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Wind, from "The Wizard of Oz," a movie with Judy Garland

Subthemes: Extreme Weather, Landscape Change, Other Consequences

A book by L. Frank Baum became a movie classic, “The Wizard of Oz,” starring Judy Garland, Bert Lahr and others. Dorothy Gates and her dog, Toto, reach the land of Oz at the start courtesy of a scary (but benign) tornado. That powerful twister brings to mind other subthemes.

The tornada that carried Dorothy to Oz
The tornada that carried Dorothy to Oz from the website of the Oz Museum in Wamego, Kansas.

Extreme Weather: Unlike the destruction caused by actual tornadoes, nothing appears to be destroyed or at risk in Dorothy’s movie; it was a deus ex machina West Wind to shift her scene. On land as compared to on celluloid, powerful tornadoes or derechos (fast-moving bands of thunderstorms with destructive winds) tear up the land and anything on it. A violently spinning tornado can hurl 250 mile per hour winds and what is blowin’ in that wind can kill you: limbs and planks become spears, straw has been lanced into trees. Roofs are ripped off, trees uprooted, and anything in the path devastated. Netweather.tv adds detail: “The US has more tornadoes than anywhere else in the world, on average, around 1,200 tornadoes a year. … Warm and moist air from the Gulf of Mexico, dry air from Deserts of the southwest and chilly air off the Rocky Mountains and Canada come together to create the perfect conditions for making severe thunderstorms … that become powerful enough to produce so many tornadoes ….”

Other monsters of devastating winds spawn in the southern oceans. Brought to life where seawater warms above 81°, oceans unleash cyclones in the Pacific (called typhoons in the Northwest Pacific) and hurricanes in the South Atlantic. Winds spiraling around the eye can exceed 120 miles an hour for a Category Five hurricane. Their offshore winds drive storm surges inland that wreak massive destruction, such as with Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Katrina. In Asia, tens of thousands of people can be lost to a monsoon storm and the flooding and disease that ensues.

Landscape Change: The Dust Bowl refers to a disaster striking the Southern Great Plains of North America during the 1930s, when the region experienced extreme wind erosion. Drought reduced both soil cohesion, making it more easily whisked away, and land cover, leaving the soil less protected from wind. It is one of the processes leading to desertification. The poor farm of Auntie Em appears to be straight from the drought-stricken heartland of America, Kansas, buffeted by winds. Wind can move vast amounts of soil as happens commonly with a gargantuan plume of dust from the Sahara that drifts across the Atlantic Ocean, carried by brisk, upper-level winds and creating hazy sunsets and respiratory issues. Wind has sculpted rock over millennia, like rivers erode canyons. Strong dry winds like those in Antarctica can be especially abrasive, creating dramatic wind-sculpted features.

Other Consequences: A breeze may whisper by without notice, but strong winds can affect us hugely. For example, wind spreads fires with tragic unpredictability and speed. Once airborne, embers or firebrands can blow from one-quarter to one mile and kindle another fire. The American West experiences hundreds of fires each dry season. Shifting from hot winds to cold winds, another consequence of wind is snowdrifts, which can block highways and entrances or kill people in cars when carbon monoxide accumulates because of blocked mufflers. Between summer and winter, dead leaves blow everywhere, clog gutters and drains, and make raking or blowing a regular chore. Another consequence of wind manifests at every ocean front, where waves come about because wind pushes ocean water into the shore. Overpowering winds can cause shipwrecks or nerve-wracking moments for sailors. Airplanes risk windshear in turbulent thunderstorms. Tiny pollen blown about cause misery to allergy suffers. Along with the headlines of hurricanes and the imperceptible nibbles of wind carving, what blows around goes around.

 

An oddly gentle tornado swirls Dorothy Gale and to the mystical land of Oz. They are unhurt, unlike the deaths and disasters that befall so many when extreme wind storms lash them. The movie tells the tale thereafter of that windy transport – her adventures with the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow without a brain, and the Tin Man missing a heart, and all the challenges on the winding yellow-brick road.

If you are interested in further thoughts on the concept “Wind,” consider other subthemes that don’t fit as directly to the poem, painting, rock song, and movie written about in this series. For an overview, this article explains Themes from Art or click on the navigation bar, “About.”

We invite you to read about other movies discussed on this blog, and their themes. Here they are:

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