The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Original title page
Author L. Frank Baum
Illustrator W. W. Denslow
Country United States
Language English
Series The Oz books
Genre Fantasy, children's novel
Publisher George M. Hill Company
Publication date
May 17, 1900
OCLC 9506808
Followed by The Marvelous Land of Oz

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is an American children's novel written by author L. Frank Baum and illustrated by W. W. Denslow, originally published by the George M. Hill Company in Chicago on May 17, 1900. It has since been reprinted on numerous occasions, most often under the title The Wizard of Oz, which is the title of the popular 1902 Broadway musical as well as the iconic 1939 musical film adaptation.

The story chronicles the adventures of a young farm girl named Dorothy in the magical Land of Oz, after she and her pet dog Toto are swept away from their Kansas home by a cyclone.[nb 1] The novel is one of the best-known stories in American literature and has been widely translated. The Library of Congress has declared it "America's greatest and best-loved homegrown fairytale". Its groundbreaking success and the success of the Broadway musical adapted from the novel led Baum to write thirteen additional Oz books that serve as official sequels to the first story.

Baum dedicated the book "to my good friend & comrade, My Wife", Maud Gage Baum. In January 1901, George M. Hill Company completed printing the first edition, a total of 10,000 copies, which quickly sold out. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz sold three million copies by the time it entered the public domain in 1956.

1900 first edition cover, George M. Hill, Chicago, New York
Back cover


The book was published by George M. Hill Company. Its first edition had a printing of 10,000 copies and was sold in advance of the publication date of September 1, 1900. On May 17, 1900, the first copy of the book came off the press; Baum assembled it by hand and presented it to his sister Mary Louise Baum Brewster. The public saw the book for the first time at a book fair at the Palmer House in Chicago, July 5–20. The book's copyright was registered on August 1; full distribution followed in September.[1] By October 1900, the first edition had already sold out and the second edition of 15,000 copies was nearly depleted.[2]

In a letter to his brother Harry, Baum wrote that the book's publisher George M. Hill predicted a sale of about 250,000 copies. In spite of this favorable conjecture, Hill did not initially predict that the book would be phenomenally successful. He agreed to publish the book only when the manager of the Chicago Grand Opera House Fred R. Hamlin committed to making The Wonderful Wizard of Oz into a musical stage play to publicize the novel. The play The Wizard of Oz debuted on June 16, 1902. It was revised to suit adult preferences and was crafted as a "musical extravaganza", with the costumes modeled after Denslow's drawings. Hill's publishing company became bankrupt in 1901, so Baum and Denslow agreed to have the Indianapolis-based Bobbs-Merrill Company resume publishing the novel.[3]

Baum's son Harry Neal told the Chicago Tribune in 1944 that L. Frank told his children "whimsical stories before they became material for his books". Harry called his father the "swellest man I knew", a man who was able to give a decent reason as to why black birds cooked in a pie could afterwards get out and sing.[4]

By 1938, more than one million copies of the book had been printed.[5] Less than two decades later in 1956, the sales of his novel had grown to three million copies in print.[3]

Plot summary

Dorothy is a young girl who lives with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry and her little dog Toto on a Kansas farm. One day, Dorothy and Toto are caught up in a cyclone that deposits her farmhouse into Munchkin Country in the magical Land of Oz. The falling house has killed the Wicked Witch of the East, the evil ruler of the Munchkins. The Good Witch of the North arrives with the grateful Munchkins and gives Dorothy the magical Silver Shoes that once belonged to the witch. The Good Witch tells Dorothy that the only way she can return home is to go to the Emerald City and ask the great and powerful Wizard of Oz to help her. As Dorothy embarks on her journey, the Good Witch of the North kisses her on the forehead, giving her magical protection from harm.

On her way down the yellow brick road, Dorothy attends a banquet held by a Munchkin man named Boq. The next day, Dorothy frees the Scarecrow from the pole on which he is hanging, applies oil from a can to the rusted connections of the Tin Woodman, and meets the Cowardly Lion. The Scarecrow wants a brain, the Tin Woodman wants a heart, and the Cowardly Lion wants courage, so Dorothy encourages the three of them to journey with her and Toto to the Emerald City to ask for help from the Wizard. After several adventures, the travelers enter the gates of the Emerald City and meet the Guardian of the Gates, who asks them to wear green tinted spectacles to keep their eyes from being blinded by the city's brilliance. Each one is called to see the Wizard: Dorothy sees the Wizard as a giant head on a marble throne, the Scarecrow as a lovely lady in silk gauze, the Tin Woodman as a terrible beast, the Cowardly Lion as a ball of fire. The Wizard agrees to help them all if they kill the Wicked Witch of the West, who rules over Oz's Winkie Country. The Guardian warns them that no one has ever managed to defeat the witch.

