The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a children’s novel written by 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 numerous times, most often under the name The Wizard of Oz, which is the name of both the popular 1902 Broadway musical and the well-known 1939 film adaptation.
The story chronicles the adventures of a young girl named Dorothy Gale in the Land of Oz, after being swept away from her Kansas farm home in a cyclone.[nb 1] The novel is one of the best-known stories in American popular culture and has been widely translated. Its initial success, and the success of the 1902 Broadway musical which Baum adapted from his original story, led to Baum’s writing thirteen more Oz books. The original book has been in the public domain in the US since 1956.
Baum dedicated the book “to my good friend & comrade, My Wife”, Maud Gage Baum. In January 1901, George M. Hill Company, the publisher, completed printing the 1st edition, which totaled 10,000 copies.
In 1882, Baum married Maud Gage, daughter of suffragist Matilda Joslyn Gage. His new mother-in-law believed that Baum was idealistic and wrote in a letter that he was “a perfect baby”. However, she encouraged him to put to paper the many tales he had related to his sons for many years. Maud Gage, a practical woman, served as a foil to Baum. She was consistent and wary of their finances, complementing her husband, an imaginative dreamer.
Despite his reputation for being a progressive thinker because of his support for Women’s suffrage and writing the story “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” with a female hero, Baum wrote numerous racist remarks about Native Americans. While he lived in Aberdeen, South Dakota he wrote a column for their newspaper called “Our Landlady” and made fun of the practices of the Lakota and Sioux tribes. He previously claimed that bigotry was intolerable but his writings show otherwise. He was later concerned about the town of Aberdeen being invaded by the Natives, still afraid of another incident like the Battle of the Little Bighorn fourteen years after it happened.
The book was published by George M. Hill Company. Its 1st 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 1st 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 1st 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. By October 1900, the 1st edition had already sold out and the 2nd edition of 15,000 copies was nearly depleted.
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 didn’t initially predict the book would be phenomenally successful. He agreed to publish the book only when the manager of the Grand Opera House, Fred R. Hamlin, committed to making The Wizard of Oz into a musical stage play to publicize the novel. The play The Wizard of Oz debuted on June 16, 1902, at Hamlin’s Grand Opera House. It was revised to suit adult preferences and was crafted as a “musical extravaganza”. The music was written by Paul Tietjens and the costumes were modeled after Denslow’s drawings. Anna Laughlin starred as Dorothy, Dave Montgomery was the Tin Woodman, and Fred Stone was the Scarecrow. Montgomery and Stone immediately became stars, with the Chicago Tribune printing pictures of the two in their costumes and stating, “To Montgomery and Stone, The Tribune awards the honors of pioneers in original comedy.” After Hill’s publishing company became bankrupt in 1901, Baum and Denslow agreed to have the Indianapolis-based Bobbs-Merrill Company resume publishing the novel.
Baum’s son Harry Neal told the Chicago Tribune in 1944 that he 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.
By 1938, over one million copies of the book had been printed. Less than two decades later, in 1956, the sales of his novel grew to 3 million copies in print.
The Good Witch of the North comes with the Munchkins to greet Dorothy and gives Dorothy the Silver Shoes that the Wicked Witch of the East had been wearing when she was killed. In order to return to Kansas, the Good Witch of the North tells Dorothy that she will have to go to the “Emerald City” or “City of Emeralds” and ask the Wizard of Oz to help her. Before she leaves, the Good Witch of the North kisses her on the forehead, giving her magical protection from trouble.
On her way down the road of yellow bricks, Dorothy frees the Scarecrow from the pole he is hanging on, restores the movements of the rusted Tin Woodman with an oil can, and encourages them and the Cowardly Lion to journey with her and Toto to the Emerald City. The Scarecrow wants to get a brain, the Tin Woodman wants a heart, and the Cowardly Lion wants courage. All four of the travelers believe that the Wizard can solve their troubles. The party finds many adventures on their journey together, including overcoming obstacles such as narrow pieces of the yellow brick road, vicious Kalidahs, a river, and the Deadly Poppies.
When the travelers arrive at the Emerald City, they are asked to wear green spectacles by the Guardian of the Gates as long as they remain in the city. The four are the 1st to ever successfully meet with the Wizard. When each traveler meets with the Wizard, he appears each time as someone or something different. Dorothy sees the Wizard as a giant head, Scarecrow sees the Wizard a beautiful woman, Tin Woodman sees the Wizard as a terrible beast, and the Cowardly Lion sees the Wizard as a ball of fire. The Wizard agrees to help each of them….but only if one of them kills the Wicked Witch of the West who rules over the western Winkie Country. The Guardian of the Gates warns them that no one has ever managed to harm the very cunning and cruel Wicked Witch.
