Discussing
The Wizard of Oz and yellow brick roads

Josh Larsen

SiarlysJenkins
November 5, 2009

I would have to say that this analogy is way off base. The only act of idolatry here is comparing the Wizard, or the Tin Woodman, or the Lion, or Toto, of ANY of these characters, to God, or to gods. They are nothing of the sort. Accordingly, Dorothy's self-reliance is in contrast to expecting other fallible humans to fix things for her, none of whom remotely resemble God. It has nothing to do with "I can do it all without God." In that limited sense, I suppose it is mildly agnostic, since no god makes an appearance, nor does God. But then, Tolkien's Lord of the Rings is likewise agnostic, since there is not the slightest trace of religion, or worship, at least among the good guys. If you get into the Silmarillion, there is a pathetically obvious parallel to the (non-Biblical) rebellion of a leading angel against a creator, creation of a world that had been only an idea, etc. etc. etc. But in the life of the characters who populate Middle Earth, there is nothing but vague wizardry and the power of their own swords. So, let's leave the Wizard of Oz alone. Its a fun story, its entertaining, and the moral lessons, if any, aren't too bad.

Kevinbobo
November 5, 2009

I believe that the Wizard of Oz is a good story, but it is only a story. The Gospel is the truth. We need to look to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.

Mark Terry
November 6, 2009

I believe the 70TH anniversary edition is for Blu-ray, rather than for DVD-- <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Anniversary-Collectors-Exclusive-Collectible-Character/dp/B002HMDOAW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;s=dvd&amp;qid=1257493012&amp;sr=8-1" rel="nofollow">http://www.amazon.com/Annivers...</a>

Rick
November 6, 2009

I love the Wizard of OZ, perhaps because I didn’t see it till I was 25. I have a little bit different take on it. I think, far from being a paean to humanism, it is a powerful depression era parable dealing with morality, ethics and politics. I believe it struck a nerve because for so many people, an economic tornado had come into their lives as well. People were deep into the great depression and the question was, who was going to save them? The lesson of the 1930s was that there is no free lunch, one needed self-reliance, hard work and pulling oneself up by ones own boot straps. However, I do not believe the film is lacking in divine grace. Every main character in this film seems to have an alter ego rooted in real life except Glinda the good witch. In fact she transcends both worlds. To advocate humanism would seem to be alien to the spirit of the times. Tradition, common sense and divine grace are Dorothy’s salvation. It is subtly anti-socialist, suspicious of government and sarcastic about higher education.<br><br>Much like Odysseus, Frodo or the Pilgrim, Dorothy is on a quest to get back to home. She will face many obstacles and accomplish many great deeds. The film was released the same year that world war 2 started. Europe and the far east was swirling with isms, ideologies and dictators including Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin and Tojo. The unease with new ideologies and European ideas is palpable. The Wizard of Kansas has just returned from a tour of Europe. <br><br>As Dorothy lands in OZ she crushes the head of the wicked witch of the East and is given a pair of magical ruby red slippers. While the wicked witch of the West is limited (her magic won’t work in Munchkin land) Glinda’s power is universal. The munchkins seem to represent nature held captive by evil. They are not human and at first appear as flowers. Dorothy’s victory sets the Munchkin’s free from servitude (much like Romans 8). Glinda appears and reveals the path Dorothy must follow, a narrow gold road that she is not to depart from. Sounds familiar. The Munchkins (nature) reveal the path and Glinda (the divine) reveals the path. Glinda is constantly behind the scenes, invisibly protecting the small band. Dorothy is tempted to venture off the path by intoxicating poppies, but Glinda controls the weather and produces a cold bracing snow which returns them to reason. <br><br>When the Emerald city is finally in view, it is represented by a futuristic, fantastic edifice reminiscent of the Italian Futurist painters. The Futurists admired speed, technology, youth and violence, the car, the airplane and the industrial city, all that represented the technological triumph of humanity over nature. This is a hyper organized, utopian, secular New Jerusalem ruled by a dictator. And lest you miss the point, the guard at the gate, the wizard in disguise, has the appearance of a Russian cossack as well as the Witch’s Winkie soldiers. The head of the Wizard looks remarkably like Lenin. The flying monkeys seem a racist precursor to the war propaganda images of the far east. Once inside, the city it is a marvel of efficiency. The horse of a different color is introduced which could represent all the new experimental ideas coming from Europe. A common response of the times to a new idea was to say “that’s a horse of a different color”. <br><br>Dorothy takes direction from the Wizard of the city but soon discovers that neither the city nor the Wizard has the power to complete her quest. In her second great feat Dorothy destroys the evil witch by pouring water on her. Her third great feat is to unmask the Wizard, prompting him to flee, thus freeing and transforming the city. The Wizard ascends under his own power but is unable to take Dorothy and just at that moment, divine grace appears in the form of Glinda. She reveals to Dorothy that the Ruby Red slippers have the simple, magical power to transport her home. It’s the simple gospel, the old-time religion which we have always had. <br><br>There are some interesting undercurrents here. There appears to be a deep suspicion of politicians, higher education and radical ideas. The three friends are not false gods, they represent the simple, homespun virtues that actually helped us get through World War 2. <br><br>This is a movie about the triumph of simple virtues, faith, goodness, tradition and divine grace.

