There were a number of scary characters and moments in The Wizard of Oz. But none more frightening, especially for young audiences, than the flying monkeys. They drop from the sky to swoop down and snatch their terrified prey. For what evil purpose? To deliver Dorothy to the scariest character in the movie – the Wicked Witch of the West.
The flying monkeys were in the original Oz novels, and when the film was being made it made great cinematic sense to keep them in the movie. And a great decision it was. Because every time The Wizard of Oz is shown, audiences shutter when the flying monkeys make their first appearance on screen.
After receiving orders from the Wicked Witch of the West, they fly off, filling and darkening the sky. When they spot Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion in the Haunted Forest, they descend upon them. Dorothy runs deeper into the dark woods while the others try unsuccessfully to defend themselves. The Scarecrow gets the worst of it when the flying monkeys literally rip the stuffing out of him. Dorothy is quickly seized and off she’s taken. Toto is left behind briefly before he, too, is grabbed and delivered to the Witch.
Fortunately, once Dorothy accidentally causes the Wicked Witch of the West to melt, the evil flying monkeys are not to be seen again. They may not have been on screen for a great period of time, but their presence has given the flying monkeys their iconographic identity in modern-day popular American culture. It’s also made them the source of nightmares for many a youngster, and not to mention an oldster, or two.