The Wicked Witch of the West sees the travelers approaching with her one telescopic eye. She sends a pack of wolves to tear them to pieces, but the Tin Woodman kills them with his axe. She sends wild crows to peck their eyes out, but the Scarecrow kills them by breaking their necks. She summons a swarm of black bees to sting them, but they are killed trying to sting the Tin Woodman while the Scarecrow's straw hides the other three. She sends her Winkie soldiers to attack them, but the Cowardly Lion stands firm to repel them. Finally, she uses the power of the Golden Cap to send the winged monkeys to capture Dorothy, Toto, and the Cowardly Lion, unstuff the Scarecrow, and dent the Tin Woodman. Dorothy is forced to become the Wicked Witch's personal slave, while the witch schemes to steal Dorothy's Silver Shoes.

The Wicked Witch melts, from the W. W. Denslow illustration of the first edition (1900).

The Wicked Witch successfully tricks Dorothy out of one of her Silver Shoes. Angered, Dorothy throws a bucket of water at her and is shocked to see the witch melt away. The Winkies rejoice at being freed of the witch's tyranny and help restuff the Scarecrow and mend the Tin Woodman. They ask the Tin Woodman to become their ruler, which he agrees to do after helping Dorothy return to Kansas. Dorothy finds the Golden Cap and summons the Winged Monkeys to carry her and her companions back to the Emerald City. The King of the Winged Monkeys tells how he and the other monkeys are bound by an enchantment to the cap by the sorceress Gayelette from the North, and that Dorothy may use the cap to summon the Winged Monkeys two more times.

When Dorothy and her friends meet the Wizard of Oz again, Toto tips over a screen in a corner of the throne room that reveals the Wizard. He sadly explains he is a humbug—an ordinary old man who, by a hot air balloon, came to Oz long ago from Omaha. The Wizard provides the Scarecrow with a head full of bran, pins, and needles ("a lot of bran-new brains"), the Tin Woodman with a silk heart stuffed with sawdust, and the Cowardly Lion a potion of "courage". Their faith in the Wizard's power gives these items a focus for their desires. The Wizard decides to take Dorothy and Toto home and leave the Emerald City. At the send-off, he appoints the Scarecrow to rule in his stead, which he agrees to do after Dorothy returns to Kansas. Toto chases a kitten in the crowd and Dorothy goes after him, but the tethers of the balloon break and the Wizard floats away.

Dorothy summons the Winged Monkeys to carry her and Toto home, but they explain they cannot cross the desert surrounding Oz. The Soldier with the Green Whiskers informs Dorothy that Glinda the Good Witch of the South may be able to help her return home, so the friends begin their journey to see Glinda, who lives in Oz's Quadling Country. On the way, the Cowardly Lion kills a giant spider who is terrorizing the animals in a forest. The animals ask the Cowardly Lion to become their king, which he agrees to do after helping Dorothy return to Kansas. Dorothy summons the Winged Monkeys a third time to fly them over a mountain to Glinda's palace. Glinda greets the travelers and reveals that the Silver Shoes Dorothy wears can take her anywhere she wishes to go. Dorothy embraces her friends, all of whom will be returned to their new kingdoms through Glinda's three uses of the Golden Cap: the Scarecrow to the Emerald City, the Tin Woodman to the Winkie Country, and the Lion to the forest; after which the cap shall be given to the King of the Winged Monkeys, freeing them. Dorothy takes Toto in her arms, knocks her heels together three times, and wishes to return home. Instantly, she begins whirling through the air and rolling through the grass of the Kansas prairie, up to her Kansas farmhouse. Dorothy runs to her Aunt Em, saying "I'm so glad to be at home again!"

Illustration and design

The book was illustrated by Baum's friend and collaborator W. W. Denslow, who also co-held the copyright. The design was lavish for the time, with illustrations on many pages, backgrounds in different colors, and several color plate illustrations. In September 1900, The Grand Rapids Herald wrote that Denslow's illustrations are "quite as much of the story as in the writing". The editorial opined that had it not been for Denslow's pictures, the readers would be unable to picture precisely the figures of Dorothy, Toto, and the other characters.[6]

The distinctive look led to imitators at the time, most notably Eva Katherine Gibson's Zauberlinda, the Wise Witch, which mimicked both the typography and the illustration design of Oz.[7] The typeface was the newly designed Monotype Old Style. Denslow's illustrations were so well known that merchants of many products obtained permission to use them to promote their wares. The forms of the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, the Cowardly Lion, the Wizard, and Dorothy were made into rubber and metal sculptures. Costume jewelry, mechanical toys, and soap were also designed using their figures.[8]

A new edition of the book appeared in 1944, with illustrations by Evelyn Copelman.[9] Although it was claimed that the new illustrations were based on Denslow's originals, they more closely resemble the characters as seen in the famous 1939 film version of Baum's book.[10]

Sources of images and ideas

Dorothy meets the Cowardly Lion, from the first edition

Baum acknowledged the influence of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen, which he was deliberately revising in his "American fairy tales" to include the wonder without the horrors.[11]

The land of Oz and other locations

Local legend has it that Oz, also known as The Emerald City, was inspired by a prominent castle-like building in the community of Castle Park near Holland, Michigan, where Baum lived during the summer. The yellow brick road was derived from a road at that time paved by yellow bricks. These bricks were located in Peekskill, New York, where Baum attended the Peekskill Military Academy. Baum scholars often refer to the 1893 Chicago World's Fair (the "White City") as an inspiration for the Emerald City. Other legends suggest that the inspiration came from the Hotel Del Coronado near San Diego, California. Baum was a frequent guest at the hotel and had written several of the Oz books there.[12] In a 1903 interview with Publishers Weekly,[13] Baum said that the name "OZ" came from his file cabinet labeled "O–Z".[14]

