Image Source:MGM, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
1 Let’s Talk about the Book
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a children’s novel authored by L. Frank Baum. The illustrations in this American novel are by W.W. Denslow and were originally published in May 1990 by George M. Hill Company. After that, the book has gone through numerous reprints, frequently under the title 'The Wizard of Oz'. It is also the title of the famous Broadway musical adaptation of 1902 and the iconic live-action film that came out in 1939.
The story is about Dorothy's adventures, a young farm girl, in the magical world of Oz after a cyclone swipes her along with her dog Toto, away from her house in Kansas. American literature regards the book among the best-known tales of all time. It has also been widely translated. Its groundbreaking success and that of the musical adaptation made Baum write thirteen more Oz books that serve as the official sequels of the first tale.
The Library of Congress calls the book "America's greatest and best-loved homegrown fairytale." The printing of the first edition by George M. Hill Company was completed n January 1901. A whopping amount of 10,000 copies were quickly sold out. By the time the book got into the public domain in 1956, it had already sold three million copies.
2 Coming to the Movie
Released in 1929, The Wizard of Oz is an American musical fantasy movie produced by none other than Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It is often regarded as one of the more wonderful movies of all time. It is also the most commercially successful adaptation of the fantasy novel. The film was primarily directed by Victor Fleming but he left the production later for taking over the troubled Gone with the Wind.
The role of Dorothy Gale is played by Judy Garland and also features Margaret Hamilton, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, and Ray Bolger. Remembered for its use of fantasy storytelling, memorable characters, Technicolor, and musical score, the movie has turned into a pop culture icon of America. It got nominated for as many as six Academy Awards.
It went on to win the Best Original Score award by Herbert Stothart and Best Orignal Song Award for 'Over the Rainbow'. While the movie was regarded as a critical success on release in 1939, it was not successful in making a profit for MGM until it was re-released in 1949. On a budget of $2,777,000, it went on to earn $3,017,000. The budget did not include promotional costs, which made it the priciest production of MGM at that time.
3 More Acclamations
The movie was reintroduced to the masses by its TV broadcast premiere on the CBS network in 1956. The Library of Congress declared it the most-watched movie in film history. In 1989, the U.S. Library of Congress selected the film among the first 25 movies for preservation in National Film Registry for its aesthetical, historical, or cultural significance. It is also among the few movies on the Memory of the World Register of UNESCO. Not just that, it was also among the Top 10 in the British Film Institute’s list of ‘50 films to be seen by the age of 14’ in 2005 and is also on the updated list of ‘50 films to be seen by the age of 15’ which was released by the BFI on May 2020.
4 The Conflicts in The Wizard of Oz
Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz came with its own set of conflicts. Firstly, Dorothy was moved into the fascinating Land of Oz, where she had to find a way back home. On landing at the Land of Oz, Dorthy ends up killing the Wicked Witch of the East. Followed by this, the Good Witch of the North greets her and tells her the only way of going back home was to seek help from the Great and Terrible Oz.
Hence, Dorothy starts her journey to Emerald City, the place where Oz resides. Toto, her friendly dog, accompanies her on her venture. In her journey, Dorothy makes a few friends. Firstly, she meets Scarecrow, followed by the Cowardly Lion and then the tin Woodman. Each of these friends has their own questions to ask Oz. They decide to join Dorothy and her dog on their journey.
5 What did the Friends Exactly Want?
All that Dorothy wanted was, of course, to go back to her home. The Scarecrow wanted to ask Oz for a brain while the Tin Woodman dreamt of getting a heart which could make him love again, and the Cowardly Lion wished on getting courage as he was scared of the tiniest things in life until he started off in this journey where he was confronted by his fears for asking the Great and Terrible Oz for giving him courage. After reaching Emerald City to visit Oz, they had to keep waiting for three days until they could finally see him. On seeing him, Oz told them that he could only help them after they kill the Wicked Witch of the West.
Hence, they set out on yet another mission of killing the Wicked Witch of the West. Luckily, they could accomplish this task as well. It was contradictory to Oz’s beliefs as he thought the group would fail in killed the Witch as he himself had attempted to kill her but with no success. Hence, after they completed their task, Oz had to come up with a plan to actually give each of them what they wanted. It was only because he was not actually a wizard. He could help everyone but not Dorothy. While looking for Toto, she missed getting into the air balloon and it lifted off without her. As Dorothy could not get into the balloon to go back home, she had to move to the South to meet the Good Witch of the South.
