Baum, L. Frank 1856-1919

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Frank L. Baum 1856-1919






(Full name Lyman Frank Baum; also wrote under the pseudonyms Louis F. Baum, Schuyler Staunton, Floyd Akers, Laura Bancroft, John Estes Cooke, Edith Van Dyne, Captain Hugh Fitzgerald, and Suzanne Metcalf) American essayist, poet, playwright, screenwriter, and author of fairy tales and juvenile fiction.

The following entry presents an overview of Baum's career through 2003. For further information on his life and works, see CLR, Volume 15.


Baum was a prolific author who achieved lasting fame through his Land of Oz fantasy-adventure series. The series' first volume, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900), is considered a classic of children's literature; its sequels, though uneven in quality, remain popular favorites. The Land of Oz also appeals to adults who enjoy Baum's unsentimental and mildly satiric approach to his characters and their dilemmas. Nearly unparalleled in popularity among children's writers during his lifetime, Baum believed in the expediency of writing dialogue-driven stories of adventure and magic that were free from the rampant moralizing he saw in most children's fiction. Employing humor, plucky child-heroes, and a hodge-podge of strange but comforting sidekicks, Baum's classic narratives have become an iconic part of the American literary landscape, inspiring great affection from their legions of followers and prompting many scholars to argue that Baum's Oz stories represent the first truly American fairy tales.


Baum was born on May 15, 1856, in Chittenango, New York. His mother, Cynthia Staunton Baum, was a well-known women's rights advocate. His father, Benjamin Ward Baum, was a barrel-maker who earned a small fortune in the oil fields of Pennsylvania during the Civil War boom. Shortly after his birth, Baum was discovered to have a congenital heart defect that made him extremely frail and necessitated that he be home-schooled throughout most of his early life. During his early teens, Baum's parents enrolled him at Peekskill Military Academy, but he was forced to leave after only a few years when a powerful seizure necessitated a return home. Despite his relatively brief tenure at the school, Baum was nevertheless left with a strong dislike of the military system, which would eventually manifest itself in his stories of Oz. Early in life, Baum displayed a love of writing, demonstrated by his youthful toying with neighborhood journalism, including a newspaper—The Rose Lawn Journal—that he published with his brother Harry. Emboldened by the example of his father's sister, the actress Katherine Gray, and his father's ownership of several theaters, Baum was drawn to a life in the arts, particularly a fascination with live theater. As an actor he toured the eastern states in several productions, including his own play TheMaid of Arran (1881). After his marriage to Maud Gage in 1882, Baum left the theater and embarked on a series of business ventures that proved unsuccessful. In connection with these enterprises, he traveled throughout the United States, and his impressions of the country's varied landscapes and lifestyles are recorded in his Land of Oz books. Baum eventually settled in Chicago, where he worked as a reporter and salesman. Building upon an interest in window decorating, in 1897, Baum founded the National Association of Window Trimmers, edited its subsequent trade publication Show Window from 1897 to 1902, and published a book on the subject, The Art of Decorating Dry Goods, Windows, and Interiors (1900). Still consumed with an interest in storytelling, Baum would tell fantastic fairy tales of his own composition to his four sons. His mother-in-law encouraged him to publish some of his stories and, with the assistance of her contacts in the Chicago Press Club, Baum published his first book Mother Goose in Prose (1897), which was followed by Father Goose, His Book (1899). Both books were well received, but their success did not prepare the author for the response to his next effort, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The "modern" fairy tale eventually became an international best-seller, and in 1902, Baum adapted The Wonderful Wizard of Oz for the stage. The production, which took liberties with Baum's original characters and plot, included astonishing technical effects for its time and ran for a record 293 performances. Inspired by the success of The Wizard of Oz, Baum penned a number of unrelated children's works, including The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (1902) and John Dough and the Cherub (1906), but none of them ever paralleled the unprecedented popularity of Oz. Though Baum never intended The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to be the first of a series, he was induced by popular demand and financial difficulties to write its sequel, The Marvelous Land of Oz (1904). In 1908 Baum moved with his family to Hollywood, California, to work on the The Fairylogue and Radio-Plays, a combination slide and motion picture presentation about Oz. Baum tried to end the Oz series in 1910 with the publication of The Emerald City of Oz, but circumstances intervened; in 1911, Baum declared bankruptcy. By 1913 he had resigned himself to producing a new Oz book each year. Living in Hollywood, Baum became involved in the infant motion picture industry. With some friends, he formed the Oz Film Manufacturing Company and produced several films based on his Oz books, including His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz (1914), The Magic Cloak of Oz (1914), and The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1914). While they featured impressive special effects, most of the films were not commercially successful, and the company failed in 1915. Although Baum had not invested his own money in the venture, ill health impeded any other projects he might have taken on. Complications from surgery left him bedridden for the last year of his life, and Baum died on May 6, 1919. Although, during his life, Baum had produced his own film adaptations of his Oz series, none of them ever came close to achieving the fame of director Victor Fleming's 1939 The Wizard of Oz, staring Judy Garland, which remains one of the most popular and iconic motion pictures of all time.


