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A little Kansas girl named Ellie Smith and her faithful dog Totoshka find themselves in Magic Land. In order to get home, Ellie must make a long journey through the magical country. And she must assist three beings in the granting of their fondest wishes. She meets Strasheela the living scarecrow, then the Iron Woodman and the Cowardly Lion, and the four of them continue on to the Emerald City to see the mighty wizard Goodwin the Great and Terrible, in order to ask him to grant those fondest wishes. But after a multitude of adventures, they unmask Goodwin, and he turns out to be a perfectly ordinary balloonist from Kansas, blown there long ago by a windstorm. In spite of that, he does fulfill the wishes of all three of Ellie's friends, and Ellie herself returns home with the help of a pair of Silver Shoes.
Now if this sounds familiar, it should since this was based on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
In the 1930's, Russian author Alexander Volkov looking for an English book to translate into Russian as a hobby. He chose L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as his book. He brought out his rather liberal translation of the story in 1939 (the same year MGM released their film). He called it The Wizard of the Emerald City, and the country where the story is set became, not Oz, but Magic Land.
The book was revised in 1959, with illustrations by Leonid Vladimirsky after three years The Wonderful Wizard of Oz went public domain. It was later adapted into a stop motion series of shorts in the 1970s.
What is Volkov's Magic Land like? And how does it differ from Oz?
One of the main differences the reader will find is in the names of the characters. Baum's Dorothy Gale has become Ellie Smith and the Wizard is now James Goodwin. Of the heroine's three friends, the Cowardly Lion is much the same, but the Scarecrow is called Strasheela (derived from a Russian word meaning "terrifying"), and the Tin Woodman is now the IRON Woodman. It's because tin doesn't rust. All four of the witches, good and bad, have new names: Villina (Baum's Good Witch of the North), Gingema (Wicked Witch of the East), Bastinda (Wicked Witch of the West), and Stella (Baum's Glinda, Good Witch of the South). And there's also an Ogre who captures Ellie early on and is about to devour her when the Woodman makes quick work of the creature with his trusty ax!
Yet many of Baum's features survive intact. The young heroine, as always, comes from Kansas. Readers will find the familiar Yellow Brick Road leading to the same fabulous Emerald City. And we still have the Munchkins who live in Blue Land and the Quadlings of Rose Land. The Winkies, however, live in VIOLET Land, while Yellow Land, to the north, is seldom mentioned and never described. In Volkov and his successors, Blue Land lies to the west, and Violet Land to the east. (Rose Land is still in the south.) The Munchkins are renowned for their munching, the Winkies are skilled craftsmen, and the Quadlings come up with plenty of cock-and-bull stories! But in all its essentials, Volkov's treatment of the opening story is the same tale that English-speaking readers (and filmgoers) have loved for generations.
Tales of the Magic Land books are:
- The Wizard of the Emerald City (1939, revised in 1959)
- Urfin Jus and his Wooden Soldiers (1963)
- The Seven Underground Kings (1964 )
- The Fiery God of the Marrans (1968)
- The Yellow Fog (1970)
- The Mystery of the Deserted Castle (1975)
The books in the series have been translated into English (or retranslated, in the case of the first book) by Peter L. Blystone, and were published by Red Branch Press in three volumes (two books a volume) in 1991, 1993, and 2007.
In Germany, one author has written his own set of sequels to Volkov's books.
The Wizard of the City of Emeralds, a 1974 Russian television series, brought the first three Volkov books alive with stop-motion animation. Elli and Totoshka are carried the magic land, meet their three friends and the wizard Goodwin, and destroy the witch Bastinda. Later, they battle Urfin Jus’s wooden army, then defeat his schemes to manipulate the seven underground kings.
Sergei Sukhinov wrote his own series of sequels to The Wizard of the Emerald City. Using The Wizard of the Emerald City as a base, he disregarded Volkov's sequels and took his own books in a different direction. Sergei's books be has been liken as Wizard of Oz meets Tolkien. In this series of ten books, Ellie and her friends fight the forces of an evil warlock named Pakir in an epic struggle between Good and Evil. It introduces Corina, a stepdaughter of Gingema, The Wicked Witch of the East.
Sukhinov also wrote series of books called Tales of the Emerald City, which covers the childhoods of many of the characters in The Emerald City series and covers details not covered in other series.
- Goodwin the Great and Terrible (2001): Prequel to the The Emerald City books. Takes place before The Wizard of the City of Emeralds.
The Emerald City series
- Gingema's Daughter (1997)
- The Fairy of the Emerald City (1997)
- The Sorceress Villina's Secret (1997)
- The Sorcerer's Sword (1998)
- The Eternally Youthful Stella (1998)
- Parcelus the Alchemist (1999)
- Battle in the Underground Kingdom (2000)
- King Midgety (2002)
- The Sorcerer of Alantis (2002)
- Knights of Light and Darkness (2004)
Tales of the Emerald City (2000)
- Corina the Lazy Enchantress
- Corina and the Ogre
- The Sorceress Villina's Ward
- The Little Dragon
- The Crystal Island
- Corina and the Magic Rhino
- Three in the Enchanted Forest
- The Black Fog
- Master of the Winged Monkeys
Alexander Volkov's Magic Land books has examples of:
- Adaptation Displacement: Volkov's Magic Land books are more well known Eastern bloc countries than Baum's Oz books, especially in East Germany, Syria, and China.
- Alien Invasion: The Mystery of the Deserted Castle has a very Sci Fi alien invasion of the Magic Land by the means of a sleeper ship and an additional enslaved alien race. Now what are the chances of aliens landing right in the Magic Land? One can just assume that it also acts as a Weirdness Magnet for the entire planet. This would've been a definite Jumping the Shark moment for the series if the book wasn't such welcome change after a very slow-paced The Yellow Fog.