Some critics have suggested that Baum may have been inspired by Australia, a relatively new country at the time of the book's original publication. Australia is often colloquially spelled or referred to as "Oz". Furthermore, in Ozma of Oz (1907), Dorothy gets back to Oz as the result of a storm at sea while she and Uncle Henry are traveling by ship to Australia. Like Australia, Oz is an island continent somewhere to the west of California with inhabited regions bordering on a great desert. One might imagine that Baum intended Oz to be Australia, or perhaps a magical land in the center of the great Australian desert.[15]

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Another influence lay in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. A September 1900 review in the Grand Rapids Herald called The Wonderful Wizard of Oz a "veritable Alice in Wonderland brought up to the present day standard of juvenile literature".[6] Baum found Carroll's plots incoherent, but he identified the books' source of popularity as Alice herself, a child with whom the child readers could identify; this influenced his choice of a protagonist.[11] Baum was also influenced by Carroll's belief that children's books should have many pictures and be pleasurable to read. Carroll rejected the Victorian-era ideology that children's books should be saturated with morals, instead believing that children should be allowed to be children. Building on Carroll's style of numerous images accompanying the text, Baum amalgamated the conventional features of a fairy tale (witches and wizards) with the well-known things in his readers' lives (scarecrows and cornfields).[16]

American fantasy story

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is considered the first American fairy tale because of its references to clear American locations such as Kansas and Omaha. Baum agreed with authors such as Carroll that fantasy literature was important for children, along with numerous illustrations, but he also wanted to create a story that had recognizable American elements in it, such as farming and industrialization.[17]

Baum's personal life

Many of the characters, props, and ideas in the novel were drawn from Baum's experiences. As a child, Baum frequently had nightmares of a scarecrow pursuing him across a field. Moments before the scarecrow's "ragged hay fingers" nearly gripped his neck, it would fall apart before his eyes. Decades later, as an adult, Baum integrated his tormentor into the novel as the Scarecrow.[18] According to his son Harry, the Tin Woodman was born from Baum's attraction to window displays. He wished to make something captivating for the window displays, so he used an eclectic assortment of scraps to craft a striking figure. From a washboiler he made a body, from bolted stovepipes he made arms and legs, and from the bottom of a saucepan he made a face. Baum then placed a funnel hat on the figure, which ultimately became the Tin Woodman.[19] John D. Rockefeller was the nemesis of Baum's father, an oil baron who declined to purchase Standard Oil shares in exchange for selling his own oil refinery. Baum scholar Evan I. Schwartz posited that Rockefeller inspired one of the Wizard's numerous faces. In one scene in the novel, the Wizard is seen as a "tyrannical, hairless head". When Rockefeller was 54 years old, the medical condition alopecia caused him to lose every strand of hair on his head, making people fearful of speaking to him.[20]

In the early 1880s, Baum's play Matches was being performed when a "flicker from a kerosene lantern sparked the rafters", causing the Baum opera house to be consumed by flames. Scholar Evan I. Schwartz suggested that this might have inspired the Scarecrow's severest terror: "There is only one thing in the world I am afraid of. A lighted match."[21]

In 1890, Baum lived in Aberdeen, which was experiencing a drought, and he wrote a witty story in his "Our Landlady" column in Aberdeen's The Saturday Pioneer[22] about a farmer who gave green goggles to his horses, causing them to believe that the wood chips that they were eating were pieces of grass. Similarly, the Wizard made the people in the Emerald City wear green goggles so that they would believe that their city was built from emeralds.[23]

Baum, a former salesman of china, wrote in chapter 20 about china that had sprung to life.[23]

During Baum's short stay in Aberdeen, the dissemination of myths about the plentiful West continued. However, the West, instead of being a wonderland, turned into a wasteland because of a drought and a depression. In 1891, Baum moved his family from South Dakota to Chicago. At that time, Chicago was getting ready for the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. Scholar Laura Barrett stated that Chicago was "considerably more akin to Oz than to Kansas". After discovering that the myths about the West's incalculable riches were baseless, Baum created "an extension of the American frontier in Oz". In many respects, Baum's creation is similar to the actual frontier save for the fact that the West was still undeveloped at the time. The Munchkins Dorothy encounters at the beginning of the novel represent farmers, as do the Winkies she later meets.[24]

Baum's wife frequently visited her niece, Dorothy Louise Gage. The infant became gravely sick and died on November 11, 1898, from "congestion of the brain" at exactly five months. When the baby, whom Maud adored as the daughter she never had, died, she was devastated and needed to consume medicine.[25] To assuage her distress, Frank made his protagonist of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz a female named Dorothy.[26] Uncle Henry was modeled after Henry Gage, his wife Maud's father. Bossed around by his wife Matilda, Henry rarely dissented with her. He flourished in business, though, and his neighbors looked up to him. Likewise, Uncle Henry was a "passive but hard-working man" who "looked stern and solemn, and rarely spoke".[27] The witches in the novel were influenced by witch-hunting research gathered by Baum's mother-in-law, Matilda. The stories of barbarous acts against accused witches scared Baum. Two key events in the novel involve wicked witches who both meet their death through metaphorical means.[28]

