The books, not the movie. Dorothy spends far too much time cringing in the movie. The books, however, are superb, with an adventurous Dorothy shedding few, if any tears (I think she does cry a bit in the first book, largely worrying that her aunt and uncle miss her) and facing adventure head on. Basically, surprise feminism.
I read these books for the first time in sixth grade. Mrs. Stubblefield, my sixth grade teacher, had all of them in the original rag editions (rag paper doesn’t degrade like wood pulp, which is why books a hundred years old are in better shape than books ten years old). She also read us the Hobbit as a reward when we’d behaved in class, and we did manage to get through the entirety of The Hobbit and part of The Fellowship of the Ring in one school year. A testament to the desire of 6th grade boys to hear their teacher say “faggot,” even if it was in reference to the original meaning of a bundle of sticks.
I’m sure you’re all familiar with the plot of the original Oz book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Dorothy Gale, a plucky orphan from Kansas is whisked away by a tornado to the marvelous land of Oz. Her house kills the Wicked Witch of the East, putting the witch’s silver slippers (they were made ruby for the film because it looked better on the screen) on her feet. When she asks to go home, the Munchkins and the Good Witch of the North send her to the Wizard in the Emerald City of Oz. On the way she picks up the Lion, the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodsman (whose name is Nick Chopper). The Wizard tells her she has to kill the Wicked Witch of the West if she wants him to help her. There are flying monkeys and Dorothy’s captured by, and ultimately kills the witch, and we find out the Wizard is a fraud, who had himself been blown there by a tornado. They decide to use his hot air balloon to escape, Dorothy is left behind by mistake, and Glinda, the Good Witch of the South, tells her she could have gone home at any time because of the slippers.
Cracked.com has a pretty excellent argument for Glinda being the biggest villain in the universe. At least the Glinda in the movie, as in the books the original good witch of the North, and Glinda the Good in the South are two distinctly different witches. The first witch may not have known the secret of the shoes, just knowing that if the Wicked Witch of the West wanted them, she mustn’t have them.
Oz is ruled by women, the Wicked Witches of the East and West and the Good Witches of the North and South. In the first book, they allowed the Wizard to “rule” in his Emerald City as long as he doesn’t get too uppity and annoy them. In the books, as you go on, they find the lost Princess, Ozma of Oz, to rule over all of Oz.
Dorothy goes on many adventures, winding up in Oz time and again, once by washing overboard a ship en route to Australia, once by falling into a crevice during an earthquake in San Francisco, and several times by making an agreed upon sign while sitting in her bedroom at her Auntie Em and Uncle Henry’s. She and Ozma, with Glinda’s help, fend off the Goblin King. Before the discovery of Ozma, when there is an insurrection in Oz, it isn’t by men, but by girls led by General Jinjur.
Granted, the prettiness and gentleness of the female rulers of Oz (after the deaths of the Wicked Withces) are repeatedly praised, but by the same token, none of them back down, or averse to hard work or trouble.
I really do recommend the Oz books to read to your children for strong female role models, even if they are all pretty. The Oz books kind of also disprove the theorem that boys won’t read books with female lead characters. These books have been in print for over a hundred years, and it can’t just be girls buying them to make that happen.
The Oz Books:
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
The Marvelous Land of Oz
Ozma Of Oz
Dorothy And the Wizard in Oz
The Road to Oz
The Emerald City of Oz (Books of Wonder)
The Patchwork Girl of Oz
Tik-Tok Of Oz
The Scarecrow Of Oz
Rinkitink in Oz
The Lost Princess of Oz
The Tin Woodman of Oz
The Magic of Oz
Glinda of Oz
And for the love of all that is holy do not try reading the Philip Jose Farmer Oz books. Please.