There is perhaps not a single children’s story as ingrained in American culture as L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Shortly after the book’s initial booming success in 1900, Baum’s characters came to life in a musical extravaganza that took to the theaters of Chicago and Broadway. Influenced strongly by both the success of the musical and the pestering of his young fans, Baum set out to write a sequel to his first book in 1904, entitled The Marvelous Land of Oz. From then on, Baum dedicated the rest of his life to continuing his Oz series up until his death in 1920. Just 19 years later, MGM adapted Baum’s first book into their hit musical film The Wizard of Oz, and the rest is history. Since then, Baum’s story about Dorothy Gale and her magical friends has had a jolly old time in the limelight, with even more flesh and paper adaptations being made and even more people being born to enjoy its rich literary legacy.
While Oz is now hailed as a great contribution to the cultural and literary heritage of the United States, it was not initially viewed as such. If I have learned anything in my nearly two decades of being alive, it’s that as one withers and wrinkles into a barely recognizable form, one takes up with such zeal a moral obligation to ensure that the children of today cannot have any fun. Whether this duty comes about out of the shriveling of the heart or the natural, uncontrolled spite for those more carefree and better-looking than oneself, I am not sure. The point is, the wrinkled old fun-hating librarians and the like had it out for Baum and his wonder tale, and so for a considerable amount of time before the 60s, the Oz books were banned from many libraries across America — if not explicitly, then by virtue of simply not being included in circulation. This was all, of course, despite the roaring success of the film and the adoration for the books from Baum’s difficult-to-please target audience, children.
I would like to take a brief aside and circle back to what was just said about those tendencies that befall us when we turn old and gray. I do not want you, dear readers, to get the wrong idea of me. My readership used to number two readers, but I’ve been informed that this figure has recently skyrocketed to three. While many more of you may be here for some petty laughs and parlor tricks, I am a very serious man who takes his job very seriously. If my dear three readers were to somehow misconstrue my argument, why, I wouldn’t be able to look myself in the mirror! Journalistic integrity can shove it, what really matters to a man of my trade is that my argument is crystal clear to all those that read it. You can agree or disagree all you like, but if I say horses and you tell everyone that I said snakes, we’re going to have a problem.
With that in mind — I do not wish for my readers to believe that I hold some kind of bias against the old and gray. As I’m a youngster myself, this is a reasonable concern. However, I want to make it absolutely, undeniably, and reliably clear that I am not resistant to this basic truth of life. And if I somehow were, I vow today that as I wither and wrinkle into an unrecognizable form, I will go out of my way to squelch all the fun out of anyone who dares cross my path. If it’s fun, I won’t be having it. I hope that clears up any confusion.
It seems quite peculiar for a book series such as Oz to be so simultaneously loved and hated. At the same time that the series was coming under fire by librarians across the country, points out literary scholar and L. Frank Baum expert Michael Patrick Hearn, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was the top selling children’s novel of the twentieth century. Not only that, but it was one of the top selling books of the entire twentieth century. Surely, this is not a feat that just any old unimportant children’s tale can accomplish.
Indeed, leading up to the `60s, the importance of Oz was finally established by none other than the academics and writers of the time. After all, it’s not enough to just observe that because children enjoy the books, the books must be doing something good — oh no, that would be too easy. You must prove that the books are worth considering, preferably through a 20 page report in a peer-reviewed journal. Only then will our children’s books be deemed worthy enough to be read by our children.
And so academics and the like began making wonderful essays and papers about Baum and Oz, until the withered and wrinkled librarians (who surely had become a fine powder by now) at last gave in and the series proudly adorned the shelves of children’s libraries everywhere. (I’m sorry for this second aside, but I feel I must apologize to the librarians. I’ve been too hard on them this whole time, and it’s beginning to weigh on my conscience. I know none of them will be reading this, on account of their being dead, but I really shouldn’t speak ill of the dead. Librarians of the 1950s, I am sorry. I promise I will think of you all fondly the next time I get chalk dust on my hands in Davis!)