Baum held different jobs, moved a lot, and was exposed to many people, so the inspiration for the story could have been taken from many different aspects of his life.[29] In the introduction to the story, Baum writes that "it aspires to being a modernized fairy tale, in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heart-aches and nightmares are left out."[30] This is one of the explanations that he gives for the inspiration for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Influence of Denslow

The original illustrator of the novel, W. W. Denslow, could also have influenced the story and the way it has been interpreted. Baum and Denslow had a close working relationship and worked together to create the presentation of the story through the images and the text. Color is an important element of the story and is present throughout the images, with each chapter having a different color representation. Denslow also added characteristics to his drawings that Baum never described. For example, Denslow drew a house and the gates of the Emerald City with faces on them. In the later Oz books, John R. Neill, who illustrated all of the sequels, continued to include these faces on gates.[31]

Allusions to 19th-century America

Baum did not offer any conclusive proof that he intended his novel to be a political allegory. Historian Ranjit S. Dighe wrote that for 60 years after the book's publication, "virtually nobody" had such an interpretation until Henry Littlefield, a high-school teacher.[32] In his 1964 American Quarterly article, "The Wizard of Oz: Parable on Populism",[33] Littlefield posited that the book contained an allegory of the late 19th-century bimetallism debate regarding monetary policy.[34]

Not only did Baum draw inspiration from the American land around him, but he also created Oz to display an American utopia where the issues of the day were solved. There is little distinction between utopia and fairy-tale land.[35] Baum believed that the imagination was the best tool for creating a striving society. In a later book in the Oz series, Baum writes: "imaginations and dreams are likely to lead to the betterment of the world. The imaginative child will become the imaginative man or woman most apt to create, to invent and, therefore, to foster civilization."[36] In this way, Baum wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as a modern fairy tale depicting Oz as an American utopia that displays numerous allusions and solutions to issues in the late 19th and early 20th century.

The realm of Oz very closely resembles America. It contains four countries, the Land of the North, East, West, and South, and the national capital, the Emerald City. America and its inhabitants are often divided into similar categories such as Midwestern, Southern, etc. These locations are also separated by an American color scheme that was relevant to American during the 19th century.[37] The color blue represents the industrial East known for the blue-collar jobs. The South is red for the red earth it contains or the "redneck" inhabitants. Yellow describes the West, denoting the California gold rush. Finally, the Emerald City as Washington D. C., denoting greenbacks and money of the country.

The villains of the story are the Wicked Witch of the West and the Wicked Witch of the East. The wicked witches use their power to control and enslave their subjects. There was an equal balance between good and evil, and until this balance was altered, there could be no change or development in Oz. This standoff can be seen as an allusion between the different political parties in America. The Wicked Witch of the West represents the American West, including the wealthy railroad, oil barons, and nature. The American West's greatest weapon in the 19th century, though, was nature, most malignantly the drought. The effects lasted longer than any fire or twister, and a long enough drought could ruin a whole year's worth of crops. Thus, water as the weapon to kill the Witch of the West is quite poetic. The brown mass the witch's remains turn into resembles mud after a heavy storm. Dorothy even cleans the melted witch off the floor and her shoes as if she had walked through a rainy puddle.

Baum's Wicked Witch of the East has been suggested to represent Eastern financial and industrial interests, such as Wall Street, which oppresses the agricultural citizens.[38] The Witch of the East enslaved her subjects much as industrialism was thought to enslave the working class in 19th-century Eastern America. Once Dorothy killed the Wicked Witch of the East the balance of power could be shifted. Both these groups opposed Populist efforts to move the U.S. to a bimetallic monetary standard since this would have devalued the dollar and made investments less valuable. Workers and poor farmers supported the move away from the gold standard, as this would have lessened their crushing debt burdens. The Populist party sought to build a coalition of Southern and Midwestern tenant farmers and Northern industrial workers. These groups are represented in the book by the Good Witches of the North and South.

At the beginning of the novel, Dorothy is swept from her farm to Oz by a cyclone, which was frequently compared to the Free Silver movement in Baum's time.[33] The yellow brick road represents the gold standard, and the Silver Shoes, which enable Dorothy to travel more comfortably, symbolizes the Populist Party's desire to construct a bimetallic standard of both gold and silver in place of the gold standard. "Oz" is the abbreviated form of ounce, a standard measure of gold.[39] When Dorothy and the Scarecrow walk through the forest, the road begins to be rough and patchy, causing the Scarecrow to trip and fall numerous times. The Scarecrow's falls on the yellow brick road resemble the damage farmers faced owing to deflation caused by the scarcity of gold. Dorothy, however, simply "walks around" the holes in the road, showing that the bimetallic standard works. Even when gold was scarce, the other metal in the bimetal system would be relatively cheap, therefore one bypasses deflation.[40] Throughout the book, most of the characters do not know the magic behind the silver shoes. It is not until Dorothy meets Glinda, the good Witch of the South, that she finds out that the silver shoes have had the power to transfer her back to Kansas all along. Baum is possibly alluding to the fact that the bimetallic standard has been a working solution to the economic crisis all along, though no one knows how to do it. Once Dorothy clicks her heels three times, she returns to Kansas, where she realizes that "The Silver Shoes had fallen off in her flight through the air, and were lost forever in the desert." The silver shoes were lost, much like the fight for the bimetallic standard, which began to fade away in 1900.

