Study Guide

The Wizard of Oz The Ruby Slippers

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The Ruby Slippers

It's amazing what a few red sequins will do.

The most famous footwear in all of movies actually got an update from the book. They were silver slippers in Baum's world, but MGM had Technicolor and wanted to show it off. So the silver shoes became red, and in one fell swoop cinematic history was made. One pair's on display at the Smithsonian.

So what do they mean symbolically? Well, we know that they're magic, and that the Wicked Witch wants them so bad she's willing to cheerfully murder the owner to get them. We also know that they're stuck on Dorothy's feet until she dies (or returns to a more monochrome reality, whichever comes first), which means they're inextricably a part of her. Hmmm, wonder if that means anything…

All kidding aside, the slippers make for a pretty straightforward representation of Dorothy's own potential power. She has it, she just doesn't know how to use it yet, which is really why Glinda sends her off to see the Wizard. Only after all of her adventures, and the attendant self-reliance that comes with taking out two wicked witches single-handedly, can she tap into that power and use it to get what she wants.

It's the only time we actually see the slippers used (besides zapping certain grabby parties who can't keep their green hands off of them), and it shows us the rich irony of magic devices in stories like this. By the time you're able to unleash all that power, you no longer need it because you've found it within yourself.

They do sparkle gorgeously, though. How many other symbols of your untapped potential make you look that fabulous?

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