Josh Larsen
November 6, 2009

There is both a Blu-ray and a regular DVD version available: <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Wizard-70th-Anniversary-Two-Disc-Special/dp/B002DYYGQK/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&amp;s=dvd&amp;qid=1257562454&amp;sr=1-2" rel="nofollow">http://www.amazon.com/Wizard-7...</a>

AmyElizabeth
November 8, 2009

I think that with the Wizard Of Oz as with anything else you can read what you want into it. For me personally it brings a sense of wonder. I personally collect ruby slippers (I am 45 and yes I have a pair my size). They remind me that I now walk in different shoes. I have one that walked in my shoes and walks with me. As I follow Him down the path that He has set before me "the yellow brick road" I may encounter pitfalls and set backs, but in all of them He is with and He has given me others to travel with. Our experiences and desires are different but we are in this together. <br><br>Maybe my ideas are simplistic. But I think sometimes we have so much fear of the evil that might lurking in something that we forget the wonder and the magic. The gospel is the truth but the Lord has given us imaginations and a world full of beauty and I personally believe that He can use stories of this type to confirm His love for us.

JessDenise
November 9, 2009

I can't say I've ever seen any sort of religious significance to this at all. This is my favorite movie; I probably could mute it and quote it with high accuracy. I think that looking this deeply into it removes something for me.

Steven Koster
November 10, 2009

Rick-<br><br>Interesting analysis! I love this film for it's entertainment value, but I've always been with Josh in seeing the Wizard as the God figure, portrayed as falsely all-powerful and all-knowing. <br><br>Maybe he's better seen as institutional powers, be it clerics in religion or officials in politics. That would fit well with a Depression-era mistrust in government, business, and institutions. <br><br>However, I'd suggest the that film remains Humanistic in a particualrly American way. <br><br>God/Glinda remains transcendent, wishing them well and maybe even tweaking circumstances in their favor now and again. That's pretty much how Deist America sees God. Nice, distant, occasionally helpful, generally uninvolved. <br><br>This would be opposed to a more biblical God who is intimately involved to the point of sacrificing himself on behalf of those unable to save themselves. <br><br>In the end, as you put it, "tradition, common sense and divine grace are Dorothy’s salvation." Mostly, she's on her own with a little help from her friends and a wink from God. That's a very boot-strap American worldview that I would argue is weighted more toward human resiliance than God's grace.<br><br>And as Glinda reveals to Dorothy at the end, 'you've had the power to save your self all this time.' I'd suggest that's the very definition of humanism, with or without a little divine light. <br><br>So, an immensely enjoyable film, with a particualy American worldview that, like America's view of God generally, doesn't quite match a thoroughly biblical view. <br>

