Dorothy was transported to Oz while hitching a ride on a twister. Mary Poppins blew into Cherry Tree Lane on a wind from the east. Dorothy followed a yellow brick road while Mary Poppins pulled some amazing tricks with a little “winkle” of her nose. Dorothy’s creator, Lyman Frank Baum, lived a hard life. He followed a yellow rick road but the path was filled with potholes. He struggled to find his way to Emerald City. Pamela Travers (aka P.L. Travers) who was born Helen Goff, created Mary Poppins out a bolt of damaged fabric. Her life was a series of sad events tied mainly to the love she had for a father who was not only an alcoholic but was not grounded in any sense of the word. He was a dreamer and he filled his daughter’s head with the dreams that eventually gave birth to her beloved Mary Poppins and the Banks family.
I have read two biographies on L. Frank Baum and did see the rather tepid television movie that was supposedly about his life. I have never read a full biography of P.L. Travers, but I have read, read again, and re-read two volumes containing some of her amazing essays.
Before watching Saving Mr. Banks, I knew all about Travers rough and tumble relationship with Walt Disney and the creation of the musical film, Mary Poppins.
It was an amazing movie. It went to great lengths to show you how much a created character means to an author because most of those characters are actually cut from the cloth of the author’s life.
I always knew that the movie was not really about the Banks children, but rather about their father. He was the one in need of Mary Poppin’s magic, as was Travers’ real father.
But then I did some digging and learned that while there is much truth in the Pamela Travers portrayed in Saving Mr. Banks, but….
It failed to tell you the truth about the real Travers and the life she did live. In the early 40s she had every intention of adopting twin boys, but when it came time she, according to one story, had consulted an astrologer and decided that she could only take one of the boys…and she chose the first-born twin, leaving with him to lead a life of some affluence, while leaving the other twin in let’s say a more Oliver Twist environment.
Unfortunately neither of the twins thrived. Travers lied to he adopted son, at one time telling him he was actually her natural son.
The point of this blog? Life is very to the tenth power…complicated. And when it comes to telling stories about real people, we often tell it through a lens of many facets. And in the end we either eliminate those parts of the story that don’t fit into the story we want to tell or we embellish other parts to make the story work the way we want it to work.
What we are really left with are the stories created by people who have often been battered and bruised by real life. And it is those stories that nourish us and make life better.
When I read The Wizard of Oz and Mary Poppins, it is the characters that fill me and I give thanks to the authors for sharing their characters with me.