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Monday, February 27, 2012

The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz: controversy and adoration

Few fiction books, that I can think of, have garnered such praise and loathing as The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz. Originally published in 1900, this little book spun a fascinating tale full of simple lessons bound up in great storytelling.

Last year I bought myself an iPad and learned, much to my chagrin at first, that I love reading books on it. When I was a kid, probably no more than eight-years-old, a well-meaning older couple practically forced my siblings and I to watch the movie Wizard of Oz. I was horrified by it, and my siblings had nightmares I'm sure. The film felt so dark, so evil, and the white witch was called a 'good' witch. This ran so contrary to what the Bible showed concerning witches that even at that young age I was appalled.

But a few months ago I found The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz as a free iBook, and, having now read a number of fairy tales and fantasies, I decided to try it. Suffice it to say I found the author's style whimsical and fascinating. The story itself was made by the characters and their curiously simplistic, yet moralistic dilemmas. I loved it. I thought it was great. I still hate the movie, but the book was a fun read.

The author, L. Frank Baum, wrote in his introduction to the book, "...Yet the old time fairy tale, having served for generations, may now be classed as 'historical' in the children's library; for the time has come for a series of newer 'wonder tales' in which the stereo-typed genie, dwarf and fairy are eliminated..." He went on to say that "...The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz was written solely to please the children of today. It aspires to being a modernized fairy tale, in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heartaches and nightmares are left out."

It is a fascinating premise upon which Mr. Baum wrote his fairy tales, and one which, I believe led to the mixed reception of both the book and the movie. (There was a play as well, but it has no real bearing on this article). In the first book, there are four witches mentioned. Each is known by the direction their kingdom lies on the compass. Mr. Baum created two 'good' witches, and two 'bad' witches, and of course the good 'wizard' of Oz.

The Christian community largely rejected the movie upon its release, which may have contributed to its initial flop. And years later a lawsuit was filed against a school that included the book in the library. Many people turn up their noses at that kind of a reaction, but I'd like to revisit the issue, especially in light of my reaction as a child.

In a past blog post I considered the issue of the author's worldview in their stories, and I argued that Tolkien's Middle Earth ran largely contrary to his Roman Catholic belief system because it was polytheistic, etc. I received a very strong response to that conclusion, but I still stand by it. I have enjoyed Tolkien's stories, as I've enjoyed Harry Potter, and now The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz, but worldview is powerful in a story, especially when directed at young readers. They are impressionable and need Christian values reinforced, not skewed. As an author of young adult fantasy novels, I am striving to create stories that reinforce Christian values and worldview. There is an ocean of literature pushing readers to think 'inclusively.' As an author I have a responsibility to help readers think intelligently and stand on what is true.

What are your thoughts on good witches? And do you see writers holding true to their worldviews, or compromising?

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"Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones." -Proverbs 16:24

In a world where morality is forsaken and Christ neglected, wholesome books are uncommon. The themes of my writing are love, self-sacrifice, and honor.

I see my generation turning from God to the gods of this world. I see homes torn apart in the pursuit of pleasure and self-gratification. Children are murdered by the millions every year . . . without ever seeing the world outside their mothers' wombs. Through fiction I strive to encourage those who are willing, to stand against these things and be heroes and heroines; chivalrous, gentle, full of righteous indignation, and the fear and love of their Creator.