Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Today Will Require Some Flying Monkeys...

Flying Monkey of Oz by Jim Pearson
.. and I can't wait!

Today is all about last-minute scrambling for my little monkey's son's first school play, The Wizard of Oz. (In case you hadn't guessed my monkey will be of the flying variety*.)

While flying monkeys are already very cool to him (and were his first choice among the roles), his favorite part is where he gleefully gets to tell the Wicked Witch of the West: "You no longer have any power over us! Goodbye!" and flaps away with a big monkey-grin.

I loved that, in showing him Labyrinth this past weekend, he noticed that Sarah said almost exactly the same thing to Jared, the Goblin King in the end. It's a different sort of dragon to defeat but it's an important one.

Your regularly scheduled daily news will be returning shortly, I promise.
Some of the flying monkeys of Burlington, Vermont**
By the way, looking for an alternate way to introduce kids to the Oz stories apart from the MGM movie and avoiding the largely creepy original illustrations that accompany classic copies of Baum's books? I recommend the Eisner Award winning, Eric Shanower and Skottie Young graphic novels. They follow the original book plots (giving the flying monkeys many more things to do, which my little guy couldn't be happier about) with the first volume being the first, best known, story of Dorothy's visit to Oz, finishing (after a few more detours than the popular movie provides) with her making it home to Auntie Em (no dream required).

The illustrations are charming and adorable yet easily lend themselves to dark subjects as the story requires as well.

Although the Oz books aren't really fairy tales (or 'a fairy tale'), the works are often called "the first American fairy tale", and since Baum himself quoted Grimm and Andersen as inspiration and was, in fact, creating his own version of a literary fairy tale (as extended as it was over many volumes), it seems appropriate that it be included in discussions on fairy tales in general, especially since, the more time goes on, the more the tropes and motifs of the books have taken root alongside traditional fairy tale ones in the American social consciousness (and beyond) until many don't see them as separate any more. 
Note: If this is-it-or-isn't-it-a-fairy-tale territory is new for you, there are many discussions available online on the subject but suffice it to say, as far as this blog goes, while we will mention and refer to Oz from time to time, we still consider it a fantasy that uses fairy tale inspiration and motifs, rather than, by actual definition, 'a fairy tale'. That society at large lumps it into the same category is also something we acknowledge, including the way fairy tales are socially perceived today, especially in the US, so we feel it is important to consider the Oz-influence in general. 

I do find it funny that Baum specifically wrote the Oz books to be a fairy tale without the grim of the Grimm's, yet when MGM made the movie they put the scary back, front and center, with the Wicked Witch of the West.

Here's Baum on fairy tales and on his Oz books:
FOLK lore, legends, myths and fairy tales have followed childhood through the ages, for every healthy youngster has a wholesome and instinctive love for stories fantastic, marvelous and manifestly unreal. The winged fairies of Grimm and Andersen have brought more happiness to childish hearts than all other human creations. 
Yet the old-time fairy tale, having served for generations, may now be classed as "historical" in the children's library; for the time has come for a series of newer "wonder tales" in which the stereotyped genie, dwarf and fairy are eliminated, together with all the horrible and blood-curdling incident devised by their authors to point a fearsome moral to each tale. Modern education includes morality; therefore the modern child seeks only entertainment in its wonder-tales and gladly dispenses with all disagreeable incident.   

Having this thought in mind, the story of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" was written solely to pleasure children of to-day. It aspires to being a modernized fairy tale, in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heart-aches and nightmares are left out.  
Chicago, April, 1900 L. Frank Baum

*Keep your fingers crossed that I won't need to make a last minute costume for his second, understudy role as a tornado. Exactly how do you dress a tornado anyway?
** Burlington, Vermont is on my "must visit" list just because of these monkeys.


  1. How fun!! Being in school plays was such a huge joy to me growing up :) And thanks for sharing that Baum quote, I hadn't heard that before! Good luck to your son!

  2. Break a leg to your little monkey:) I did not know about these graphic novels--LOVE the illustrations!

    1. Oh, they're fantastic. Published by the one and only Marvel Comics too. They've done a number of them.

      As far as darkness and scariness goes in terms of fairy tales and Oz, I find it's a sliding scale.