I was at the Waffle House the other day with Father Thomas McKenzie (you may know him from the One Minute Review). Thomas had recently read The Wizard of Oz–something I’ve never actually done. I’ve seen the movie more times than I care to remember; that’s the only Wizard of Oz I’ve ever known, so I should say up-front that my opinions aren’t as well-informed as they might be. But even poorly informed opinions can be dearly held.
Thomas thinks very highly of The Wizard of Oz. Its characters, he says, have been damaged and diminished by the stories the world has told about them. The reader sees how false those stories are long before the characters do. We see the Cowardly Lion act out of bravery again and again. The Scarecrow believes himself to be stupid, but his wisdom and ingenuity pull the travelers through one scrape after another.

The Wizard tells the Lion, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Man the truth about themselves, and in so doing he sets them free from the falsehoods that had enslaved them.

Thomas made a pretty convincing case for his reading of the book. But I’ve always taken a different position. I’ve always read The Wizard of Oz as a story that opposes the gospel. I’ve always seen its as being about the need to realize that we have within us everything we need to save ourselves. We need a little help from our friends, for sure, but we don’t need Transcendence. The Wizard of Oz, as it turned out, wasn’t any more qualified than anyone else to transform the lives of these people who so desperately needed transformation. It did the travelers some good to believe that there was a powerful Wizard who could hemp them. It kept them going down the road. But what really helped them was realizing that they didn’t need to rely on any Wizard–indeed, couldn’t rely on the Wizard, who was working an angle of his own.

What has so troubled me about The Wizard of Oz is the fact that it offers such a well-articulated and appealing substitute for the gospel. The gospel says we don’t have it in us to rescue ourselves, that that God himself became our Rescuer. He didn’t show us the way to deliver ourselves; he delivered us. And our faith isn’t in faith, but in the God who is faithful.

If I didn’t believe the gospel, I would think The Wizard of Oz was the best book ever. (Flying monkeys!)The story serves up self-determination as the gospel, and it’s really quite inspiring. That, really, is my problem with it.

Lest I give the impression that I consider myself more spiritual or discerning than Father Thomas, I should point out the fact that our difference of opinion isn’t a difference in our view of the gospel. It really comes down to the fact that Thomas doesn’t see the Wizard as a stand-in for God, and I always have. If anything, Thomas says, the Wizard is a stand-in for the Government or the Treasury, or something. Then he goes into some business about the Gold Standard and the Yellow Brick Road, which I’ve heard before, but never made the effort to understand.

So, dear reader, what do you think about The Wizard of Oz? I have much faith in your ability to sort this thing out.

  • Patrick
    3:09 PM, 10 December 2010

    Well… interestingly enough I just actually read it a few months ago. I enjoyed the movie as a child; likely saw it a half-dozen times. The book to me was dull in comparison. Lots of repeated phrases, seemingly written for a very young reader, and the repetitions wore on me. The thing that bothered me most was the charlatanesque introduction:
    “…[it] 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

    So, in the intro the author seems to deny the grown-up world implications of Gold Standard, politics, and such that people tend to claim are represented in this story. Also in this intro the author specifically claimed there were no genies (the flying monkeys who granted 3 wishes?), no dwarfs (munchkins?), and no faeries (the witches?); along with no blood curdling incidents (enchanted axe that kept chopping off parts of the woodsman’s body until it was all replaced with tin? attacked by a pack of wolves? the wolves slaughtered with the axe and heaped in piles? The terror of the flying monkeys [gave me nightmares when I first saw the movie] and how they tore the scarecrow apart? and many other nightmarish scenes- the ways the Wizard presented himself? shall I continue?)

