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"It's a twister! It's a twister! "
―Zeke (1939)
"Oh Henry! Henry! I can't find Dorothy! She's somewhere out in the storm! Dorothy, Dorothy..! "
Aunt Em (1939)
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"We must be up inside the cyclone! "
Dorothy Gale (1939)
"The sky had darkened, and from the far north they heard a low wail of the wind, and Uncle Henry and Dorothy could see where the long grass bowed in waves before the oncoming storm. There now came a sharp whistling in the air from the south, and as they turned their eyes that way they saw ripples in the grass coming from that direction also. Suddenly, Uncle Henry stood up. "There's a cyclone coming, Em," he called to his wife. "I'll go look after the stock." Then he ran towards the barn and sheds where the cows and horses were kept. Aunt Em immediately dropped her work and came to the door. One glance at the black clouds told her of the danger close at hand. "Quick, Dorothy!" she screamed. "Run for the cellar! "
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)
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The Kansas cyclone (1900)

"It really was no miracle what happened was just this: The wind began to switch, the house to pitch, and suddenly the hinges started to unhitch, just then the Witch! To satisfy an itch, went flying on her broomstick thumbing for a hitch! "
Dorothy Gale (1939)
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The Iconic Cyclone Scene 1939

A Tornado, (sometimes called a twister or cyclone) is a violent and deadly rotating column of powerful air that is in contact with both the clouds of the atmosphere and the surface of the earth, usually brought on by thunderstorms. It is a very large, massive and dangerously strong funnel that reaches from the sky and hundreds of miles down in length until it touches the ground. It moves very, very fast in an uncoordinated circular motion across the land. These types of storms are rather common in the main character's homeland known as Kansas. Because wind is invisible, it is hard to see a tornado unless it forms a condensation funnel made up of water droplets, dust, dirt and debris. Tornadoes are the most violent and fatal of all atmospheric storms.

"There was no garret at all, and no cellar--except a small hole, dug in the ground, called a cyclone cellar, where the family could go in case one of those great whirlwinds arose, mighty enough to crush any building in its path. It was reached by a trap door in the middle of the floor, from which a ladder led down into the small, dark hole. "
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)
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The Kansas twister hits the farmlands!

In L. Frank Baum's classic story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, in circa 1899-1900, one of these terrifying whirlwinds was responsible for transporting a little orphan girl named Dorothy Gale, and her pet dog, Toto, to the undiscovered magical Land of Oz while aloft in their farmhouse.

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Into the Storm...

"A strange thing then happened. The house whirled around two or three times and rose slowly through the air. Dorothy felt as if she were going up in a balloon. The north and south winds met where the house stood, and made it the exact center of the cyclone. In the middle of a cyclone the air is generally still, but the great pressure of the wind on every side of the house raised it up higher and higher, until it was at the very top of the cyclone; and there it remained and was carried miles and miles away as easily as you could carry a feather. It was very dark, and the wind howled horribly, but Dorothy found she was riding quite easily. After the first few whirls around, and one other time when the house tipped badly, she felt as if she were being rocked gently, like a baby in a cradle..."
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)
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There's a cyclone coming, Em, I'll go look after the stock." By Charles Santore.

When the tornado deposited the house it fell on top of the Wicked Witch of the East, killing her. She had ruled the eastern quadrant of Oz known as the Munchkin Country. But when the house killed her, the native Ozians of the east called the Munchkins where set free from her bondage. And as a thank you, they and their close friend the Good Witch of the North, gave Dorothy the charmed Silver Shoes that the Witch had been wearing when she died and turned to dust.

Only one of these great storms appears in the story. It is never explained why it chose to pick up the Kansas farmhouse and carry it over the rainbow and all the way into the other dimension known as Oz--it just happens.

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Swept Away!

When Dorothy and Toto were picked up in their house by the tornado without demolition after some fright and Toto fell out of the open trap door because the swaying of the house. But the strong pressure of the air kept him from falling and he was rescued by Dorothy who caught him by the ear and pulled him back into the room. After that she went to sleep on her bed with him at her side.

