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Author Comment
Registered User
(7/5/01 4:23:40 pm)
Wizard of Oz
I recently completed a hastily written paper on whether Baum's book can be classed as a fairy tale or not. To keep things simple I concentrated on structural, stylistic and psychoanalytic approachs (Propp, Luthi, Betelheim).

Obviously, with a question like that, I was inconclusive. Just wondering what people out there thought. Can we describe Oz as a fairy tale or is it "just" a childrens' book?

Edited by: G at: 7/6/01 4:06:45 pm
Unregistered User
(7/6/01 8:59:24 am)
O.K. justoutof curiousity, what were you going to ask? About the Granger movement? And the Greenbacks?

Registered User
(7/6/01 4:08:11 pm)
Re: Wizard of Oz

Unregistered User
(7/6/01 8:51:46 pm)

your posts are a little strange. Last time there were only a few words...hence my question. But reading it late and the whole post is suddenly there. Your second post so far, has started and ended with "a"....any idea what's happening to your missing posts?

Registered User
(7/6/01 11:23:18 pm)
Re: peculiar
I would lean toward "children's book", but it depends on how you want to define fairy tale.

Registered User
(7/7/01 5:52:27 am)
Re: peculiar
Sorry Midori, It's a mystery to me. I'm sure htey go 100% complete but when they get there most is left by the wayside.

The reason my first post appeared all of a sudden in its entireity si because I edited it - I hope that clears up that littel mystery.

My second post was meant to be about the criteria I used to establish what was a fairy tale, namely : Propp's functions, Luthi stylistic points, the prescence of magic, ordinary folk, emapthetic characters, personal (as oppsed to social/community-wide) motives etc

Unregistered User
(7/7/01 7:41:58 am)
Baum himself claimed he was creating a uniquely American fairy story without grim details of blood and executions. Hmmm--a house kills a wicked witch, a child kills off her sister by throwinhg water on her, and in the further adventures there are all sorts of odd, grim, and brutal incidents.

Yes, it is a children's book but like the best stories for chiildren (to paraphrase C. S. Lewis) if they can't be enjoyed by adult readers then they are simply bad stories.


Unregistered User
(7/7/01 8:37:26 am)
Definition of Fairy Tale?
In academic circles, how is a fairy tale defined? (If you remember my introduction from last winter, you'll remember that I have no academic credentials at all and have never formally studied fairy tales. I read them and participate in this board because I love them.)

I liked this question a lot because it made me give some thought to my own, personal definition of what makes a fantasy story a fairy tale. I'm afraid I haven't come up with anything concrete, but whatever my criteria are, the Oz books don't fulfill them. Neither do the Narnia tales, for that matter. It's something about the "feel" of the books that I haven't put my finger on yet. I know that's extremely vague and I'll be thinking more about what it is I mean by that. Also, they take place in the 20th century and in my mind, fairy tales take place both long ago and out of time. That is, in some undefined long ago; once a year or even a century is given, it moves from fairy tale to fantasy, the same if it's set in modern times. Yet that isn't always right either, since I had no trouble with seeing *Snow White and Rose Red* - was that by Patricia Wrede? - in the Fairy Tales series as a legitimate retelling of that tale.

(Just an aside - when I read the first post in the thread about heroines who've lost their heads, my first response was "my favorite fairy tale heroine just lost her head and she didn't get it back" - referring to Xena. The final episode was incredible as far as production values and acting go - and I hated it. I wanted happily ever after for my two favorite heroines. Now I've never before thought of Xena as a fairy tale and really, I still don't. I just thought it was kind of amusing that when I read that thread I immediately thought of her and Gabrielle as fairy tale heroines when I'd never consciously thought it before.)


Registered User
(7/7/01 5:23:26 pm)
Re: Definition of Fairy Tale?

The term "fairy tale" is extremely contentious; many folklorists don't like the term at all, or only use it to refer to a very specific set of criteria. In general, a fairy tale:

~is rooted in the oral tradition;
~is a folk narrative that is understood as fictional (as opposed to a legend or myth, both of which contain some element of belief);
~takes place in a self-contained world removed from everyday life;
~takes magic, and supernatural occurences completely for granted (no one says, "Wait, frogs don't talk!");
~deals with stereotypical/archetypical characters, who are rarely individualized or three-dimensional.

It becomes complicated, though, when you consider that Jack Zipes likes to use "fairy tale" to refer to literary tellings and interpretations of oral tales (i.e, the French salon writers, Angela Carter), rather than the oral tales themselves (for which he likes Marchen or Zaubermarchen). Then you add in Tolkien's concept of "Faerie," by which he means the realm of the fantastic (sort of), and it becomes even messier. Also, "fairy tales" don't always contain actual fairies; most fairy lore as we know it is actually legend, in that it's told as if it could be true.