The Wizard is the national leader of Oz, thus it is fitting for him to symbolize the President(s) of the United States during the 19th century.[38] Politicians have been known to have many faces; it is a must if they want to be able to be everything for everyone. The Great and Terrible Wizard of Oz agrees to meet with each traveler separately, allowing him to alter his appearance to best fit each character. When the gang returns having completed the Wizard's task, they discover that the Wizard is a fake and is actually just "a common man" who has made everyone believe he was powerful. The Scarecrow adds that he is a humbug, in which the Wizard gladly says that is he is exactly that. The Wizard made promises he could not keep, as did many 19th-century politicians. The Wizard later states: "How can I help being a humbug… when all these people make me do things that everyone knows can't be done," showing that he was able to deceive others because others were willing to be deceived.

While journeying to the Emerald City, Dorothy encounters a scarecrow, who represents a farmer. The Scarecrow believes he is a fool, since his head is full of straw and not brains. Four years before the book's release, William Allen White, a journalist from Chicago, published an article entitled "What's the Matter With Kansas?" In the article White questions why Kansas is unsatisfied and sarcastically answers saying America needs "fewer white shirts and brains", implying Western farmers were ignorant, lazy and bad businessmen.[41] The Scarecrow shares this opinion and doubts himself, believing he is inferior without a brain. In the same year White published his article, William Jennings Bryan delivered his famous "Cross of Gold speech" at the 1896 Democratic Convention. Bryan fought for the farmers and argued against such accusations made by White, exclaiming: "The farmer who goes forth in the morning and toils all day, begins in the spring and toils all summer, and by the application of brain and muscle to the natural resources of this country creates wealth, is as much a businessman as the man who goes upon the Board of Trade and bets upon the price of grain."[42] Baum shares Bryan's view on American farmers by showing that the Scarecrow is sharp and capable by his actions throughout the book. The book ends with "farm interests achieving national importance" and farmers' true potential in politics being revealed once the illusion of ignorance has been removed.

The next companion Dorothy meets on the yellow brick road is the Tin Woodsman who has been cursed by the now deceased Wicked Witch of the East. He was once a hard worker yearning to earn money to start a family with a Munchkin girl. The witch enchanted his axe so that the Woodsman chopped off each of his limbs and eventually his body. Each time a tinner healed the Woodsman by replacing his body with tin, however once the Tin Woodsman's heart was removed he could no longer love. The Tin Woodsman symbolizes the Eastern working man competing in an industrialized society. The 19th-century man had to keep up with the machine in order to be useful and relevant. In this way the Witch of the East's curse "dehumanized a simple laborer so that the faster and better he worked the more quickly he became a kind of machine."[38] The Tin Woodsman was caught in the rain and rusted in the same position for one year before Dorothy oils his joints to set him free. The Tin Woodsman's year of waiting is parallel to the unemployment of Eastern workers during the severe depression of 1893-1897. His calls of help that were never heard relate to President Grover Cleveland's "hard-hearted refusal" to take action during this time to reinstate the economy.[38] While the Tin Woodsman stood still for a year, he finally slowed down enough to ponder life. During this time, he discovers that "the greatest loss [he] had known was the loss of [his] heart" for without it he cannot love. Baum portrays the Tin Woodsman as an Eastern worker who lost sight of family values for a moment. Part of the Progressive movement in the 19th century was to reestablish the family as the center of American life. The curse of the Tin Woodsman by the Wicked Witch of the East is consistent with the depiction of the witch representing Wall Street and other Eastern big businesses during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The final addition to the traveling party is the Cowardly Lion. This character is hypothesized to be the famous Populist politician William Jennings Bryan. The muscular, six-foot-tall (183 cm) political figure was known as a compassionate but powerful speaker, which could be compared to a lion's roar.[43] Throughout the book, Baum is mostly sympathetic towards populist characters such as the Scarecrow; thus it seems odd that Baum would refer to the character portraying Bryan as cowardly.[44] However, the late 19th century began an age of American expansionism in which the United States struggled to gain control of countries like Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines from Spain. Bryan's non-violent and anti-imperialist stance on the popular Spanish–American War of 1898 was often referred to as unpatriotic and cowardly. Baum seems to take this criticism and turn it into a complaint towards Bryan, showing that although the Lion is the King of the Beasts it shows more bravery to stand by than to run in towards unnecessary obstacles, no matter how popular. The Cowardly Lion's first encounter with the Tin Woodsman shows support for both of their characters being based on Bryan and Eastern industrial workers, respectively. When they meet, the Cowardly Lion strikes the Tin Woodsman with his sharp claws, but to his surprise "he could make no impression on the tin, although the Woodman fell over in the road and lay still." This refers to Bryan's inability to get votes in the 1896 presidential election from Eastern workers owing to pressure from their employers to vote for McKinley.[38] Bryan himself said, "During the campaign I ran across various evidences of coercion, direct and indirect."[45] Other historical sources share this opinion noting, "for some reason labor remained singularly unimpressed." Thus, the Cowardly Lion's claws did not pierce the Tin Woodsman body, just as Bryan's roar did not leave an impression with Eastern industrial workers.

