- "When Aunt Em first came to Kansas, to live there with Henry, she was a young, pretty wife. But the hot Kansas sun and dry wind had changed her, too. It had taken the sparkle from her once deep blue eyes and left them a sober gray. It had even taken the red from her once soft cheeks and lips, and they were gray also. She was thin, gaunt and colorless, and never smiled or laughed now..."
- ―The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)
|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 great wonder; as to how she could find anything to laugh at..."
- ―The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)
Aunt Em or Auntie Em, is a fictional character created 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 beloved Aunt of her niece Dorothy Gale, and faithful wife of Dorothy's Uncle Henry who is a Kansas farmer in circa 1899-1900. In Baum's subsequent Oz books, she along with Dorothy and Uncle Henry eventually all moved away from Kansas to permanently live in the magical Land of Oz.
- "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)
Lifestyle & Personality
Unlike the classic MGM film of 1939, in Baum's original book she is much more poor and unhappy. Baum states she is a hardworking middle-aged wife living on a poverty stricken farm on the sun-baked Kansas prairies in circa 1899-1900.
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 an optimistic dreamer with a merry laugh. Aunt Em never laughs, because she has forgotten how, as Baum states that Aunt Em has spent most of her life with her husband Henry and has been working on a isolated farm for decades. Thus, living a joyless existence. As a result, she was stripped of her youth and childlike charm by the bleak landscape surrounding her.
Aunt Em is also a strict woman, who believes work before play and has no children of her own and presumably never will. In a sense, she views Dorothy as her daughter even though the book nor its sequels ever clarify if Dorothy 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.
In Kansas, Uncle Henry works on his crops in the hot field from dusk till dawn. Meanwhile, Dorothy spends her time playing with Toto or helping Aunt Em with the daily house chores. Aunt Em spends most of her long days washing dishes, watering the cabbage outside the small shack of a house or raising the chickens. Unlike the movie, it is said the three 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 tiny house is only a wooden table and three or four 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 there is a trap door that substitutes for a cellar, leading into a very dark hole in the ground, for everyone to safely climb down into if a cyclone was to ever come near.
In Baums' Oz Books
Unlike many versions of the story, in the original The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its many sequel books by Baum, Dorothy's Aunt Em does not seem to have a close relationship with her niece. Surprisingly, it is Uncle Henry who bonds more with Dorothy, even bringing her on vacations to Australia and California, while Aunt Em stays behind to look after the farm. Aunt Em also appears to be unable of finding the simple joys in everyday life that Dorothy, being a mere child, still could. She is puzzled and even taken back by Dorothy's child like qualities and couldn't understand how her niece could remain blissful on such a bleak and desolate environment such as Kansas.
However, at the ver y end of the story, when Dorothy and Toto are sent home after being swept away to Oz, Aunt Em is delighted to see Dorothy has come back to her, indicating that she does have love for the child after all.
In Baums' Oz sequel Books...
Due to the damage the cyclone caused on the farm in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Aunt Em confesses to Dorothy the state of poverty that Henry was in and that their farm was facing imminent foreclosure. So Em, Henry and Dorothy all moved to the Land of Oz to escape the trouble in Kansas and live in the Royal Palace of Oz 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. However, both Henry and Em 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 (seen through a magic picture)
- The Emerald City of Oz
- The Patchwork Girl of Oz
- The Scarecrow of Oz
- The Tin Woodman of Oz (mentioned)
- The Magic of Oz
- The Wonder City of Oz
- The Scalawagons of Oz
The general character of Aunt Em was named after Emily Ingerson "Auntie Em" Warn. Warn's niece was a cousin of L. Frank Baum.
In Baum's Oz Books
The Aunt Em of 1939 R.I.PThe actress who portrayed Aunt Em in the Judy Garland film was actress Clara Blandick.
Despite being the cherished 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.
The Wiz 1975-2015In the original stage musical, the role of Aunt Em was given to Tasha Thomas, in 1975. In the 1978 movie, the role was given to That's My Mama star Theresea Merritt. In the 2015 live broadcast The Wiz Live!, the role was portrayed by Stephanie Mills, who played the role of Dorothy in the original musical alongside Thomas.
Return to Oz
In Walt Disney's 1985 cult classic film Return to Oz (film), Aunt Em is played by actress Piper Laurie. In this version Aunt Em is deeply concerned about her niece Dorothy (Fairuza Balk) who has developed a severe case of insomnia since the cyclone hit the farm six months ago. Though Aunt Em loves her niece she worries about Dorothy's mental health as she seems to be unable to stop talking about her Oz-adventures. As a result, Aunt Em finally takes Dorothy to a clinic in Kansas in hopes to cure her from all her Oz-delusions. However, little does Aunt Em know is that Dorothy will soon return to that magical place once again.
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.
The following actresses have portrayed Aunt Em on film:
- Eugenie Besserer, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1910)
- Mary Carr, Wizard of Oz (1925)
- Clara Blandick, The Wizard of Oz (1939)
- Margaret Hamilton, Journey Back to Oz (1974)
- Tasha Thomas, The Wiz (1975)
- Theresa Merritt, The Wiz (1978)
- Laurene Tuttle, Thanksgiving in the Land of Oz (1980)
- Piper Laurie, Return to Oz (1985)
- Cathy Weseluck, Funky Fables (1992)
- Lucie Arnaz, Wizard of Oz in Concert: Dreams Come True (1995)
- Queen Latifah, The Muppets' Wizard of Oz (2005)
- Amy Lyndon, Apocalypse Oz (2006)
- Gwynyth Walsh, Tin Man (2007)
- Stephanie Mills , The Wiz Live! (2015)