Skip to comments.Sometimes a Slipper is Just a Shoe: Why the Wizard of Oz is not a Marxist Fairy Tale
Posted on 10/10/2012 10:53:56 AM PDT by EveningStar
David Parker in his article, The Rise and Fall of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as a Parable on Populism looks closer at the many interpretations of the Wizard of Oz and gives us his opinion that sometimes a book is just a book and that interpretations pulled out of thin air are often just as ephemeral. I have always been very interested in what adults think about childrens literature. More often than not they read into the stories political, religious, and even topical themes of their own time or the time in which the story was written.
(Excerpt) Read more at thefreehold.us ...
Before writing the Wizard of Oz (and even contemplating becoming a childrens story author), Baum held many jobs one being the editor of the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer. In 1890, Baum wrote a series of articles introducing his readers to Theosophy, including his views on Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius and Christ. At that time, he wasnt a member of the Theosophical Society but he was already displaying a deep understanding of its philosophy. Heres an excerpt of his Editors Musings:
Amongst various sects so numerous in America today who find their fundamental basis in occultism, the Theosophist stands pre-eminent both in intelligence and point of numbers. Theosophy is not a religion. Its followers are simply searchers after Truth. The Theosophists, in fact, are the dissatisfied of the world, the dissenters from all creeds. They owe their origin to the wise men of India, and are numerous, not only in the far famed mystic East, but in England, France, Germany and Russia. They admit the existence of a God not necessarily of a personal God. To them God is Nature and Nature is God
But despite this, if Christianity is Truth, as our education has taught us to believe, there can be no menace to it in Theosophy.
-L. Frank Baum, Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer, January 25th 1890
Two years after writing those articles, L. Frank Baum and his wife Maud Gage joined the Theosophical Society in Chicago. The archives of the Theosophical Society in the Pasadena California has recorded the start of their membership on September 4th, 1892. The Wizard of Oz is very appreciated within the Theosophical Society. In 1986, The American Theosophist magazine recognized Baum to be a notable Theosophist whose thoroughly represented the organizations philosophy.
Although readers have not looked at his fairy tales for their Theosophical content, it is significant that Baum became a famous writer of childrens books after he had come into contact with Theosophy. Theosophical ideas permeate his work and provided inspiration for it. Indeed, The Wizard can be regarded as Theosophical allegory, pervaded by Theosophical ideas from beginning to end. The story came to Baum as an inspiration, and he accepted it with a certain awe as a gift from outside, or perhaps from deep within, himself.
-American Theosophist no 74, 1986
Baum believed in reincarnation, in karma, that there was no devil, and “that man on earth was only one step on the ladder that passed through many states of consciousness, through many universes, to a final state of Enlightenment,” according to Michael Patrick Hearn in his book, The Annotated Wizard of Oz (1973). Hearn is also quoted in Children’s Literature Review (CLR), vol. 15, as saying “The author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was...well read in the occult sciences...Paraclesus, the sixteenth century Swiss alchemist and physician, divided all spirits into four categories: Air, sylphs; Water, nymphs or undines; Earth, gnomes; Fire, salamanders. These could be expanded to the ancient idea of the four states of matter — gas, liquid, solid, and energy....A quick glance at Baum’s fairy tales reveals that he wrote about each Paraclesian classification of spirits. his sylphs are the ‘winged fairies’ (Lulea of Queen Zixie of Is; Lurline of The Tin Woodman of Oz); the undines are the mermaids (Aquareine of The Sea Fairies; the water fairies of the first chapter of The Scarecrow of Oz); the gnomes are the Nomes (the Nome king of The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus and Ozma of Oz); and the salamanders are the fairies of energy (the Demon of Electricity of The Master Key; the Lovely Lady of Light of Tik-Tok of Oz). Baum seems to have created a highly sophisticated cosmology by interpreting this theory of spirits of ‘elementals’ in terms of traditional fairies. This is basically a religion of Nature. Modern science itself has its origin in the occult sciences, in the search for the secrets of nature.... It is not by mistake that the Shaggy Man in The Patchwork Girl of Oz refers to Oz as being a fairyland ‘where magic is a science.’ Both science and magic have the same ends.”
In many of Baum’s works, there are revealing references. In The Master Key, a boy summons up the “Demon of Electricity,’ and A Kidnapped Santa Claus refers to a “Demon of Repentance.” The Tin Woodsman of Oz has a giantess skilled in transformations, and in Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz, there is a climb up “Pyramid Mountain.”
Baum was a pacifist, and in Ozma of Oz, Dorothy is shipwrecked, and Princess Ozma (close friend of Glinda, “the greatest of sorceresses”) is threatened by the Nome king, but he is powerless is the face of her faith and love as she states, “No one has the right to destroy any living creatures, however evil they may be, or to hurt them or make them unhappy. I will not fight — even to save my kingdom.”
In the Saturday Pioneer (October 18, 1890), Baum wrote that “the absurd and legendary devil is the enigma of the Church,” and in the Oz books, he said there were both “good” and “bad” demons and witches. (Baum also wrote a play, The Uplift of Lucifer, or Raising Hell in 1915.)
According to the Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol. 22, “Baum complained of being grabbed by spirits when in bed asleep,” and his wife, Maud, and his mother-in-law, the radical feminist Matilda Gage, had clairvoyants and seances in their home. Mrs. Gage was also interested in astronomy and palmistry. In 1890, because she felt the mainstream suffragists were too conservative, she founded the Woman’s National Liberal Union dedicated to the seperation of church and state.
pp. 61-68, Now Is the Dawning of the New Age piano casters, by Dennis Laurence Cuddy, Ph.D.; published by Hearthstone Publishing Ltd.
and that was at the ending of the Depression.
Much as Feminists see radical feminism in OZ, Marxists see populism and Marxism in Oz, and Lesbians see radical lesbian themes in OZ so to do these Theo-whatsits see their bit of Hokum in Oz.
I will trust to what Baum the author actually said about the story. It is just a story “written solely to please children of today”...
You can choose to believe that 2+2=5 if you want to. The fact is that Baum was both an ardent supporter of the Suffragettes and also, along with his wife, a member of the Theosophical Society. Any objective and informed assessment of Baum’s writing would have to acknowledge the use of Theosophy’s tropes and symbols in all the Oz books. These tropes and symbols were part of what were considered secret teachings at that time, so of course he’s not going to reveal them.
All authors of children’s book always say, “ this was just a simple sory for the kiddies”...but by all means, stay where you are with your fingers in your ears saying, “la la la...I cant
People like to take children's stories and ascribe a variety of meaning to them that may or may not exist. As you should be aware, the creative writing process can take one down a variety of paths the writer never intended, but someone saw something dark, sinister, or evil.
People like to ascribe a variety of interpretations to a great number of different works. For example, there are any number of “predictions” by Nostradamus that tend to be mostly flights of fancy or simple wishful thinking. None of the interpretations ascribed to these different writings (whether those of Nostradamus, the Brothers Grimm, or L. Frank Baum) make them true.
IMO, the citations you noted were certainly interesting but, in and of themselves, prove nothing sinister in the Wizard of Oz.
The long and the short of it is this: you choose to see a variety of hidden meaning embedded in the story based upon many things about Baum's life. I submit that Baum didn't necessarily allow his personal beliefs or demons to be incorporated in the Wizard of Oz. To me, the story s a sweet, simple kid's story of imagination, wishful thinking, magic and different cultures. Chances are that neither of us is going to change the mind of the other.
Thanks for an interesting chin wag.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.