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!