Rick
November 10, 2009

This is a deeply American film, almost reactionary and isolationist, representing a point of view particular to those who were going through a deep economic depression. The key to the movie is the lesson that Dorothy learns at the end. “If I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with!“ I am almost more interested in this from a sociological point of view than theological.<br><br>It reflects the suspicion Americans had of the whirlwind of new ideas, especially those emanating from overseas. In the short space of 15 to 20 years we suddenly were confronted with modern art, existentialism, psychiatry, the physics of relativity, the theology of higher criticism, the utopian ideals of fascism, communism and the invention of frightening weapons of mass destruction. <br><br>The storytellers attempt to deflate pomposity and hypocrisy. I do not believe the Wizard represents a God figure, because he is revealed at the beginning of the film as a charlatan. He calls himself a “professor” (Professor Marvel) who has been acclaimed by the “Crowned heads of Europe”. The Wizard is also seen as a charlatan in Dorothy’s dream sequence. He seems to represent a melange of self-important authority figures such as politicians, theologians, generals, and educators. In the language of the day, he was a “Wind bag”. <br><br>The humor is quite sarcastic at times, similar in spirit to Mark Twain. The Tinman is confered a heart through being awarded a testimonial to his philanthropy and a gift heart/watch on a chain. <br><br>The cowardly lion’s courage comes from having a display of medals “Back where I come from, we have men who are called heroes. Once a year, they take their fortitude out of mothballs and parade it down the main street of the city. And they have no more courage than you have. But! They have one thing that you haven't got! A medal!” <br><br>A piece of paper, the diploma confers brains to the scarecrow “Back where I come from we have universities, seats of great learning-- where men go to become great thinkers. And when they come out, they think deep thoughts -- and with no more brains than you have.... But! They have one thing you haven't got! A diploma!”<br><br>This is not quite the deism of Isaac Newton or even James Madison. Deists tend to reject the notion of divine interventions in human affairs, such as by miracles and revelations. God is viewed as the architect of the universe, but does not interfere in its workings. There are too many miracles and revelations happening here. Nor is it quite the completely self reliant humanism of John Dewey. It is more a primitive, pragmatic, fuzzy American civil religion. It is the belief that God helps those that help themselves, that the Big man in the sky” will help the little guy prevail, the The big “coach in the sky” is rooting for the little guy. Of course this is not Biblical Christianity, but it reflects some of the iconography and ideas of a Christian influenced society. It is the triumph of simple virtues; modesty, faith, common sense, goodness, tradition with a dollop of divine grace. In short, fun.<br><br>I saw my grandfather go through these historical paradigms as he first was a self-reliant, vaguely spiritual product of the great depression. Then in his late 60s, he had a genuine salvation experience and God became his savior and the great focus of his life.

Chrislanham
November 11, 2009

I'm not sure if I would call Dorothy's escape from the Wicked Witch of the East (WWE) an act of human ingenuity. She accidentally throws the water on the witch... seems a mite providential. The WWE melts not because of terrific human effort or wisdom, but because in the desperate act of trying to save Scarecrow she stumbles upon the one weakness of the witch. In the final analysis, Dorothy really doesn't do anything to save herself (her efforts left her surrounded by the enemy who was prepared to destroy her), but needs an assist by either a) a very fortunate cosmic accident; or b) the Hand of Providence. You be the judge.

Steven Koster
November 11, 2009

I've always read that scene as the film's assertion that simple bravery and teamwork is enough (you don't need to be strong or smart), and Good will win over Evil just because it should. Both sentiments resonate strongly with the values Rick mentions above.<br><br>More fascinating to me in the WWE death scene is her dying lament. She seems incredulous that she's melting! And she cries "Oh! What a World!" as if she's angry at the injustice of the strong and intelligent (and evil) losing to simple goodness. <br><br>In any case, the defeat of the WWE strikes me as more a convenient plot device to uphold the film's values than an explicit or implied action of divine grace. What if the witch had tried to take the ruby slippers by force and was destroyed by her own attempt to take the fruit that was not hers? <br>

Rick
November 11, 2009

Ooh. I love your insight on the WWE dying statement. I hadn't seen that.

Chrislanham
November 12, 2009

I agree that the defeat of the WWE is a kind of "machine of the gods" thing - that's what I was trying to point out. The original post seemed to say that it was all about human effort and tenacity and know-how that led to the defeat of the WWE, but I don't think that's the case. In many ways, Dorothy &amp; Co. are bewildered children (naive and reactionary) in an essentially good world held in thrall by an evil presence (no, I'm not making a allusion to Creation/Fall - just an observation). They kind of stumble and bump their way through Oz looking for goodness but only finding flashes of it amidst fear and apathy. I think it's this facet that leads to WWE's comment about "What a world...." because it was total random nonsense that led to her demise. <br><br>A random thought about the film: there is a sense in which innocence is lost in Oz, but not in the Biblical sense. Rather it is more in the sense of William Blake's (quasi-religious) view of the movement from innocence to experience. Had Dorothy never made it home and woken to express her gratitude and appreciation for home and hearth, she would have remained in a state of shattered innocence and lost. But the assault upon her innocence resolved into gratitude and a reconciliation with her life in Kansas - a movement into experience.<br><br>The final question intrigues me though - in terms of divine grace, I'm not sure it would matter. Cosmic accident or the upholding of a cosmic principle (read natural law) which lead to deadly consequences really come out to be six in one hand, half a dozen in the other. Either could be attributed to a divine grace or providence (implying, of course, that the author of grace and providence is also sovereign). But all this proves the line in the origianl post "...but also a wondrously malleable allegory. Its imagined universe is so rich and vast that you can read almost anything into it."