- Actually, it is stated that they looked for a land away from military bases - they estimated that should they land in an industrialized area, it will be a very Easily-Thwarted Alien Invasion. The Magic Land fit the requirements, and was also good looking.
- Alternate Continuity
- Beauty Equals Goodness: The personality of a creature animated by the Powder of Life is defined by his face. Averted with Tilly Willy (possibly due to an extensive education at the assembly stage).
- Body Paint: The wooden soldiers are mocked because they are naked. Followed by Urfin ordering to bring a few buckets of paint.
- Breakout Villain / Ensemble Darkhorse: Urfin Jus
- Carnivore Confusion: Well, there is certainly no hunting, except for one savage tribe hunting young ducks (it's possible the cattle aren't sentient or speaking), and the predators have to survive on plants a couple of times (due to wars or disasters). They don't like it, but manage.
- Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: Magic Land has a different coloured lands like Oz but the Volkov changes some of the colours. He changes the Winkie land from yellow to violet. The northern quadrant is now yellow.
- Composite Character: Ellie's uncle Charlie Black, who is a combination of Baum's Cap'n Bill and Johnny Dooit.
- Derivative Differentiation: It started off as a loose translation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, but later books in the series are original works that use said translation as a basis.
- Dirty Coward: recurring villain Ruf Bilan
- Disney Villain Death: Arachna in The Yellow Fog.
- Drugs Are Bad: The negative characters are explicitly shown to use alcohol in considerable qualities. It is mentioned a few times that some of them obtained wine by completely legal means, but the good guys aren't drinking it much. Of course, it may have something to do with them being either children or incapable of eating.
- Evil Sorceress: Arachna and the Wicked Witches
- Fan Sequel: Volkov's other Magic Land books can be considered sequels to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz but he took the books in a different direction from Baum. Plus, he borrows certain ideas and characters from the Baum books like the Powder of Life.
- Fantastic Drug: In the fourth book, Urfin has a problem with his soldiers never staying awake. The owl recommends some nuts which cause insomnia. He makes a drink from it. It works, except that that there are unpleasant withdrawal simptoms. And yet, for some reason, the habit spreads (a counter is found later).
- Fog of Doom: The titular curse in The Yellow Fog.
- Foreshadowing: Ramina (the queen of the field mice) tells Ellie towards the end of The Seven Underground Kings about her feeling that Ellie will never return to the Magic Land ever again. The next book introduces us to a Time Skip and Ellie's Suspiciously Similar Substitute.
- Gentle Giant: Gurrikap from The Yellow Fog. Actual Pacifist, too. Tilli-Willi as well, when not in battle.
- God Guise: Urfin Jus in The Fiery God of the Marrans.
- Good Feels Good: In the fourth book, the wooden soldiers run away rather than become evil again.
- Urfin feels much better after his reformation.
- Heel Face Turn: Urfin Jus in the fifth book.
- Humongous Mecha: Tilly Willy from The Yellow Fog. Features an interesting subversion, because Tilly Willy, while definitely created as a mecha, ends up sentient and completely autonomous like much of the Magic Land's other denizens. He still has backup manual controls.
- The Kingdom: The Magic Land or it's other name, Goodvinia
- This Is Sparta: Dr. Robil from The Seven Underground Kings always talks like this
- Kick the Dog: Arachna ends her first failed attempt to conquer the Magic Land with angrily smashing a cat.
- Magical Land
- Magnificent Bastard: Urfin Jus
- Meaningful Name
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Arachna from The Yellow Fog
- Older Than They Think: Readers in the USSR at the time didn't know their beloved fairy tale was a product of copyright infringement, even though some editions printed have credited the original.
- One Steve Limit: averted with Ann and Annie.
- Pet the Dog: the only people that Arachna is genuinly good to are her loyal servants Gnomes.
- Popcultural Osmosis
- Population Control: The giant eagle tribe can only contain a hundred birds.
- Pragmatic Villain: Arachna considers using locusts to make the Magic Land submit, but decides she can't tax people whose cattle has starved to death.
- Proud Warrior Race: The Marrans.
- Sequel Hook: two particular parts of Urfin Jus and his Wooden Soldiers are these for the following book, The Seven Underground Kings:
- Ellie and Charlie discover the kings' city while travelling through an underground passage, but it has no influence on the plot.
- When Ruf Bilan runs away after Urfin's defeat, he hides underground. Ellie and cohorts decide to leave him alone. In The Seven Underground Kings, Bilan is the one who accidentally sets off the plot of the book.
- Some Call Me... Tim: The second book has a long dispute between Urfin and his owl about what the owl should be called. Urfin insists on Guam, the owl demands that the full name be used - Guamokolatokint. They compromise on Guamoko.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: from the fourth book onwards, Ellie's place as the main character is taken by her little sister Annie (born during the ten years-long Time Skip) and Toto is replaced by his grandson Arto.
- Talking Animal: Totoshka, unlike his Oz counterpart speaks a lot more in Magic Land.
- Time Skip: ten years pass between The Seven Underground Kings and The Fiery God of the Marrans.
- Translation Correction: Tin doesn't rust, so in the Russian version, the Tin Man is made of iron (and his name is changed to reflect that.
- Try to Fit That on A Business Card: Urfin tried a 14 words, 104 letters long title. After his ministers provided a Crowning Moment of Funny when attempting to repeat it, the title was shortened to 10 words, 61 letters.
- Wicked Witch: Bastinda (Witch of the West), Gingema (her promptly-squished equivalent of the East)
- World Building
- You Fail Physics Forever: Tilly Willy designs a perpetual motion machine.