    My reading was jaded by the introduction. A story that is everything the author claimed it wasn’t. But over-all I liked the story itself. Far from a favorite though. I didn’t take the Wizard as a God substitute. He seemed more like a celebrity to me and how highly people think of them. He was the man in charge of the Emerald city (which only looked green because of the glasses they had to wear) which he pretended to rule in fearsome Henry the 8th style, so he was a con-artist . Jonathan, I can see your points too…

    BUT being a counselor I can not take such a bold stand against having faith in self. The world does tell us lies as Thomas McKenzie pointed out. Faith in self does not have to exclude faith in God. I think they CAN go hand in hand. God created everything and it was Good. I know that I am created and gifted by God- and I can have faith that I am good and capable of many things. No matter what the world tells me about myself I know I am loved by God. Even when God is not mentioned does not mean God is not present. If a Christian is reading the story I believe God becomes implicitly present with us. Over coming the lies to see yourself as good and lovable I believe is through a healing by the Holy Spirit which is at constant work in believers and non-believers alike (yes, I’m a Wesleyan believer), and acceptance of God’s valuing of the person- made intentionally by a loving God. There is healthy positive self regard. Even in the godless world peoples lives really do improve (as far as this life is concerned) when they can recognize they are not worthless, useless, nobodies. But with just faith in self you are limited to your own little kingdom (I SO wish everyone would take responsibility for theirs and stop blaming everyone else for their situation, but with no faith in self they can’t). With faith in God, the Kingdom and resources of God are available to you, and we become Kings and Queens of Narnia.

    • Jonathan Rogers
      4:05 PM, 10 December 2010

      Patrick, I wouldn’t use all the same terminology as you, but I very much agree when you say that people’s lives improve when they realize they aren’t worthless, useless nobodies. And by “improve” I really mean they become the people they were made to be. You can view the gospel’s work in our lives as a movement from believing what the world says about us to believing what God says about us. The gospel may start out as bad news (All have sinned…the wages of sin is death), but the bad news is soon overwhelmed by good news.
      Jess, I’m interested in the fact that you’re less tolerant of talking animals with confidence issues than human characters with confidence issues. What’s that about?

      Aaron, I’m glad we’ve gotten to the bottom of your preening self-indulgence. This blog, as I like to tell people, is a voyage of self-discovery for my readers. I love the fact that you read the whole Wizard of Oz to prepare for your role as the Cowardly Lion.

      And Hannah, you’re certainly not alone in being creeped out by Oz and his world. However, if we throw out the possibility that Oz is a God-figure, as you have, I suddenly like the whole story much better.

  • Jess
    3:24 PM, 10 December 2010

    I have watched the movie several times (who hasn’t?) and read the book twice–because we used to own it, before it got all ripped apart (by flying monkeys unwilling to share their secrets, I presume). I think the movie is actually a really good representation of the book in all ways that are most important (of course they cut out a few characters and all as usual but other than that…). I couldn’t stand the movie or the book, not for the wonderfully theological and philosophical reasons you mentioned, but just because I don’t like deadly poppies. Well, okay, I also thought that the characters really needed to suck it up and quit the pity-party (I always have a hard time with lack of self-confidence in characters, especially when they are animals, and I think that for every cry-baby you should include at least one of the other sort of person, and I don’t mean glistening Glindas). And I thought it was random and hard to follow, sort of like a dream (which, in the movie, is what it was). However, despite my very critical… criticism, I never did think of it in the ways described. I thought of it as a fun book with lots of pictures and/or a movie with some really funny parts (such as when the tears of the doorkeeper seemingly dump from tearducts on the top of his hat–I know, I know, it was made way before I was born and letting myself see such high-tech special effects is a complete lapse of imagination). In my eyes, The Wizard of Oz is a quick break from deep thinking before you move on to another C.S. Lewis book, nothing more than that.

  • Aaron Roughton
    3:30 PM, 10 December 2010

    I’ll give you my best appraisal of the Wizard Of Oz based upon my reading of it in 5th grade, which would have been approximately 28 years ago: I liked it. I thought the part where the lion was cutting the head off the thing in the forest that was eating all the stuff and stuff was cool. It wasn’t like the movie. There was other stuff. I liked it. I like soccer too. The end.
    Shortly after that in 6th grade I played the part of the Lion in our school’s musical performance of The Wizard Of Oz. It gave me my first taste of fame and fortune as I captivated the audience with my ability to hit the high notes in If I Were King Of the Forest, and in doing so secured for myself the coveted Music Award at the 6th grade graduation ceremony (back when 6th grade was still part of elementary school). So in essence, The Wizard of Oz made me the glory hogging, self absorbed, money grubbing person I am today. I think that means Jonathan is right.