Baum's fairy tale contains many other allusions to American life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For instance, Dorothy's loyal companion, Toto, could be a play on "teetotalers" which is a person who never drinks alcohol.[46] The prohibitionists deemed alcohol consumption should be unlawful and they were longtime political allies of Populists during the late 19th century. Toto trots "soberly" behind Dorothy on their adventure. The Winged Monkeys have been thought to resemble the Plains Indians who were "once free people" but were now enslaved by the Wicked Witch of the West. Their actions can be good or bad depending on how they are controlled; however, they "belong to this country alone" and therefore cannot leave, as can be said for American Indians.[38] The Yellow Winkies that inhabit the Land of the West could represent Asian workers in California during the gold rush; their harsh work environment can be seen as enslavement.[38] The lenses that the groups must wear before entering the City of Oz to dim the emeralds' shine turn out to be fake, like the Wizard. The Emerald City is not a city made of emeralds but a plain, white city where the emerald color lenses cast a green hue on everything and everyone. This shows that anything can be made to look spectacular if you allow yourself to be tricked. Baum traveled all over the United States and would have been introduced to all these events in the 19th century, making it very likely that he drew inspiration from the land around him.

Baum's modernized fairy tale, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, ends with both the Wicked Witch of the East and West defeated and Dorothy, Toto and the Wizard returning to the United States. The Scarecrow reigns over the Emerald City; thus farmers achieve national importance. The Tin Woodsman brings industrialization to the Land of the West. And the Cowardly Lion becomes the protector in the Grand Old Forest, as Bryan commanded a smaller number of politicians.[38]

Littlefield's thesis achieved some support, but has been strenuously attacked by others.[47][48][49]

Cultural impact

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has become an established part of multiple cultures, spreading from its early young American readership to becoming known throughout the world. It has been translated or adapted into well over fifty languages, at times being modified in local variations. For instance, in some abridged Indian editions, the Tin Woodman was replaced with a snake.[50] In Russia, a translation by Alexander Melentyevich Volkov produced six books, The Wizard of the Emerald City series, which became progressively distanced from the Baum version, as Ellie and her dog Totoshka travel throughout the Magic Land. The 1939 film adaptation has become a classic of popular culture, shown annually on American television from 1959 to 1991 and then several times a year every year beginning in 1999.[51] More recently, the story has become an American stage production with an all-black cast, set in the context of modern African-American culture.[52][53]

Critical response

This last story of The Wizard is ingeniously woven out of commonplace material. It is, of course, an extravaganza, but will surely be found to appeal strongly to child readers as well as to the younger children, to whom it will be read by mothers or those having charge of the entertaining of children. There seems to be an inborn love of stories in child minds, and one of the most familiar and pleading requests of children is to be told another story.

The drawing as well as the introduced color work vies with the texts drawn, and the result has been a book that rises far above the average children's book of today, high as is the present standard.


The book has a bright and joyous atmosphere, and does not dwell upon killing and deeds of violence. Enough stirring adventure enters into it, however, to flavor it with zest, and it will indeed be strange if there be a normal child who will not enjoy the story.

The New York Times, September 8, 1900[54]

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz received positive critical reviews upon release. In a September 1900 review, The New York Times praised the novel, writing that it would appeal to child readers and to younger children who could not read yet. The review also praised the illustrations for being a pleasant complement to the text.[54]

During the first 50 years after The Wonderful Wizard of Oz's publication in 1900, it received little critical analysis from scholars of children's literature. According to Ruth Berman of Science Fiction Studies, the lists of suggested reading published for juvenile readers never contained Baum's work. The lack of interest stemmed from the scholars' misgivings about fantasy, as well as to their belief that lengthy series had little literary merit.[55]

It has frequently come under fire over the years. In 1957, the director of Detroit's libraries banned The Wonderful Wizard of Oz for having "no value" for children of his day, for supporting "negativism", and for bringing children's minds to a "cowardly level". Professor Russel B. Nye of Michigan State University countered that "if the message of the Oz books—love, kindness, and unselfishness make the world a better place—seems of no value today", then maybe the time is ripe for "reassess[ing] a good many other things besides the Detroit library's approved list of children's books".[56]

In 1986, seven Fundamentalist Christian families in Tennessee opposed the novel's inclusion in the public school syllabus and filed a lawsuit.[57][58] They based their opposition to the novel on its depicting benevolent witches and promoting the belief that integral human attributes were "individually developed rather than God given".[58] One parent said, "I do not want my children seduced into godless supernaturalism".[59] Other reasons included the novel's teaching that females are equal to males and that animals are personified and can speak. The judge ruled that when the novel was being discussed in class, the parents were allowed to have their children leave the classroom.[57]

