Peaches Prattlings

{November 20, 2013}   The Odyssey and The Wizard of Oz: Epics or Mere Coincidence

I think I have told you that I have been a writer for a long time, didn’t always enjoy it, but apparently, I’m a good story teller. The following is a paper I wrote comparing The Wizard of Oz to The Odyssey in my World Literature Class: July 16, 1997. This is a total brag..I got an A. I tried to recreate the magic at least one other time, comparing a classic and something modern, it failed miserably! But I tried. I hope you enjoy it.

An epic is a journey : one that transcends time – it could be Odysseus’ journey home from Troy to Ithaca as told by Homer, or Dorothy’s journey home from Oz to Kansas in the Wizard of Oz. Each hero and heroine must travel a path that would lead them home: for Odysseus it is the seas around the islands and for Dorothy it is the yellow brick road which will lead her straight to The Wizard.

As we join Odysseus, the Trojan war has ended and Odysseus is on his way back home to Ithaca: his ships are hit by a storm raised by Athena and blown to Thrace. Dorothy, and her own epic is returning home after running away when a tornado hits the farm she lives on and subsequently takes her house up into the eye of twister and lands in the Munchkin City. This is the first component of a journey: encountering a new world.

In Thrace, Odysseus sacks the city of Cicones, saving a priest of Apollo, for which he is rewarded with skin of potent wine . When Dorothy landed munchkin city her  house lands on the Wicked Witch of the East. She is rewarded for saving the Munchkins in their city, not with potent libations, but with a pair of ruby slippers containing their own magic powers.

The killing of the Wicked Witch of the East angered the Wicked Witch of the West, her sister, much in the same way Odysseus angered Poseidon, god of the seas, for harming his son Polyphemus.

Thus far, we have encountered elements of a journey that make up an epic: beginning a journey in a new world; for Odysseus: Thrace. Dorothy: the Munchkin City. We also encountered mythical and supernatural elements such as gods and goddesses, as in Athena and Poseidon; witches, the likes of Glenda and the Wicked Witch of the West.

As we continue on our journey, Odysseus and his crew are blown by storms to Libya and the Land of the Lotus Eeaters. There, an exploring party accepts from the natives, the Lotus fruit which forces them to lose their memory and they must be awakened by a Odysseys. Similarly Donnatina friends are almost Emerald City when the Wicked Witch of the West puts a spell on a field of poppies, causing them to get sleepy,  make it seem as if they will never reach the Emerald City, the Wizard or the answers that they seek.

Odysseus and Dorothy are both quite homesick, but both know there is more to do before they can find the answers they seek to reach home. Circe, the sorceress, tells Odysseys he must go down to Hades to consult Tierses, the seer about appeasing Poseidon and returning home. Although it is not something that he truly wishes to do, it is his fate that he should go, where no man has gone and returned. The Great Wizard tells Dorothy she must go to the castle of the Wicked Witch of the West and bring her broomstick back to him to get the answers and favors she and her companions seek.

Throughout their respective stories, Odysseus and Dorothy both have interactions with an interesting array of individuals. Characters in Dorothy’s life in Kansas take shape along the journey as other characters just as the gods would take the shape of others known to Odysseus along his journey.

The first of these characters involved in a Odysseus’ journey is a goddess who is in his corner helping, influencing and encouraging Odysseus to return home and never give up. This goddess is Pallas Athena, goddess of wisdom; Dorothy has Glinda, the Good Witch of the North and encourage her to find her way home and not give up.

Another person involved in Odysseus’s adventure is Poseidon, the Lord of the Seas. He’s a wrathful god who could destroy a city with the change of his moods. Unfortunately for Odysseus, Poseidon holds a grudge for what has happened to Polyphemus. He makes Odysseus’ journey a long a difficult one and only after 20 years and great help from other gods, does he allow Odysseus to return home.

As for Dorothy, her Poseidon is the wicked witch of the West. She is all that evil can be and she makes Dorothy’s journey along a difficult one, as well as trying to inflict great harm her way. She holds a grudge, like Poseidon, for killing her sister. When the Wicked Witch is accidentally melted by Dorothy trying to save the Scarecrow, she unwittingly helps Dorothy to get home by following the Wizard’s instructions to bring him her broomstick.

The mentor is a faithful friend to Odysseus – loyal, sober and wise. He is the mirror image of the Scarecrow, the first of Dorothy’s companions on her journey. Although he claims not to have a brain, until he is given a Th.D. [Doctor of Thinkology] by the Wizard the Scarecrow is wise and quite intelligent, getting the foursome out of many uncomfortable situations.

Euryleia is the faithful and devoted nurse to Odysseus, protects and love him unconditionally, while the Tin Man is faithful, devoted and protective of Dorothy, seeing that she gets home while you’re Eurycleia waits at home for Odysseus.

Dorothy meets one final ally in the Cowardly Lion: afraid of his own shadow, pretending to be brave and towards the end of their journey, showing courage and steadfastness – the traits of a king. This characters is not unlike Telemachus, Odysseus’ son, self-conscious about himself and his duty, trying to live up to his father’s image and at the end of Odysseus’ story, shows courage and steadfastness traits of his father, a king.

As Dorothy and her crew are about to enter into the Emerald City, there is singing: voices telling them they are out of the dark, out of the woods and into the light, almost to freedom. This is similar to the muses at the beginning of Odysseus’ story, to tell through song, what is happening.

There are monsters and magic as well as supernatural beings encountered along the way; Poseidon has his sea nymphs and see monsters at his beck and call and the Wicked Witch of the West has her palace guards and flying monkeys to do her bidding.

As I mentioned  Polyphemus earlier, he was son to Poseidon and a cyclops, a race of monsters with one eye the middle of their faces. Odysseus and his party feasted on his food and anger  Polyphemus and ultimately tricked him. While he was sleeping Odysseus poked out his eye with a large sharpened stick. He and his crew then escaped Polyphemus by cleverly talking his way out of the situation. This was not far from Dorothy’s tale in the forest when she and her party came upon some apple trees. As they began picking apples from the branches, the trees, under a spell from the Wicked Witch, became animated and proceeded to berate the hungry party verbally, while throwing apples at them as well. The Scarecrow thought of a way out of the situation by insulting the trees, to get more apples and as an opportunity to escape. It seems, no matter what time period you are in you, can talk you’re way out of so many things.

Much the way Odysseus might pray to Zeus, the god of gods and goddesses the dispenser justice, at Olympus, in a temple or wherever he was at the time Dorothy and her companions have ventured to the Emerald City to ask favor of the great Wizard of Oz, all-powerful and all-knowing.

Odysseus and Dorothy both find that they have answers within themselves. Odysseus knows he is an adventurer, but there’s still duty at home with his family and country. Dorothy realizes that she is a dreamer; and to find happiness you only need to look within your own self.

Finally I pose this question: was L. Frank Baum inspired by Homer and the Odyssey to create the Wizard of Oz, or is the epic is the common toll from which authors draft their inspiration?

I never actually read the odyssey but I came to this same conclusion upon learning that the coen brothers’ film “o brother where art thou” was based on the odyssey and NOT the wizard of oz.

I have examined Pinocchio as epic hero poem and the fairy tale character fits the model as he evolves in his apotheosis. Best wishes 2018

Brilliant! Best wishes 2018!

charles D.D. Morse says:

great, thanks. I was working on a sermon about finding home and found myself comparing Dorothy to Odysseus. I wondered if others had made this comparison and found you. Again thanks for helping.

Nice to hear I’m not alone! glad you enjoyed it, happy to help!

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