The theology of the Wizard of Oz

I was watching the Wizard of Oz on TBS last night and it came to that part I’ve always found puzzling, where the Wizard gives the Tin Man his “testimonial” in lieu of a heart, and then says; “And remember, my sentimental friend, that a heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others”.

The more you think of it, this is exactly the opposite of what Christianity would tell you. That it doesn’t matter how much you are hated by others, or what they think of you, what is important is that you have love in your heart.

Everytime the Wizard makes that statement I cringe

For those who do not think it through, it probably sounds like profound advice!

But it could also mean that if you give love to others as Mother Theresa did you probably will be loved by others. Many great saints such as Francis of Assisi, even Pope Paul V1 had people grieving for them after their death.

RB, TWO is one of my all time favorite movies, but you’re right, it’s riddled with questionable theology (the most blasphemous example being, it seems to me, portraying God [Wizard] as nothing more than a sham [behind a curtain]). But when I was a kid, the many times I droolingly watched that show, I never “got” those messages (was I too dense? LOL!), only later, after studying literature and the Bible. So, I think it depends on how one approaches it: as an allegory? or as just some simple fun.

Why do we assume The Wizard of Oz has any theology in it at all? From what I’ve read about it, elements of the story have a basis in the politics of the day, with any allegory relating to politicians favoring the gold standard (the “yellow brick road”) vs. those promoting fiscal reform. (In the book, Dorothy’s slippers were silver, not ruby – get it?).There were a lot of political figures – then and now – who could deservedly be revealed as blowhards and fakers, without attributing that imagery as theological.

Next thing you know, there will be postings here asking whether it’s sinful to watch The Wizard of Oz on TV. Watch out for the flying monkeys!

Its at least as sinful as watching and/or reading Harry Potter.

It makes me cringe too. But I wonder which Wizard of Oz version on TBS you were watching.

The original Wizard of Oz was in 1939. Since then there have been numerous other versions 1964, 1975, 1984 and 2000. What I’m getting at is that in subsequent years they’ve played around with the scripts and theatrics.

The Tin Man’s Testimonial can hardly be seen as a theology.
Nothing more than Hollywood secular fantasy.


Jesus told his Apostles, they would be hated, just as he had been hated. On the Sermon on the Mount he said “Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil”. There have been hundreds of saints persecuted and hated “by the World”. The thing is, if your main goal is to have “the world love you” as the Wizard suggests, you’re on the wrong road, as far as great Christian teaching would suggest.

Obviously. I was just having fun using “theology” in the thread title, but still, everytime I hear the Wizard say it, it almost sounds like evil advice

The author L. Frank Baum, had no intentions of writing anything other than a delightful fantasy story that he had told to his children. He took the characters from real life and his own experiences. There is NO political/religious/philosophical or any other such message intended by him or the makers of the original Judy Garland film.

The line being discussed here isn’t in the book. Instead of giving the Tin Man a clockwork heart, he gives him a silk heart stuffed with filler. The idea is that the one who shows love already has a heart. As for the sentiment in the movie, it’s only meant to say that if you give others love, you will be loved in return. It’s like the saying: “If you want a friend, be a friend”.

Both statements are generally true, especially when it comes to giving and receiving natural human love and affection. What Jesus was talking about was agape/sacrificial love that is divine in origin, not merely human. Agape love has made many martyrs, but it cannot be compared to natural love that depends on both giving and receiving instead of giving without cost even if no love (and most especially if) hatred will be the response.

Hi Chris,
You are spot-on here!
I met a woman years back who earnestly believed that a feminist “reading” of TWoO was where the “true” meaning of the movie lay!!
It’s no wonder Hollywood is home to all sorts of axe-grinding agendas!
God Bless,

If it matters the Scarecrow’s math example is also incorrect…:shrug:

Is everyone aware that L. Frank Baum wrote many many more books in the Oz series? It’s a whole series of stories, and it’s delightful. The first book in the series is different than the movie adaptation. I highly recommend the series.

When I was a child, here is the understanding that I had of the “gifts” given in the movie. The “wizard” gave them concrete objects, but pointed out to them that they already had what they desired. The concrete objects that he gave them merely made them realize that they already had it.

Please remember that many children enjoy SEEING and HOLDING something. They can’t think abstractly, so they need a tangible thing to hold on to.

Think of the medals that many Catholics wear (especially children)–we all know as Catholics that the medal has no power in and of itself to protect us or grant us the answers to our prayers. The medal is a symbol of what we already have–access to the saints and their intercession. We take comfort in the medal because it is a visible, tangible reminder of the invisible reality.

The Scarecrow was the smartest one in the trio, always coming up with solutions to problems–and yet he desired brains. So he gets a diploma as “tangible” evidence that he has brains.

The Tin Woodman is the most emotional of the trio and certainly the most tender-hearted–and yet he desires a heart. So he gets a watch shaped like a heart as “tangible” evidence that he has a heart.

The Cowardly Lion is the bravest of the trio, willing to protect Dorothy–and yet he desires courage. So he gets a medal as tangible evidence that he is brave.

As a child, and later when I grew up, I always admired the trio of friends because they were so humble and modest that they didn’t realize that the had the virtues that they so desired. A lot of heroes are this way–we tell them how smart and caring and brave they are, and they deny it all and say that they just did what anyone would have done. We should be this way–humble about our strengths and always desiring to be more intelligent, more tender-hearted, and more courageous.

Again, I recommend the whole series of Baum books. And I also recommend that we do as the Bible says and instead of always looking for flaws and errors and finding fault and analyzing the supposed evil, we should let our thoughts dwell on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and of good repute. There is a great deal more Philippians 4:8 in the Wizard of Oz, movie or book, than evil.

Actually, if you think about it- our judgment will come from Christ and he will judge our hearts through the lens His love.

I support your statements :slight_smile:

L. Frank Baum was undeniably a “free thinker”–probably a defacto agnostic. However, mostly this does not show in his Oz books–but there are some slips…

His mother in law who he greatly respected was the feminist Jocelyn Matilda Gage–who gave later Wiccans the utterly presposterous figure of “8 million witches murdered by the Church”. The idea of “good witches” seems to be coming out of this early feminist revisionism

Actually Baum was first an Episcopalian, then he got into theosophy. There was an article I read about all the occult symbols in The Wizard Of Oz. Not that I believe that, but it was interesting article.

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