Sunday, August 01, 2004

Lots of Wickedness

All right, so what's with all the fiction based on The Wizard of Oz these days? I had heard of the novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, by Gregory Maguire (it's one of those BAM selections I talked about earlier -- prime placement on Summer Reading tables).

However, in Gargoyle No. 47, my earlier rave, there's a short story, The Heart Made Wicked, by Matthew L. Moffett (not for the faint of heart, by the way, but a good read). Both of these deal with the point of view of the wicked witch of the west. (Far be it for me to cry foul, but it makes me wonder if these two people know each other or are the same person with pseudonyms. Both the novel and the short story deal with the wicked witch's human aspect, unseating the tyrannical, evil Wizard, and Glinda as a bit of a bitch, but I guess that's for the two of them to work out if they're not the same person, right?)

Meanwhile, on Strange Horizons, I ran across Displaced Persons by Leah Bobet, a short story that describes the winged monkeys' point of view, after the Wicked Witch has been dispatched.

It's interesting that the Oz story has resonated with so many people, apparently. Maybe it's always been ripe for the other point of view for the angles that were never told.

There's a lot that's interesting about The Wizard of Oz. All the symbolism, for example; poppies=opium, snow=cocaine, The Yellow Brick Road=the gold standard, and I don't know what the Emerald City stood for -- the Federal Reserve? Slidge, of the blog GoFYourself knows, I think.

Then, of course, there is the pure battle between good and evil. Apparently lots of people are into the idea of turning "pure evil" on its head in contemporary literature, only using tried-and-true pieces of pop culture. Any thoughts?

And, as an interesting aside, here in the DC area, there is an overpass near the Mormon Temple (which does look like Oz) where some enterprising individual had at one time spray painted "Surrender Dorothy." That was awe inspiring when I was a kid!

Thanks for reading,



Blogger Maktaaq said...

Gregory Maguire wrote soem other books "giving the other side of the story." Saw them in a bookstore the other day.

As for the Oz stories, I was just discussing the Munchkins tonight and it seems like the movie Munchkins had orgies. (Rumour has it.) I also added another debauched midget to my inventory of debauched midgets, plus all these Munchkins.

1:31 AM  
Blogger slidge said...

So many things to write about the Wizard of Oz.

Some have posited that L. Frank Baum wrote an allegory of the populist movements of the late 19th century. Ultimately, the book was about the free coinage of silver (one of the hallmarks of the agrarian populist movement, as they wanted to end dependency on the Eastern capitalists that controlled the gold supply). This is represented by Dorothy's silver slippers (which became ruby slippers in the movie).

The silver slippers are the key to her return home, yet not knowing of the inherent power within, she traipses all over the yellow brick road (aka "the gold standard"), the illusory pathway to salvation.

The scarecrow is the symbol of the agrarian class -- his facade covers his innate shrewdness. The tin woodsman is the dehumanized working class, made into a machine by the Eastern capitalists. The cowardly lion is none other than William Jennings Bryan -- the candidate of the people, who shows his true courage at the moment the people need it the most.

The Emerald City is Washington, DC, and the wizard is the President. The winged monkeys are the Plains Indians (more on this later), and the water that destroys the Wicked Witch of the West is the power of Irrigation!

L. Frank Baum actually advocated genocide of the American Indian, by the way, in a series of newspaper columns. Real nice guy, that L.

According to the Straight Dope, there are other 'weird' things about the Wizard of Oz.

Allegedly, in the scene where the scarecrow, the tin man and Dorothy link arms and begin to walk down the yellow brick road following the Wicked Witch of the West's visit, you can spot a munchkin in the back committing suicide by hanging himself.

And of course, if you cue Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" to start playing the moment the film starts, there are some very bizarre moments where music and film sync perfectly.

1:16 PM  
Blogger LadyLitBlitzin said...

Hmm, sounds like Maguire's "thing" is to give the other side of the story... oh yeah, isn't another one the wicked stepsisters from Cinderella... just seems so strange to me that that other short story had the same wicked witch theme.

And Slidge, I knew I could count on you for the deconstruction of Oz. I have never actually done the thing with Dark Side of the Moon, though I have heard it described...


6:25 PM  
Blogger Maktaaq said...

One of Baum's other Oz books was about how women revolt and start armies to fight their male oppressors. By the end of the book, they can't wait to get back to cooking and cleaning.

7:10 PM  
Blogger LadyLitBlitzin said...

For real??

Actually, the back and forth on this post might explain why there might be plenty of good reasons people would want to rework the works of L. Frank Baum.

Come to think of it, I think I tried to read the Oz stuff when I was a little kid but I always thought they were really creepy.


10:38 PM  
Blogger LadyLitBlitzin said...

Brian reminded me that "Wicked" has been made into a Broadway musical. And I remembered as I was sitting at a traffic light, the strong Wizard of Oz theme running through Wild at Heart. Of course, that was straight-up Oz legend, pretty much... "Sailor.... Sailor... don't give up on love!" Heh...


7:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


With a combination of boredom and vanity, I ran across this post on your site. I'm the author of the Gargoyle piece, and I'm definitely not Maguire (although I'd like his checking account...I know people who know him, and I understand many of his books are optioned now for both film and stage). I've never read him; I'm afraid to because something I'm working on mixes in a lot of retellings of fairy tales and myths, something I gather he's big on.

Happy reading.

4:11 PM  
Blogger LadyLitBlitzin said...


I hope you stop back to see this -- your story was a really good read. When I wrote that post, though, I was just so struck with all the Oz stories and books I was either running across or hearing about! "The Heart Made Wicked" was good stuff though!

Happy writing, good luck with the pieces you're working on!!! Have you been published anyplace recently, that I might be able to check out?


10:52 PM  

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