19 Sept 2016

HIGH FANTASY RULES - The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Film genres have formulas and rules, but how well do High Fantasy films follow their formula?

The Wizard of Oz (1939) is a High Fantasy film, as well as a Children's Film featuring High Magic as well as being a musical.

The following analysis may contain spoilers for


RULE #1 - The Secondary World.

"We must be over the rainbow!" ~ Dorothy Gale.

1a.  Type:  Represented as completely fictional (Dream).  Dorothy Gales claims in the end it wasn't a dream everything proves otherwise.  Within the dream, Dorothy and the Wizard were able to get to Oz via air travel (tornado or balloon).
1b.  Faux-medieval - Mostly seems slightly faux-renaissance.
1c.  Panoramic landscapes - Dorothy Gale lives in Kansas, which doesn't look much like England/New Zealand as it looks barren and is shown in sepia.  Munchinland is lush and colourful. The West (ruled by a Wicked Witch) is black, dark and rocky.  Dorothy actually refers to a forest as "Dark and creepy" and a later one is called "Haunted."
1d.  Impossible buildings and landmarks - The Emerald City, the Castle of the Wicked Witch.
1e.  Archaic spelling/strange names - Few names, mostly descriptions ("The Cowardly Lion," "The Wicked Witch of the West."
1f.  Hyper-real - Although they do get cleaned up in the middle of the film, the characters seem to stay clean, unburnt, ununjured etc in the several days of travel and fighting they go through.

RULE #2 - There may be sex and nudity.

"A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others." ~ The Wizard.

As this is a children's film there is no nudity (except the Cowardly Lion) or sex.

RULE #3 - Characters.

"But it wasn't a dream... it was a place.  And you... and you... and you... and you were there." ~ Dorothy Gale.

3a.  The Hero - Young girl (As noted: a Children's Film).
3b.  The Hero's Parents - Lives were her father's brother & his wife.  Parents absent, presumably dead.  The aunt and uncle don't die.
3c - 3i.  The Party of Adventurers - The party consists of the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion.  They don't really fill any of the usual roles.
3c.  The Mentor - Glinda, the Good Witch of the Witch probably fills this role.  She's a powerful magic user, advises Dorothy and sets her off on her journey.
3d.  The Heroine - Dorothy partial fills this role.
3e.  A Warrior - The Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion almost fill this, and being rusted/a cowardly bully almost fit some of the sub-types.
3f.  A Warrior Woman - Did not occur.
3g.  A User of Magic - Did not occur.
3h.  A Thief - Did not occur.
3i.  A pet or other animal - Toto, Dorothy's dog.  He follows Dorothy's instructions to escape when she's captured, leads the others to her and reveals the Wizard's secret.
3j.  King - The Wizard of Oz may fill this role.
3k.  The Hag - Professor Marvel fakes this role.
3l.  The Dark Lord - The Wicked Witch of the West.  Ugly.  Magic.  Wears black.  Threatens to kill a dog.
3m.  An evil female -  Did not occur.
i. Female Henchman -  Did not occur.
ii. Member of Harem -  Did not occur.
iii.  Dark Lord's Daughter -  Did not occur.
3n.  Male Henchmen - A Winged Monkeys or two hang around the Wicked Witch of the West, almost making them Henchmen.
3o.  Minions - The Wicked Witch of the West's Winkie Guards.
3o - 3q.  An Evil Person - None.
3o.  Grand Vizier - There is a Gatekeeper (played by the same actor as Oz himself) who is the closet to a Grand Vizier, but isn't evil.
3p.  Evil relative - Dorothy has 2 relatives, an uncle and an aunt, neither are evil.
3q.  The Priest - No priest.

RULE #4 - Races & Cultures.

"As Mayor of the Munchkin City
In the County of the Land of Oz
I welcome you most regally" ~ The Munchkin Mayor.

