The Wonderful Wizard of Oz consists of twenty-four chapters that tell the story of Dorothy’s arrival in Oz and her adventures in that magical country. An omniscient narrator tells the story in simple language. It begins on a Kansas farm where Dorothy, an orphan, lives in a one-room house with her grim, hardworking uncle and aunt. A tornado appears and Dorothy, her uncle, and aunt run for a cellar under the house. When Toto, Dorothy’s dog, jumps out of her arms, Dorothy runs to get the dog, and she and her pet are carried away by the winds. Dorothy falls asleep as the house whirls through the air.
When she awakens and goes outside her house, she finds she is in a strange and beautiful country inhabited by small, strangely dressed people known as the Munchkins. Dorothy’s house has fallen on the Wicked Witch of the East, ruler of the Munchkins. Dorothy is awarded the Witch’s silver shoes, which have some magical power unknown to the Munchkins or to the Good Witch of the North, who has come to meet Dorothy. The Good Witch tells Dorothy to go to the Emerald City, ruled by the Wizard of Oz, in the hope that the Wizard may be able to help the little girl return home.
On her way to the Wizard’s city, Dorothy acquires three unusual companions: a scarecrow who complains of having no brains, a woodman made entirely of tin who complains of having no heart, and a lion who complains of having no courage. Dorothy suggests to each of them that the accompany her to see if the Wizard can help them.
After a number of adventures, Dorothy, Toto, and the three odd friends reach the Emerald City, where all of the houses seem to be made of green marble and studded with emeralds. They make their requests of the wizard, who goes by the name of Oz. The wizard refuses to grant their requests until they kill the Wicked Witch of the West, who rules the western people known as the Winkies.
The adventurers travel to the west, and the Witch sends wolves, crows, bees, and her frightened Winkie subjects against them. Dorothy and her friends manage to defeat all of these adversaries, but the Witch finally uses a magic golden cap to send Winged Monkeys to destroy the Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow and carry Dorothy and the lion to the witch as slaves. After Dorothy becomes a servant in the witch’s castle, the witch manages to grab one of the little girl’s magic silver shoes. In anger, Dorothy throws water on the witch and, as it happens, this melts the old woman. The grateful Winkies then find and repair the Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow, and the lion is set free from his prison.
After using the witch’s magic golden cap to have the Winged Monkeys fly them back to the Emerald City, Dorothy and her friends discover that the magnificent wizard is only a former ventriloquist and circus balloonist who happened to land in Oz. However, after some thought, he is able to meet the requests of Dorothy’s companions by giving the Scarecrow brains made of bran and pins, the Tin Woodman a silk heart stuffed with sawdust, and the lion a drink claimed to give courage. After three days, the wizard offers to fly Dorothy back to Kansas with him in his old balloon. Unfortunately, Toto jumps after a kitten at the last moment, Dorothy runs after him, and the wizard and his balloon float away without her.
Dorothy calls upon the Winged Monkeys, but they are unable to cross the desert that surrounds Oz. Therefore, Dorothy and her friends leave Oz to travel to the southern country of the Quadlings, where Glinda the Good Witch of the South rules, in the hope that Glinda can help Dorothy return home. After still more adventures, they reach Glinda, who tells Dorothy, in exchange for the golden cap, that the silver shoes will carry her anywhere she wishes to go if she only knocks the heels together three times. Dorothy does so and is flown back to Kansas, losing the silver shoes over the desert on the way.