30 October 2012

“A terrible storm”

The opening paragraphs of Ozma of Oz, by L. Frank Baum:
The wind blew hard and joggled the water of the ocean, sending ripples across its surface. Then the wind pushed the edges of the ripples until they became waves, and shoved the waves around until they became billows. The billows rolled dreadfully high: higher even than the tops of houses. Some of them, indeed, rolled as high as the tops of tall trees, and seemed like mountains; and the gulfs between the great billows were like deep valleys.

All this mad dashing and splashing of the waters of the big ocean, which the mischievous wind caused without any good reason whatever, resulted in a terrible storm, and a storm on the ocean is liable to cut many queer pranks and do a lot of damage.
Having sent Dorothy Gale to fairyland by cyclone (tornado), for her second trip Baum turned to this storm at sea. Next, in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, he used an earthquake. And then, since he’d exhausted the range of natural disasters, her next two trips were caused by magic from the Emerald City.

In The Scarecrow of Oz Baum had Trot and Cap’n Bill start their journey via a whirlpool—another type of nautical disaster. As with the earthquake suddenly opening a huge crack in the ground in Dorothy and the Wizard, people in the 1910s believed that such whirlpools existed in nature, but they don’t really. Does that mean magic must have been at work in those journeys too?

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