The Wicked Witch forces Dorothy to do housework for the castle, all the while scheming to steal Dorothy’s magical shoes. She also locks up the Lion without food until he will submit to being a pack animal.
When the Wicked Witch gains one of Dorothy’s silver shoes by trickery, Dorothy in anger grabs a bucket of water and throws it on the Wicked Witch. To her shock, this causes the Witch to melt away, allowing Dorothy to recover the shoe. The Winkies rejoice at being freed of the witch’s tyranny and they help to reassemble the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman. The Winkies love the Tin Woodman, and they ask him to become their ruler, which he agrees to do after helping Dorothy return to Kansas.
Dorothy, after finding and learning how to use the Golden Cap, summons the Winged Monkeys to carry her and her companions back to the Emerald City. and the King of the Winged Monkeys tells how he and the other monkeys were bound by an enchantment to the cap by the sorceress Gayelette.
When Dorothy and her friends meet the Wizard of Oz again, he tries to put them off. Toto accidentally tips over a screen in a corner of the throne room, revealing the Wizard to be an ordinary old man who had journeyed to Oz from Omaha long ago in a hot air balloon. The Wizard has been longing to return to his home and be in a circus again ever since.
The Wizard provides the Scarecrow with a head full of bran, pins, and needles, the Tin Woodman with a silk heart stuffed with sawdust, and the Cowardly Lion a potion of “courage”. Because of their faith in the Wizard’s power, these otherwise useless items provide a focus for their desires. In order to help Dorothy and Toto get home, the Wizard realizes that he will have to take them home with him (as he has been growing tired of being cooped up all the time, and wanting to return to work in a circus) in a new balloon, which he and Dorothy fashion from green silk. Revealing himself to the people of the Emerald City one last time, the Wizard appoints the Scarecrow, by virtue of his brains, to rule in his stead. Dorothy chases Toto after he runs after a kitten in the crowd, and before she can make it back to the balloon, the ropes break, leaving the Wizard to rise and float away alone.
Dorothy turns to the Winged Monkeys to carry her and Toto home, but they cannot cross the desert surrounding Oz, subsequently wasting her 2nd wish. The Soldier with the Green Whiskers advises that Glinda, Good Witch of the South, may be able to help Dorothy and Toto get home. Dorothy, Toto, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion journey to Glinda’s palace in the Quadling Country. Together they escape the Fighting Trees, tread carefully through the China Country where they meet Mr. Joker, and dodge the armless Hammer-Heads on their hill. The Cowardly Lion kills a giant spider who is terrorizing the animals in a forest and he agrees to return there to rule them after Dorothy returns to Kansas. Dorothy uses her 3rd wish to fly over the Hammer-Heads’ mountain, almost losing Toto in the process.
At Glinda’s palace, the travelers are greeted warmly, and it is revealed by Glinda that Dorothy had the power to go home all along. The Silver Shoes she wears can take her anywhere she wishes to go. She tearfully embraces her friends, all of whom will be returned, through Glinda’s use of the Golden Cap, to their respective kingdoms: the Scarecrow to the Emerald City, the Tin Woodman to the Winkie Country, and the Cowardly Lion to the forest. Then she will give the Golden Cap to the King of the Winged Monkeys, so they will never be under its spell again. Having bid her friends farewell one final time, Dorothy knocks her heels together three times, and wishes to return home. When she opens her eyes, Dorothy and Toto have returned to Kansas to a joyful family reunion.
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 colour 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.
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. 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.
A new edition of the book appeared in 1944, with illustrations by Evelyn Copelman. 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, starring Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, and Bert Lahr.
Baum explores the theme of self-contradiction in The Wizard of Oz. The Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion all lack self-confidence. The Scarecrow believes that he has no brains, though he comes up with clever solutions to several problems that they encounter on their journey. The Tin Woodman believes that he lacks a heart, but is moved to tears when misfortune befalls the various creatures they meet. The Cowardly Lion believes that he has no courage even though he is consistently brave through their journey. Carl L. Bankston III of Salem Press noted that “These three characters embody the classical human virtues of intelligence, caring, and courage, but their self-doubts keep them from being reduced to mere symbols of these qualities.”
By the end of the novel, the characters attain self-fulfillment when they have met their objectives. To convince the characters they have the qualities they desire, the Wizard places an amalgamation of bran, pins, and needles in the Scarecrow’s head to inspire intellect; gives a silk heart to the Tin Woodman to inspire love; and a drink to the Cowardly Lion to inspire bravery.
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