Gender-Flipped Classics: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

I realize that I haven’t posted in quite some time and I’m sorry about that, however now I’m back. Today I’m posting a gender-flipped chapter from L. Frank Baum’s classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I have done this with fairy tales in the past, but I thought that it might be interesting to do it with pieces of some longer works as well. It’s an interesting exercise to do on all kinds of works, from picture books to poetry to novels, but I’ve been trying to carefully stick to things that are in the public domain to post here. So even though I highly recommend trying out Maxine’s adventures with the Wild Things or Hannah Potter’s battles against dark witches, I’m not going to be able to post those for you. I’m not including a commentary on this one, but I would love to hear what your reactions were after reading it!

Chapter 16: The Magic Art of the Great Humbug

Next morning the Scarecrow said to her friends:

“Congratulate me. I am going to Oz to get my brains at last. When I return I shall be as other women are.”

“I have always liked you as you were,” said Donald simply.

“It is kind of you to like a Scarecrow,” she replied. “But surely you will think more of me when you hear the splendid thoughts my new brain is going to turn out.” Then she said good-bye to them all in a cheerful voice and went to the Throne Room, where she rapped upon the door.

“Come in,” said Oz.

The Scarecrow went in and found the little woman sitting down by the window, engaged in deep thought.

“I have come for my brains,” remarked the Scarecrow, a little uneasily.

“Oh, yes; sit down in that chair, please,” replied Oz. “You must excuse me for taking your head off, but I shall have to do it in order to put your brains in their proper place.”

“That’s all right,” said the Scarecrow. “You are quite welcome to take my head off, as long as it will be a better one when you put it on again.”

So the Wizard unfastened her head and emptied out the straw. Then she entered the back room and took up a measure of bran, which she mixed with a great many pins and needles. Having shaken them together thoroughly, she filled the top of the Scarecrow’s head with the mixture and stuffed the rest of the space with straw, to hold it in place.

When she had fastened the Scarecrow’s head on her body again she said to her, “Hereafter you will be a great woman, for I have given you a lot of bran-new brains.”

The Scarecrow was both pleased and proud at the fulfillment of her greatest wish, and having thanked Oz warmly she went back to her friends.

Donald looked at her curiously. Her head was quite bulged out at the top with brains.

“How do you feel?” he asked.

“I feel wise indeed,” she answered earnestly. “When I get used to my brains I shall know everything.”

“Why are those needles and pins sticking out of your head?” asked the Tin Woodwoman.

“That is proof that she is sharp,” remarked the Lion.

“Well, I must go to Oz and get my heart,” said the Woodwoman. So she walked to the Throne Room and knocked at the door.

“Come in,” called Oz, and the Woodwoman entered and said, “I have come for my heart.”

“Very well,” answered the little woman. “But I shall have to cut a hole in your breast, so I can put your heart in the right place. I hope it won’t hurt you.”

“Oh, no,” answered the Woodwoman. “I shall not feel it at all.”

So Oz brought a pair of tinsmith’s shears and cut a small, square hole in the left side of the Tin Woodwoman’s breast. Then, going to a chest of drawers, she took out a pretty heart, made entirely of silk and stuffed with sawdust.

“Isn’t it a beauty?” she asked.

“It is, indeed!” replied the Woodwoman, who was greatly pleased. “But is it a kind heart?”

“Oh, very!” answered Oz. She put the heart in the Woodwoman’s breast and then replaced the square of tin, soldering it neatly together where it had been cut.

“There,” said she; “now you have a heart that any woman might be proud of. I’m sorry I had to put a patch on your breast, but it really couldn’t be helped.”

“Never mind the patch,” exclaimed the happy Woodwoman. “I am very grateful to you, and shall never forget your kindness.”

“Don’t speak of it,” replied Oz.

Then the Tin Woodwoman went back to her friends, who wished her every joy on account of her good fortune.

The Lion now walked to the Throne Room and knocked at the door.

“Come in,” said Oz.

“I have come for my courage,” announced the Lion, entering the room.

“Very well,” answered the little woman; “I will get it for you.”

She went to a cupboard and reaching up to a high shelf took down a square green bottle, the contents of which she poured into a green-gold dish, beautifully carved. Placing this before the Cowardly Lion, who sniffed at it as if she did not like it, the Wizard said:

“Drink.”

“What is it?” asked the Lion.

“Well,” answered Oz, “if it were inside of you, it would be courage. You know, of course, that courage is always inside one; so that this really cannot be called courage until you have swallowed it. Therefore I advise you to drink it as soon as possible.”

The Lion hesitated no longer, but drank till the dish was empty.

“How do you feel now?” asked Oz.

“Full of courage,” replied the Lion, who went joyfully back to her friends to tell them of her good fortune.

Oz, left to herself, smiled to think of her success in giving the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodwoman and the Lion exactly what they thought they wanted. “How can I help being a humbug,” she said, “when all these people make me do things that everybody knows can’t be done? It was easy to make the Scarecrow and the Lion and the Woodwoman happy, because they imagined I could do anything. But it will take more than imagination to carry Donald back to Kansas, and I’m sure I don’t know how it can be done.”

3 Comments

  1. Kathleen said,

    July 14, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    Fun! You missed a pronoun in the paragraph that starts with “Oh very!” And perhaps the Lion would be more effective as the Lioness?

  2. Alan said,

    July 14, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    It’s an interesting switch. Having recently read Wonderful Wizard and Marvelous Land, I’m picturing Dorothy as relatively young. That makes switching to Donald relatively easy once I got over, “Who the heck is Donald?” Kids are kids. The change to the other characters absolutely changes my perceptions of them as my cultural assumptions kick in.

    “a heart that any woman might be proud of” evokes, for me, caring and compassion, while “a heart that any man might be proud of” evokes bravery and boldness. Also the woodsman always seemed rather robotic to me, taking the neutral “man”; he suddenly jumped from unsexed to female. Oddly I don’t have the same feelings about the scarecrow.

    As for Oz, he goes from being in my mind a wrinkled, slightly curmudgeonly old man to a sweet old lady. I don’t know if reading this without the context of the previous chapter or two when we see the Wizard in her glory and then her reveal influenced my perception. Also, Dorthy and the Wizard in Oz may be coloring my perception of male Oz as a disreputable carnie; as association that is broken by the gender swap.

    As usual, it’s an interesting mirror back on my own assumptions, expectations, and biases and was a fun read. Thanks!

  3. Rosepixie said,

    July 15, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    Kathleen, thank you for pointing out the pronoun I missed (somehow I *always* miss one)! It’s fixed now.

    Alan, I totally agree – the “heart that any woman would be proud of” totally stood out to me as well, especially since I recently re-read The Tin Woodman of Oz, where he discusses at length the specific qualities that his heart does and does not have. I found the wizard’s change interesting. Somehow the female version felt more motherly to me, although the admission of humbuggery is exactly the same, of course. I still kind of pictured a slightly curmudgeonly old lady, but one with considerably more patience for these interlopers to her solitude than I generally got the impression the male version of the character had. I’m not sure why I got that feeling, though.

    Kathleen, I did consider switching “Lion” to “Lioness”, and tried it out in the Lion section of this chapter, but I ended up not liking it. I’d left nearly every other genderless term in tact and “Lion” is the term for the species as well as the male part of that species, so a female lion is still a lion, even if she is also a lioness, and it seemed perfectly fair to call her the Lion. Arguably I should have switched it, though.

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