The Book: The original story written by L. Frank Baum in 1899 and published in 1900, proved to be an innovative and unique take on a fairy tale at the time in which it was written. When compared to that of the Brothers Grimm tales, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz remains a magical and pleasurable fairy tale that describes the journey that one character takes to realize that, there’s no place like home.
From a very young age, Lyman Frank Baum was determined to write a different type of fairy tale. According to the biography, To Please a Child: A Biography of L. Frank Baum Royal Historian of Oz, he wrote, “I demanded fairy stories when I was a youngster… and I was a critical reader, too. One thing I never liked then, and that was the introduction of witches and goblins into the story. I didn’t like the little dwarfs in the woods bobbing up with their horrors.”
The story was written in an eloquent and detailed manner that allows for the reader to gain full appreciation of the storyline. When Dorothy arrives in Oz, Baum portrays the land in the most inspirational fashion. “There were lovely patches of greensward all about, with stately trees bearing rich and luscious fruits. Banks of gorgeous flowers on every hand, and birds with rare and brilliant plumage sang and fluttered in the trees and bushes. A little way off was a small brook, rushing and sparkling along between green banks, and murmuring in a voice very grateful to a little girl who had lived so long on the dry, gray prairies” (Baum). The description of the Land of Oz juxtaposed to the description of the farm land in Kansas presents an amazing composition to glorify within one’s one imagination.
The author recognized the importance of imagination, and without this desire to pass on this fantastical reality, we may be without some of out most cherished and beloved forms of media. The exciting piece of literature continues to flourish among the media in various forms today. This first and primary source of media has expanded monumentally throughout time.
The Movie: The 1939 movie the Wizard of Oz, directed by Victor Fleming, has undoubtedly had a monumental impact on our society. One of the most awe-inspiring aspects of this movie is that it remains one of the first full-featured films to be shot in color (Dirks). The transition from sepia, black and white tones to the vibrant and inspirational colors of the Land of Oz brought life to this magical place. The set design, filming style and unique musical attributes contribute to the movie’s overall success.
The story begins with Dorothy, the main character, living in the midst of rural Kansas. She dreams of a better, happier place, and is soon swept away by a fierce cyclone and carried to the wonderful world of Oz where she must follow the yellow brick road to reach her final destination in Emerald City. Along her route, she meets three compelling characters that she interacts with and brings along on her journey to meet the Wizard of Oz, the lion, the scarecrow and the tin man. They all wish to have their dreams fulfilled by this mystical wizard. On this quest, she is faced with a malicious enemy, the Wicked Witch of the West. Rising tension is created throughout the film through the contrast between Glinda the Good Witch and the Wicked Witch of the West provides tension between the opposing forces within the movie. The effect is more intense and dramatic because there is a distinct opposition between these two characters (Dirks).
The similarities through the original book and the movie are overall fairly consistent, however, with the creation of the movie came claims of allegorical representation from the original story written by Baum. Seemingly the characters and plot were symbolic commentary on the political and economic situation of that time period, during the free silver movement.
Hugh Rockoff in his article, “The Wizard of Oz as a Monetary Allegory” states that, “On a general level the Wicked Witch of the East represents eastern business and financial interests, but in personal terms a Populist would have had one figure in mind: Grover Cleveland. It was Cleveland who led the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, and it was his progold forces that had been defeated at the 1896 convention, making it possible for America to vote for Bryan and free silver. But the American people, like the Munchkins, never understood the power that was theirs once the Wicked Witch was dead.” He continues on to describe,
“The friendly inhabitants of the land Dorothy enters cannot tell her how to return to Kansas. She is advised to seek the answer in the Emerald City, which can be found at the end of the yellow brick road. The road, of course, is a symbol of the gold standard. Following it will lead to the Emerald City (Washington, D.C.), but the solution to Dorothy’s problems will not be found there.” This adopted theory demonstrates that this piece of media not only is prevalent within pop-culture, but also in terms of political society.
The film transmediates the book on a whole different, technological level. The props, set and gestalt of the composition as a whole, the original story is brought to life in a compelling and historic manner. This movie has transcended into one of the most recognizable and established films in American history. Through the development of such a remarkable film, the story of The Wizard of Oz has been able to continuously grow in current times, through means of different channels of communication.
Wicked: The “Untold Story of The Witches of Oz,” better known as the infamous story, “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West” written by Gregory Maguire in 1995, establishes a unqiue and unexpected viewpoint from the classical tale The Wizard of Oz. This storyline, developed from the original, establishes a story behind the Wicked Witch of the West and gives reasoning as to why exactly she is so “Wicked.” This novel creates a world that is so vividly described that it remains difficult to view Oz in the same light as previously.
This parallel novel provides background information on Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West and truly reveals her side of the story. Perhaps why her heart has turned so cruel and bitter. The book deals with the ethical concept of good versus evil and provides and interesting and innovative twist on The Wizard of Oz. The book reveals that Glinda and Elphaba knew each other from college and built a rivalry, the plot thickens when it is discovered that Elphaba’s father is actually The Wizard of Oz.
“Having sold three-quarters of a million copies since its 1995 publication, now the novel is enjoying a second life as a big-budget Broadway musical directed by Tony Award winner Joe Mantello” (gregorymaguire.com). Due to the enormous stir from this hit novel and play, several other outlets of media were developed, soundtrack and t-shirt sales are just two examples. The success and popularity of this form of media in relation to the original source of information allows the audience to reflect back on the original story and compare and contrast with this modern take on the classic story. The play allows us to physically witness the greatness of the novel on a different level, both the play and the book allow for us to gain first hand experience. This level of transmedia meets the audience’s current interests and gives intrigue and life back into the story that was written so long ago. The entry point of “Wicked” into the media was a smart and well timed decision because it breathes life back into The Wizard of Oz through a more up to date form of entertainment.
Musical Influence: One appearance of The Wizard of Oz is recognized in reference to the band, Pink Floyd. It has been said that Pink Floyd’s album “Dark Side of the Moon,” has remarkable correspondences that occur in relation to The Wizard of Oz, this correlation has been entitled “Dark Side of the Rainbow”
In addition, Elton John also created a pop culture reference of the movie through his song, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” The intro lyrics read as followed:
“When are you gonna come down
When are you going to land
I should have stayed on the farm
I should have listened to my old man.”- Elton John
Possibly indicating the cyclone landing in the world of Oz. These musical examples help to represent how the original piece of media has traveled over to formats in which were possibly unexpected, yet obviously proving that “The Wizard of Oz” has had an enormous effect on our society, even within pop-culture.