As a children's/high magic film there are anthropomorphic animals (a talking lion),  and sentinent inanimate objects (Apple Trees)

4a.  Homogeneous Races - 

i.  Good/Evil - Most races seem to be good, but easily subjugated.  Although witches are (presumably) not a race, Glinda claims "Only Bad Witches are ugly."
ii.   Magic - Most races seem to have no magical powers or abilities, with the exception of the 3 witches and the Apple Trees.
iii.   Habitat - The races only really appear to live in cities and castles.
4b.  Races - The are a few races in the film, including a race of sentient Apple Trees.
i.  Humans - The residents of Emerald City appear to be humans with unusual hairstyle choices and (in males) extreme facial features.  The Wizard of Oz, explicitly stated as another human from Earth, has extreme facial features like the other Emerald City residents.  The humans all have similar clothes and hair, so this is one example where humans are not culturally diverse.
ii.  Elves - Did not appear.
iii.  Dwarfs - Did not appear.
iii.  Halflings - Munchkins fill that role.
iv.  Fairies - Munchkins almost fill that role.
v.  Centaurs/part animals - Anthropomorphic Lion, only one seen.
vi.  Giants - Did not appear.
vii.  Trolls - Did not appear.
viii.  Orcs, Goblins, Hobgoblins -  (Winkies) The Witch's guards are green looking humans with large noses (like the Witch herself.)  While they work for the Wicked Witch, as soon as she dies that seem to glad she's gone.  They dress the same, but they are guards after all.
4d.  Societies - Each race appears to be separate but similar.
4e.  Homogeneous Culture - Everyone speaks English like Dorothy.  
4f.  Rival cultures - Did not occur.

RULE #5 - Magic & Monsters

"Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?" ~ Glinda, the Good Witch of the North.

5a.  Magical Past - There is nothing that makes the past seem more magical than the present in Oz.
5b.  Low Magic Present - The present seems fairly low magic for most people, but there are lots of pockets of high magic, high magic individuals and sentient objects that should be inanimate.
5c.  Magical laws - No laws are presented.  A lot of the powers seem to be object based (The Ruby Slippers, the Wicked Witch of the West's Broom, her Crystal Ball, the fact that she makes a powder to make the poisoned poppies.)  Other abilities seems spell-like (Anything Glinda does - although she spends a lot of time waving her wand - and The Wicked Witch of the West's flames).
5d.  Good vs Evil - As quoted above, Glinda (and the Munchins) have a binary view of magic users.
5e.  Gendered - There are three witches (all female) presented in the film, and one Wizard (male).  It should be noted that the Witches actually have magic powers and the Wizard doesn't.
5f.  Hereditary - The Wicked Witch of the West calls the Wicked Witch of the East her sister.  This may represent a hereditary power, but it isn't made explicit.
5g.  Spells & Powers - 
i.  Healing - Does not happen.
ii.  Remote Viewing - The Wicked Witch the West fits this completely, including casting spells through her giant glass globe.  Professor Marvel pretends to have this power.  
iii.  Obfuscation - The poisoned poppies, possibly.
iv.  Shape changing - Does not happen.
v.  Necromancy - Does not happen.
5k.  Items of Magic - Really just artifacts.
5l.  Artifacts of Great Power:
  • The Ruby Slippers - Confers protection on Dorothy, allows travel between worlds and stops the Wicked Witch taking them while Dorothy is alive.
  • The Witch's broom - The Wicked Witch of the West uses it to fly and sign write.  The Wizard asks the party to get it, but mostly so they'll be killed trying.
5m.  Religion - No religion mentioned.
5n.  Mythical creatures - There is an animated scarecrow and a tin man.
i.  Dragon - None appear.
ii.  Unicorns - No unicorns, but there is the unique "Horse of a Different Colour."
iii.  Griffins, Rocs, Sphinx - Winged Monkeys, a monkey with wings, probably created magically.
iv.  Giant Things - None appear.
v.  Supernatural Creatures - None appear.
vi.  Raised creatures - None appear.
vii.  Nameless Beast - None appear.

RULE #6 - The Quest

"But first you must prove yourselves worth by performing a very small task.  Bring me the broomstick of the Witch of the West." ~ The Wizard of Oz.
"B-b-but if we do that, we'll have to kill her to get it" ~ The Tin Man.