  • Hannah
    3:46 PM, 10 December 2010

    Well, all I can really say is that I thought it was a very creepy movie and book alike. I never liked the Wizard; I thought he was a liar and a cheater. Maybe that’s just me. I never associated the Wizard with God, probably because God has never lied, and never cheated, even just in my own mind. I agree, Jess: I don’t like deadly poppies. In fact, I rather like poppies. Not deadly ones, though.

  • Amy
    4:06 PM, 10 December 2010

    I was terrified of The Wizard of Oz as a child, and still have not watched the entire movie from beginning to end. I had cousins in Kansas, and had visited…so I always thought Dorothy was fortunate to have had an adventure of any kind outside her of home state.

    • Jonathan Rogers
      4:41 PM, 10 December 2010

      Face your fears, Amy. Send The Wizard of Oz to the top of your Netflix queue. Did you know that Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind came out the same year? Big year for big, epic movies.
      I wonder why flying monkeys are so terrifying? This reminds me of one of my less stellar parenting moments. My boys had bunk beds, and the bed was positioned under a hole in the ceiling where a stove chimney used to go. My as I tucked my three year old into the top bunk, his face two feet from the hole, he asked, “Why is that hole there?” “Oh, that?” I said. “That’s where the monkey’s come out.”

      I thought that would sound fun. You know, monkey’s coming out, capering around the room like it was a circus or something. But my sons were terrified. They huddled together in the bottom bunk until we finally moved the bed away from the monkey hole.

  • Jess
    4:21 PM, 10 December 2010

    Statement 1: Erm, um, well, OTHER THAN IN NARNIA (please please please read that part four times and don’t judge me before you fully understand it), I don’t really like animals as characters, especially when they talk. I don’t know why; perhaps because I like animals just as they are (see statement 2). Statement 2: In “real” life, though there are really humans who have low self-esteem, animals always seem confident and carefree (for good reason–ignorance will always be bliss), and that is one of the reasons anyone has any love for animals whatsoever. If animals were always as morbid as humans, the world would be a much sadder place. Statement 3: All of this mainly applies the lion in Wizard of Oz, and, being a Narnia fan, I do not always take it well when lions are portrayed as cowardly whiners.

  • JJ
    4:39 PM, 10 December 2010

    I’ve seen the movie a handful of times, but to me it’s just a movie about a girl in a fantasy world trying to get home. I didn’t think of it in terms of The Gospel. Maybe I should do that more often, but I just don’t in the case of The Wizard of Oz.

  • Philip Nel
    4:46 PM, 10 December 2010

    Since I’ve taught the novel a few times, I’ve much to contribute here. So, you know, feel free to skim this for the bits that you find most interesting.
    Anyway, to the question of what the Wizard represents, he’s a con-artist — but not a bad person. He’s like Professor Harold Hill or the Cat in the Hat: he deceives us, but in so doing brings some excitement into our lives, and… we’re OK with that sort of deception. As the Wizard himself tells us, “Oh, no, my dear; I’m really a very good man; but I’m a very bad wizard, I must admit” (Dover edition, p. 189).

