Welcome to the website woven for wordaholics, logolepts, and verbivores. Carnivores eat meat; herbivores eat plants and vegetables; verbivores devour words. If you are heels over head (as well as head over heels) in love with words, tarry here a while to graze or, perhaps, feast on the English language. Ours is the only language in which you drive in a parkway and park in a driveway and your nose can run and your feet can smell.

 

Next Saturday, starting at 8 pm, the San Diego Symphony Orchestra will show the enduring 1939 classic film “The Wizard of Oz” with live,  lush reimaginations of the music, played by the full symphony orchestra.

How did Oz start? L. Frank Baum, a frequent visitor to Coronado, was at various times a traveling salesman, producer of musical comedy, newspaper editor, photographer and, of course, creator of children’s fantasies. He wrote under the pseudonyms of Schuyler Staunton, Floyd Akers, Captain Hugh Fitzgerald, Suzanne Metcalf and Edith Van Dyne. But he is best known by his real name and as the author of the prodigious Oz series, led off by “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”

At the end of the 19th century, he sat down to create a children’s book about a girl named Dorothy, who was swept away to a phantasmagorical land populated by munchkins, witches and flying monkeys and a scarecrow, a tin man and a lion.

The fairy tale began as a bedtime story for Baum’s sons and their friends and soon spilled over into several evening sessions. During one of his read-alouds, Baum was asked the name of the magical place to which Dorothy and her little dog Toto were transported. Glancing about the room, Baum’s eyes fell upon the drawers of a filing cabinet labeled “A-N” and “O-Z.”

Noting that the letters on the second label spelled out the ahs uttered by his rapt listeners, Baum named his imaginary land Oz. Ever since, the fantastic Land of Oz has lived in children’s and childlike hearts forever.

In 1939, Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, Frank Morgan, Billie Burke and Margaret Hamilton starred in the most iconic of American movies, “The Wizard of Oz.” “I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore,” “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain” and “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” are but three indelible quotations from the film.

The original novel has proved to be both popular and controversial. Fans have praised it as an innovative act of the imagination, the first American fantasy land of sufficient mythic magnitude to rival the fairy tales of Grimm and Anderson. Devotees note the precise structure and symbolism. Dorothy’s three companions embody the three states of nature — animal, vegetable and mineral — and exhibit the three admirable qualities of intelligence, empathy and courage.

Detractors contend that “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” is a thinly veiled allegory of the American populist movement in the late 19th century and have tarred the fantasy as communist-socialist propaganda. Recently, other readers have tried to have the book banned from schools because the story includes a good witch.

Here’s what I think.

“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” is a story of human potential. The Wizard, who admits that he is “a very good man, but a very bad wizard,” presents the Scarecrow with a mixture of bran, pins and needles (“bran-new brains”) stuffed into his head, the Tin Woodman with a sawdust-filled silk heart and the Cowardly Lion with a bottle of green liquid of “courage.” In the movie version, these artifacts are replaced by a diploma for the Scarecrow, a heart-shaped watch for the Tin Man and a medal of valor for the Lion.

But these are only outward and visible symbols of intelligence, feeling and courage that the three companions are looking for but, in reality, already possess. During their adventures, the Scarecrow has already proved himself to be clever, the Woodman loving and the Lion brave. While under attack by a swarm of bees unleashed by the Wicked Witch of the West, the Scarecrow ingeniously hides his companions inside his straw body. When the Woodman is separated from and then reunited with his friends, he gushes tears of joy. And when the Wicked Witch sends her soldiers to attack Dorothy’s companions, the Cowardly Lion stands roaringly firm to repel them.

The Wizard’s gifts boost confidence of the three seekers in their vast potential, but ultimately “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” teaches us that true talent and dignity come from within. For our times, in which commercials incessantly lull us into believing that the right mouthwash, the right deodorant, the right Smartphone and the right automobile will ensure our goodness, our popularity and our success, this is a very important lesson indeed.