The Courage to Be

Houston's book The Wizard of Us utilizes the story The Wizard of Oz to reveal the deeper meanings of self discovery.

the wizard of us book cover

Reprinted with permission from Atria Books/Beyond Words Publishing © 2012

Imagine that you are in Dorothy’s shoes for a moment. Within the first fifteen minutes of your arrival in this mysterious place, you find yourself face-to-face with one of the scariest villains ever seen. This apparently evil witch has appeared in a blaze of sulfur and smoke, and she begins to make trouble. How frightening is this creature? For starters, her skin is green. A very intense shade of green. Unlike the rainbow-colored garb worn by the cheerful Munchkins and the cotton-candy frock of the Good Witch of the North, this furious witch is dressed to impress in flowing, dramatic black. Her laser-sharp focus is zeroed in on your destruction. And obtaining those glittering ruby slippers that are glued to your feet. The witch disappears as quickly as she arrives (and just as dramatically), in a towering column of fire. Heaven only knows when or where the creature may reappear.

Imagine that you have been informed that the only way to escape a horrible fate at the hands of this witch is to travel quite a distance to a mysterious place called The Emerald City to meet with a powerful Wizard who may (but possibly will not) be able to help you find a way back to your own dimension. You are told that you must walk alone along a Yellow Brick Road, without aid or GPS and with no cell phone. And you had better get going before that scary witch returns. Best of luck, kid.


It is very difficult to imagine the kind of intestinal fortitude it would take to stop quivering in those ruby slippers in order to take even the first step along that path of yellow bricks. But plucky little Dorothy from Kansas takes a deep breath, squares her shoulders, and with only a tail-wagging cairn terrier for protection, sets off into an unknown and utterly strange realm of wonders and horrors. Could you do it? Could you skip merrily down that golden path, off the edge of reality, singing with gusto? Or would you run back into your crushed house and lie shivering under what is left of your bed, hoping it will all just go away?

Courage is a major theme of both the book and the movie. Though the focus is primarily on the famous Cowardly Lion and his desire to acquire the elusive attribute, each of the characters on this shared journey displays tremendous courage numerous times, and always in service to others.

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Jean Houston
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