    To the whole gold standard thing: In 1964, Henry M. Littlefield published “The Wizard of Oz : Parable on Populism,” in American Quarterly 16. A high school history teacher, he wrote the article to teach his students about American history — and his article is the source of the interpretation that the Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a commentary on populism, the gold standard, William Jennings Bryan, and all the rest. Here are the article’s main points:
    • The Tin Woodman is the laborer: “dehumanized […] simple laborer […]. Here is a Populist view of evil Eastern influences on honest labor which could hardly be more pointed” (52). “The Tin Woodman’ situation has an obvious parallel in the condition of many Eastern workers after the depression of 1893” (52).
    • Dorothy is “Miss Everyman” (52).
    • The silver shoes represent the Silver issue (proposition of a silver standard instead of a gold one): “Silver shoes walking on a golden road; henceforth Dorothy becomes the innocent agent of Baum’s ironic view of the Silver issue” (53). Noting that the shoes will take her back over the desert, Littlefield observes, “William Jennings Bryan never outlined the advantages of the silver standard any more effectively” (53).
    • The Scarecrow represents the farmer, but not an ignorant Kansas farmer (William Allen White’s critique of Kansas farmers), but “innately a very shrewd and capable individual” (53).
    • The Lion represents William Jennings Bryan: “The King of Beasts is not after all very cowardly, and Bryan, although a pacifist and an anti-imperialist in a time of national expansion, is not either” (54).
    • The Wizard represents the U.S. President: “might be any President from Grant to McKinley. He comes straight from the fair grounds in Omaha, Nebraska, and he symbolizes the American criterion for leadership — he is able to be everything to everybody” (54). As Littlefield puts it, “As each of our heroes enters the throne room to ask a favor, the Wizard assumes different shapes, representing different views toward national leadership” (54).
    • The novel offers a critique of Populism: “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has provided unknowing generations with a gentle and friendly Midwestern critique of the Populist rationale […]. Led by naïve innocence and protected by good will, the farmer, the laborer, and the politician approach the mystic holder of national power to ask for personal fulfillment. Their desires, as well as the Wizard’s cleverness in answering them, are all self-delusion. Each of these characters carries within him the solution to his own problem, were he only to view himself objectively. […] Throughout the story Baum poses a central thought; the American desire for symbols of fulfillment is illusory. Real needs lie elsewhere” (57).

    Littlefield’s interpretation is neither true nor false. It’s just an interpretation — and, evidently, a compelling one, since people still talk about it decades later. For a more nuanced (and, I think, more persuasive) interpretation of the politics of The Wizard of Oz, I highly recommend Gretchen Ritter’s “Silver Slippers and a Golden Cap: L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Historical Memory in American Politics,” Journal of American Studies 31.2 (Aug. 1997): 171-202.

    As to whether the 1939 film or Baum’s original novel is better, I don’t think that’s the question to ask. Films and novels each have distinct strengths and weaknesses. The novel lacks Technicolor, Judy Garland, and E. Y. Harburg (the lyricist who adds the rainbow — there’s no rainbow in the novel). But the film lacks the original’s darkness and the fact that this is no concussion-induced dream: in the novel, Dorothy actually goes go to Oz and then returns again. This is helpful because it allows her to return again in Baum’s many sequels…. And, actually, speaking of politics (as we were a moment ago), in the sixth Oz novel (The Emerald City of Oz), Dorothy takes her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry to Oz, which Baum (in this book) figures as a Socialist utopia.

    Finally, anyone interested in learning more about Baum’s classic and its many iterations should turn to the expert: Michael Patrick Hearn’s Annotated Wizard of Oz is your one-stop source for all things Baum.

    • Jonathan Rogers
      4:57 PM, 10 December 2010

      Ah, yes. A juvenile lit professor at Kansas State is the obvious go-to guy for Oz. Thanks for chiming in, Phil. I should have thought to ask you sooner. My own opinions about the story are not especially well-informed. But as I have said before, the ability to form strong opinions about things one knows little about is a mark of erudition.

  • Becky
    4:59 PM, 10 December 2010

    While it’s been a long time since I read the books as a child, probably around the age of 11, I remember the book as being fun and much better than the movie. I agree with Father McKenzie in that the movie does not portray the characters properly. I also agree with Aaron that there were some really good parts in the book that were left out of the movie. (Such as the whole section after the hot air balloon flies away and the party has to actually travel to see Glinda.)
    I also read most of the other Oz books while in middle school. I never considered the Wizard to be a God-figure, just a conman. When he returns in a later book, he is actually a little more likable, but still not one of my preferred characters. The books, to me, were like fairy tales with no deep theological meanings.

    The movie is not one of my favorites but it was fun to watch while listening to Pink Floyd in college.

