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Wizard of Oz revisited
I recently revisited one of childhood favorites – The Wizard of Oz. The book is full of wit, allusion and sarcasm but when reading the book as a seventh grader you miss most of it. My first copy of The Wizard of Oz was a borrowed one. It was a paperback, illustrated pocket edition that I thoroughly enjoyed. Though I never watched the cinematic avatar of the book, I did follow the animated version which they aired on Doordarshan for about a year, eagerly. In fact, the animation series also covered stories from later books by L Frank Baum where Dorothy visits Oz again. (My sister and I even named a hen at a small neighborhood farm; Billina!)

I had picked my current copy of the book some 8 years ago at Delhi’s North Campus. While returning from college one day, I had spotted a mini-bus parked near a bus-stop selling books. It was from this awkward mobile book shop that I had purchased two books – Robinson Crusoe and The Marvelous Land of Oz. This one is beautifully bound, colorfully illustrated and was published in Moscow in 1986 by “Raduga” Publishers. The book’s preface and notes section in the end are entirely in Russian (and are printed in Cyrillic script).



For a story that was published in 1900, this one is the big daddy of LOTR and Harry Potter (though it is much underrated). In fact in his introduction, L. Frank Baum humbly admits to taking the ‘winged fairies of Grimm and Andersen’ and juxtaposing them into stories with a more modern context. The old builds upon new. Does this passage not remind you of the Eye of the Sauron in LOTR?

“Now the Wicked Witch of the West had but one eye, yet that was as powerful as a telescope and could see everywhere. So, as she sat in the door of her castle, she happened to look around and saw Dorothy lying asleep, with her friends all about her’.

And no, fairy tales are not always genteel, they can be quite gruesome at times (and The Wizard of Oz is no exception):

“The King Crow flew at the Scarecrow, who caught it by the head and twisted its neck until it died. And then another crow flew at him, and the Scarecrow twisted its neck also. There were forty crows, and forty times the Scarecrow twisted a neck, until at last all were lying dead beside him”.

Then there is plenty of saucy humor to be found scattered throughout the book. Being a vegetarian, this little conversation between Dorothy and Billina obviously caught my attention (no offence intended to my non-vegeterian friends :-)):

“Why, eating live things, and horrid bugs, and crawly ants. You ought to be ’shamed of yourself!
“Goodness me!” returned the hen, in a puzzled tone; “how queer you are, Dorothy! Live things are much fresher and more wholesome than dead ones, and you humans eat all sorts of dead creatures.”
“We don’t!” said Dorothy.
“You do, indeed,” answered Billina. “You eat lambs and sheep and cows and pigs and even chickens.”
“But we cook ’em,” said Dorothy, triumphantly.
“What difference does that make?”
“A good deal,” said the girl, in a graver tone. “I can’t just ‘splain the differenc, but it’s there. And, anyhow, we never eat such dreadful things as bugs”.
“But you eat the chickens that eat the bugs,” retorted the yellow hen, with an odd cackle. “So you are just as bad as we chickens are.”

I don’t quite know how my copy of the book made it to India or to that book shop. The book lingered unread on my bookshelf for years and now - out of a sudden resurrected interest in the text - here I am writing about it in great detail. Some things are strange as the land of Oz itself!
posted: 20.10.04

7 Comments

Many years ago, there was this children's magazine called Misha that came from the old Soviet Union. The magazine had a curious communist smell :^) I remember them running a serialized comicbook version of The Wizard of Oz.

Those Russian children's book had so much goodness in them, and they were very cheap :) Weird, or probably not so weird - now it all looks like it was another universe. Watching the world changing is amazing, I feel rather old in my mid-twenties.

By Blogger sajith, at 20.10.04  



Our school used to subscribe to copies of Misha - the name now rings a bell but I don't remember anything past that.. (and certainly not its olfactory aspects :-)).

But I can relate to what you say - the world certainly has changed more in the last 10 years than it did in say last 30 - there are times when even I feel fatigued beyond my years...

By Blogger Deepak, at 20.10.04  



Hi...fantastic to hear about Misha. my mother gifted me a 1-year subscription when I was a kid. Recently I began searching for Misha on the net...but no luck. So couldn't help replying to your post.
I want to buy these books...im sure there must be some old copies for sale. Would you have any diea...or a clue as to how I should go about it?
thanks for your time.
pls. do reply to m.sharada@animail.net

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 16.3.05  



Hi,

I just got a bit nostalgic and was thinkin about my childhood reading skills and of course the first thing came in to my mind was this Russian magazine, the name which I could'nt remember and was googling to only find that name, but not even a site which I could pay for a gift subscription to my neice and nephews in India. I agree with Sajith and deepak about the way you feel about the magazine. If Sharda has had found any links which could help me in this regard, it'd be of great help. Yes! I even feel that my Mom was even great to gift me a one year subscription of Misha - something I happily looked forward to see(not read) whilst I was in a rural village where all the news papers I could see were in local language and the paper aren't that attractive for a 10 yr old spoilt brat.

Anyway Hats Off to my Mom.
Cheers!
Tesh

By Blogger Venkatesh, at 4.5.05  



hmm...my search temporarily ended here.
someday again I'll think of it and buzz about...hoping to find it. If I do..you can be sure that I will tell you ALL about it.
ha ha....thought I was the only one who was so nostalgic about this one.

...we could almsot start a club!! :)
Misha's lonely hearts club band.... (no pun intended)!!

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6.5.05  



oops...
forgot to sign my name. (for the previous post)

Sharada

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6.5.05  



Hi Guys

I don't know if this is relevent to you but I could find a link where I guess one could buy Misha (I am not sure if it is available in English)

Follow:
http://www.eastview.com/peri/product.asp?sku=P6440&active_tab=1

Anurag Kothari

By Anonymous Anurag Kothari, at 22.6.05  


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