6a.  The Artifact - Ruby Slippers implicitly seem to fill this role.  The Wicked Witch of the West wants them, and Glinda claims they must be very powerful.  The Wicked Witch of the West's broomstick explicitly fills the role when the Wizard of Oz asks them to bring it to him.
6b.  Destroy the Dark Lord - It is stated that getting the broom of the which will require killing her.
6c.  Save the Heroine - This becomes the case when Dorothy is captured and the
6d.  Unite the races/Raise an army - Did not happen.
6e.  Prophecy - No prophecy.
6f.  Other events:
i.  Win a Contest - Did not happen.
ii.  Stop an Execution - Did not happen.
iii.  Stop a Wedding -  Did not happen.
6g.  The Hero's Journey - See below.

RULE #7 - The Hero's Journey: Departure.

"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more." ~ Dorothy Gale.

7a.  Secret Origin

i.  The Chosen One - No prophecy, however, her killing of the Wicked Witch of the East automatically chooses her.
ii.  Orphaned - As noted, lives with aunt & uncle.
iii.  Revenge Did not happen (although at the Wicked Witch of the West shared an actor with Miss Gulch who attempts to take Toto off Dorothy.) 

7b.  Ordinary World -

i.  From Earth -  Comes from modern (at the time) America.
ii.  Peaceful Lands - The land she arrives in seems happy and peaceful, although it was ruled by a Bad Witch.

7c.  Initial Tests - While still in Kansas, Dorothy is faced with Toto being taken off her.

7d.  The Call to Adventure - Dorothy isn't really trying to adventure, rather just find a way home.

7e.  Refusal of the Call - Doesn't really happen.

7f.  Supernatural Aid -

i.  Dorothy meets Glinda, who assists her.
ii.  No real guide.  The Yellow Brick Road, Glinda's secret assistance maybe.
iii.  Glinda magics the Ruby Slippers onto Dorothy's feet.
iv.  The Party will begin to form - Dorothy meets the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion.

7g.  Crossing the Threshold - Two examples - leaving the house (illustrated by the change from Sepia to Colour) and leaving the Munchlin village via the Yellow Brick Road.

7h.  Belly of the Whale - Stuff the happens on the road.

RULE #8 - The Hero's Journey: Initiation

"Please, sir. We've done what you told us. We brought you the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West. We melted her!" ~ Dorothy Gale.

8a.  The Road of Trials - The Apple Trees, an attack by the Wicked Witch, the poison Poppies. 
8b.  The Vision Quest - No vision quest.
8c.  The Meeting with the Goddess - Possibly Glinda.
8d.  Lure away from Journey - Sleeping in the Poppies.
8e.  A Greater Power - The Wicked Witch of the West.
8f.  The Ordeal - Apotheosis/Death - Dorothy is captured by the Winged Monkeys.
8g.  The Ordeal - Descent into the underworld - Capture by the Wicked Witch.
8h.  The Ultimate Boon - Dorothy kills the witch and is given the broom.

RULE #9 - The Hero's Journey: Return.

"There's no place like home." ~ Dorothy Gale.

9a.  Refusal of the Return - Dorothy doesn't refuse return, but Toto runs off and she doesn't get to leave with the Wizard.  She is sad to leave her new friends, though.
9b.  The Magic Flight - Does not happen.
9c.  Rescue from Without - Glinda tells her how to get home.
9d.  The Crossing of the Return Threshold - She returns home.
9e.  Master of Two Worlds - Implied.
9f.  Freedom to Live - Implied.

RULE #10 - Sequels/Remakes/Adaptations

"And in that balloon, my dear Dorothy, you and I will return to the land of E Pluribus Unum!" ~ The Wizard.

10a.  Adaptation - The film is based on the stage musical, which in turn is based on the first of L. Frank Baum's Oz books, "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz."
10b.  Sequels - The only official sequel is the animated film, "The Journey Back to Oz."  There are other films that adapt or serve as sequels to the original book.
10c.  Remakes - There are versions of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" before this film and since.


  • Rules that are followed in this film:  1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.
  • Rules that are partially followed, or not clear, in this film:  3.
  • Rules not followed by the film:  Nil.

~ DUG.

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