The Power of Talismans in the Wizard of Oz

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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is L. Frank Baum’s famous children’s book turned into the great movie Wizard of Oz.  Considering the book itself, I feel it might have certain elements of the occult within in.  It is not overt or especially obvious.  Yet there appears to be aspects of genuine occultism outside of just the fairy tale conventions of witches and wizards.  Baum was a Theosophist.  Some readers read his Theosophist ideals in-between the lines.  Perhaps, perhaps not.  Since most fairy tales deal with fantastical elements, such stories are wide open to many interpretations.  In that spirit, let’s examine one aspect of his famous children’s story.



The premier theme of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is not only Dorothy’s quest to return to Kansas, but also her three companions’ quest to achieve each of their life’s greatest goals.  The Scarecrow wants a brain, the Tin Woodsman wants a heart and the Cowardly Lion wants courage.  While reading the book it is obvious the Scarecrow is already quite clever, the Tin Woodsman has great compassion, and the Lion faces dangers even with his fear, which is true courage.

The book’s lesson for children is that we are all special and only need to understand that.  Even so Dorothy’s companions seek their spiritual gifts from the Wizard of Oz, who is powerless to actually fulfill any wish.  Yet, Oz presents each of the companions with a “magic” gift which are really talismans.   The Scarecrow gets his head filled with needles so he’ll be “sharp”, the Tin Woodsman gets a stuffed heart placed inside of him, and the Cowardly Lion drinks a “magic” potion to bestow courage.  These gifts/talismans are different from the movie version, but both book and movie present the same thing…the power of talismans!



On the surface Oz’s gifts are all powerless, just humbug.  But these gifts are really not humbug.  Talismans’ power comes from within the individual’s belief in them.  Since the three companions truly believed in their talismans, they worked!  Suddenly they recognized their innate spiritual gifts by believing a higher power gave it to them. 

The story’s actual magic items (like Dorothy’s silver/ruby slippers) are not nearly as effective as Oz’s talismans.  At the end of the story the Lion, Scarecrow and Woodman all became kings thru their own merit enhanced by Oz’s illusionary gift. 

This concept is a subtle yet quite real.

Believing only in you does not seem as effective as believing in a higher power.  We really are very small people in a very big universe.  But by believing in a higher power we feel a part of something greater then our tiny selves.  And “higher power” need not be religious; it can be political, social or ideological.  It can also be constructive or destructive.  People have sacrificed their lives for both the ideals of democracy and fascism.  Today religion both inspires and destroys. 

A talisman represents belief in something other then yourself, and that belief manifests reality.  This may be metaphysical or only psychological, but it changes the world especially when a talisman represents the beliefs of many people combined.

You can check out the original book online at the Library of Congress.  It is filled with lovely illustrations by W.W. Denslow.

3 Responses to “The Power of Talismans in the Wizard of Oz”

  1. nothingprofound Says:

    Though I’m an ardent individualist I do think believing in oneself is a dead end street. One needs to believe in something as you say bigger than oneself, be it nature, art, music, or life itself. Incidentally, the town where I now live was supposedly the inspiration for Baum’s book. The yellow brick road is located here (or so the legend goes.

  2. David Says:

    Hi Nothingprofound,
    Which town has the true yellow brick road? I’d imagine that could be a tourist attraction; I’d like to walk down it. It would be interesting to see what inspired Braum’s imagination.

  3. Zera Says:

    The answer is Holland Michigan, Baum summered there.

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