The Religion of Oz: Introduction
The Whimsical adventure of Dorothy from Kansas and her little dog Toto as they find themselves in the
mysterious and wonderful Land of Oz is a story that children and adults the world over have been enthralled with since the
1930’s. Equipped with comedy, drama, music, dance and a fresh new starlet, the film released by MGM in 1939 had all
the ingredients for success in epic proportions, and after several re-releases an epic pop culture phenomenon is exactly what
it became. However, the story existed long before MGM decided to invest in bringing Oz to the big screen.
The origins of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” are found with author L. Frank Baum who created the
story and first had it published in 1900. The proposed Children’s novel brought Baum much praise from literary critics
and the novel itself made the children’s best seller book list immediately after initial publication and remained there
for two years. Inspired by the success of the original Baum went on to write thirteen other children’s novels, all with
the Land of Oz and its quirky characters as the setting.
The first stage version of the story preimered in 1902 as a musical called “The Wizard of Oz”,
and the new musical component to the story proved to add even more flare and popularity to the already successful story, and
its run on stage caught the attention of executives at the major movie empire, Metro Goldwyn and Mayer a.k.a MGM. MGM's
vision for the story catapulted Dorothy and the Land of Oz into a pop culture phenomenon. Turning the book into
a movie meant changes from the original storyline, however it remains that at the core of "The Wizard of Oz's" success
is the literary creation of L.frank Baum and thus in a discussion about the success of "The Wizard of Oz", crediting Baum
is indefinitely nessesary.
But, is “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” just a fantastical children’s story?
countless sources on this issue show, many scholars and literary critics view "The Wizard of Oz" as anything but a simple
children’s story. Rather, there is a general string of belief that Baum cleverly used the components of children’s
literature to mask expressing much deeper and on some levels, controversial issues. These proposed deeper issues include ones
of a political, social and economic nature, however, the issue of possible hidden religious theory within the story appears
to be quite a hot topic.
Of course one must decide for themselves when reading the book or watching the movie whether or not Baum’s
masterpiece is truly children’s literature or not. However, drawing on the setting, dates, characters, colors
and other visual aspects of the story “The Wizard of Oz” several theories appear to acquire some level of validity.
Christianity, Buddhism, and Atheism are all religious themes that certain authors claim to be at the core of Baum’s
cleverly positioned children’s story. And, the examples that these authors provide certainly do seem to line up with
the idea that Baum had a duel faceted agenda when writing "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz", in that he wanted to write for the
entertainment of children while he also wanted to reflect on and highlight deeper issues.
So, read into the differing religious theories thought be present in the timeless story by clicking on the
Sub-categories to the side and see what you think!
*Historical information in this passage from Wikipedia, listed under Works Cited.