Happy birthday, Lyman Frank Baum. You were one crazy coot.
Can you imagine a world with no Oz, no Scarecrow or Tinman or Cowardly Lion, no Toto, no Dorothy clicking her red shoes? While the witch still freaks out my boys and Miska has never really jumped on the Baum bandwagon, even they wanted to see James Franco in the updated backstory. Even they honor the fact that Baum gave us something profoundly unique.
I heard a radio story last year narrating how Wizard of Oz had been reworked (plagiarized might be a better term) in Russia a couple decades after Oz made its splash in the U.S. Baum’s creation captured the Russian imagination so powerfully that ‘Emerald City’ became an iconic cultural moniker. Shopping centers, childcare centers and even night clubs popped up all over the country with the name ‘Emerald City’ plastered in bold, green letters. When a Russian cultural historian was asked about this ironic phenomenon (remember the stereotype of hardened enemies in the Cold War rebuffing all things Capitalist and American) was possible, he answered: “We were desperate for magic.”
We are all desperate for the magic. Baum made us a little magic. Why don’t you go out and live well and live bold and give us a little more.