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6182X8ZGDCL._SL160_While I mentioned the 1985 movie Return to Oz in my original Wizard of Oz post, I decided after re-watching it recently that it deserved its own entry, much like I did for Tin Man. Based on a combination of several of L. Frank Baum’s books, this movie is much more faithful to the original spirit of Oz than the more famous 1939 movie – for one thing, Dorothy (played by Fairuza Balk) is the proper age! – and is a great Girls Underground example in its own right.

After returning from her first trip to Oz, Dorothy has become troubled by her memories, which of course her aunt and uncle think are only fantasies. They arrange for her to receive electro-shock therapy, but she runs away during a storm and ends up in Oz again, with her pet chicken (who can now talk). They discover that all is not well in the kingdom, which has been taken over by the evil Nome King and overrun by truly creepy minions called Wheelers.

Dorothy discovers a new companion, a mechanical man named Tik Tok who was sent by the Scarecrow to help her. She tries to get information from a supposed princess called Mombi, but discovers she is a witch in league with the Nome King, and Mombi traps Dorothy in her tower. There she meets Jack Pumpkinhead, who was brought to life by a magical powder – Dorothy steals the powder to enliven a winged creature they all cobble together from furniture in the tower, and they all escape by air to confront the Nome King.

There, Dorothy and her companions take a tumble down, down underground, where the Nome King informs them that he has turned all Dorothy’s old companions into ornaments in his palace, and they must play a game to try to rescue them. But her new companions fail, and it is left to Dorothy to save all of them, which she does. In a rage, the Nome King tries to eat Jack, but the chicken (who was hiding in his head) lays an egg in her distress, which falls into the King’s mouth and poisons him. Dorothy then puts everything else back in place, returning the Emerald City to its former glory.

She refuses the Queenship of Oz and wishes instead to return to Kansas again (why?!), leaving behind her chicken, who has better sense and elects to stay where things are magical. Back at home in her room, she can see some of Oz’s inhabitants in her mirror, very much like the final scene of Labyrinth.

As I mentioned in my original Wizard of Oz post, the Tin Man tv miniseries is more than just a film version of the story, and really deserves its own post. It takes the basic characters and ideas of the story and makes something fresh and new that is nonetheless still a Girls Underground example.

The girl Dorothy from the books has become a young woman, DG, who lives with her parents in Kansas but feels out of place, and frequently dreams of a mysterious woman who warns her that a storm is coming. When the storm carries her to a strange land, she eventually realizes that it matches the place her parents always reminisced about, and it is in fact the land of her birth, where she truly belongs. But her parents are not her true parents, so for a period she is adrift like a typical orphaned Girl Underground.

DG quickly acquires companions – the muddled-brained Glitch (scarecrow), former lawman Cain (tin man), and empathic Raw (lion). Together with them, she seeks her true mother (the woman in her dreams), but faces resistance from the adversary, the sorceress Azkadellia (the wicked witch) and her minions. She makes the typical GU visit back “home,” albeit an illusory one (making it also an instance of the “forgetting herself” trope), and also consults the wizard, who has forgotten himself quite some time ago.

Things get interesting when DG’s real identity is revealed, as well as her relationship with her adversary and the history behind Azkadellia’s descent into madness. DG must tap into her own hidden powers, and the heritage of her family (descended from the original Dorothy Gale), to rescue the woman who has become her adversary and thereby also save the land. At least in this version, she doesn’t go back to Kansas in the end!

For the Wizard of Oz fans reading… here’s a great video compiling almost 60 instances in tv and movies of someone uttering some version of the phrase “We’re not in Kansas anymore.” Just goes to show how deeply embedded Oz is in our cultural consciousness.

I would love to see the same thing done with the phrase “down the rabbit hole.”

Wizard of Oz

“Oh, what a world! What a world! Who would have thought a good little girl like you could destroy my beautiful wickedness?”

I round out my top three Girls Underground examples (the ones I first thought of in the beginning, and thus the first entries in this blog) with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Even more so than Alice, it is difficult sometimes to separate the original book from the more widely known movie (although at least here there is only one really famous movie version). But there are important differences – most notably, that Dorothy is just a child in the book, similar in age and perspective as Alice, but is a teenager in the movie. A more faithful movie, in my opinion, to both the spirit of the book and the look of the original illustrations, is the 1985 Return to Oz starring a young Fairuza Balk, which combines a couple of the other books of the Oz series – it also features two adversaries (a witch and an evil king) and a host of new companions. Also of note is the more recent television miniseries Tin Man – however, it is only loosely based on the books and really deserves its own post, which it will get later on.

Dorothy has no parents, although she does have a supportive aunt and uncle. And she enters the otherworld not of her own volition but simply by mistake, having been caught in a tornado. (In the 1939 movie, she is dissatisfied with her life there and even meets an initiatory figure in the guise of the magician, and getting trapped in the house when it blows away is partly her own fault – a departure from the novel but more in keeping with the Girls Underground story.)

Her only companion at first is her dog (it may be relevant that her dog is male, as are all her companions – frequently the case for girls underground, even when their companions are animals), although she picks up three more on her way to her goal (unlike Alice, who seems to enjoy exploring the new world she finds, Dorothy is more concerned with getting home again). Her adversary is, obviously, the Wicked Witch of the West (and her minions, including the flying monkeys), although in a way the Wizard himself presents as an adversary at first. The female adversary fits better with the original, younger version of Dorothy. She also has a brief episode of forgetting/being drugged when they all fall asleep in the poppy field.

Dorothy is separated from her companions when she is captured by the witch, and must face her alone for awhile, eventually defeating her. She then must expose the fraud of the pseudo-adversary, the wizard. Though it is neither of these triumphs that ultimately is responsible for her return home, but rather the power of the silver shoes (ruby in the movie, to make use of the new Technicolor), which she had possessed from the beginning.

The 1939 movie includes one common Girls Underground element that the book does not – the echoing of people and things from her home in the “real world.” The farmhands are her companions, the travelling magician is the wizard, the wicked witch is the nasty neighbor. Unfortunately, this is taken further and leads to the “it was all a dream” ending (for perhaps obvious reasons, since I see a current of spiritual truth in this plotline, I prefer examples which do not undermine the reality of the adventures), her experiences chalked up to a bump on the head. Whereas in the book, Dorothy returns home to find clear signs of her long absence, and an aunt happy to see her again after thinking she was lost.

“She’s gone where the goblins go, below!”

The Annotated Wizard of Oz
The Yellow Brick Road (home of not only an entire Oz-themed store – which I was fortunate enough to stumble onto during a cross-country road trip – but also a local Oz festival)
The Wizard of Oz (official site of the 1939 movie, now celebrating its 70th anniversary)
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Website
Dark Side of the Rainbow
Full Text at

An exploration of story…

In which I describe examples of the Girls Underground archetype that I have discovered in literature and film. For more information regarding the concept, including its earlier incarnations in fairytales and mythology, visit the pages linked above. Here is a list of all the examples I have covered thus far.

The Oracle

THE GIRLS UNDERGROUND STORY ORACLE - tapping into the Power of Story for guidance and insight. Learn more here.

Alice Days

Celebrate one of the primary inspirations for Girls Underground - Alice in Wonderland - with a holiday down the rabbit hole and through the looking glass! Check out the Alice Days page for party ideas, movie recommendations, and more.


  • 104,137 journeys underground

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