- "Uncle Henry never laughed. He worked very hard from early morning till late night and did not know what joy was. He was gray too, from his long beard to his rough boots, and he looked stern and solemn, and rarely spoke."
- ―The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)
Uncle Henry is a fictional character invented by L. Frank Baum. He is introduced in Baum's first Oz book titled The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, published in 1900. Henry is the old uncle of Dorothy Gale and the hardworking husband of Aunt Em. He lived with his wife and niece on a small, isolated farm in circa 1899-1900 Kansas. In Baum's later Oz books, when the lovely child Queen of Oz Princess Ozma became Dorothy's best friend and crowned her as an official Princess of Oz, Henry and Em eventually abandoned their farm forever and moved to the magical Land of Oz to escape all the troubles of our world and live happily ever after.
Personality and Lifestyle
- "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 coming 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 sheds where the cows and horses were kept. Aunt Em dropped her work and came to the door. One glance told her of the danger close at hand. "Quick, Dorothy!" she screamed. "Run for the cellar! "
- ―The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)
Uncle Henry is portrayed as a very poor and even depressed, struggling farmer. Living on an isolated prairie, the man is one who only knows the simple, peaceful ways of farm-life. He has no children of his own and presumably never will. In a sense, he views his niece, Dorothy, as his daughter, even though the book, nor its sequels, ever clarify if she is blood related, adopted or was simply sent to the farm to be a farmhand to help the adults, who eventually grew very fond of her.
An average day for Uncle Henry is waking up at dawn to the sound of a rooster crowing. He works hard all day long until supper time at dusk. If not attending to the barn and sheds were his horses are kept, or milking the cows, Henry is busy growing crops on the prairies to bring prosperity to his small farm to make ends meet, putting food on the table for his family. Dorothy, being a mere child spends much of her time playing with her pet dog, Toto, or helping Aunt Em around the house. She pitches in on the daily chores, such as washing the dishes, watering the cabbages or looking after the chickens and their coops.
Unlike the 1939 movie, in the original book, Baum says they live in a one room home, much like a shack. The home was once painted white, but the hot Kansas sun chipped most of the paint away, ultimately leaving it just as dull and gray as everything else around. Inside the house is only a wooden table with three or four chairs, a rusted cooking stove and the beds. Uncle Henry and Aunt Em share a big bed in one corner of the room, and Dorothy has a small bed in the other corner. In the middle is a trap door that substitutes for a cellar, leading straight down into a very dark hole in the ground for everyone to climb into and seek shelter if a cyclone was to strike near or at the farm.
- "Dorothy's Uncle Henry lived in a farm on the prairies of Kansas. It was not a big farm, nor a very good one, because sometimes the rain did not come when the crops needed it, and then everything withered and dried up. Once a cyclone had hit and carried away Uncle Henry's old farmhouse, so that he was obliged to build another; and as he was a poor man he had to mortgage his farm to get the money to pay for the new house. Then his health became bad and he was too feeble to work. The doctor ordered him to take a sea voyage and he went to Australia and took his niece, Dorothy, with him. That cost a lot of money, too. Uncle Henry grew poorer every year, and the crops raised on the farm only bought food for the family. Therefore the mortgage could not be paid. At last the banker who had loaned him the money said that if he did not pay on a certain day, his farm would be taken away from him. "
- ―The Emerald City of Oz (1910)
Due to the cyclone carrying away the old farmhouse in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Henry mortgaged his farm in order to rebuild a new one. This crisis, combined with the stress of Dorothy's prolonged disappearance and sudden reappearance, took a toll on his health, and his doctor ordered him to take a vacation from all the labor. He took Dorothy with him on an ocean voyage to Australia, where he had cousins, but during this trip Dorothy was lost again during a storm at sea, and for several weeks Henry believed she had drowned. She suddenly returned again, courtesy of the Nome King's Magic Belt (Ozma of Oz).
On their return to America, Henry visited Bill Hugson, a relative of Em's, while Dorothy stayed with friends in San Francisco. While traveling to meet him, she was lost in an earthquake and thought to be dead. Henry traveled back to Kansas alone, where she later reappeared after having enjoyed another adventure to the Land of Oz. (Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz)
Eventually, the cost of the cyclone damage and the travel expenses added up. Henry and Em confessed to Dorothy the extent of their financial problems, and revealed to her that their farm was on the verge of foreclosure. Dorothy solved this problem for them by bringing them to live with her in the Emerald City, as permanent guests of Princess Ozma. They were given a suite of rooms in the Royal Palace of Oz and Henry was given the job of "Keeper of the Jewels" in Ozma's treasure hoard for the purpose of keeping him occupied. 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)
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (first appearance)
- Ozma of Oz
- Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz
- The Emerald City of Oz
- The Patchwork Girl of Oz
- The Scarecrow of Oz
- The Tin Woodman of Oz (mentioned)
- The Magic of Oz
- Glinda of Oz
- The Royal Book of Oz (brief mention)
- Grampa in Oz (mentioned)
- The Scalawagons of Oz
The Wizard of Oz
Return to Oz
In Walt Disney's 1985 cult classic film Return to Oz, Uncle Henry is played by Matt Clark. In this version, the story shows a realistic look at the aftermath of the cyclone. Uncle Henry had to build a whole new home after the storm hit the Kansas farm and carried the old farmhouse away six months prior. We even learn that he had broke his leg during the storm. By the end of the film, the house is finally finished and even nicer than the one that had been swept away to Oz.
Frank Alexander portrayed him as a villain in Larry Semon's 1925 Wizard of Oz film.
This character is totally absent in The Wizard of Oz in Concert: Dreams Come True.
In the VeggieTales episode "The Wonderful Wizard of Ha's", both Uncle Henry and his wife Aunt Em were substituted by a father (Dad Asparagus) to retell "The Prodigal Son", a biblical parable from the Gospel.
In the American television program Lost, there is a character named Benjamin Linus who told survivors his name was Henry Gale and claimed to have arrived on the island via hot air balloon.
He is voiced by Stephen Root in "Tom and Jerry and the Wizard of Oz".