The Tin Woodman and The Scarecrow were standing near the edge of the field when they spotted a yellow wildcat chasing a little gray field mouse across the grass. The Tin Woodman knew the mouse was outmatched, so he lifted his axe and swung it, lopping the beast's head off. The field mouse was grateful and told them she was the Queen of the Field Mice and in return for saving her life, her subjects would do anything the Tin Woodman wanted. The Tin Woodman asked if they could help get the Lion out of the field of poppies, and assured the mice that he was cowardly and would not eat them.
The Woodman made a truck from tree branches and the mice harnessed themselves to it with bits of string. The Cowardly Lion was finally pulled out of the field and Dorothy was glad, as "she had grown so fond of the big Lion." The mice told them to call if they ever needed anything again.
The Lion awoke after a long sleep and they told him what had happened. They were now greatly refreshed and continued along their way along the smooth road in the beautiful country. The people watched them walk along the yellow brick road but did not talk to them. Everything was green in this land.
They were tired and hungry and stopped at a farmhouse, where the woman who lived there agreed to let them in. The travelers told the family that they were going to visit Oz, which surprised them greatly. The woman's husband said that Oz took on many forms and no one knew who the real Oz was. He said it might be hard to see him since he does not like to see anyone.
They slept and ate at the farmhouse and left the next morning, arriving at a great wall that surrounded the city. There was a massive gate studded with emeralds, and Dorothy pushed a bell that opened the gate and let them enter a high arched room that also sparkled with emeralds. A little man asked them what their purpose was and was perplexed when they said they wanted to see Oz since it had been many years since anyone asked to do that. He finally agreed to take them to Oz but told them to put on spectacles so the "brightness and glory of the Emerald City [does not] blind you." All of the travelers were fitted and followed the man inside the Emerald City.
Dorothy and her friends were dazzled by the beauty and wealth of the City, and the men, women, and children all clad in green with greenish skins. Everyone "seemed happy and contented and prosperous." They were brought into the Palace of Oz's gates and waited in a big room with green carpets and furniture.
The soldier who led them there explained that they could only see Oz one at a time and one per day so they would have to spend the night. This was agreeable, and all of the travelers were shown their rooms. Dorothy thought her room sweet and comfortable. A green girl told her in a friendly manner that she could wear any of the clothes in the wardrobe.
The next morning Dorothy (and Toto) was summoned to Oz. They first passed a room where rich and idle men and women gathered and talked, but did not actually see Oz. The soldier informed Dorothy that the Wizard had almost not wanted to see Dorothy until he heard of her silver shoes and the mark on her forehead.
A bell rang and Dorothy was told to enter the Throne Room alone. She walked into a large room with an arched roof; everything was covered in emeralds. There was a large throne of green marble and upon it was a huge head that had no limbs or support of any kind. It had no hair but had eyes and a nose and a mouth. It spoke: "I am Oz, the Great and Terrible. Who are you, and why do you seek me?" Dorothy gave her name and Oz asked where she got her shoes and the mark on her forehead. She answered him and told him she wanted to go back to Kansas.
Oz replied that she had to do something for him if she wanted him to help her – kill the Wicked Witch of the West. Dorothy exclaimed that this was impossible and wept in despair. When she left the Throne Room she told her friends what had happened, and they were very sorry for her.
The Scarecrow went in the next day. Oz appeared as a lovely lady upon the throne who had gorgeous wings growing from her shoulders. The Scarecrow told her he wanted brains and Oz replied that he also had to try to kill the Witch. It did not matter who killed her as long as it was done.
The Tin Woodman went in the next day, and Oz appeared as a fantastical and terrible beast. Oz told the Tin Woodman to help Dorothy kill the Witch.
When the Lion went in the next day, Oz was a Ball of Fire "so fierce and glowing he could scarcely bear to gaze upon it." He asked for courage and was told he needed to bring back proof that the Witch was dead.
Dorothy and her friends were confused what to do, but they realized they had to try and kill the Witch. The Lion said he would go but was too much of a coward to kill her. The Tin Woodman said he had no heart to harm even a Witch but he would go. The Scarecrow said he would go but was too much of a fool to help. Thus their plan to travel to the land of the Winkies where the Witch ruled was resolved, and they spent one more night in the Emerald City.
While The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is generally considered one of the greatest American children's novels, its writer, L. Frank Baum, is less apt to be considered a member of the illustrious pantheon of great American writers that includes Melville, Hawthorne, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Alcott. His writing was sometimes slapdash or careless. He did indeed arrive at writing after holding numerous other jobs and gaining and losing sums of money. He seemed to have a Horatio Alger type of life and is compared to Willy Loman by one Baum scholar, Roger Sale. He did not want to continue writing his Oz books but caved in to pressure to keep doing so; the 14th Oz book was published six months after his death in 1913. Nevertheless, Sale discusses the enchanting quality of American literature and how Baum achieved this in many passages from his book; he writes "when Baum is at his best he is both responding to the enchantment of America and being enchanting as well. His major way of achieving this is by describing the journey of a child to a magic country..."
The children in Baum's books, particularly Dorothy and another character named Tip, do not possess the practical magic of some of the adults in Baum's books, but must rely on themselves; by doing so, they demonstrate that "what is magical and most American about them is their spirit and not their knowledge" and "their immersion in the present and their unconcern about past and future is what makes them children, to be sure, but also what makes them very important."
Another element of enchantment in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is Baum's ability to move seamlessly from a non-magical world to a magical one. Dorothy does not think deeply about how a cyclone gently picked up her house and set it down in Oz. She does not question the fact that her new friends are inanimate objects and talking animals, or that Monkeys are in thrall to a Golden Cap, or that a Wizard inhabits a great city of emeralds. She does not really worry or believe that she cannot get out of the numerous dangerous situations she faces. Even when tasked to kill the Wicked Witch of the West, she agrees despite her lack of plan. She has moments of sadness, yes, but does not evince any serious interior turmoil. Everything that she sees she accepts for what it is.
Sale identifies the fact that Baum's writing lacks an atmospheric, faerie, or mysterious tone, which makes it unpopular with European audiences, who generally have found little enchanting about his works. Most fairy tales that rely on enchantment are aware that by locking the players into the moment of enchantment, they are implying that there will be a time in the future when it is broken. Baum is not like this, however, for "the present tense into which he seeks to lock us is neither as withdrawn from the ordinary world nor as powerful." The lack of a strong narrative sense also contributes to Baum's success in creating enchanting stories, for episodes in the Oz stories come one after the other, are complete in themselves, and are only held together by Dorothy's "tone and attitude which allow every action to be enjoyed for itself and not for what it allows one to go to from or afterwards."
Sale's analysis of Baum's achievements as a writer also addresses Baum's intended aim in writing his children's books: to offer American fairy tales that were suited to that country. Baum's children were not endowed with special powers bestowed upon by royalty or victims of monsters; they were "naturally adequate", industrious, and self-sufficient. While a lot of his works were heavily improvised, he did indeed endow many of them with "pointed morals of a cheerful, incurious, know-nothing, populist sort." He was interested in his audience but did not discipline himself very well. He was restless and often careless. However, what Sale concludes as one of Baum's crowning achievements is "his fundamental respect for the children who were his central figures and his audience" which had eluded many other writers for children.