surprise, the scarecrow talks. Three things the scarecrow explains conclude with a decision for the scarecrow to join Dorothy in her trip to the Emerald City; i.e. one is that the scarecrow cannot feel pain; two, that he is deathly afraid of fire, and three, that he wishes he had a brain.
Off they go. The meeting with the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion are exactly like the film but the Tin Man’s story of how he became a Tin Man is different. A spell had been cast, by a wicked witch on a woodman, a person who chops down trees. The spell results in the arms of the woodman being chopped off. However, an expert tin smith replaces the lost limbs with tin arms. Then the woodman’s legs and finally his head are lopped off, but the tin smith replaces the legs and head; also with tin. Finally, the woodman is cleaved in two, right through the middle. The tin smith makes a body for the woodsman and the Tin Man is whole. However, the wicked witch’s spell is not finished. The Tin Man falls in love with a village girl but the spell destroys the Tin Man’s heart. Unfortunately, the tin smith cannot make a heart. All three of Dorothy’s new friends, the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion join her on the trip to the Emerald City to see if the Great and Powerful Wizard can give Scarecrow a brain, Tin Man a heart, and the Cowardly Lion courage.
The story is similar to the film, but not quite the same. There are two witches in the film; four in the story. The Great and Powerful Wizard, just as shown in the movie, is found to be a humbug, but a kindhearted one. Like the film, the wicked witch of the west is killed with water. The Scarecrow gets a bulging head, stuffed with rice for brains (no college degree as in the movie); the Tin Man is given a hacky-sack like heart that pushes out the tin on his chest (no tick-tock clock as in the movie), and the Lion is shown how courageous he is by the deeds he has done and all that he needs is self-confidence (no medals as shown in the movie). The journey on the yellow brick road in Baum’s book shows Scarecrow always had a brain; the Tin Man always had a heart, and the Lion always had courage. The Good Witch of the South, who is beautiful, explains to Dorothy that she has always been able to return to Kansas. All she has to do is click her silver heals twice.
In the end, a listener concludes the original story is good but the movie is better.