Dorothy Gale is a little girl who lives on a Kansas farm with her Uncle Henry and Aunt Em and her little dog Toto. On her way inside one day, a tornado appears and Dorothy is unable to reach the storm cellar in time and takes shelter with Toto in the farmhouse. It's caught up in the tornado and is deposited in a grassy field in the country of the Munchkins and kills the Wicked Witch of the East, who'd established a reign of terror over the Munchkins.
The Witch of the North comes with the Munchkins to greet Dorothy and gives her the Silver Shoes the Wicked Witch of the East had been wearing when she was killed (her death explained in The Tin Woodman of Oz as due to her being old and dried up before Oz became a fairyland). In order to return to Kansas, the Good Witch of the North recommends, "Let Dorothy go to the City of Emeralds" and ask the Wizard of Oz to help her. The Good Witch of the North also kisses Dorothy on the forehead, stating that no one will harm a person who has been kissed by her. On her way down the Yellow Brick Road, Dorothy liberates the Scarecrow from the pole he's hanging on, restores the mobility of the Tin Woodman, and encourages the Cowardly Lion to journey with her and Toto to the Emerald City. The Scarecrow wants to get a brain, the Tin Woodman a heart, and the Cowardly Lion courage, and they're convinced by Dorothy that the Wizard can help them too.
When they arrive at the Emerald City, the companions must wear special spectacles to keep the brilliance of the Emerald City from blinding them; wearing them, everything appears in different shades of green. They are told that the Wizard will only see one of them a day, and that the guard himself has never seen him! And to Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion, the Wizard appears each time as someone or something different. To Dorothy, the Wizard is a giant head; the Scarecrow sees a beautiful woman; the Tin Woodman sees a ravenous beast; the Cowardly Lion sees a ball of fire. The Wizard agrees to help each of them, but his help is conditional; one of them must kill the Wicked Witch of the West, who rules over the Winkie Country.
Once Dorothy, Toto, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion arrive in the Winkie Country, the Wicked Witch sends wolves, crows, bees, and then her Winkie soldiers to attack them, but each threat is dealt with. Then using the power of the Golden Cap, she summons the Winged Monkeys to destroy the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman but bring her Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion alive. The Winged Monkeys can't attack Dorothy anyway due to the Witch of the North's kiss, so they succeed in their mission -- the final one the Wicked Witch can command due to the Cap's enchantment.
Dorothy is forced to work as a maid to the Wicked Witch while the Lion is pressed into service to pull her chariot. But the Lion refuses to do so because Dorothy sneaks him food every night. Dorothy is left unharmed also because she wears the Silver Shoes that have undefined magic powers. When the Wicked Witch gains one of the shoes by trickery, Dorothy in anger grabs a bucket of water and throws it on the Wicked Witch, who begins to melt. The Winkies rejoice at being freed of her tyranny, and they help to reassemble the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman. So enamored are the Winkies of the Tin Woodman that they ask him to become their ruler, which he agrees to after helping Dorothy return to Kansas.
The long walk from the Wicked Witch's former palace to the Emerald City is alleviated by Dorothy's use of the Golden Cap, which summons the Winged Monkeys to carry her and her companions to the Emerald City. The King of the Monkeys relates how he and his mischievous people were forced to choose between submission or annihilation; through the Cap, they obeyed first Quelala, then the Wicked Witch, and now Dorothy herself.
When they meet the Wizard of Oz again, he tries to put off Dorothy and her friends and only of threat of seeing the Winged Monkeys again (who under the Wicked Witch's command drove him from the Winkie Country in the first place). Toto discovered a curtained side room away from the Wizard's throne, pulls the curtain back, and reveals a wizened old man who had journeyed here himself long ago. He once rose high in a balloon and then landed in Oz; when the people saw the letters "OZ" on the balloon (in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, we find they're his initials), they assumed he was their ruler and began building the Emerald City. Finding himself in a country of witches, Oz (for the purposes of this article, that will be the false Wizard's name) soon saw the need to maintain anonymity -- hence his appearances to Dorothy and the others, which are revealed as clever (for the dawn of the 20th century) special effects.
Oz tries to persuade the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion that what they lack are not brains or a heart or courage, but faith in themselves. But he still agrees to meet each of them and give them (without their knowledge) a placebo that brings out the qualities they had all along. In order to help Dorothy and Toto get home, Oz realizes that he'll have to take them home with him in the same hot air balloon he arrived in. Revealing himself to the people of the Emerald City one last time, Oz appoints the Scarecrow, by virtue of his brains, to rule in his stead. Just as they're rising in the air, however, Toto leaps from the basket after a cat and Dorothy goes after him, leaving the Wizard to rise and float away.
Dorothy turns to the Winged Monkeys to carry her and Toto home, but they cannot cross the desert surrounding Oz. The citizens of the Emerald City advise that Glinda, the Good Witch of the South, may be able to send Dorothy and Toto home. They, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion journey to Glinda's palace in the Quadling Country. Together they escape the Fighting Trees, dodge the Hammerheads, and tread carefully through the China Country. The Cowardly Lion kills a giant spider that's terrorizing the animals in a forest, and he agrees to return there to rule them and Dorothy returns to Kansas.
At Glinda's palace, the travellers are greeted warmly and it's revealed by Glinda that Dorothy had the power to go home all along. The Silver Shoes she wears can take her anywhere she wishes to go. She tearfully embraces her friends, who Glinda will use the Golden Cap to return to their respective sovereignties -- the Scarecrow to the Emerald City, the Tin Woodman to the Winkie Country, and the Cowardly Lion to the forest. Then she'll give it to the king of the Winged Monkeys, so they'll never be under its spell again. And Dorothy and Toto return to Kansas and a joyful family reunion.
Other versions of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Since the copyright expired in 1956, some publishers have produced the book under other titles such as The Wizard of Oz (e.g. Puffin Classics, ISBN 0-14-035001-2).