In Oz

What would happen if our starlight, the oracle that guides our journey turned out to be… well, fake?

Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high
There’s a land that I heard of once in a lullaby
Somewhere over the rainbow, Skies are blue,
And the dreams that you dare to dream, really do come true…

Over the Rainbow, Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg

And of course, this place is not here. Is it? It is wherever it might be, but by definition ‘not here’.

And so we start our journey to reach this place where our frustrations will cease to exist, where our dreams will “really do come true”. Reality and truth in the same line, that’s daring… Anyway, who wouldn’t want to reach such a land? So we walk down the yellow brick road to ask a god, a wizard, someone with supernatural powers to fix our shortcomings. At some point we have decided that we cannot fix them ourselves or we’re just too lazy to do it.

In the Wizard of Oz, four friends meet on the road. They don’t have much in common, except that each of them feels they lack something, a specific attribute that will somehow complete them. The tin man (“Tin Woodman”) is my favourite character. He needs a heart. He has this armour that has initially protected him from the world and then completely isolated him to the point that he feels he cannot love. He has protected himself from any possible emotion and therefore is in dire need of a heart. It wasn’t his fault. He used to make a living chopping down trees (no wonder he loses his heart…). He falls for a girl who serves an evil lady, who, in order to keep her in her service, convinces the Wicked Witch of the East to throw a spell on Tin Woodman’s axe, which chops off his limbs. These are then replaced by tin prostheses. Everything but his heart, for which there is no replacement. No wonder Dorothy finds him rusty and abandoned by the road.

The lion needs courage. He is a coward and, to make things worse, he is also expected to be the king of the jungle, so cowardice is not the most convenient feature. I guess it is desperation that convinces him to embark on a journey strewn with so many perils that takes him so far from home. The scarecrow needs a brain. I wonder if he’s looking for an ego conscience, more logical intelligence or what exactly. The opposite of Tin Man and lion, maybe. And there’s Dorothy, who travels forward just to get backwards, to get to her square one, back home. Home, interestingly, is black and white, in stark contrast with this colourful world of dreams. Who can disagree with that… Still, she insists on getting back home using her magic red shoes (obviously, not blue). Some witches and fairies act as tricksters to make sure the heroes move on. As does Toto, of course. The wrecked witches are necessary. They are precisely who make the characters grow and find what they wanted.

And we get to the star of the film: the wizard. I remember my feeling when I first watched this film as a kid. Wait, what? What do you mean he’s fake (after enduring this film with so many songs)? Why does everything magical have to be fake? I was sincerely disappointed, once again. But was he fake, though? In the end, didn’t all the heroes get what they wanted? Yes, it wasn’t thanks to him… or was it?

Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, knew, right? When she encouraged Dorothy to travel to Emmerald City, she must have known who the Wizard really was. And still, she sent Dorothy on the road, for she knew she would accomplish what she wished for, one way or another.

As with Demian, I had the feeling all the characters are one person. A collection of characters that make most sense together. A person in search of himself. Herself.

Yesterday I watched a film that reminded me of Oz. It was about a French man who goes to Korea in pursuit of a new love. Once there, he realises it was a projection, that the woman wasn’t really interested in a relationship. And yet, his projection made him embark on a journey, to travel a road he would never had taken had it not been for this woman, or his idea of her. Maybe the motivation was just in his head, but the result was that he changed, he lived the last big adventure of his life, made new friends and reconnected with his sons.

When we embark on these journeys, it is not the starlight that guides us. It matters not that it is ‘real’ or ‘fake’. It is always real, a force within us that propels us forward to do something with our lives that needs to be done. The excuse is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter that there is no treasure at the end of the rainbow. Indeed, there is always a treasure, but it’s in the road itself.

In the end, the heroes look at the Wizard of Oz. First with anger, then with pity and, at last, with gratitude. Had there not been a fake wizard in Oz, they wouldn’t have bothered to leave home.