I'm a purist in such matters, so whenever I think of Oz, it's the original Oz from L. Frank Baum's novels. (He wrote 14 all-together.) The 1939 movie is brilliant and deservedly considered a classic, but it's Baum's fairy-land that represents the real Oz in my mind.
And whenever I think of Oz, I think of the 12th book in the series--1918's The Tin Woodsman of Oz. Because if you had a contest to identify the oddest plot in the history of children's literature, this book would definitely be in the running for first prize.
To set all this up, a little background information is required. Also, I'm going to have to pretty much spoil the book's ending to discuss it properly. You can read the book HERE if it's new to you.
Baum was a wonderful writer, with a straightforward prose style that just seemed to make the magical lands he wrote about all the more magical. He wrote a number of non-Oz books (The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus from 1902 being one of my favorites), but these never sold as well as the Oz series. So, just as Arthur Conan Doyle was stuck with Sherlock Holmes, Baum was stuck with Oz.
I don't think Baum was as annoyed by this situation as was Doyle. If he had an idea for a plot or a character that he had wanted to use in a non-Oz book, well, by golly, it wasn't that hard to make it fit into Oz itself instead.
Michael O. Riley, in his book Oz and Beyond: The Fantasy World of L. Frank Baum, writes "...Baum now had no other outlet than the Oz series for his imaginative countries, and the fact that he funneled all his creative energies into Oz may be an indication that he had become reconciled to his readers' preferences for Oz stories above his other types of fantasies."
The result of this was Oz becoming more inherently magical and more bizarre than it had been in the original 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. To quote Riley once more: "In the first six books, Glinda is the principal source of good magic in Oz, and her magic is limited. In the last eight books, magic workers, magic implements, and the use of magic increase enormously."
It's this increase in magic and in the increasingly bizarre internal "logic" of Oz that made the plot of The Tin Woodsman possible. Now follow along closely, because this gets a tad bit convoluted:
In Tin Woodsman, he's reminded that he never went to find his old girlfriend even after he got a heart. So, along with the Scarecrow and a kid named Woot the Wanderer, he sets off to find her and propose.
But this is okay, since each adventure is well-constructed, with the heroes coming up with clever solutions to extract themselves from trouble.
Finally, they stumble across a Tin Soldier. And, yes, the Soldier had fallen in love with the same girl, had his sword hexed by the Witch and had his body gradually replaced by tin through exactly the same circumstances.
That's bizarre enough, but things really get weird when they visit the tinsmith. He's still got some of their body parts stored away, including the Woodsman's original head. And nothing ever dies in Oz, so the Woodsman has an awkward conversation with his "meat" head.
The following conversation ensues: