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Is the Wizard of Oz a Fairytale?

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English Lit. Stage II The Fairy Tale EN2 Is the Wizard of Oz a Fairytale? This question is deceptive in its apparent simplicity as it raises some problematic issues, which extend beyond the text right across fairytale scholarship. The term "fairytale" itself is a contentious one and is unpopular with many folklorists (see Luthi, Warner, Luke). Often epithets like "wondertale", "magic tale" are employed. Even in some English translations of European works the more semantically accurate Russian or German terms (volshebnye skazka and [zauber]Marchen) are used. Often authorities expound at length upon is the difference between myth and folktale and then folktale and fairytale. Space will not allow us to open that can of worms her. For our purposes I shall use a system Jack Zipes adopts and assume the magical folktale1 is the oral version and the fairytale the literary version of a tale: "The Fairytale in the Western world is the mass mediated cultural form of the folktale." (Zipes, Spell, 12). This fact established we must then consider what constitutes a fairytale. Does it possess distinctive structural, stylistic or temporal features? What gives it its generic status and demarcates it from other forms of children's literature? Part of this essay will focus on these and similar questions with the aim of ultimately concluding whether Frank L. Baum's 1900 novel The Wizard of Oz (Oz) can feasibly rank within the generic confines of "fairytale." Initially, though, as opposed to looking for a definitive answer as whether Oz incontrovertibly is or isn't a fairytale, I feel it would be more profitable to look for a correlation between traditional wondertales and Baum's more modern text. By applying various theories about the fairytale to Oz I hope to draw out parallels between the two while maintaining a degree of distance. This distance is necessitated by Oz's irreconcilable differences from what Baum himself calls "the old-time fairy tale" exemplified by the "fantastic stories of Grimm" (Baum, 1). ...read more.


In that case its edification does not come form resolution of Thanatos /libido issues but the simple idea that different parts constitute the whole. As Dorothy realises the power of the magic slippers and the other characters find what they were looking for but had all along, the reader gets the message that what we need for "wholeness" is within, not without. Although commendable this "fails to follow the pattern of traditional wondertales even if it hints at some of the psychological realities." (Zipes 'Introduction', xxxiii). "In Oz, unlike in the world of Grimm, childhood is a non-sexual state.....If The Wonderful Wizard of Oz rewrites traditional 'wondertales' as it claims, it does so by suppressing what is often their most important thematic content [sex and death].5" (Wollstoneholme, xxxv). Most fairytales have a transparent emotional moral, in Oz it is unclear. It is certainly not the MGM vagary that "there's no place like home" (home is a soulless gray wilderness). If the moral is that we have within us the qualities we seek, this is negated when Dorothy returns to Kansas, she loses the slippers and does not attain a higher level of status or maturity. So even though we can identify some (arguable) social and psychological truths in Oz they are not of sufficient depth or thematic quality for it to be classed as a fairy tale by Marie Von Franz, Bruno Betelheim, Jack Zipes or Susan Wollstoneholme.6 But what of Max Luthi and Vladimir Propp? Their seminal work on the European folktale takes a different tack from the psychological approach of Betelheim or the feminist readings of Maria Warner. Propp wrote one of the most famous early books on fairytales - Morphology of the Folktale - in 1920. His approach was structural in that he felt the essential fairytale form remained constant despite changes in content. Using Afanesev's 1855, collection of volshebnye skazki he identified 31 actions/Functions (F) at least some of which were present in all fairytale narratives in a regular order. ...read more.


John Niles), 1982, ISHI. Once upon a Time (trans. Lee Chadeayne), 1976, Indiana UP. Swann-Jones, Stephen; The Fairy Tale, 1995, Twayne Publishers. Von Franz, Marie, The Interpretation of Fairytales, 1987, Spring Publications. Parker, David; 'The Rise and Fall of the Wizard of Oz as a Parable on Populism.", Journal of the Georgia Association of Historians vol. 15 (1994), pp. 49-63 Wollstoneholme, Susan; 'Introduction' in Wizard of Oz, 1997, Oxford UP. Zipes, Jack; Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion, 1983, Heinemann Books. 'Introduction' in Wizard of Oz (see Baum above). G.Gulati 1 Marie Von Franz identifies three different types of folktale: The fairytale (magical), the fable (moral), the joke (comic) and the novella (romantic). 2 However, like the plot similarities with "The Six" this again cannot be fairly used as proof of a deliberate intertextuality. After all Vladimir Propp, in his seminal Morphology of the Folktale, shows how similar motifs are re-used in a transformed state throughout the canonical body of traditional tales. Baum may just have been using them to achieve his stated aim. 3 See the Grimms' 'The Fisher and his Gweedwife' which uses the same paragraph and speech each time the man asks the fleuk for a boon. 4 Although in The Emerald City of Oz Dorothy returns to her rightful home and rank as a princess of Oz. 5 If we look at a tale like Rapunzel we see a girl of 12 whose pubertal state is indicated by her growing hair, become interested in men ("She wasn't afraid any longer" (Grimm, 68) and she quickly matures to procreative and beneficial sexual activity. Any punishment she receives along the way is overcome- conflict: resolved. 6 Prof. Swann Jones disagrees when he write: "Audiences who continue to enjoy this story [Oz] not because they have some latent interest in nineteenth century economic upheavals, but because they have a subliminal empathy with a heroine who faces the challenges of overcoming her own insecurities and anxieties and because they enjoy the fairy-tale like depiction of the overcoming of those challenges." 8 14 ...read more.

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