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Aunt Em

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"When Aunt Em first came to Kansas, to live there with Henry, she was a young, pretty wife. But the hot Kansas sun and dry wind had changed her, too. It had taken the sparkle from her once deep blue eyes and left them a sober gray. It had even taken the red from her once soft cheeks and lips, and they were gray also. She was thin, gaunt and colorless, and never smiled or laughed now..."
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)
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Aunt Em
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Profile
Species Human
Origin Kansas
Residence Emerald City
First Appearance The Wonderful Wizard of Oz


"When Dorothy, who was an orphan, first came to her, Aunt Em had been so startled by the child's laughter that she would scream and press her hand upon her heart whenever Dorothy's merry voice reached her ears. And she still looked at the little girl with great wonder; as to how she could find anything to laugh at..."
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)
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"Oh Aunt Em, I'm so glad to be at home again!" By Artist Charles Santore.

Aunt Em or Auntie Em, (real name Emily Gale) is a fictional character invented by L. Frank Baum. She is introduced in Baum's first Oz book titled The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, published in 1900. She is the Aunt of Dorothy Gale and wife of Uncle Henry.

"Aunt Em had just come out of the house to water the cabbages when she looked up and saw Dorothy running toward her. “My darling child!” she cried, folding the little girl in her arms and covering her face with kisses. “Where in the world did you come from?” “From the Land of Oz,” said Dorothy gravely. “And here is Toto, too. And oh, Aunt Em! I’m so glad to be at home again! "
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)

In Baum's later Oz books, she along with Dorothy, Toto and Uncle Henry eventually moved away from Kansas to live happily ever after in the magical Land of Oz with the child Queen of Oz, named Princess Ozma. Ozma is Dorothy's best friend in Oz and after learning that her companion's Uncle and Aunt were facing foreclosure on the farm and possible homelessness, she decided to allow Dorothy (whom she crowned as a official Princess of Oz) to bring Henry and Emily to Oz permanently, believing it would be for the better.

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Aunt Em comes to Oz with Uncle Henry to live in Oz forever.

Lifestyle & Personality

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Aunt Em by John R. Neill

Unlike the classic MGM film of 1939, in Baum's original book she is much more poor and unhappy. Baum states that Emily Gale is a hardworking and submissive wife living in her early-mid 50's on a poverty stricken farm on the sun-baked Kansas prairies in circa 1899-1900.

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Aunt Em with Dorothy and Toto the Kansas Farm.

In Baum's Oz books, Aunt Em is not a very affectionate Aunt but does love her niece Dorothy very much despite not having much in common with the child who is described as a optimistic dreamer with a merry laugh. Aunt Em never laughs, because she does not know how, as Baum states that Aunt Em has spent most of her life with her husband Henry and has been working on farms on the country side for decades. And as a result she was "sucked dry" by her bleak surroundings. Aunt Em is also a strict woman, who believes work before play and has no children of her own and presumably never will. In a sense, she views Dorothy as her daughter even though the book never clarifies if Dorothy is blood related or adopted. Or was sent to the farm to be a farmhand to help. In Kansas, Uncle Henry works all day on his crops for they can grow, Dorothy spends her time playing with Toto. And Aunt Em spends most of her long days washing dishes or watering the cabbage outside the small shack of a house. Unlike the movie, they all live in a one room home that was once painted white but the hot Kansas sun had deteriorated and chipped most of the paint away. Inside the house is only a wooden table and three chairs, a rusting looking cooking stove and the beds. Aunt Em shares a big bed with Uncle Henry in one corner of the room and Dorothy has a small bed for her and Toto in another corner of the room. In the middle of this room it is said that there is a trapped door that substitutes for a cellar, leading into a very dark hole in the ground for everyone to climb down into if a cyclone was to ever come near.

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It's a Twister! Illustration by Charles Santore.

(The Wonderful Wizard of Oz) She raised chickens for "nearly forty years." (The Emerald City of Oz)

In Baums' Oz Books

Unlike many versions of the story, in the original book Dorothy's Aunt Em does not seem to have a close relationship with her niece. She appears to be unable to find the joy in the small and simple things in life that Dorothy (being a child) still could. However, at the very end of the story, when Dorothy and Toto are sent home, Aunt Em is happy to see Dorothy has come back to her, indicating that she does have love for Dorothy after all.