SiarlysJenkins
November 13, 2009

Well, if we must find analogies in everything, I have read the Frank L. Baum was a sympathizer of the Farmer's Alliances and the People's Party, who favored free silver policies. The Wizard of Oz was the ineffectual William Jennings Bryan, who seduced the Populists from their original independence, the Wicked Witch of the East was, of course, symbolic of Wall Street plutocrats enslaving the good people who tilled the soil, etc. etc. etc.

Johnny Fantastic
March 8, 2010

I doubt the creators of the film version of Oz were trying to write a metaphor for christianity or humanism. L. Frank Baums intro to the book explains simply that he was trying to write a story that would entertain kids without using some form scare tactic to put kids in their place as writers such as Grimm often did.

Ashley
April 10, 2010

Roland Barthes coined the term "the death of the author," which states that it is not neceassarily about what the author intended, but rather how we interpret it. If you research The Wizard of Oz, you'll see that there are many interpretations: a political one, a Buddhist one, a New Age one, a Freudian one, and a Lesbian one, among others. Of course the author didn't think of all these things when writing the story, but that's not what's important; now that he's written it, it is out of his hands and into ours.

Linda
June 28, 2010

I'm now 56 yrs. old and still love The Wizard of Oz . It is and always will be my favorite movie. I watch it almost every time it is on TV !!!

Scoty
August 12, 2010

I feel the same way abought the wizard of oz! I think old skool things are so awsome aye. Good stuff Linda!

Ihtfp50
August 12, 2010

based on an economic and political commentary surrounding the debate over “sound money” that occurred in the late 1800s…. Baum’s book was penned in 1900 following unrest in the agriculture arena (read: farmers) due to the debate between gold, silver, and the dollar standard. The book, therefore, is supposedly an allegory of these historical events making the information easier to understand. In said book, Dorothy represents traditional American values. The Scarecrow portrays the American farmer, while the Tin Man represents the workers, and the Cowardly Lion depicts William Jennings Bryan. Recall that at the time Mr. Bryan was the official standard bearer for the “silver movement,” as well as the unsuccessful Democratic presidential candidate of 1896. Interestingly, in the original story Dorothy’s slippers were made of silver, not ruby, implying that silver was the Populists’ solution to the nation’s economic woes. Meanwhile, the Yellow Brick Road was the gold standard, and Toto (Dorothy’s faithful dog) represented the Prohibitionists, who were an important part of the silverite coalition. The Wicked Witch of the West symbolizes President William McKinley and the Wizard is Mark Hanna, who was the chairman of the Republican Party and made promises that he could not keep. Obviously “Oz” is an abbreviation for “ounce.”

