Myths Surround 'Wizard of Oz' As Festival Opens

VIDEO: The actress croons a snippet of the musical for Popcorn.


Dorothy was a) a stand-in for the naïve, gullible American or b) the daughter L. Frank Baum, author of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," never had.

Did the Tin Woodman represent the Industrial Revolution, Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) or, because he was creaky from lack of oil, the evils of John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil? And the flying monkeys, were they stand-ins for the members of the American Bar Association?

Good Witch Glinda, so beautiful and kind to Dorothy – turns out, she may have been making a power move on the wicked witch and using the innocent girl from Kansas as a sap.

  • As the Oz-Stravaganza festival opens in upstate New York, debates over the meanings and myths of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" still occupy historians and L. Frank Baum descendants

Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" and the movie synch up so well, is there a psychic connection? It's right there, for all to see on YouTube.

Finally, where did the real yellow brick road actually go?

These, and other questions, will no doubt come up this weekend in the tiny upstate New York town of Chittenango, where Baum was born in 1856. The three-day festival, Oz-Stravaganza, will feature pancake breakfasts and spaghetti dinners; a silent auction; and a 5:30 a.m. hot air balloon ride. Plus, there are visits from great-grandson of Robert Baum; Caren Marsh-Doll, Judy Garland's stand-in; and surviving Munchkins from the 1939 movie.

Robert Baum, a retired schoolteacher from Los Angeles, sees all the interpretations and myths surrounding his great-grandfather's novel and 1939 movie as amusing, if misleading. But it's good for keeping the man and story alive.

1. The Wizard of Oz is a populist parable.

This is the most popular myth. Populist William Jennings Bryan, running for president in 1896 and 1900, was the Cowardly Lion. The yellow brick road symbolized the gold standard; the silver slippers (ruby in the movie) looser money. The Wizard was the president, the tin man the industrial worker, the scarecrow the farmer.

Not true, says Evan I. Schwartz, who wrote "Finding Oz: How L. Frank Baum Discovered the Great American Story." "The whole parable of populism is a mistake," he told "It was started in 1964 by a high school history teacher named Henry Littlefield, who was trying to get his kids interested in populism."

Dewar MacLeod, who teaches history at William Patterson University, in New Jersey, concurs. "It sounded so clean and neat when it first came out, and teachers still use it because it's one of those things that helps explain a concept -- populism and the cross of gold and the idea of gold being a tool of liberation or oppression. But in looking at the story itself, I don't get how this is a populist story."

If it were, "the plot would play out to enact some kind of point, and it really doesn't," said Schwartz. "The whole parable of populism was based on the belief that Baum was a supporter of William Jennings Bryan, who wanted to topple the gold standard. I found that Baum voted for and supported President William McKinley. Baum was quoted as saying, 'I've always been a Republican when I dabble in politics, which is not often.'

"The theory's been debunked, but it still lives as a conspiracy theory on the internet. It's very hard to overcome the power of a conspiracy theory on the Internet."

Besides, James Finn Garner, author of "Politically Correct Bedtime Stories," told, "The way to write a really boring story is to make a political allegory."

Plus, he added, "If Baum were so intelligent about politics and finance, he wouldn't have gone broke so many times. He was a dreamer."

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