Paving the Way for Women Via
The Yellow Brick Road
The fairy tale or quest story which most captured my imagination is The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. Written in 1900 and illustrated by W.W. Denslow, most people are only familiar with the timeless movie, which plays on or around the holiday season at least one time per year. As youngsters, we have all certainly seen the movie at one time or another – a testament to what a powerful narrative it is. This story tells of an eventual ‘hero’ who sets out on an ‘epic quest’ in order to save the land from ‘the big bad’. Seeming to be pretty standard fare as far as fairy tales start, this timeless gem is anything but standard. Written during the turn of the 20th century, it was strongly influenced by Maude Gauge who was Baum’s wife, a second generation women’s suffrage activist. Maude played an integral role in giving Baum the drive he needed to carry on his study after his life was beset with many pitfalls, both financially and spiritually. She also heavily influenced how Baum envisioned Dorothy when writing about her. Feminist strengths shine to light through Dorothy and Baum shared his wife’s strong feminist views about what was going on in the world around them at the time of writing.
Many fairy tales and quest stories did not start life off with the format you see today. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was based on a story which originally came along in a book as many of the modern films of today are similarly conceived. Dorothy is the main character in the tale and of course is faced with a seemingly impossible challenge. This tale captivates me due to it being relatable to my own life, and its struggles, trials, and tribulations. Granted, I have never been in a place to suffer my path barred by a witch sending wolves, crows, and bees after me, but I can appreciate the struggle Dorothy underwent and how both she and her group of companions worked together to defeat the obstacles blocking their goal. Getting help where you least expect it, making wrong turns, being confronted by enemies – all can be compared to the challenges I have faced on my own path to achieve goals. Often I will find myself in similar situations where I must rely upon the support of others to guide and assist with my journey through life. However, there are many meanings which may be concluded from a reading, and may depend vastly on the reader's interpretation of what the author was trying to convey to the audience. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a story which can be read and enjoyed by a child, but also can be appreciated for its fundamental tone as an adult. Baum had both great interest in science and also an admiration for the strength of women, which inspired strong female characters in his works.