Feminist author Margery Hourihan has described the book as a "banal and mechanistic story which is written in flat, impoverished prose".[60]

Leonard Everett Fisher of The Horn Book Magazine wrote in 2000 that Oz has "a timeless message from a less complex era, and it continues to resonate". The challenge of valuing oneself during impending adversity has not, Fisher noted, lessened during the prior 100 years.[61]

In a 2002 review, Bill Delaney of Salem Press praised Baum for giving children the opportunity to discover magic in the mundane things in their everyday lives. He further commended Baum for teaching "millions of children to love reading during their crucial formative years".[16]

The Library of Congress has declared The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to be "America's greatest and best-loved homegrown fairytale", also naming it the first American fantasy for children and one of the most-read children's books.[62]


After George M. Hill's bankruptcy in 1902, copyright in the book passed to the Bobbs-Merrill Company. The editions they published lacked most of the in-text color and color plates of the original. It was not until the book entered the public domain in 1956 that new editions, either with the original color plates, or new illustrations, proliferated. Notable among them are the 1986 Pennyroyal edition illustrated by Barry Moser, which was reprinted by the University of California Press, and the 2000 Annotated Wizard of Oz edited by Michael Patrick Hearn, which was published by W.W. Norton and included all the original color illustrations, as well as supplemental artwork by Denslow. Other centennial editions included University Press of Kansas's Kansas Centennial Edition, illustrated by Michael McCurdy with black-and-white illustrations, and Robert Sabuda's pop-up book.


Baum wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz without any thought of a sequel. After reading the novel, thousands of children wrote letters to him, requesting that he craft another story about Oz. In 1904, he wrote and published the first sequel, The Marvelous Land of Oz, explaining that he grudgingly wrote the sequel to address the popular demand.[63] Baum also wrote sequels in 1907, 1908, and 1909. In his 1911 The Emerald City of Oz, he wrote that he could not continue writing sequels because Ozland had lost contact with the rest of the world. The children refused to accept this story, so Baum, in 1913 and every year thereafter until his death in May 1919, wrote an Oz book, ultimately writing 13 sequels. The Chicago Tribune's Russell MacFall wrote that Baum explained the purpose of his novels in a note he penned to his sister, Mary Louise Brewster, in a copy of Mother Goose in Prose (1897), his first book. He wrote, "To please a child is a sweet and a lovely thing that warms one's heart and brings its own reward."[3] After Baum's death in 1919, Baum's publishers delegated the creation of more sequels to Ruth Plumly Thompson who wrote 21.[16] An original Oz book was published every Christmas between 1913 and 1942.[64] By 1956, five million copies of the Oz books had been published in the English language, while hundreds of thousands had been published in eight foreign languages.[3]


Judy Garland as Dorothy discovering that she and Toto are no longer in Kansas

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has been adapted to other media numerous times, most famously in The Wizard of Oz, the 1939 film starring Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, and Bert Lahr. Until this version, the book had inspired a number of now less well known stage and screen adaptations, including a profitable 1902 Broadway musical and three silent films. The 1939 film was considered innovative because of its songs, special effects, and revolutionary use of the new Technicolor.[65]

The story has been translated into other languages (at least once without permission) and adapted into comics several times. Following the lapse of the original copyright, the characters have been adapted and reused in spin-offs, unofficial sequels, and reinterpretations, some of which have been controversial in their treatment of Baum's characters.

