“We have obeyed you as far as we were able. The Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow are destroyed, and the Lion is tied up in your yard. The little girl we dare not harm, nor the dog she carries in her arms. Your power over our band is now ended, and you will never see us again.”
Greetings! Today we are back to looking at L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by summarizing and analyzing chapter twelve. A lot happens in this chapter, too, so buckle up! We are going to learn about the Wicked Witch of the West and whether Dorothy and her friends are able to destroy her! Onward!
Chapter Twelve Summary: The Search for the Wicked Witch
Dorothy and her party leave the Emerald City and travel in the direction of the Wicked Witch of the West. Before they enter her territory, however, the Witch spies them and begins to plot their demise.
Now the Wicked Witch of the West had but one eye, yet that was as powerful as a telescope, and could see everywhere. So, as she sat in the door of her castle, she happened to look around and saw Dorothy lying asleep, with her friends all about her. They were a long distance off, but the Wicked Witch was angry to find them in her country; so she blew upon a silver whistle that hung around her neck.
Now, as we know in The Wizard of Oz, things can get violent and quite dark. As such, the book does not shy away from gory depictions, which is reminiscent of some of the dark elements present in Grimms’ Fairy Tales. So far, it’s one of my favorite chapters!
The Witch’s whistle summons a pack of hungry wolves that descend upon Dorothy and her friends. The wolves seem very excited to do away with the group (bloodlust is a word for it). At first, it seems as though all is lost because there are 40 wolves and four of the party, but then the Tin Woodman takes his sharpened axe (that has been recently re-sharpened in the Emerald City) and takes to killing all of the wolves.
Then he put down his axe and sat beside the Scarecrow, who said, “It was a good fight, friend.”
Angered, the Witch decides to send her crows to kill the group, but this action is thwarted due to the Scarecrow’s stature as, well, a Scarecrow, and he takes to snapping the crows’ necks as they descend upon the group.
The King Crow flew at the Scarecrow, who caught it by the head and twisted its neck until it died. And then another crow flew at him, and the Scarecrow twisted its neck also. There were forty crows, and forty times the Scarecrow twisted a neck, until at last all were lying dead beside him. Then he called to his companions to rise, and again they went upon their journey.
Likewise, a group of black bees is sent to kill the group, and yet they are stopped by the Tin Woodman who cannot be harmed by their stingers, and so they die in a pile on the ground around him. Lastly, the Winkies (a group of the Witch’s slaves) are sent to kill the group with their spears, but they too are sent packing after the Cowardly Lion roars as loud as he possibly can to scare them off—which works wonderfully. For their failure, the Wicked Witch beats them with a strap and sends them back to their labors.
It is at this point that the Wicked Witch summons the Flying Monkeys. The monkeys can only be summoned three times due to the rules surrounding the summoning device—a golden cap. The Witch had already used it twice: once to enslave the Winkies to steal their land, and once to drive the Wizard of Oz from the West. Now, on her third time, she commands them to defeat Dorothy and her companions; a job they competently execute.
They destroy the Tin Woodman by dropping him from a high altitude down onto sharp rocks, which dents him so badly that he cannot move, they destroy the Scarecrow by ripping him to pieces, and then they tie up the Cowardly Lion and kidnap Dorothy, taking her to the Wicked Witch’s castle for interrogation. But, Dorothy has the mark of protection on her forehead given to her by the Good Witch of the North.
The Wicked Witch was both surprised and worried when she saw the mark on Dorothy’s forehead, for she knew well that neither the Winged Monkeys nor she, herself, dare hurt the girl in any way. She looked down at Dorothy’s feet, and seeing the Silver Shoes, began to tremble with fear, for she knew what a powerful charm belonged to them.
After multiple attempts to steal Dorothy’s silver slippers, the Witch is defeated by the little girl due to a shortsighted placement of her one weakness. Here is how it goes: the Witch tricks Dorothy into falling to the ground, and one of her silver slippers falls free from her foot, which gives the Witch just enough time to nab it up from the ground. Enraged, Dorothy grabs a pale of ill-placed water and douses the Witch with it, which causes her to melt.
“Well, in a few minutes I shall be all melted, and you will have the castle to yourself. I have been wicked in my day, but I never thought a little girl like you would ever be able to melt me and end my wicked deeds. Look out—here I go!”
With freedom in her hands, Dorothy tells the Cowardly Lion that they are no longer threatened by the Witch.
In this chapter, the party is destroyed by the Witch, and it seems as though the fellowship is broken. However, there is a theme in this chapter of perseverance, as even though Dorothy feels lost and defeated, she still maintains that there must be something to do to defeat the Wicked Witch; and, she is right, because by the end of the chapter, Dorothy destroys the Witch and frees the Cowardly Lion.
Additionally, the Cowardly Lion, himself, remains undefeated, even in captivity. The Witch tries to break his spirit every day by visiting him in the courtyard so that she can put a harness on him and use him as a slave, and yet the Lion remains stalwart and unbreakable, telling the Witch, “No. If you come in this yard, I will bite you.”
There is definitely something to take from both Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion’s colossal spirits.
Baum, L. Frank. “The Wizard of Oz the First Five Novels.” Fall River Press, 2014.