Darrell
August 12, 2010

Conclusion<br><br>Critics of the allegorical reading of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz have made much of the discovery that L. Frank Baum was not a Democrat or a Bryan supporter. In itself, however, this discovery proves nothing. At most, it suggests that Oz is not a pro-Populist parable, something quite different from the claim that there is "no evidence that Baum's story is in any way a Populist allegory," as Hearn (1992) argued. The originator of the allegorical interpretation characterized Oz as a "critique" of Populism, not a defense. The assertion that there is "no evidence" of an allegorical subtext is simply myopic in the extreme. As the foregoing reconstruction shows, the evidence from the text is overwhelming, and, in light of Baum's political background, trickster personality, and subsequent work, it is all but conclusive: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a deliberate work of political symbolism.<br><br>Again, this conclusion does not require that each correspondence I have cited was intended allegorically or represents Baum's precise intention. Nor does it imply that each symbolic reference has a specific correlate; often the metaphors and analogies are merely suggestive. Conversely, the presence of "inconsistencies" and the absence of an obvious moral in no way diminish the reality of the symbolism.<br><br>The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is clearly neither a pro-Populist parable nor an anti-Populist parable. Strictly speaking, it is not a parable at all if parable is defined as a story with a didactic purpose. Baum aimed not to teach but to entertain, not to lecture but to amuse. Therefore, the Oz tale is best viewed as a symbolic and satirical representation of the Populist movement and the politics of the age, as well as a children's story. Quite simply, Oz operates on two levels, one literal and puerile, the other symbolic and political. Its capacity to fascinate on both levels testifies to its remarkable author's wit and ingenuity.<br><br>References<br>Baum, L. Frank. [1900] 1991. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Edited by William Leach. Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth.<br>Clanton, Gene. 1991. Populism: The Humane Preference in America. Boston: Twayne.<br>Dighe, Ranjit, ed. 2002. The Historian's Wizard of Oz: Reading L. Frank Baum's Classic as a Political and Monetary Allegory. Westport, Conn.: Praeger.<br>Gardner, Martin, and Russel B. Nye. 1957. The Wizard of Oz and Who He Was. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press.<br>Gessel, Michael. 1992. Tale of a Parable. Baum Bugle (spring): 19-23.<br>Hearn, Michael Patrick. 1992. "Oz" Author Never Championed Populism. New York Times, January 10.<br>Koupal, Nancy Tystad. 1989. The Wonderful Wizard of the West: L. Frank Baum in South Dakota, 1888-91. Great Plains Quarterly 9: 203-15.<br>---. 2001. Add a Pinch of Biography and Mix Well: Seasoning the Allegory Theory with History. South Dakota History 31: 153-62.<br>Littlefield, Henry M. 1964. The Wizard of Oz: Parable of Populism. American Quarterly 16: 47-58.<br>---. 1992. "Oz" Author Kept Intentions to Himself. New York Times, February 7.<br>Moyer, David. 1998. Oz in the News. Baum Bugle (winter): 46.<br>Parker, David B. 1994. The Rise and Fall of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz as a "Parable on Populism." Journal of the Georgia Association of Historians 15: 49-63.<br>Rockoff, Hugh. 1990. The "Wizard of Oz" as a Monetary Allegory. Journal of Political Economy 98: 739-60.<br><br><br><br>--------------------------------------------------------------------------------<br><br><br>Quentin P. Taylor is an assistant professor of history and political science at Rogers State University, Claremore, Oklahoma.<br><br>

Philip Theodor
August 12, 2010

The Wizard of Oz is one of my all time favorite movie... I've seen it every time with the same curiosity and joy. I think that is the best musical ever... Thank you

Bonquisha
August 12, 2010

the wizard of oz is one of my favorite movies.

Katelyn
August 12, 2010

i love it and i even have the movie too!

Guitarex
August 12, 2010

I came across a very interesting article on "the occult roots" of The Wizard of Oz today. I'd never heard this before, but it's worth taking a look at.<br><br>Here's the link: <a href="http://vigilantcitizen.com/?p=2282" rel="nofollow">http://vigilantcitizen.com/?p=...</a>

Sofiar101
August 12, 2010

my favorite movie since i was 4 years old and now i am 14!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Suedail
August 12, 2010

So well put, as children, we watch this classic movie, and it is forever one of our favorite ones. As Adults, we watch over and over, remembering how we watched it as children, and still holding it clse to our hearts!!! It is by far the Best Movie that was ever made.

Maiwand
August 15, 2010

thats good. i am trying to have one too but dont know how. cant find it

Serena
August 20, 2010

It as been my favorite movie since i was a kid, i remember it came on tv every year and i never missed the opportunity to watch it. I have a copy on vhs and dvd, it is the best movie ever made.

Jorgiegirl57
October 7, 2010

I have been watching Wizard od Oz for years...<br>I love this movie...

Marta L.
March 5, 2013

It's interesting how different people read the same stories different ways. I don't think I ever saw God in Oz, but I definitely saw Christians there. Dorothy brings a spark to the world that allows it to finally make progress toward getting rid of the wicked witch. She animates it. And it's both her love of her friends and her longing for the world she's estranged from that makes this possible. That sounds pretty familiar to things I've been taught about Christians. So while it's a human-focused story, so are more admittedly Christian fantasy tales like The Lord of the Rings and Narnia .

Although, to be fair, I had a high school history teacher who was convinced the scarecrow was a stand-in for William Jennings Bryan and that the gold road was really about the gold standard debate. So maybe one or the other of us is reading something into the story that's not really there. :-)

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