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Middle-Earth = Oz?

Could The Wizard of Oz have inspired The Lord of the Rings?


The definitive (though certainly not the only) film version of L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz was released in the summer of 1939, less than a month before World War II officially began. Though started as early as 1937, The Lord of the Rings was largely composed during the war years, but not published until somewhat later.

Therefore, it is by no means impossible that J.R.R. Tolkien saw the magnificent MGM movie before he wrote most of his magnum opus. Could Oz have influenced his tale somehow, consciously or unconsciously?

Consider these intriguing, if by no means exact, parallels:

The Wizard of Oz vs. The Lord of the Rings 

Dorothy Gale

Dorothy & Glinda

Frodo Baggins

Frodo & Galadriel

 The hero of the quest, a young, innocent, unwitting bearer of a mysterious talisman that she/he does not want yet cannot safely give up.

 

The Ruby Slippers

Ruby Slippers

The One Ring

One Ring

Silver shoes in Baum’s book, covered with glittering gems by Hollywood.
Shoes or ring, these apparently ordinary objects conceal a great yet undefined power that the protagonist must somehow keep from the desperately searching villain’s greedy appendages.

 

Toto

Toto too

 Sam Gamgee

Ringbearers

  Faithful and brave, albeit simple, sidekick whose antics cause more trouble, but in the end helps save the day.

 

Almira Gulch

Almira

  The Ringwraiths

Black Rider

  While Almira ruthlessly pursues Toto rather than the Ruby Slippers, she’s a terrifying hunter even before her transformation into the Wicked Witch.

 

Professor Marvel

Fake

 Gandalf the Grey

Real

 Though at times seemingly a charlatan unable to offer effective aid, this wily old conjurer nonetheless gives wise counsel to the protagonist.

 

Glinda the Good Witch

Fairy Queen

 Galadriel of Lorien

Elf Queen

 Beautiful and greatly revered by the little folk, this fairy princess is no weakling, but able to stand up to evil. She dares not confront it directly, however, nor claim the power-object(s) for herself, yet steers the bearer in the right direction and provides assistance.

 

Wicked Witch of the West

Wicked Witch

 Sauron of Mordor

Lidless Eye

Red-eyed sorcerer supreme lusting after the lost magical treasure.

 

Scarecrow

Philosopher

 Legolas the Wood Elf

Elf

 A companion on the quest. Not too many similarities, except for the connection to nature, a bit of invulnerability, and a certain unacknowledged cleverness.

 

Tin Man

Cyborg

 Gimli the Dwarf

Dwarf

 A sturdy companion, rather handy with an axe, interested in metalwork, and whose emotional range expands greatly during the course of his adventures.

 

Cowardly Lion

Lion

 Aragorn the Ranger

Strider

 A companion who is a king without subjects, and whose lack of self-confidence gives him trouble living up to his own regal expectations. Yet he is able to take command when the chips are down.

 

The Wizard of Oz

Good Wiz

 Saruman the White

Bad Wiz

 While at first seeming to offer welcome aid and advice, this aloof and mysterious magician-ruler secretly plots the heroes’ doom.

However, once exposed, the Wizard of Oz suddenly transforms into a much more benevolent character. He becomes like Gandalf the White, who deposes Saruman. Granting rewards, he acknowledges the heroes’ triumphs, and ultimately departs the land on his own.

Plus all these too:

Uncle Henry
The Wicked Witch of the East
Munchkins
Munchkinland
The Yellow Brick Road
The Emerald City
Wicked Witch’s Fortress
The Haunted Forest
Wicked Witch’s Crystal Ball
The Winged Monkeys
The Winkie Guards
The Talking Trees

Bilbo Baggins
Sauron (earlier incarnation)
Hobbits
The Shire
The Great West Road
Minas Tirith
Barad Dur and Orthanc
The Old Forest and Fangorn
The Palantir
Nazgul
Orcs and Uruk Hai
Treebeard and the Ents

Amazingly, the correspondences go even beyond the screen! The Jitterbug, for instance, which was cut from the movie and thus could not have been seen by Tolkien, matches Shelob in LOTR. Pretty wild, huh?

Any others? Let me know...


Disclaimer

Please note that ever since I was young, I’ve loved both stories and deeply respect their authors. As far as I know, this idea was first put forth by my glorious brother Dr. Aldo, largely as a joke, so blame him. Though the similarities are numerous and interesting, I believe it’s more likely due to the mythic archetypes both drew upon, than a case of Tolkien plagiarizing, especially considering that weird JitterbugShelob thing.


Over the rainbow

It should be noted that other interpretations abound, at least about The Wizard of Oz. It is thought by some that L. Frank Baum wrote the original book as a political allegory concerning America in 1900. Dorothy, in this view, represents Everyman, with the Scarecrow as farm workers, the Tin Man as the urban proletariat, etc. The Yellow Brick Road represents the Gold Standard (“Oz” itself being the abbreviation for “ounce”) and the Wizard none other than William Jennings Bryan (!).

Or perhaps a mystical interpretation is in order. After all, Dorothy and Co. represent the human, animal, plant, and mineral realms. The spiraling Yellow Brick Road, the Emerald City, the “man behind the curtain”, even the Haunted Forest have all sorts of interesting kabbalistic implications.

Or maybe it’s all about drugs. Dorothy, a dweller of a dull monochrome land, gets knocked out by a flying window which, oddly enough, doesn’t shatter. The blow gives her visions of another world in dazzling technicolor — “windowpane” was a pure and highly potent form of LSD back in the early 1970s (long after the movie came out, though acid was first discovered in in the early 40s.) That’s not the only strange anachronistic connection, either: some people claim to have noticed certain peculiar musical synchronicities with Pink Floyd’s classic Dark Side of the Moon.

Maybe that’s a wee bit of a stretch, but it’s undeniable that it’s poppies that put Dorothy and friends to sleep before they reach the Emerald City, and “snow” that wakes them up again. And why do the horses there keep changing color, anyway?

As for Tolkien, he detested allegory and adamantly maintained that there was little parallel between the War of the Ring and the Second World War. The One Ring, he always insisted, was not the A-bomb, if only because the Bomb was ultimately used, and the Ring could never be. However, it is likely that only in a world graced with beings as wise as Gandalf and as pure as Frodo, would the Bomb not have been dropped.

Perhaps we should remember that The Lord of the Rings was not intended as a call for a holy war between East and West, either...


Links: Official Movie Homepages

The Wizard of Oz * The Lord of The Rings

Plus a zillion other sites devoted to each.


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