Friday, 12 February 2016

Волшебник Изумрудного Города--The Wizard of the Emerald City

Well, after the poetry evening for Spiderman, oh best beloved, we allowed ourselves one more day in jolly olde London town to have a bit of fun.


We decided to go to the British Library. When we lived in England the BL was one of regular haunts. They had groovy exhibitions and interesting book talks/author visits all for free or cheap. While Spiderman had used the actually library bit for research, I had not. So we decided to spend our day getting British Library library cards and then browsing some rare and interesting books.


To get a library card at the BL you need to bring a boatload of ID. This is stated VERY clearly on their website. Despite this, there were several people in front of us and behind us in the queue who had NOT read the website. The lady was firm but fair—no dice. You also have to request your books that you wish to see in advance because you aren't allowed to just browse the shelves willy-nilly—a designated person gets the books for you. Many of these people were hoping to get a card today and look at books immediately. Again—no way José.   Because we are prepared sort of people, we had requested books in advance and had brought our boatload of ID.


We were let through to the next stage –the interview.


Yup, you have to have an interview where you explain why you want the books you do and what you plan to do with them before you get your card. I was a wee bit nervous about this, but our interviewer was a sweetheart. His dad and worked in North Carolina for a year and so he was a fan of the American South and asked us more questions about Louisiana than our books.


Then we got our cards, went to lock everything up in a locker and filled the clear plastic bag with the few items we were allowed to bring in—a notebook, pencil and rubber (eraser to my American peeps. Get your mind out of the gutter) because NO PENS are allowed. We were searched again to be sure our plastic bag had no contraband and then it was off to pick up our books.


We decided to ask for OZ books as they had many that we had never seen. The highlight for me was seeing the Russian version of OZ. In actual Russian. Yes—it was written in Cyrillic so we couldn't read much (I can decode all the sounds in the Cyrillic alphabet but I can't translate too well. My Russian vocabulary is quite small. A few animals and foods.) Mainly we wanted to see the pictures.


What a treat that was! My oldest Oz book that is about the history of Oz—about the author L. Frank Baum and the making of Oz books and the 1939 film is entitled The Oz Scrapbook by David L. Greene and Dick Martin. We found this book on a sale table in a bookshop in the mall in the 1970s and snapped it up. But this book had a section of Oz illustrations from around the world. My all-time favourites were ones by Leonid Vladimirsky.  They fascinated me as a child. I loved the Tin Woodman—his pelvis appeared to be a goldfish bowl and he had a long tin tie that tucked into it.


We got to see the book in Cyrillic with the Vladimirsky illustrations and it was mind blowing.


The book itself is fascinating as it not so much a translation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz but a retelling by the author Alexander Volkov. In 1939 he re-wrote Baum's book and titled it The Wizard of the Emerald City (Russian: Волшебник Изумрудного Города).   The names of most characters are changed, some elements of Baum's novel are removed, and some new elements are added. Volkov wrote several sequels that were not based on Baum's plot elements, although we do encounter some of Baum's ideas such as the powder of life, a character called Charlie Black who is not unlike Cap'n Bill Weedles, intelligent foxes, and the use of a Sandboat similar to Johnny Dooit's, albeit with wheels.

Volkov also called the books the Magic Land series rather than Oz.

According to Wikipedia:


Baum equivalent
Ellie Smith
Элли Смит
Dorothy Gale
Little Toto
Zhelezny Drovosyek
Железный Дровосек
Iron Lumberjack
The Tin Woodman
Truslivy Lev
Трусливый Лев
Cowardly Lion
Cowardly Lion
James Goodwin
Джеймс Гудвин
The Wizard
Good Witch of the North
Glinda the Good Witch
Wicked Witch of the East
Wicked Witch of the West
Din GeeOr
Дин Гиор
Soldier with the Green Whiskers
Guardian of the Gates
Queen of the Field Mice


Notable differences between "The Wizard of the Emerald City" and the original book "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”

                     In the original book, Winkies' favorite color is yellow. In Volkov's version, it's purple.          

                     In the original book, the characters at one point have to run away from beasts called Kalidahs. In Volkov's version, Kalidahs are replaced with saber-toothed tigers.

                                     The Fighting Trees and the China Country are omitted in Volkov's version. Instead, the main characters secondly have to cross river in other place by making another raft, and things go awry when a storm begins.

                                     In Volkov's version, just before meeting the Cowardly Lion, Ellie gets kidnapped by an ogre, and Scarecrow and the Woodman save her.

                                     In Volkov's version, Munchkins, Winkies and Quadlings (renamed as Chatters) have different tics involving their people's names: Munchkins constantly move their jaws as if they were munching, Winkies blink a lot and Chatters can't stop talking.

                                     The armless Hammer-Heads with stretching necks were replaced in Volkov's version with an anatomically correct and physically strong nation of Leapers.

                                     In Volkov's version, as soon as Ellie and Toto arrive in Magic Land, Toto gains the ability to speak, which he retains until they leave. In Baum's version, this is not the case, and Toto behaves exactly like a normal dog.

                                     In Baum's version, Dorothy is an orphan and lives with her uncle Henry and her aunt Em. In Volkov's version, Ellie lives with both of her parents, John and Ann.

                                     In the original version, the Good Witch of the North kisses Dorothy on her forehead, blessing her, and the Wicked Witch of the West doesn't dare hit her because of the blessing. In Volkov's version, Villina doesn't kiss Ellie, and Bastinda is afraid of hitting Ellie because she wears the silver shoes.

                                     In the original version, Dorothy was unaware of the Wicked Witch of the West's aquaphobia until the latter melted. In Volkov's version, Ellie knew Bastinda was afraid of water, and often left the kitchen floor wet to annoy the witch.

                                     An additional subplot in Volkov's version during Ellie's imprisonment in Bastinda's castle involves Ellie and the cook Fregoza motivating other Winkies to prepare a coup against Bastinda.

                                     The prologue in Baum's book tells the story solely from Dorothy's point of view. The prologue in Volkov's book tells the story first from Ellie's prospective, then switches to Gingema then back to Ellie who is running away from the cyclone.


For those of you who only know the 1939 film then some of the above differences  (and illustrations) may be a puzzler to you. But for my Mum—she who read all the Oz books with me and started my love for all things Over the Rainbow—she'll get it.


If you have not read the original book of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum written in 1900 then I would urge you to. It is in the public domain and you can read it for free online here: Someone told me that if you subscribe to Amazon you can download it for free onto your e-reader. Check it out.


But the best of this story is yet to be told. Spiderman using his librarian spidey-sense tracked down some cheap second-hand copies of both the 1959 version of the Cyrillic text with the Vladamirsky illustrations as well as a translation of Volkov's  The Wizard of the Emerald City complete with lots of exciting notations and articles in the back about Volkov and his Magic Land series as well as notes about the translation.


So, happy reading!  


  1. Awwww, I'm a footnote in your wonderful library/literary adventures! Yes, I started reading the OZ books to you outloud one or two chapters a night when you were in 1st grade, and it continued for almost two years before we finished the series. I had a hard time tracking down some of the series (pre-internet and pre-Amazon days) but managed to get all 14 of them eventually, though one had to be borrowed and returned (Hopie Norman, thank you.) Mostly, we read in order of publication, and I always read the introduction to you that Baum wrote about what had inspired him to move on to that particular adventure. I loved that there was a ton of social satire, adult humor, and other stuff that made it wonderful for both children and adults. Some of my best memories were sitting in that brown recliner, reading at night. Love love love.

  2. Excellent library adventure! Love how they do things over there!