For getting the witch, Dorothy needs to cross the Quadlings and for that, she had to call Flying Monkeys who could carry her along with her friends through the Quadlings. After meeting the Good Witch of the South, Dorothy could finally figure out a way to go home. In no time, she was back to Kansas where she lived.
6 The Quotes Worth Remembering
Among the cutest quotes in The Wizard of Oz is when Dorothy questions Scarecrow on his ability to talk even without a brain. To this, the Scarecrow answers, "I don't know, but some people without brains do an awful lot of talking, don't they?". The book and its adaptations, of course, have become the source of numerous quotes used in modern popular culture. Edgar Allan Woolf, Florence Ryerson, and Noel Langley are credited for the screenplay while many others have made un-credited contributions.
Written by Edgar "Yip" Harburg, the songs of the movie are also worth mentioning. Harold Arlen composed them while Stothart is the composer of the incidental music and musical score.
7 Do They Get What They Want?
The best part of the story is when Oz says something incredible. Although it sounds pretty simple, it was indeed extraordinary. Oz does promise all that the Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow ask for. So, before delivering what they demanded, he says, “…but you’ve got them. You’ve had them all the time!” All they wanted were courage, a heart, and a brain but they did not see they had these all along. They narrated themselves the wrong tale. It unfolds when Oz gives a gift to each of them. However, what he gives are symbols, and not a literal heart, brain, or courage itself.
8 A Brain for Smartness
Oz gives a diploma to the Scarecrow, not to prove he is smart but as a symbol. He becomes smart now only because he believes he is. Hence, the Scarecrow starts acting smarter. He begins to tell himself a brand new story. His old narrative does not remain relevant anymore. He exclaims, “Sure, I used to be dumb. But not anymore. I’ve got a brain, and I’m gonna use it.” When you believe you are smart, you will use your brain for accomplishing wonderful things.
9 A Heart for Kind Actions
Although the Tin Man asked for a heart, Oz did not give him one. Instead, he gifted him a testimonial which proves he already had a heart. It was a clock that mimicked the beating of a heart through its ticking rhythm. It was a symbol. Yet again, Oz gives him a new story that he could tell himself and also believe in. When Dorothy realizes she cannot go home, the Tin Man gets tears in his eyes which proves he had a heart all this while.
10 A Prize for Facing Your Fears
When we are scared, our minds start feeding us all sorts of worst-case scenarios imaginable. One doubt leads to another and in no time, we start drowning in a pool of negative thoughts. We try to do everything we can to save ourselves from getting hurt. This is the reason why Oz gifted a medal to the Lion. He needed a prize to symbolize him standing up to his fears. When we are courageous, we risk getting ridiculed, exposed, or injured.
All that is worth having always comes with a certain price. Courage is the price you pay. Here's some good news- the more you spend courage, the more you get it. We all have the courage within us, waiting to get tapped. By taking risks, we release it. When we act upon our dreams, we realize the need for changing the narrative and writing a new story. With courage and action, your story becomes more real and stronger. (See Why Was Jim Morrison Called “The Lizard King”?)
11 So, What do we Learn Here?
Out of all the lessons we can learn from The Wonderful World of Oz, the main lesson is to realize your inner strength, use your potential to its optimum, and write your own story. Do not let the world decide who you are. Just like the Scarecrow, we are way smarter than we think. We are blessed with strong hearts and deep inside, we have our courage all set to get tapped into and released. When you tell yourself you cannot be brave or unafraid or kind, you are narrating the wrong story to yourself. Self-awareness is the key to change.
Once you know you can, you will start discovering resources to do things. It goes without saying that there lies a gap between us and all that we want. However, no good thing comes easy and the gap is surely not a problem. What is a problem is you not believing in yourself that you can close the gap and bridge the difference between your dreams and your reality.
The universe works in mysterious ways. Probably, you need to go to your own kind of Emerald City to visit the Oz who could help you in unleashing your potential. Probably, you need to look in the eye of your fears and demand what you want. Maybe, all that you need is a sign to remind you of your calibre and the endless possibilities waiting for you outside your comfort zone. We are all together in this. You can do wonders. You can do this. You are strong and capable. Believe.