Atheism in the Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, 1900
from chapter 15: the Discovery of Oz, the Terrible|
The four travelers passed a sleepless night, each thinking of the gift Oz had
promised to bestow upon him. Dorothy fell asleep only once, and then she dreamed
she was in Kansas, where Aunt Em was telling her how glad she was to have her
little girl at home again.
Promptly at nine o'clock the next morning the green-whiskered soldier came to
them, and four minutes later they all went into the Throne Room of the Great Oz.
Of course each one of them expected to see the Wizard in the shape he had taken
before, and all were greatly surprised when they looked about and saw no one at
all in the room. They kept close to the door and closer to one another, for the
stillness of the empty room was more dreadful than any of the forms they had seen
Presently they heard a Voice, seeming to come from somewhere near the top of the
great dome, and it said solemnly,"I am Oz, the Great and Terrible. Why do you
They looked again in every part of the room, and then, seeing no one, Dorothy
"Where are you?"
"I am everywhere," answered the Voice, "but to the eyes of common mortals I am
invisible. I will now seat myself upon my throne, that you may converse with me."
Indeed, the Voice seemed just then to come straight from the throne itself: so
they walked toward it and stood in a row while Dorothy said:
"We have come to claim our promise, O Oz."
"What promise?" asked Oz.
"You promised to send me back to Kansas when the Wicked Witch was destroyed,"
said the girl.
"And you promised to give me brains," said the Scarecrow.
"And you promised to give me a heart," said the Tin Woodman.
"And you promised to give me courage," said the Cowardly Lion.
"Is the Wicked Witch really destroyed? asked the Voice, and Dorothy thought it
trembled a little.
"Yes," she answered, "I melted her with a bucket of water."
"Dear me," said the Voice. "How sudden! Well, come to me tomorrow, for I must
have time to think it over."
"You've had plenty of time already," said the Tin Woodman angrily.
"We shan't wait a day longer," said the Scarecrow.
"You must keep your promises to us!" exclaimed Dorothy.
The Lion thought it might be as well to frighten the Wizard, so he gave a large,
loud roar, which was so fierce and dreadful that Toto jumped away from him in
alarm and tipped over the screen that stood in a corner. As it fell with a crash
they looked that way, and the next moment all of them were filled with wonder.
For they saw, standing in just the spot the screen had hidden, a little, old man,
with a bald head and a wrinkled face, who seemed to be as much surprised as they
were. The Tin Woodman, raising his axe, rushed toward the little man and cried
"Who are you?"
"I am Oz, the Great and Terrible," said the little man, in a trembling voice,
"but don't strike me--please don't!--and I'll do anything you want me to."
Our friends looked at him in surprise and dismay.
"I thought Oz was a great Head," said Dorothy.
"And I thought Oz was a lovely Lady," said the Scarecrow.
"And I thought Oz was a terrible Beast," said the Tin Woodman.
"And I thought Oz was a Ball of Fire," exclaimed the Lion.
"No, you are all wrong," said the little man meekly. "I have been making
"Making believe!" cried Dorothy. "Are you not a Great Wizard?"
"Hush, my dear," he said. "Don't speak so loud, or you will be overheard-and I
should be ruined. I'm supposed to be a Great Wizard."
"And aren't you?" she asked.
"Not a bit of it, my dear; I'm just a common
"You're more than that," said the Scarecrow, in a grieved tone; "you're a
"Exactly so!" declared the little man, rubbing his hands together as if it
pleased him. "I am a humbug."
"But this is terrible," said the Tin Woodman. "How shall I ever get my
"Or I my courage?" asked the Lion.
"Or I my brains?" wailed the Scarecrow, wiping the tears from his eyes with his
"My dear friends," said Oz, "I pray you not to speak of these little things.
Think of me, and the terrible trouble I'm in at being found out."
"Doesn't anyone else know you're a humbug?" asked Dorothy.
"No one knows it but you four--and myself," replied Oz. "I have fooled everyone
so long that I thought I should never be found out. It was a great mistake my
ever letting you into the Throne Room. Usually I will not see even my subjects,
and so they believe I am something terrible."
"But I don't understand," said Dorothy, in bewilderment.
"How was it that you appeared to me as a great Head?"
"That was one of my tricks," answered Oz. "Step this way, please, and I will tell
you all about it."
He led the way to a small chamber in the rear of the Throne Room, and they all
followed him. He pointed to one corner, in which lay the great Head, made out of
many thicknesses of paper, and with a carefully painted face.
"This I hung from the ceiling by a wire," said Oz: "I stood behind the screen and
pulled a thread to make the eyes move and the mouth open."
"But how about the voice?" she inquired.
"Oh, I am a ventriloquist," said the little man, "and I can throw the sound of my
voice wherever I wish: so that you thought it was coming out of the Head. Here
are the other things I used to deceive you." He showed the Scarecrow the dress
and the mask he had worn when he seemed to be the lovely Lady; and the Tin
Woodman saw that his terrible Beast was nothing but a lot of skins, sewn
together, with slats to keep their sides out. As for the Ball of Fire, the false
Wizard had hung that also from the ceiling. It was really a ball of cotton, but
when oil was poured upon it the ball burned fiercely.
"Really," said the Scarecrow, "you ought to be ashamed of yourself for being such
"I am--I certainly am," answered the little man sorrowfully; "but it was the only
thing I could do. Sit down, please, there are plenty of chairs, and I will tell
you my story."
So they sat down and listened while he told the following tale:
"I was born in Omaha-" ...
"I think you are a very bad man," said Dorothy.
"Oh, no, my dear. I'm really a very good man; but I'm a very bad Wizard, I must
Michael Hague, illustrator (Henry Holt: NY 1982)
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic ...
- Arthur C. Clarke