  • Drew
    5:01 PM, 10 December 2010

    When I was a kid, I read many of the Oz books, and really enjoyed them, but I never actually read The Wizard of Oz. Earlier this year I thought I’d read it to my 5 and 6 year old, but . . . you know, I love reading aloud to my kids. I get really animated and attempt (poorly) to do different voices . . . and if there’s a swordfight or something, I will sometimes mime waving a sword around with one hand while holding the book with the other.
    But I just didn’t care for The Wizard of Oz, the kids weren’t really into it, and we got up to the poppies scene . . . and just . . . stopped and moved on to something else. (We’ve been known to do that with a few books.)

    But I remember really liking some of the other Oz books. I liked a lot of the characters, like Jack Pumpkinhead, and the Saw-Horse, and Tik-Tok . . . and I remember being really freaked out about the earthquake during which Dorothy and the Wizard, who have met up in the “real world,” fall down a crack in the earth all the way back to Oz! I remember thinking that the Wheelers were terrifying. I still remember the bit with the hole that went right down through the middle of the earth, and how they all jumped into it and ended up on the other side . . . something like that. Oz (post “Wizard of”) still hangs about the corners of my memory, and I should probably revisit them again.

  • Philip Nel
    5:05 PM, 10 December 2010

    You’re welcome! And, to clarify, I don’t mean to imply that you or your readers lack erudition. People should feel free to interpret the Wizard as godlike (albeit a flawed god), or as a politician, or con-artist, or… other things. He certainly embodies a range of characteristics, and I think the story’s structure and symbols invite us to read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz allegorically. I hoped only to convey that the novel is well worth reading, and that it’s a rich source of meaning — and of story.

  • Drew
    5:12 PM, 10 December 2010

    I’ve heard the Littlefield interpretation before, and I agree that it’s a compelling vision. One wants to believe that Baum intended all these layers of meaning, because unpacking it is a lot of fun.
    I’ve used the same sort of approach to unpacking Gilligan’s Island. The Skipper represents authority, Gillian is youth, Ginger is fame, the Professor is knowledge, Mary Ann represents innocence, Mr. Howell is wealth, and Mrs. Howell is societal status.

    Take any given episode and the layers of meaning that present themselves are enough for several grad-school theses.


  • Jonathan Rogers
    5:13 PM, 10 December 2010

    Phil, I don’t imagine anybody around here thought you were implying that they lacked erudition. No worries.

  • Patrick
    5:23 PM, 10 December 2010

    Flying Monkeys. Any flying creature… anything that can come at you from above is frightening to me. How do you defend against it? I’m reminded of a bird that would dive bomb anyone coming or going from my work place one summer. You knew it was out there but never knew which direction it would come from. Then add that it’s a monkey (hands and feet both have opposable thumbs for grasping with), enchanted with with the intelligence to devise mischievous plans and carry out wishes as ordered. How is that not scary? Oh, and they are Talking, flying, genie-monkeys. But, I guess the talking is okay because they aren’t whiners. 😉

  • Dan Kulp
    6:50 PM, 10 December 2010

    I thought for sure Aaron would have played Dorothy in a rendition of “The Wizard of Oz”.
    I recently read this to my kids and immediately took the Wizard as a con-man. I did see it as the Oprah gospel – look within & be solved. It is very clear, despite the character claims; the lion is courageous, the tin-man has heart and the scarecrow is wise.

    But the story had so many other elements I didn’t see it as an assualt on a transcedent salvation.

    I picked up more on a sense of the characters believing the lies of the world and missing the greater glory they were created with. I think there may have been glimpses into the views of Baum but the fairy tale is so much bigger (wishing cap, silver shoes, etc). it seemed big enough that “any stick was good enough to beat it with”, to borrow from GK Chesterton (I almost made it the whole without a reference). If you want to pick a bone about currency, political structure, etc. it had a big enough frame, something could be found.

