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Background Image Wizard behind Oz

We're off to See the Wizard

Following the Yellow Brick Road may be just a fairy tale for most of us, but Chris Glasgow has the means of pulling back the curtain on the world of Oz. 

As the curator of the Oz Museum in Wamego, Glasgow is a treasure trove of facts concerning The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum, and the 1939 MGM film, The Wizard of Oz. Glasgow is presenting “The Wizard Behind Oz” at the Hoisington Public Library on August 6, the Wichita Public Library on August 10, the Dream Theater in Russell on September 9, and Mennonite Friendship Communities on September 14. Glasgow’s presentation, along with over 60 other topics about Kansas history and literature, are available free-of-charge through HK’s Speakers Bureau.

In the “Wizard Behind Oz,” Glasgow takes a closer look at the first American fairy tale as written by L. Frank Baum in 1900 and the universality of the story Baum concocted in the late 1890s to entertain his children and their friends. “Humans have the same universal traits and needs and wants, and they keep making the same mistakes,” Glasgow says. The books are popular “because he wrote so well and kept everything universal. It’s like a never-ending story, it just keeps going generation after generation.”

The books, movies, stage productions like Wicked, and a new movie in the works, prove that the story’s popularity endures. “We’re all looking for home, a place that’s comfortable where we feel loved. We’re all wanting to be brave; we’re all wanting to be smart enough to figure our way through the challenges of life, and all wanting to feel love and compassion for other people,” Glasgow says. “That’s just kind of engrained in the human psyche. It’s very easy for us to identify with the characters.”

According to Glasgow, little Dorothy Gale was the first feminist in children’s literature. The character was heavily influenced by Baum’s mother-in-law, Matilda Joslyn Gage, a well-known suffragist and feminist of the day. She’s also the one who encouraged Baum to publish his original tale.

Glasgow says, “Most people are surprised to find out it was the first children’s book ever published with color illustrations.” Color was considered unimportant by publishers or parents and too expensive for children’s books. “Baum insisted his [book] had to be in color, and he and his illustrator paid for the first printing to ensure the color would be done.”

She also makes the case that the 1939 film—along with the 40 books written before 1965 and recognized as canon—is the basis for all the fantasy films that have followed, including Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and the Harry Potter series.

“When you go back and look at those films, and then you look at what Baum did with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, or what MGM did, you’ll see the pattern. There’s so much familiarity. That book influenced all of that.”

The discussions sparked by “The Wizard Behind Oz” are part of HK’s Movement of Ideas. When talking about the importance of sharing of ideas, Glasgow quotes Oliver Wendell Holmes: “A man’s mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimension.”

“When we hear something new, when we learn something new, when we experience something new, we’re changed. We are not the same person anymore. We have a broader perspective, more understanding of other people, and I think that’s what Humanities Kansas allows us to do. I think that’s important to our society, it’s important to us as individuals, and important to our communities.”

Join the Movement of Ideas

  • BRING Chris Glasgow's "The Wizard Behind Oz" or one of the other topics in HK's Speakers Bureau to your community.
  • ATTEND “The Wizard Behind Oz” in Hoisington, Wichita, Russell, or South Hutchinson and other Speakers Bureau presentations across the state. Visit HK’s Calendar of Events for details.
  • WATCH The trailer for the 1939 MGM Film The Wizard of Oz.
  • VISIT Wamego to see exhibitions dedicated to all things Oz at the Oz Museum and sample “the best Cal-Mex on the Yellow Brick Road” at Totos TacOZ.
  • TAKE a trip to Liberal to visit Dorothy's House at the Seward County Historical Museum and find out why there is no place like home!


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