See also

Notes and references

  1. Baum uses the word cyclone while describing a tornado.
  1. Katharine M. Rogers, L. Frank Baum, pp. 73–94.
  2. "Notes and News". The New York Times. October 27, 1900. Archived from the original on December 3, 2010. Retrieved December 3, 2010.
  3. 1 2 3 4 MacFall, Russell (May 13, 1956). "He created 'The Wizard': L. Frank Baum, Whose Oz Books Have Gladdened Millions, Was Born 100 Years Ago Tuesday". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 28, 2010. Retrieved November 28, 2010.
  4. Sweet, Oney Fred (February 20, 1944). "Tells How Dad Wrote 'Wizard of Oz' Stories". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 28, 2010. Retrieved November 28, 2010.
  5. Verdon, Michael (1991). "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz". Salem Press.
  6. 1 2 "New Fairy Stories: "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" by Authors of "Father Goose."". Grand Rapids Herald. September 16, 1900. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 2, 2011. Retrieved February 2, 2011.
  7. Bloom 1994, p. 9
  8. Starrett, Vincent (May 2, 1954). "The Best Loved Books". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 28, 2010. Retrieved November 28, 2010.
  9. The Annotated Wizard of Oz: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – Lyman Frank Baum. Google Books.
  10. Children's Literature Research Collection | University of Minnesota Libraries
  11. 1 2 Baum, L. Frank; Hearn, Michael Patrick (1973). The Annotated Wizard of Oz. New York: C.N. Potter. p. 38. ISBN 0-517-50086-8. OCLC 800451.
  12. The Writer's Muse: L. Frank Baum and the Hotel del Coronado.
  13. Mendelsohn, Ink (May 24, 1986). "As a piece of fantasy, Baum's life was a working model". The Spokesman-Review. Retrieved February 13, 2011.
  14. Schwartz 2009, p. 273
  15. Algeo, J., "Australia as the Land of Oz", American Speech, Vol. 65, No. 1, 1990, pp. 86–89.
  16. 1 2 3 Delaney, Bill (March 2002). "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz". Salem Press. Archived from the original on November 25, 2010. Retrieved November 25, 2010.
  17. Riley, Michael. "Oz and Beyond, The Fantasy World of L. Frank Baum". Lawrence, University of Kansas Press, 1997, p. 51.
  18. Gourley 1999, p. 7
  19. Carpenter & Shirley 1992, p. 43
  20. Schwartz 2009, pp. 87–89
  21. Schwartz 2009, p. 75
  22. Culver 1988, p. 102
  23. 1 2 Hansen 2002, p. 261
  24. Barrett 2006, pp. 154–155
  25. Taylor, Moran & Sceurman 2005, p. 208
  26. Wagman-Geller 2008, pp. 39–40
  27. Schwartz 2009, p. 95
  28. Schwartz 2009, pp. 97–98
  29. Schwartz, 2009, p. xiv.
  30. Baum, Lyman Frank. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Harpers Collins, 2000, p. 5.
  31. Riley 1997, p. 42.
  32. Dighe 2002, p. x
  33. 1 2 Dighe 2002, p. 2
  34. Littlefield 1964, p. 50
  35. Hearn, Michael Patrick (1983). The Wizard of Oz (1st ed.). New York: Schocken Books. pp. 146–147. ISBN 0805238123.
  36. Baum, L. Frank (1917). The Lost Princess of Oz. Chicago: Reilly & Britton. p. 13.
  37. Dighe, Ranjit S. (2002). The Historian's Wizard of Oz. London: Praeger. p. 126. ISBN 0275974189.
  38. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Littlefield 1964
  39. Littlefield 1964, p. 55
  40. Dighe, Ranjit S. (2002). The Historian's Wizard of Oz (1st ed.). London: Praeger. p. 57. ISBN 0275974189.
  41. White, William Allen (1896). "What's the Matter With Kansas". Emporia Gazette. Retrieved April 14, 2015.
  42. Bryan, William Jennings. "Cross of Gold Speech: Mesmerizing the Masses". Official Proceedings of the Democratic National Convention Held in Chicago, Illinois July 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 1896.
  43. Dighe, Ranjit S. (2002). The Historian's Wizard of Oz. London: Praeger. p. 61. ISBN 0275974197.
  44. Dighe, Ranjit S. (2002). The Historian's Wizard of Oz. London: Prager. p. 67. ISBN 0275974197.
  45. Bryan, William Jennings (1897). The First Battle. Lincoln: Thomson Publishing. pp. 617–618.
  46. Dighe, Ranjit S. (2002). The Historian's Wizard of Oz. London: Praeger. p. 45. ISBN 0275974197.
  47. David B. Parker, "The Rise and Fall of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as a Parable on Populism," Journal of the Georgia Association of Historians, 15 (1994), pp. 49–63.
  48. Setting the Standards on the Road to Oz, Mitch Sanders, The Numismatist, July 1991, pp 1042–1050
  49. "Responses to Littlefield – The Wizard of Oz". Archived from the original on April 16, 2013. Retrieved October 29, 2013.
  50. Rutter, Richard (July 2000). Follow the yellow brick road to... (Speech). Indiana Memorial Union, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. Archived from the original on June 10, 2000.
  51. To See The Wizard: Oz on Stage and Film. Library of Congress, 2003.
  52. "The Wiz Live! Defied The Skeptics, Returns For A Second Round". NPR. December 20, 2015. Retrieved January 28, 2016.
  53. "The Wiz Live!". NBC. Retrieved October 22, 2015.
  54. 1 2 "Books and Authors". The New York Times. September 8, 1900. pp. BR12–13. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 26, 2010. Retrieved November 26, 2010.
  55. Berman 2003, p. 504
  56. Vincent, Starrett (May 12, 1957). "L. Frank Baum's Books Alive". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 28, 2010. Retrieved November 28, 2010.
  57. 1 2 Abrams & Zimmer 2010, p. 105
  58. 1 2 Culver 1988, p. 97
  59. Nathanson 1991, p. 301
  60. Hourihan, Margery. Deconstructing the Hero. p. 209. ISBN 0-415-14186-9. OCLC 36582073.
  61. Fisher, Leonard Everett (2000). "Future Classics: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz". The Horn Book Magazine. Library Journals. 76 (6): 739. ISSN 0018-5078.
  62. "The Wizard of Oz: An American Fairy Tale". Library of Congress.
  63. Littlefield 1964, pp. 47–48
  64. Watson, Bruce (2000). "The Amazing Author of Oz". Smithsonian. Smithsonian Institution. 31 (3): 112. ISSN 0037-7333.
  65. Twiddy, David (September 23, 2009). "'Wizard of Oz' goes hi-def for 70th anniversary". The Florida Times-Union. Associated Press. Archived from the original on February 13, 2011. Retrieved February 13, 2011.
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