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Aunt Em with Uncle Henry, Dorothy and little Toto in Kansas.

In Baums' Oz sequel Books...

Due to the damage the cyclone caused on the farm in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Aunt Em confesses to Dorothy the state of poverty that Henry was in and that their farm was facing imminent foreclosure. So Em, Henry and Dorothy all moved to the Land of Oz to escape the trouble in Kansas and live in the Royal Palace of Oz in the Emerald City. Princess Ozma gave them a suite of rooms and gave them both beautiful and handsome clothes to wear, instead of the old worn out farm clothes they we're so used to wearing all their lives. And Ozma also appointed Em "Royal Mender of the Stockings of the Ruler of Oz" in order to keep her busy since she no longer had to do any of the farm labor she did most of her life. However, both Henry and Emily later decided to live together in a little cottage on the outskirts of the Emerald City as the city's extravagance was a little too luxurious for their liking. (The Emerald City of Oz)

Book Appearances

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Aunt Em & Uncle Henry come to live in Oz in the Marvel Comic.

In Baum's Oz Books

Aunt Em has been featured slightly less than Uncle Henry in the Oz Books, despite having a bigger role in The Wizard of Oz 1939.

The Aunt Em of 1939 R.I.P

Auntem

Emily Gale

The actress who portrayed Aunt Em in the Judy Garland film was actress Clara Blandick.

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Clara Blandick as Auntie Em, and Judy Garland as her niece, Dorothy Gale in Kansas. MGM 1939.

Yet despite being the Aunt in one of the most famous and beloved films of all time, which was her most memorable role, Clara's health became very poor as she aged in time, and sadly committed Suicide later on in life by overdosing on sleeping pills. On a lighter note; Clara did state before her death, possibly in her Suicide letter, that taking her own life was what she truly wanted to put her physical suffering to an end. May her soul rest in peace.

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Clara Blandick as Auntie Em 1939

Baum's Inspiration

The general character of Aunt Em/Emily was named after Emily Ingerson "Auntie Em" Warn. Warn's niece was a cousin of L. Frank Baum.

Return to Oz

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Actress Piper Laurie as Aunt Em in Return to Oz.

In Walt Disney's 1985 cult classic film Return to Oz (film), Aunt Em is played by actress Piper Laurie. In this version Aunt Em is deeply concerned about her niece Dorothy (Fairuza Balk) who has not been able to sleep the whole night through since the cyclone hit the kansas farm and carried the old farmhouse away six months prior. Though Aunt Em loves her niece she worries about Dorothy's mental health as she seems to be unable to stop talking about her adventures in Oz which Aunt Em does not believe exist. As a result Aunt Em finally takes Dorothy to a clinic in Kansas in hopes to cure her from all her Oz delusions. Little does Aunt Em know is that Dorothy will soon return to Oz and have many adventures there once again.

Other Versions

In the VeggieTales episode "The Wonderful Wizard of Ha's", both Aunt Em and her husband Uncle Henry were substituted by a father (Dad Asparagus) to retell "The Prodigal Son", a biblical parable from the Gospel.

In Magician of Oz (2009), by James C. Wallace II, Aunt Em fulfills a request and hosts the Grand Potato Soup Luncheon (Chapter 22) at the Tin Palace of the Tin Woodman.

Actresses

The following actresses have portrayed Aunt Em on film:

  • Eugenie Besserer, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1910)
  • Mary Carr, Wizard of Oz (1925)
  • Clara Blandick, The Wizard of Oz (1939)
  • Margaret Hamilton, Journey Back to Oz (1974)
  • Theresa Merritt, The Wiz (1978)
  • Laurene Tuttle, Thanksgiving in the Land of Oz (1980)
  • Piper Laurie, Return to Oz (1985)
  • Lucie Arnaz, Wizard of Oz in Concert: Dreams Come True (1995)
  • Queen Latifah, The Muppets' Wizard of Oz (2005)
  • Amy Lyndon, Apocalypse Oz (2006)
  • Gwynyth Walsh, Tin Man (2007)

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