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Aunt Em

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"When Aunt Em came there to live she was a young, pretty wife. But the hot Kansas sun and wind had changed her, too. They had taken the sparkle from her blue eyes and left them a sober gray; they had taken the red rogue from her cheeks and lips, and they were gray also. She was thin and gaunt, 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 wonder that she could find anything to laugh at."
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)
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Aunt Em, Dorothy and Toto in Kansas by Charles Santore.

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

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 Dorothys' best friend in Oz and after learning that Dorothys' Uncle and Aunt were facing homelessness, she decided to allow Dorothy whom she crowned as a official Princess of Oz to bring Henry and Emily to Oz, 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

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 50's/late 60's on a rather poor farm on the 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. 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. When she first came to Kansas to become a housewife and homemaker, she was said to be a very young, pretty wife. But the hot Kansas sun and dusty dry winds took the sparkle from her eyes and the red from her cheeks and lips, leaving them as gray as the surrounding prairie and farm land. Aunt Em is a strict woman, who believes work before play and has no children of her own and 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.

"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 Baums' Oz sequels...

After confessing to Dorothy the state of poverty that Henry was in and that their farm was facing imminent foreclosure, Em, Henry and Dorothy all moved to the Land of Oz to escape the trouble in Kansas and live 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. (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

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.

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.

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.

Auntem

Emily Gale

Actresses

The following actresses have portrayed Aunt Em on film:

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