Uncle Henry (Oz)
|First appearance||The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)|
|Created by||L. Frank Baum|
|Portrayed by||Charley Grapewin in The Wizard of Oz (1939), Stanley Greene in The Wiz (1978), Matt Clark in Return to Oz (1985)|
|Title||Agricultural Adviser to Princess Ozma|
|Family||Dorothy Gale (niece)|
|Relatives||Uncle Bill Hugson (brother-in-law), unnamed sister-in-law, Zeb of Hugson's ranch (nephew), unnamed Australians|
Uncle Henry is a fictional character from the classic children's series of Oz Books by American author L. Frank Baum, first introduced in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900). He is the uncle of orphan Dorothy Gale and the husband of Aunt Em. Henry is a hardworking farmer who lives with his wife and niece on a small farm in the midst of the sun baked prairies of Kansas during the early 1900s. He is portrayed to be a very simple minded and stern man who works hard to make an honest living to provide for his family. Surprisingly, in the Oz books it is Uncle Henry who Dorothy is more closer to, while she does love her Aunt Em dearly, Henry and Dorothy do appear to spend more quality time together in the series.
Baum's description of him is exactly — "Uncle Henry never laughed. He worked hard from morning till night and did not know what joy was. He was gray also, from his long beard to his rough boots, and he looked stern and solemn, and rarely spoke."
The Classic Oz Books
In the third Oz book Ozma of Oz (1907), it is revealed that Uncle Henry had to mortgaged his farm in order to rebuild a new farmhouse after the first one had been swept away by a cyclone in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. This crisis, combined with the stress of Dorothy's prolonged disappearance after the cyclone and sudden reappearance months later, took a toll on his overall health and well-being. When his doctor orders him to take a long vacation he takes his niece with him and the two go on an ocean voyage to Australia, where Henry apparently has relatives. His wife Emily and Dorothy's pet dog Toto stay behind to look after the farm and the new house. During this trip, Dorothy was lost again when a big storm came and tossed the little ship violently over the waves. The girl is accidentally thrown overboard and casted away into the sea where she and a chicken named Billina wash up upon the uncharted shores of Ev, (another enchanted country that lies in a fairy-region and neighbors the undiscovered Land of Oz). For several weeks a despondent Henry believed Dorothy had drowned, until she suddenly returned to him again safe and sound after having many adventures.
In the sixth Oz book The Emerald City of Oz (1910), Henry and Em finally confessed to their little niece about the troubling extent of their financial problems, and revealed to her that their farm was on the verge of foreclosure. Dorothy quickly solved this problem for them by bringing them to live with her and Toto in the Emerald City's royal palace, as permanent guests of the imperial child Queen, Princess Ozma. However, the elegance and magnificence of the city is far too grand for Henry and his wife's liking, so they move to a more humble home on the outskirts of the Emerald City instead. Henry was eventually given the job of being Keeper of the Jewels in Ozma's royal treasure hoard for the purpose of keeping him busy and occupied. Unlike his wife Emily, who is questioning everything about the realm of Oz, Henry accepts his new life and new home with surprising comfort and ease, having traveled and seen the world a lot more than his wife had.
By the fourteenth Oz book Glinda of Oz (1920), Henry has become one of Ozma's closest advisers, having taught his agricultural abilities to other Ozian farmers, getting them producing surplus for the Emerald City storehouses.
Henry has been featured slightly more than Em in the Oz book series, despite being less featured than she in the film, The Wizard of Oz (1939). Ruth Plumly Thompson gave him only two brief mentions, in The Royal Book of Oz and Grampa in Oz. He had somewhat larger roles in John R. Neill's The Wonder City of Oz and The Scalawagons of Oz, Jack Snow's The Magical Mimics in Oz, and Eric Shanower's The Giant Garden of Oz.
In MGM's musical adaptation The Wizard of Oz, Uncle Henry is played by Charley Grapewin. Hickory (Tin Man's alter ego) addresses Aunt Em as "Mrs. Gale" just before she offers crullers to the three farmhands, and Hunk (Scarecrow's alter ego) does so just afterward. The name "Gale" appears on the mailbox and Miss Almira Gulch (Wicked Witch's alter ego) addresses him as "Mr. Gale". (Baum, however, never gives Uncle Henry's surname in his books, nor indicates whether Henry or Em is Dorothy's blood relative. It is also possible that "Aunt" and "Uncle" are affectionate terms of a foster family and that Dorothy is not related to either of them.) In this film, Uncle Henry and Aunt Em are the only characters whose roles are limited to the Kansas sequence and do not make an appearance in the Oz sequence, but one of them is seen again in the crystal ball at the Wicked Witch's castle still looking for Dorothy. He and Aunt Em reunite with their three farmworkers, and Professor Marvel (Wizard's alter ego) when Dorothy awakens from being unconscious.
In the 1980 animated short film Dorothy in the Land of Oz, Uncle Henry is voiced by Charles Woolf.
In the 1985 film Return to Oz, Uncle Henry's wife Emily is called "Mrs. Blue," implying that his full name is Henry Blue. He is played by Matt Clark opposite Piper Laurie. He has a broken leg throughout the film that Aunt Em insists is mended.
In the comic book The Oz/Wonderland Chronicles, Henry Gale was born in 1852, but died in old age of a heart attack. He was buried in St. Ann's Cemetery in Kansas. Due to Oz residents never really dying in entirety, the "new" Witch in Oz had Henry in unconscious stasis, after his Earthly soul had died.
In the American television program Lost, the character Benjamin Linus initially tells survivors his name is Henry Gale, and claims to have arrived on the island via hot air balloon. It is later revealed that the real Henry Gale was indeed a balloonist who died upon crashing on the island — just one of the many references to Baum's Oz novels on the show.
Uncle Henry appears in Dorothy and the Witches of Oz played by Lance Henriksen. He posthumously reveals that his great-grandparents, Frank and Maud Baum, were the true parents of Dorothy Gale in a letter.
- Jack Snow, Who's Who in Oz, Chicago, Reilly & Lee, 1954; New York, Peter Bedrick Books, 1988; p. 227.