The Spoiler Zone: the real character of the Wizard of Oz
Note: this post is going to reveal things about the character of The Wizard of Oz from the L. Frank Baum books, and that will include plot details. If you have not yet read those books and prefer to have that pure feeling of discovery that comes from approaching a work of entertainment with no foreknowledge (which I understand), I’d skip this one until you have read them.
Sam Raimi’s Oz the Great and Powerful opens in the USA on March 8th. As has been the fashion with some movies, it suggests that it sticks closer to the original material than the more famous versions we know already.
As a big fan of Oz, I can tell you that there is an interesting arc for the Wizard that was not at all evident in the wonderful 1939 Judy Garland version, but I’ll actually be surprised if we see much of it here (based partially on the trailers).
Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs (he dropped everything except the Oz, because the rest of it spells out “PINHEAD”) was not only pretending to be a powerful wizard, he started out as a bad person.
After taking over the throne from the rightful ruler (King Pastoria), Oz hid the king’s daughter away, so she could not threaten his power.
“Her name is Ozma,” answered Glinda. “But where she is I have tried in vain to discover. For the Wizard of Oz, when he stole the throne from Ozma’s father, hid the girl in some secret place; and by means of a magical trick with which I am not familiar he also managed to prevent her being discovered—even by so experienced a Sorceress as myself.”
Simply hiding her away would be one thing, but what he did is beyond what you would expect from a kind, lovable con man.
He gave her to Mombi, a truly evil character.
Glinda eventually forces Mombi to reveal the truth…by threatening to kill her.
“The Wizard brought to me the girl Ozma, who was then no more than a baby, and begged me to conceal the child.”
The Wizard and Mombi met three times: this was a conspiracy, not a spur of the moment action.
The Wizard had stolen a throne, kidnapped an infant, and essentially guaranteed that child a life of servitude with a dreadful master…so he could retain his ill-gotten rule.
Eventually, the character does reform (and L. Frank Baum sort of retcons away the kidnapping…we don’t hear much about it after it is revealed). This is certainly due in part to the benevolent leadership of Ozma, who makes the Wizard part of her inner circle…and even allows him to learn real magic.
There are fascinating politics at work here.
It goes beyond simple forgiveness, because the Wizard (along with Glinda) under Ozma is one of the most well-known and powerful people in the complicated land of Oz.
Part of it may be that the people of the Emerald City respected their Wizard, in addition to fearing him. Making him part of the “cabinet” may have made the transition easier.
That would be a really interesting story to see on screen. How this employee of “Bailum & Barney’s Great Consolidated Shows” (as is stated in the books) ended up in a land and took power, faced the wicked witches, behaved wickedly himself, and eventually became a power figure again under the person he had betrayed and robbed of her destiny…and more importantly, found a way to behave (and believe?) in a positive way.
I suspect, though, there may be more special effects than politics in this version…but I’m willing to wait and see.
You can get the books for free online, but you typically have to download each of the “famous fourteen” individually to do that. If you are willing to spend ninety-five cents (at the time of writing), this one collects all fourteen in one download:
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.