More than a century after The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was published, children and, yes, even adults, are still enchanted by L. Frank Baum’s magical world.
Who hasn’t heard of the The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, one of the most famous and popular children’s books of all time? The 1939 movie adaptation, The Wizard of Oz, starring Judy Garland has etched a panoply of wonderful songs indelibly into the minds of almost every living person in North America.
From 1900 to 1920, L. Frank Baum, the creator of Oz published a total of 14 books set in this enchanted fairyland (the last was published posthumously a year after his death).
Baum grew up in New York State surrounded by luxury on the estate of his father, a wealthy businessman. He showed an early interest in writing and a fascination with the stage, an interest which generally proved financially disastrous as did many of Baum’s other endeavors.
In 1888, he moved to the Dakota Territory, whose drought-stricken landscape was his inspiration for the Kansas of Dorothy and Toto. Both his store, Baum’s Bazaar, and a newspaper he founded went bankrupt, prompting a move to Chicago.
Baum’s 13 Oz sequels are not well known today but they featured both the old characters from his first novel, as well as entirely new ones such as the Woggle-Bug, the Hungry Tiger and even a character named Ozma who, in mid adolescence, has a magical sex change from a boy to a girl.
Recently I finished reading all 14 novels to my nine-year-old daughter Ariana, spending almost a year in doing so. It would be hard to say who enjoyed the exercise more!
Baum invariably started his subsequent Oz books with a letter thanking all the little children (centenarians now if any are alive) who loved his stories and begged him for sequels.
At various times he tried to leave off the Oz series for other endeavors but due to a combination of entreaties from his fans and possibly failures in other genres he would always go back to his Emerald City. At one point he even put an “impenetrable” barrier around Oz, explaining that now no more books could be penned. Somehow the barrier was breached and Baum’s last Oz book, Glinda of Oz, was written in his last year of life.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was produced as a Broadway musical the year after the book was written in 1902. This work, geared to adults, featured none of the songs that were later featured in the movie, and Toto was replaced by a cow named Imogene! Nevertheless, it was a hit.
More recently, Neptune Theatre in Halifax, Nova Scotia, produced Frank Gabrielson’s adaptation of the The Wonderful Wizard of Oz based closely on the MGM film version. It featured all of the wonderful songs and much of the movie’s dialogue, as well as few humorous asides not in the movie.
I attended this performance with Ariana and my wife Krista. We were gratified to note that Toto, rather than a cow, graced the stage (as were, no doubt, the actors and theatre cleaning staff).
Through the two hour and 15 minute performance, witches got squashed and melted, lions scared and humbug wizards unmasked, right on schedule. The grins of the children were matched by those of their parents and grandparents during this rollicking good evening.
After the show, Ariana spoke with Dorothy (Blair Irwin) and the Wizard (Jeremy Webb) and impressed them with having now seen the movie, viewed the musical and read all of the 14 Oz books.
“Now,” she said, “all I have to do is convince my Daddy to take me to Oz!”
Visit here for a list of all of the Oz books by L. Frank Baum.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, also known as The Wizard of Oz, a 1900 children’s novel by L. Frank Baum. Published in 1900
All illustrations by W. W. Denslow from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Source: Wikimedia Commons
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