Theosophical Wizard of Oz
- Published: Saturday, 15 August 2009 03:00
John Algeo - USA
The author of The Wizard of Oz was a Theosophist. And his book is full of Theosophical ideas and ideals. Those two facts were first established in the American Theosophist in 1986. The Theosophical background of the book and its author, Frank Baum, has been largely ignored by literary critics, many of whom believe that “children’s literature” (or “kid lit”) is not worthy of serious consideration. (Never mind that most of today’s Oz fans are almost certainly adults rather than children, even if they first encountered the story during childhood.) In addition, Oz fans for the most part do not understand the Theosophy of the story and may not be comfortable with the author’s subliminal adoption of Theosophical thought.
However, a new biography of L. Frank Baum establishes the centrality of Theosophy to both the author’s life and The Wizard of Oz. That biography is Finding Oz: How L. Frank Baum Discovered the Great American Story, by Evan I. Schwartz (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009). This book is a great read, a sort of mystery story leading from Baum’s failures and frustrations to his amazing success with Oz. It shows how early events in the author’s life are paralleled in the book and were doubtless sources from which he drew, perhaps unconsciously, in writing it. But it also forthrightly acknowledges the importance of Theosophy to both Baum and Oz.