May 15, 1856 – L. Frank Baum:
The Queerness Doesn’t Matter, So Long As They’re Friends.Dorothy Gale, “The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz”
One of the true classics of American literature, The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz was originally published in 1900. L. Frank Baum crafted a marvelous magical land with a cornfield scarecrow, a mechanical woodman, and a humbug wizard who used old-fashioned hokum to express that universal theme: “There’s no place like home”.
The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz has illustrations by William Wallace Denslow. It was an instant hit. The book can be taken as an allusion to American politics in the late 1800s. Baum created the Land of Oz as a distinctly American utopia, making it the first truly American fairy tale.
Dorothy Gale and her dog, Toto, have their Kansas house swept away by a cyclone and they find themselves in a strange land called Oz. She meets the Munchkins and joins the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion on an unforgettable journey to the Emerald City, home of the all-powered Wizard of Oz.
As a young man, Baum was an actor and playwright. He wrote several plays that were successfully produced and in which he acted. The only time that Baum was known to have been in Kansas was when he toured in one of his plays in 1882.
In 1882, Baum married Maud Gage, daughter of the noted feminist and suffragist Matilda Joslyn Gage. His relationship with his mother-in-law and wife, nudged him to become a lifelong suffragist and feminist. In fact, most of his books have girls as the heroes.
Baum’s original title for the book was The Emerald City, but his publishers felt that a jewel in a book title was bad luck and asked Baum to change it. Baum got the name for his fairy country off a drawer on a file cabinet that was marked O-Z.
Dorothy is the young protagonist of The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz. The story begins with Dorothy; her name is the very first word of the very first chapter.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has had many reprints, most often under the title The Wizard Of Oz, which is the title of the popular 1902 Broadway musical adaptation and the iconic 1939 musical film adaptation with Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale; the source material for The Wiz, the 1975 super Soul Musical that won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical and its 1978 film adaptation with Miss Diana Ross as Dorothy; plus the source material for the Gregory Maguire novel Wicked: The Life And Times Of The Wicked Witch Of The West (1995) and its long-running Broadway musical adaptation Wicked, now in its 17th year. There is no Dorothy character in Wicked.
The original novel is one of the best-known stories in American literature and has been translated into 27 languages. The Library of Congress declared it: “America’s greatest and best-loved homegrown fairytale”. Its groundbreaking success and the success of the 1902 Broadway musical adaptation led Baum to write 13 additional Oz books, all sequels to the first story. The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz sold three million copies by the time it entered the public domain in 1956.
The many people and creatures that Dorothy liberates and befriends have many more adventures after her departure. Each of her three traveling companions became the ruler of a country within the land. The Scarecrow, with his new brains, temporarily became the King of Oz, ruling over the Emerald City, until the long-lost rightful ruler, the Princess Ozma, is eventually found. The Tinman, with his new heart, replaces the Wicked Witch of the West to become the monarch ruling over Munchkin Land. And the Cowardly Lion, with his new courage, becomes King of the Beasts and lives in the wildernesses of Oz to rule over the animal kingdom, aided by his boyfriend the Hungry Tiger.
Despite her vow to never leave home again, Dorothy makes three more trips to the Land of Oz until ultimately deciding to give up on Kansas and live in Oz permanently. Each time Dorothy lands in a different enchanted neighbor country before returning to Oz.
Dorothy is absent from The Marvelous Land Of Oz, the first Oz sequel, with illustrations from John Rea Neill, and published in 1904. It picks up shortly after the end of The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz. She is still in Kansas, recuperating at home with her little dog Toto. Though mentioned several times, she does not make an official appearance until the third Oz book titled Ozma of Oz (1907). By the third book, Ozma, the long-lost daughter of Oz’s old deceased mortal king Pastoria, is found and reigns over the Emerald City and all the countries of the land.
Toto is the one to blame when he and Dorothy are swept away to Oz in the first place. If the sound of the tornado hadn’t sent him scrambling under the bed, they would have been able to reach the storm cellar in time to be safe with Uncle Henry and Aunt Em. Life would have gone on as it always did. Yet, if it weren’t for Toto, Dorothy would have remained just another irrelevant orphan girl living on a bleak and boring farm in the middle of the country. Baum:
Toto jumped out of Dorothy’s arms and hid under her bed, and the little girl started to get him. Aunt Em, badly frightened, threw open the trap door in the floor and climbed down the ladder into the small, dark hole. Dorothy caught Toto at last and started to follow her aunt. When she was halfway across the room there came a great shriek from the wind, and the house shook so hard that she lost her footing and sat down suddenly upon the floor. A strange thing then happened. The house whirled around two or three times and rose slowly through the air. Dorothy felt as if she were going up in a balloon…
Baum wrote 14 Oz books, with a new book usually coming out in time for Christmas. In his later years, he answered children’s letters on letterhead that proclaimed him as the “Royal Historian of Oz”. He used suggestions from children when creating the Oz books. The series was continued after his death by Ruth Plumly Thompson, who wrote an additional 19 Oz books, and a series of other authors added seven more.
Baum left this world in 1919 after suffering a stroke. Just before he passed, he had some interesting last words. In his books, the land of Oz is cut off from the rest of the world by impassable wastelands, including a desert called the Shifting Sands. As Baum was breathing his last breath, he whispered to his wife: “Now we can cross the Shifting Sands”.
The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz has never been out of print.