This was a research paper I wrote this past year, in this format I was not able to include my footnotes, but I did include the bibliography.

Ozianity: Religion in The Wizard of Oz

For close to a century now, the first 'modernized fairy tale", Lyman Frank Baums The Wizard of Oz, has been the mainstay of American childrens Literature. Baums book has been regarded as the first truly American fable, a story for the youth of America. When Baum wrote his original book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1900, he said his sole intent was "to pleasure children of today." However, his story may be interpreted in a manner that asserts that Baum intended to cast his own religious beliefs on the American youth through his fable.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, new scientific discoveries established increasing conflict between religion and science. This conflict caused widespread dissatisfaction against organized religions among many people of the Western world, particularly against fundamentalist Christianity. It was during this period that Baum too began to question the many aspects of established religions. He referred to this time period as an "Age of Unfaith." As editor of his own local newspaper, Baum wrote about organized religion in 1890:

"When the priests acknowledge their fallibility; when they abolish superstition, intolerance and bigotry; when they abhor the thought of a revengeful god; when they are able to reconcile reason and religion and fear not to let the people think for themselves, then, and then only will the Church regain its old power and be able to draw to its pulpits the whole people."

Never did Baum have specific prejudices against any one religion, but he did object to the stifling effect that organized religions tend to have on their followers. Baums dissatisfaction towards organized religions led him to a more considerate perspective of other faiths. He thought that it was necessary for individuals to question their faith, not necessarily give up their faith, but in questioning it, obtain a new perspective from which to adopt a faith; Baum did exactly this.

For a while, Baum abandoned many established religions in favor of Theosophy, a religious-philosophical order that professes insight into divine nature. Baum stated that the Theosophists are "searchers for Truth" and "admit the existence of God -- not necessarily a personal God" As a Theosophist, Baum felt an obligation to "penetrate the secrets of nature." Only through nature could a God or a Divine creator truly be believed to be known. Baum wrote, "Of all that is inexplicable in our daily lives, we can only say that they are Natures Secrets, and a sealed book to ignorant mortals; but none the less do we marvel at their source and desire to unravel their mystery." He spent many years of his life in search of ways to unravel the mysteries of religion. Baum ultimately came to a very simple and general resolution that defined his religion to the best of his own knowledge, "God is Nature, and Nature God." As a result of his Theosophical views, Baum set out on a task of broadening the religious conceptions of young Americans. When he wrote The Wizard Of Oz, Baum may have had this task in mind. Baum recognized that his fairy tale was little more than a fantasy to most children, yet he hoped that to some, his story would be taken more mindfully.

From the spiritual perspective, the Land of Oz is the entire world to the people of Oz. In the Land, the Wizard is God to the people. The "Great Wizard" is revered by all for his power; the Witch of the North asserts, "He is more powerful than all the rest of us together." Dorothy is seen as the Savior in this religious story. Both Savior and God are very different from all the rest of the populace of Oz, they are the only humans. As the only humans in all of Oz, Dorothy and the Wizard can be seen as the supreme beings of "Oz"ianity.

Prior to Dorothys arrival, the Land of Oz was held in a delicate balance between good and evil. The good Witch of the North describes, "There are only four witches in all the Land of Oz, and two of them, those who live in the North and South, are good witches...Those who dwelt in the East and West were, indeed, wicked witches." The Wizard ruled in the Emerald City, in the center of the land, providing the balance for the relative peace. Still, the province was barely able to be contained in peace by the Great Wizard, mainly because, "The Land of Oz has never been civilized," and "In civilized countries...there are no witches left; nor wizards, nor sorceresses, nor magicians." Yet, these beings reign in "Oz"ianity.

Dorothy came to the Land of Oz from the heavens. Her house, carried by the cyclone, brought her down from the sky and into the Land of Oz. Upon her arrival, her divine duties were already being fulfilled when her house landed on the Wicked Witch of the East. Dorothy, "You are welcome, most noble Sorceress, to the land of the Munchkins." said the Witch of the North. "We are so grateful to you for having killed the wicked Witch of the East, and for setting our people free from bondage." Having been freed by Dorothy, the Munchkins now become deeply grateful to her. Following her saving of the Munchkins, Dorothy begins her travels down the yellow brick road towards the God, Oz, in the City of Emeralds. As any good Savior probably should, Dorothy saves several more people along the way.

Stopping near a corn field for a rest from her long journey to the Emerald City, Dorothy was at first startled by the Scarecrow stuck upon the pole next to her. When she pulled him down he felt forever indebted to her. She saved him from a long life abandoned there in the cornfield. Baum even named the chapter in which this occurs as, "How Dorothy Saved the Scarecrow." Next in Dorothys crusades, she saves another familiar character, the Tin Woodman. Upon finding the rusted Tin Woodman, Dorothy promptly oiled his joints, to which he replied, "I might have stood there always if you had not come along, so you have certainly saved my life." Further along in the plot, when Dorothy melts away the wicked Witch of the West, she frees another group of people, the Winkies, who had been slaves of the wicked Witch of the West. "The Winkies...would be delighted to do all in their power for Dorothy, who had set them free from bondage." At this point, Dorothy has liberated the entire Land of Oz. The people of the East and West are no longer controlled by wicked witches; Dorothy has brought peace to the land. She fulfilled her obligation as Savior to the people of Oz, and is worshipped by everyone in the land. The Great Oz however, still remains the omnipotent and omniscient God in everyone's eyes.

Baum was not looking for anyone to truly believe in Dorothy and Oz as Gods, but he did want to make others aware of other possible religious beliefs. He was a strong advocate of unprejudiced thoughts towards all religions, and he used the Wizard of Oz to help demonstrate this concept. Baum himself may have put a little faith in the idea of "Oz"ianity. When Lyman Frank Baum died in 1919, he referred to the Shifting Sands, the impassable desert surrounding the Land of Oz when he said his last words, "Now I can cross the Shifting Sands."

Sources Consulted

Baum, Frank Joslyn. To Please a Child. Chicago: Reilly & Lee, 1961.
Baum, L. Frank. The Wizard of Oz. Ed. Michael P. Hearn. New York: Schocken Books, 1983.
"Baum, L(yman) Frank. Microsoft Encarta. 1994.
Commire, Anne. Vol. 18 of Something About the Author. Gale Research, 1980.
Judge, William Q. The Ocean of Theosophy. Covina Ca.: Theosophical University Press, 1948.
Kallen, H. M. Theosophist. World Book Encyclopedia. 1977 ed.
Smith, Morton. "Theosophy." Microsoft Encarta. 1994.

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