  • Since Toto was levitating in mid air, he was floating by the same type of power that was holding up the farmhouse. Both were subject to the same forces of gravitation that gave them identical motions. Dorothy most likely floated around inside the farmhouse as if she was an astronaut in outer space floating with no gravity, becoming weightless. Although Baum does not specifically say that this happened to her, realistically speaking, it is very possible it did occur when the cyclone transports her, Toto, and the house to Oz if such a peculiar thing were to happen.

1939 Film

"We must be up inside the cyclone! "
Dorothy Gale (1939)

It is most notably remembered from being in the classic film of 1939 by MGM.


Tornado of 1939

Failing to get home in time after running away, Dorothy was left behind and unable to get safely inside the storm cellar with her relatives when the tornado hit. She rushed into her house to take cover but the strong winds caused her bedroom window to blow inwards and the frame hit her on the head, causing her to collapse onto her bed with Toto. In her dream, the house was then picked up by the tornado without demolition and was carried over the Rainbow to the magical Land of Oz. During the trip, she saw various animals and people also caught in the storm go flying past her window including Miss Gulch, who made a hideous transformation into the Wicked Witch.

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Inside the cyclone 1939

The person who made the tornado in the 1939 film was a man named Arnold “Buddy” Gillespie.

  • From 1936 to 1962 Gillespie served as the head of special effects at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer on more than 180 feature films. The "tornado" was a thirty-five foot long muslin stocking, photographed with miniatures of a Kansas farm and fields. Gillespie rigged up a gantry crane, rotated by a motor, that traveled the length of the sound stage. The base of the tornado was fastened to a car below the stage, where the crew moved it along a track. The farmhouse, fence, barn, and prairie all were done in miniature, and clouds were painted on glass. Wind machines and dust added the final touch. They filmed the tornado sweeping across the prairie from several angles, at distances, coming close to the camera and going away from it.

This scene was narrated by Debra Winger in the 1995 television stage performance which was a benefit for the Children's Defense Fund. She also performed as the Wicked Witch in it.

Return to Oz 1985

"Billina! This is the old house, the one the tornado blew away. This is how me and Toto got to Oz the first time... "
Return to Oz (1985)

Dorothy discovers the old farm house in Return to Oz. 1985

In Walt Disney's 1985 cult classic film Return to Oz, no tornado appears. But it is indeed refered to several times and even shows the old farmhouse it carried off and dropped in an apocalyptic Munchkinland.

The Wiz 1974-1978

In the musical version the tornado was a group of dancers dressed in black fabric waving around Dorothy's house.

In the film production, it appears as a blizzard on a street in New York City, and Dorothy gets caught in it when she runs after Toto who had escaped out an open door.

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The Wiz Snow Tornado

Lost in Oz

The same tornado that carried Dorothy to Oz has been bottled by Loreleidere and can be used as a weapon. Ultimately, Alexandra Wilder got ahold of it and used it on the witch, defeating her.



Kansas cyclone in InkHeart

In the 2008 film Inkheart, the tornado from The Wizard of Oz, is brought out of the book when the chapter The Cyclone is read aloud.


Dorothy's farmhouse in Inkheart.

Syfy Tinman

In Syfy's 2009 Tinman mini-series, D.G. is taken to Oz in a giant tornado.

Twister in Tinman

Oz the Great and Powerful

In Disney's 2014 semi-sequel to the MGM film, Oscar Diggs, a carnival magician, escapes from an angry strongman in his balloon which then got caught up in a tornado. At its eye, he experiences a strange magical effect where gravity ends and everything is suspended in mid air, and the balloon is then carried to Oz.


Tornado in Disney's Oz the Great and Powerful

Once Upon A Time 2014

In ABC's Once Upon A Time, Dorothy is brought to Oz in a tornado and she is then found by Glinda and Zelena aka the Wicked Witch of the West.


ABC's Once Upon A Time

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