On May 17, 1900, the George M. Hill Company in Chicago published L. Frank Baum's book for children, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. While both author and publisher undoubtedly hoped the book would be successful, neither of them could have imagined just how successful it would be. Today, some 113 years later, not only is the Oz book still in print, it's available in over 50 languages, with tens of millions of copies sold over the years.
And certainly no one could have predicted that the 1939 MGM film adaptation of Baum's book would become the most-watched movie in history -- with over one billion viewers -- almost one-sixth of the world's population! This year marks the 75th anniversary of the classic Oz film.
Baum's timeless tale has staying power because it has all the elements of ancient myth -- its powerful, compelling, dramatic storyline speaks to something deep inside us all. It is the Hero's Journey -- with a lead character who leaves home in search of happiness in a better world, who travels hither and yon on a personal quest, and ultimately comes full circle, arriving back home to discover that the long-sought treasure was right there all along.
The Oz story has not just one hero but four -- an ensemble cast questing together, while each sought something personal, something uniquely theirs. And when they finally reached the wonderful Wizard of Oz, they each got something different -- and they all get what they needed. The story of Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman, and the Cowardly Lion -- and Toto, too -- is the story of all who seek happiness and fulfillment in their own lives. It is the quest to discover your true self -- to develop your own brains, heart, and courage.
When I was a child, I read the Oz book. As I grew up, I watched the Oz movie ... more than a few times. Over the years, I delighted in the Oz stage productions. And now as I think about my life, I realize that all I really need to know about how to live a great life and be a good person, I learned from The Wizard of Oz. I found wisdom -- not in sophisticated literature -- but in a child's story.
These are the things I learned:
• Dream of the bright future you want.
• When there's a storm coming, take cover.
• When you're scared, hug your dog.
• If you accidentally hurt someone (ie, if your house falls on them), say you're sorry.
• Whenever you're lost, ask for directions from someone you trust.
• Be polite to little people and big people alike.
• Wear fabulous shoes!
• When someone needs your help, do your best to give it.
• Stand up to bullies and defend those who can't defend themselves.
• Sometimes the most unlikely people turn out to be the best of friends.
• Skip, sing, and dance -- make life fun!
• There are good witches and bad witches -- both are your teachers.
• When the going gets tough, stick together.
• Not everything that scares you is dangerous, and not everything that is dangerous scares you. Pay attention.
• Courage doesn't always roar -- but it does when it needs to.
• The yellow brick road isn't all smooth and straight -- you'll encounter obstacles, roadblocks, hazards, and detours. Be persistent.
• Wizards aren't always what they seem.
• Challenges teach you to be creative and resourceful.
• You have all the brains, courage, and heart you need -- you may just need someone to remind you once in awhile.
• People come and go in your life, but true friends live forever in your heart.
• Go where the love is. There's no place like home!
BJ Gallagher is a sociologist and author of over two dozen books, including an international best-seller, "A Peacock in the Land of Penguins: A Fable About Creativity and Courage" (Berrettt-Koehler), now published in 23 languages.