The Land of Oz Beyond the Wizard
“The Land of Oz is a wonderful place; it’s where long ago in the beginning of the twentieth century Frank Baum wrote the Wizard and he never could get rid of the wizard, it took hold.”
The Wizard of course, is the title character of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, written by L. Frank Baum and published in 1900. But if you’re only familiar with the Hollywood movie version of the story, then you’ll want to join Roger “Buttonbright” Forman at the Pocahontas Opera House on March 13th at 7pm.
The story of Dorothy and Toto along with Tin Man, Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion is only the beginning of a saga about the Land of Oz that spans 14 books written by Baum and another 19 books written by his successor, Ruth Plumley Thompson. In his talk Wednesday night, Roger will delve deeply into the motivations behind Baum’s engaging story.
“Frank was really a very interesting man who created a fairy land,” says Roger. “And the fairy Land of Oz has so many people that nobody knows unless they’re Oz freaks because the Land of Oz was suppressed by the people who worked in the libraries. They wouldn’t allow his books to get any recognition. If you were a pacifist, you were attracted to Baum because he really didn’t believe in war and he made fun of war.”
But Baum was not a saint. In the 1890’s during the Indian Wars, Baum was working as a newspaper editor in South Dakota and after hearing about the massacre at Wounded Knee, he wrote editorials calling for the extermination of Native Americans. Roger said the Elders of the Tribes eventually forgave him for his comments.
Despite those unfortunate editorials, Baum’s Oz characters live on. Roger, like many Oz fans, identifies with one character in particular.
“I’m Buttonbright for instance,” he says. “Buttonbright is who I really am deep in me and Oz does that to you. Buttonbright was the first American boy in Oz and he was always lost and always happy. He actually started a little bit before he had the Wizard. He had done Mother Goose, which is a wonderful set of fairy tales, Father Goose which has wonderful illustrations and Frank worked I think probably until around 1919.”
After Baum passed, the family hired Ruth Plumley Thompson to continue the series. Those who attend the lecture about the Land of Oz on Wednesday will learn more about Frank Baum, the author.
“The feminist, the person who said that the world’s not going to be a good place until women are in charge and did that in his book,” says Roger. They’re going to learn about how Oz affected people. Oz was the first of many really great series of books.”
“Baum had other very interesting series of books, and he wanted to move on, but his readers insisted upon him writing another book and it took over his life. So they’re going to learn about his life, they’re going to learn about his politics, they’re going to learn about the characters of Oz; but I think they’ll like to get to know that there was this wonderful fairy land and it was suppressed.”
Beyond the Wizard: An Introduction to the Land of Oz is Wednesday March 13th at 7pm at the Opera House in Marlinton. The lecture is part of the Ruth Morgan Lecture series and is given in conjunction with performances of the Hampstead Theater’s adaptation of The Wizard of Oz at Pocahontas County elementary schools, sponsored by the Snowshoe Foundation. The lecture is free and open to the public.