Oz Update #4

This week I’ll be talk­ing about what my inspi­ra­tion for this project was and why I’ve been want­i­ng to do it for so long.

My inter­est in the Oz series basi­cal­ly falls into three cat­e­gories: mas­sive pop­u­lar­i­ty, a cre­ative play­ground, and embrac­ing the dark­ness. Below I’ll talk about each of these and why they are impor­tant.

Massive Popularity

It’s no secret that Baum’s sto­ries are mas­sive­ly pop­u­lar. They were some of the first Amer­i­can children’s sto­ries and the series is still being expand­ed on even today, over a hun­dred years since they were first writ­ten! Addi­tion­al­ly, the sto­ry is com­plete­ly engrained in our cul­ture because of the famous Warn­er Bros 1939 adap­ta­tion. Lines such as “I’ll get you my pret­ty! And your lit­tle dog too!” and “I don’t think we’re in Kansas any­more.” are every­where.

I’m inter­est­ed in a tak­ing a sto­ry that every­one knows and weav­ing it ways that no one antic­i­pat­ed. To make peo­ple think dif­fer­ent­ly about the sto­ry and it’s mean­ing.

A Creative Playground

Anoth­er rea­son why I’m so inter­est­ed in this series is because it is such a chal­lenge. I’m a sys­tem­at­ic thinker. Rather than think­ing A-B-C-D.. I’m think­ing A, A-B, A-C, A-D, B-A, B, B-C, B-D, etc… how all the details fit togeth­er to form a whole fas­ci­nates me. So nav­i­gat­ing 14 books, and 100 years of plays, films, and oth­er adap­ta­tions, and mak­ing sense of it all is so much fun for me! Not to men­tion the entire fan­ta­sy sand­box the Land of Oz is in. Fly­ing mon­keys? Talk­ing scare­crows and tin men? Mag­ic slip­pers? Hell yeah! Find­ing a bal­ance between the restric­tions of the set­ting and sto­ry­line and the lim­it­less­ness of fan­ta­sy is awe­some.

Embracing the Darkness

The biggest inspi­ra­tion for this project though is based on Baum’s intro­duc­tion to the Wiz­ard of Oz:

Folk­lore, leg­ends, myths and fairy tales have fol­lowed child­hood through the ages, for every healthy young­ster has a whole­some and instinc­tive love for sto­ries fan­tas­tic, mar­velous and man­i­fest­ly unre­al. The winged fairies of Grimm and Ander­sen have brought more hap­pi­ness to child­ish hearts than all oth­er human cre­ations.

Yet the old time fairy tale, hav­ing served for gen­er­a­tions, may now be classed as “his­tor­i­cal” in the children’s library; for the time has come for a series of new­er “won­der tales” in which the stereo­typed genie, dwarf and fairy are elim­i­nat­ed, togeth­er with all the hor­ri­ble and blood-cur­dling inci­dents devised by their authors to point a fear­some moral to each tale. Mod­ern edu­ca­tion includes moral­i­ty; there­fore the mod­ern child seeks only enter­tain­ment in its won­der tales and glad­ly dis­pens­es with all dis­agree­able inci­dent.

Hav­ing this thought in mind, the sto­ry of “The Won­der­ful Wiz­ard of Oz”was writ­ten sole­ly to please chil­dren of today. It aspires to being a mod­ern­ized fairy tale, in which the won­der­ment and joy are retained and the heartaches and night­mares are left out.

L. Frank Baum, Chica­go, April, 1900.

As much as I love Baum’s sto­ries, they do not retain the won­der­ment and joy and leave out the heartaches and night­mares like he says they do. In fact, I think his sto­ries are just as dark as the Grimm fairy­tales he crit­i­cizes. Dorothy is sep­a­rat­ed from her par­ents in a vio­lent storm, forced to nav­i­gate a coun­try, and lib­er­ate that coun­try by killing their most pow­er­ful witch before she is allowed to return home? Not to men­tion the oth­er killing, the trea­son, oppres­sion, rebel­lion, slav­ery, pro­pa­gan­da, and dic­ta­tors.

The Oz books are no less cru­el than any oth­er pop­u­lar fan­ta­sy series—The Lord of the Rings, Har­ry Pot­ter, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe—all of these sto­ries have nec­es­sary evils. This is what makes the sto­ries great. Good tri­umphs evil. Their dark­ness teach­es us how to be decent human beings—the impor­tance of brains, heart, and courage.

My sto­ry will embrace this dark­ness to bring out the light…and I’ll tell you more about that next week!