Study Guide

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Summary

By L. Frank Baum

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Summary

Dorothy Gale is a farm girl who's living a quiet life in Kansas with her Uncle Henry and Aunt Em, her miserable, but loving, relatives.

Or at least she was, until her house is swept up in a cyclone and sent hurtling through the air.

The next day, when the house finally hits solid ground, Dorothy steps out the front door. She sees a huge crowd of strange people and, on sight, decides this unfamiliar land isn't for her. (It's nothing personal; she just wants to go home.) But she's in Oz now, and no one there has even heard of Kansas. Oh dear!

A lot of information is coming at Dorothy, and much of it is bad. She's alarmed to learn that her house landed on top of someone called the Wicked Witch of the East, whose cold, dead feet are sticking out from under the foundation. She consults with the Good Witch of the North, who says it's no biggie since the witch was so wicked. She also has a few tips. Number one: Dorothy should take the silver shoes that belonged to the dead witch. (They're charmed in some way, though no one knows exactly how.) Number two: Dorothy should go see the Wizard of Oz, who might be able to help her get back home.

Well, Dorothy is all about that idea. She wants to get home yesterday. The good witch can't accompany her to the Emerald City, where Oz resides, but she gives her a special kiss to keep her from harm. (It leaves a protective mark—remember that, because it will be important later.) She also gives her directions, which are short and sweet: just follow the yellow brick road.

(DANCE BREAK!)

Right. Where were we?

On her way to the Emerald City, Dorothy picks up a few stragglers. First she encounters the Scarecrow. When he hears Dorothy's plan, he decides to tag along so he can ask Oz for a brain. (He's stuffed with straw, so he doesn't have one.) Next, they meet the Tin Woodman, who has been frozen in place for a year after rusting in a rainstorm. They oil him back to health and he decides to tag along to ask Oz for a heart. Finally, they run into the Cowardly Lion. Guess what he wants? Yep, the answer is courage, so he's coming along, too.

As the foursome makes their way to the Emerald City, Dorothy and her friends face off against violent beasts and geographical barriers that include two ditches, a roaring river, and a field of poisonous flowers.

At last they arrive in the Emerald City. By then, they're a wee bit nervous because the Wizard has a certain reputation, and let's just say it's not as a welcoming friend.

Dorothy and her friends meet Oz one by one. (The Wizard appears in a different form to each person, confusing them greatly.) He lays down the same ultimatum each time. He'll give them what they want if, and only if, they kill the Wicked Witch of the West. Dorothy's all like, "Sir, I am a child whose worldly possessions are a pinafore and a purse dog. I'm not exactly in the business of murdering people." And the Wizard's just like, "Too bad. Good luck!"

The next day, Dorothy and her motley crew set off toward the west. They don't have any real intention of killing the witch, but they also don't have anything better to do. When the witch spots them heading her way, she becomes enraged and decides to kill them. Yikes, that escalated quickly!

The gang outsmarts the witch's first three attempts on their lives, which involve murderous wolves, crows, and bees. They also survive an attack from the Winkies (the witch's slaves), whose barks are louder than their bites. But for the witch's fifth and final attempt, she calls in the Winged Monkeys, and those guys mean business. The monkeys more or less destroy the Scarecrow and the tin man, but they won't touch Dorothy or Toto because they see that Dorothy has been marked by the good witch's kiss. Told you that mark would be important!

The monkeys escort Dorothy and the Lion (whom the witch plans to enslave) back to HQ for next steps. Seeing the girl's protective mark and her silver shoes, the witch instantly realizes that Dorothy is super powerful. But she also sees that Dorothy doesn't know her own power, so she enslaves the girl and sticks the Lion out in the front yard to starve. Nice.

Many weeks (or maybe months) pass until, one day, Dorothy can't take it anymore. She throws a bucket of water at the Wicked Witch, and the witch melts in a very dramatic fashion. Then the Winkies (who Dorothy frees, of course) fix up the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman good as new so they can all go back to the Emerald City and claim their prizes.

Back in the Emerald City, the Wizard ignores our noble heroes for several days. Frustrated, they threaten to sic the Winged Monkeys on him. That does the trick. Finally, the Wizard admits Dorothy and her friends into his throne room. Toto knocks down a screen and the gang discovers that the Great and Powerful Oz is actually…just some dude. An old man, actually, from Nebraska, who has been using illusions to disguise his true identity. Oh those crazy Midwesterners!

It turns out that, much like Dorothy, the Wizard came to Oz quite by accident—his hot-air balloon was swept away in a windstorm. The citizens of Oz thought he was magical because he came from the clouds, and he's been feeding that misconception ever since, living the sweet wizard life. Long story short: since he doesn't actually have magical powers, he has no idea how to help them.

Still, help them he does—or at least he pretends to. The Wizard gives the Scarecrow, the tin man, and the Lion a fake brain, a fake heart, and fake courage, respectively. They're thrilled. He's also going to make a hot-air balloon to take Dorothy back to Kansas. Now that he's been found out, the Wizard is more than ready to blow this Popsicle stand. In fact, he ends up blowing it a little too soon, and the balloon launches…without Dorothy on it.

By now, Dorothy's so ready to get home she would pay surge prices for an Uber. Small problem: no one has any idea where Kansas is. Someone suggests that she consult with Glinda, the Good Witch of the South, so Dorothy and her friends depart the Emerald City for yet another road trip. Along the way, they encounter some strange and hostile creatures. But with the help of the Winged Monkeys, they finally make their way to Glinda's palace.

Great news! Glinda's got a plan. She'll arrange rides home for the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Lion, and Dorothy can just use her silver shoes to walk on back to Kansas. It's far, but the shoes are magical, so the girl will only need to take three steps. Dorothy says a tearful goodbye to her new pals and takes the steps—one, two, three.

Say, there's Uncle Henry milking a cow! And here's Aunt Em, who seems happy for once in her adult life! Dorothy's thrilled to be home, Aunt Em's showering her with kisses, and Toto is barking his little head off with joy.