  • Amy @ My Friend Amy
    6:56 PM, 10 December 2010

    Admittedly, I haven’t really spent much time thinking about it, and I haven’t watched the movie in years and never read the book.
    Having said that, Father Thomas’s interpretation is kind of beautiful to me. It makes me want to read the book!

  • Aaron Roughton
    7:53 PM, 10 December 2010

    Thanks Dan. You’ve brought up one of the other things planted in me by The Wizard Of Oz: Bitterness. I auditioned for Dorothy but didn’t get it.

  • Thomas McKenzie
    10:36 PM, 10 December 2010

    Hey all,
    I’ll be more careful next time I talk to JR at the Waffle House!

    No, I’m just kidding. I’m glad you wrote about this, and I’m glad for the discussion. I think Jonathan fairly represented what I was saying. And, as he pointed out, I did not see a God figure in the book. Rather, if there is a God he is hidden, working through circumstances. In this way, the book reminded me somewhat of Tolkien. There are moments of coincidence in the book that seemed hard to believe, unless you have a force for good, perhaps God, working behind the scenes.

    I too found that the book did draw things out more than necessary, and therefore could get boring. But I loved how kind more of the characters were, even the strangers that they meet. And I enjoyed the, once again, Tolkienesque use of magic. There are a few Harry Potter type spells, but most of the time the magic is just part of the fabric of life (the creation of the scarecrow would be a perfect example).

    So, I would recommend people take a look at the book. I downloaded it for free on my Kindle, which is how I ended up reading while waiting to catch a delayed airplane. The movie is, of course, splendid, but kind of a different animal all together.

    • Jonathan Rogers
      10:43 PM, 10 December 2010

      Free on the Kindle. Of course. Brilliant. Maybe I will have a look at the Wizard of Oz after all…and not just opine blindly.

  • js
    11:29 PM, 10 December 2010

    Uh, I think you two think too much is what I think. Each time I watched the Wizard of Oz as a child I spent most of my time worrying about Toto’s safety and trying not to think about the scary lady on her bike. I also liked the way the Munchins talked and all the pretty colors. Never once crossed my mind to read any deep wordly or spiritual meanings into the movie! Glad I wasn’t at the Waffle House with you two!

  • Canaan Bound
    7:08 AM, 11 December 2010

    Jonathan Rogers, you are reading my thoughts. And it’s a little creepy.Actually, it’s not your fault. Just probability and a little mathematical statistics. Someone told me recently that if you asked a typical person to draw 100 dots on a page AT RANDOM, he or she would place them very carefully almost evenly spaced apart. But this is not true randomization. In a TRUELY random plotting of points, clusters develop and gaps emerge.
    And so it is in life. Sometimes we’ll go for weeks, months, or even years without thinking, hearing, or discussing a certain topic. And then, without warning, we’re bombarded with that very same topic countless times in a number of hours. That’s random.
    Just like your post and all this talk of The Wizard of Oz.
    My little brother loved that movie. No, he was obsessed with it. At age 3, he watched it almost weekly. But that was so long ago, and neither he nor I had seen it in more than a decade. We had not even thought about it in at least that long. So when we stumbled upon a copy in the clearance bin the other day, curiosity and sentiment got the better of us. We caved.
    As fate would have it, I also picked up a copy of Gone With the Wind. Watched it for the first time that very night. And then, because, I’m a geek, I watched all of the special features (which were almost longer than the original movie). Ironic that they should have a bonus blurb on the year 1939—Hollywood’s Greatest Year. Of course, they mentioned Oz.
    Not a day later, I received a call from my mom telling me that she was watching Oz on TV. Coincidence. Strange coincidence.
    So the next morning, as I was headed somewhere in my car, I reminisced about the movie and the story and wondered what it was that had captivated us as children. The song, the dance, the beauty and enchantment? The plot, the storyline, the moral? What was the moral of the story, anyway?
    And then it hit me. The Wizard of Oz, despite all of its grandeur, had a hollow message. There was no moral—at least not a Christian one. The message, it seemed, was a post-modern, self-saving, all-you-ever-need-is-just-to-believe-in-yourself “Oprah” philosophy. (Thank you, Dan, for helping me find that perfectly appropriate descriptive word.)
    So now I’m just disappointed. And not so eager to take the DVD out of the shrink-wrap.
    Which is, I think, the result of my unmet expectations regarding stories. See, every time I open a book or sit down to a movie, I’m hoping to encounter a story that matters. One that changes me, breaks me, or teaches me something. One that parallels, illuminates, or at least hints at the greatest Story ever told—a story of love, redemption, and glorious restoration. As far as I can find, Oz doesn’t do that.
    But let’s face it—truly good stories are rare these days. So I shouldn’t be surprised that I’m disappointed. (And I’m disappointed a lot.) Bad stories are just the natural result of a relativistic, hedonistic worldview and a Christ-free society. Which is what we have in abundance these days. Wow. Seems harsh, but admitting this makes me grateful for those few GOOD stories. And for the writers of good stories. So thank you, JR. Your work is a thing of beauty.