Most of the new Oz hubbub in academia, however, wasn’t about how great of a children’s novel it was. This was already well established by the simple fact that American children everywhere loved the books. Instead, in the way only they know how, academics began beating the books senseless until new meanings and interpretations fell out. It’s not enough to tell an academic that your story was “written solely to pleasure [sic] children of today,” as Baum does in his introduction to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Everything absolutely must have a deeper, hidden meaning to it. For if things truly were as simple as some claim they are, there would be a sudden shortage of English majors. Then, the pockets of predatory student loan companies would run dry, and schools like Colby would be forced to admit a number of students at or below the sustainable capacity. To avoid this nightmare scenario, perhaps it’s best to let the academics have their own kind of fun; I’m sure it gets lonely in those ivy-covered walls.
The first such academic to have a lot of fun with Baum’s book was Henry Littlefield. In 1964, he published his seminal work “The Wizard of Oz: Parable on Populism” in the American Quarterly. Littlefield’s essay argued that Baum’s work was not just a mere fairytale to entertain children, but also an extensive allegory for the free silver debate and Populist movement of the late nineteenth century. His argument is highly interesting, but I’ll have to save the specifics for another time. No matter, Littlefield’s claim that Oz was actually about contemporary monetary policy drew the attention of other writers and educators until all the discussion and debate landed the books a home in the libraries of colleges. With the approval (or at least interest) of academics, the books were finally considered to be classics of American literature.
To continue this sacred tradition started by Littlefield, I would now like to put forward my own interpretation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. As promised in the title of this article, my analysis is actually the most valid one out there. It took much work and corroboration to come to this conclusion, but I assure you, dear readers, that what I’m about to tell you is the absolute truth. As an Opinions Reporter for The Colby Echo, it is my civic duty to provide the good people of the College with well-thought out and informative opinions about a myriad of topics. Luckily for me, my job is incredibly easy because I am always correct. A common pitfall for new faces in the Opinions game is that they spew nothing but incorrect and bad takes. Not so for me! I could never lie, not even as a joke.
With that said, allow me to enlighten you all with the truth: L. Frank Baum’s classic children’s story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is actually about the great benefits that cryptocurrency will bring to American society.
To quell immediate complaints, I wish to clarify that I am not just haphazardly applying convenient, timeless literary tropes from a centenarian book to a very modern political and economic issue. No, I am genuinely arguing that Baum not only knew exactly what cryptocurrency is but also believed it would benefit society. To any naysayers, I ask that you be a bit more open minded.
Unfortunately, my truly remarkable proof of this claim is too large for the margins of this newspaper, so I will have to briefly make my point. Consider: Dorothy, the poor Everywoman, is trapped in an unknown land. She befriends the Munchkins, who in the book wear predominantly blue, much like some Twitter users wear blue checkmarks. They advise Dorothy to follow the yellow brick road in search of the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz, who lives in the City of Emeralds. And so Dorothy does, wearing her silver slippers. Yellow and silver (the colors of the Bitcoin logo), on the road to prosperity…
The other main characters fit into the argument just as well. While Dorothy represents the everyday American, the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman represent brainless opponents to crypto and heartless artificial intelligence, respectively. The Cowardly Lion is obviously a symbol for politicians of a similar nature who refuse to consider crypto in their platforms. Together, the four go on a journey to meet the Wizard, who in the end is revealed to be nothing but a sham inventor (Elon, is that you?). Nevertheless, the belief in the Wizard is precisely what gives him any power at all and in the end is what saves the day. And so we come, at last, to Baum’s main takeaway: cryptocurrency itself has no more power than we believe it to have; if we choose to believe in its power, then it will surely reward us.
I wish I could say more, but in the interest of time I must leave you all curious. I encourage you to look for your own connections, in both the books and the movie. Somehow, even the writers of the MGM film knew Baum’s secret message. I will leave you with a quote from Scarecrow upon receiving his honorary degree of Doctor of Thinkology: “I should invest in Bitcoin now. Oh, joy! To the moon! I’ve got a brain!”
How could we have been so blind…
~ Mostly Prior Knowledge
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