So, is _The Wizard of Oz_ a fairy tale? We-eell... I suppose you could make an argument for it. But it's not "just" a children's book. Even children's books aren't "just" children's books. There are good stories written for children, but that doesn't make them any less important or worthy than stories for adults.


Registered User
(7/20/01 10:03:43 am)
Well, how was it written? What was Baum's intentions? More importantly, was some of the content based or influenced by earlier tales he had heard?

Unregistered User
(8/5/01 2:50:57 pm)
This is an interesting question: are the Oz books fairy tales? And I've typed an answer or two, and finally I'm left with a comment David Bowie made about the cannon in painting. Such is chosen by those who follow as they make use of what came before. What goes into the cannon later on is the matter of who got used as an influence, guide, rejected influence, etc.

Fairy tales, I would think, would be a matter of whether or not they get picked up as fairy tales by individuals in a culture. An objective list of fairy tale elements is interesting, but not definitive. This begs the question of how a culture uses passed along stories & how individuals connect to a culture of passed along stories.

And for those questions, I would cop out somewhat and go personal. I received most of my culture of passed along stories through books and not in retelling atmospheres, so for me, fairy tales are in books. Secondly, the culture still uses stories and myths to share motivations. Those motives are represented in the Oz books, so they do function as fairy tales.

So I come to this theory: a fairy tale shares motivations without sharing realism. I then have to ask why those motives can't or aren't being shared in more realistic terms. I can think of a thousand answers but no good summing up of all the answers or any reason to pick a specific answer.

Unregistered User
(8/10/01 9:29:38 pm)
Oz -what is it?
Hi! I apologize in advance for the stream of conciousness. I have been reading the forum for a long time now and it seems that the Oz books do match the criteria for a fairy tale, but rather constitute 20th century fantasy. Granted this is not an analytical, educated analysis.

I would love comments on my thoughts:

(1) the books are too connected and have too many story lines with the same characters. In this sense they differ from say, the "arabian nights" or other inter connected fairy tales;

(2) Each book has its own morale/ethical dilemma;

(3) the sheer length of some of the story lines seem to go against stories that are based in an oral tradition;

Here are some thoughts to add - are you focusing only on the Frank L. Baum books or the others as well? Are you isolating certain books or looking at the compilation as a whole? Are you looking at certain story lines or all of the story lines within a given book?

Obviously, it has been far too long since I read the Oz books in their entirety (almost 30 years), but I recall reading these books at about the same time I was introduced to most of the fairy tales with which I am now familiar. And, if my recollection is correct, the Oz books can be analyzed in many ways (i.e. political satyre), but no single analysis can cover all of the Baum books. There is almost always an exception. Certainly Baum uses devices found in fairy tales, but many of these same devices are used by Shakespeare and in classic opera. Where do we draw the line between genres?

Okay, enough said. Now your feedback.

Registered User
(8/22/01 11:19:02 am)
Baum--making a political statement
With regard to the Oz books, I came across an interesting comment in a political article, and figured I should throw it out here and see how it survives. Just to stir up the waters.

'Most American's are familiar with the classic film "The Wizard of Oz", and perhaps some are familiar with the original play and story by Frank Baum. The book was, and is, a progressive fairy tale. Much like the nursery rhymes of
"Mother Goose" its political context and symbolism are woven into child like symbols which are forgotten with context - few could say who "Jack Sprat" was, even though they know that between he and his wife, "they licked the
platter clean".

'In the original books - it was a very popular series - it was not "the yellow brick road" that Dorothy had to follow, but the silver one, representing silver coinage. Her compatriots were not merely charming characters, but symbols of the different members of an envisioned labor coalition - the tin
man representing the industrial worker, rusted in place; the straw man the farmer, taken to pieces; the cowardly lion was the Democratic party - afraid to fight.'
from "Rebirth of a Nation" an article on Roosevelt & Wm. Jennings Bryan" by Stirling Newberry

Registered User
(8/23/01 3:25:20 am)
Political Oz
Wow, that's certainly very interesting. I've always been very interested in the multilevel aspect of folktales and fairytales. Is there a full copy of the article available online?

Unregistered User
(8/24/01 8:37:43 am)
More political oz

See more of the political symbolism of the original Oz at:

Interesting and breif.


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This is an archived string from the SurLaLune Fairy Tales Discussion Board.

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