  • Canaan Bound
    7:32 AM, 11 December 2010

    By the way—this Father McKenzie—I know we all see him on vid @ the RR, but does he darn his socks in the night when there’s nobody there?

  • Kaci
    10:11 PM, 11 December 2010

    I read the Great Illustrated Classics version as a kid and probably saw the movie a hundred times growing up. I never thought too much about the worldview the Wizard itself. Personally, I liked the book better – especially as in the book they visit the Witch of the South. 0=) I will say, I always wondered why the Wizard seemed so useless. (He’s better in the book, but still.) The Witch of the West always seemed much more powerful.
    Hm…Plenty of people with more articulated thoughts than me. I’ve heard arguments on both sides of the fence. Actually, now you’ve got me thinking I need to go watch it so I can give more thoughtful responses.

  • Bethany J.
    1:22 AM, 13 December 2010

    Hello! I’m new around here. I’ve been following the blog for a few days now (I discovered it through speculativefaith.com). 🙂
    I studied “The Wizard of Oz” for my worldview curriculum in high school, so I am permanently prejudiced against it. 😀 I never liked it in the first place because I found it creepy as a kid – the style of the movie is too unreal and yet not quite unreal enough, if that makes sense! But now I really dislike it because of the reasons you mentioned in your posting…the message behind it is “find your power in yourself, and God is a farce”. I never thought about what some other commenters have said, that perhaps the Wizard is not a god-figure, but to me that makes the most sense. He doesn’t seem as much like a government or celebrity figure.

    Thanks for an interesting blog! I’m enjoying it. I’ll have to read your book one of these days…it’s on my to-read list. 🙂

    — Bethany J.

    • Jonathan Rogers
      2:13 AM, 13 December 2010

      Rebecca LuElla Miller tried to comment but had technical issues. Here’s what she said:
      Jonathan, I agree with your interpretation and have used The Wizard of Oz on my own blog as an example of the need for discernment. Too often what appears “safe” and “innocent” can carry a very “unsafe” theme that becomes implanted in our thinking. After all, writing, even fiction, is communication.

      Stories say something. Not that we always mull over what it is exactly that the stories are saying. (That’s what good, discerning parents should help children do, in my opinion). Nevertheless, the point of a story sticks. Ask most anyone what the point of Little Red Riding Hood is, and they’ll be able to tell you without pausing too much for thought.

      Interestingly, as I was doing a little reading on the author, L. Frank Baum, I discovered that some point to his work as the beginning of the “sanitation” of children’s literature, particularly of morals. He wanted to create fairy tales in the vein of the brothers Grimm and of Anderson but without the pointed lesson.

      In the end, I believe he simply wove his point into the fabric of the story as a good writer should. As I see it, this makes his point all the more powerful. If he came out and said, God is a fraud, them people would jump up and refute his point.

      Instead, he showed a god figure as a fraud and let that do it’s work along side showing the protagonist and her three companions all having within them what it was they needed for life.

      Children imitate (so do adults), so Baum’s story along with a clear point that God doesn’t have the answers, we do is powerful.

      Which is why I believe Christians should be novelists.


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