Baum's intent, stated in his introduction to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, was to create "a modernized fairy tale," a children's story without "the horrible and blood-curdling incidents" or the didactic themes in the tales of such writers as Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm. Nevertheless, Baum's stories contain a number of moral lessons as well as gruesome episodes. His real achievement was in creating a fantasy land that is recognizably American in psychology and setting—the virtues of home and family are stressed, and the characters are self-reliant, forthright individuals full of optimism and the pioneer spirit. In addition, the topographical features of Oz parallel those of the United States, and the magic in Oz is generally produced by science and technology rather than by spells and witchcraft. Moreover, Baum did not people his tales with genies, ogres, and fairies. Rather, he fashioned his characters, such as the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and Jack Pumpkinhead, out of real and familiar materials. Memorably illustrated by W. W. Denslow, Baum published The Wonderful Wizard of Oz at his own expense, naming his new fairy land, he would later admit, after a file sitting in a cabinet near his desk, alphabetically labeled "O-Z". The Wonderful Wizard of Oz relates the magical tale of a young girl named Dorothy as she escapes from the desolate poverty of her farm in Kansas to the amazing wonderland of Oz. A recurring theme of the Oz books—to find happiness, look no farther than your own backyard—is exemplified by Baum's characters' continuing search for qualities they already possess. Looking at Dorothy's companions in her travels through Oz, for example, The Cowardly Lion acts bravely during his journey with Dorothy, yet he asks the Wizard for courage; the inordinately kind and compassionate Tin Woodman requests a heart; and the Scarecrow, who manifests wit and intelligence, is seeking a brain. Throughout the series, Baum emphasizes tolerant, selfless, and humble behavior. His villains and the objects of his satire are pseudo-intellectuals, the military, and figures who show greed or conceit. Recognizing the increasing demand for stories extending the adventures in Oz and troubled by continued financial difficulties, Baum released The Marvelous Land of Oz in 1904, which charts a revolution led by a small child—General Jinjur—against the new King of Oz, Dorothy's old friend, the Scarecrow.

The Marvelous Land of Oz introduces a small boy named Tip, who is the rightful heir to the throne of Oz and who, in truth, is actually a girl named Ozma—she was transformed into Tip by a magical spell. Ozma, in turn, is the lead protagonist of Ozma of Oz (1907), which also features the return of Dorothy to Oz. Together, Ozma and Dorothy save the kingdom of Ev from the evil Princess Langwidere—who has a different head for every day of the month—and her ally, the vile Nome King. In 1910 Baum tried to end the Oz series with his sixth book, The Emerald City of Oz, even going so far as permanently relocating Dorothy's guardians, Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, to Oz and making the entire land invisible to outsiders. But Baum was never able to quite escape his creation, as intense fan interest and his bankruptcy in June of 1911 necessitated a reluctant return to Oz with The Patchwork Girl of Oz in 1913. Recognizing the value of the brand name of his handiwork and now firmly ingrained in his role as the self-titled "Royal Historian of Oz," Baum would go on to publish seven more Oz books, for a total of fourteen, with each book's annual Christmastime release becoming a part of the American ritual of the holiday season.


Despite the wild popularity of the Oz books, most critics and educators virtually ignored Baum's achievements for nearly thirty years after the initial publication of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. They deemed his humorous, sometimes irreverent, approach "unwholesome" and considered his work insignificant in comparison to children's classics like Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Upon its release, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was described by The New York Times as a book with "humor and here and there stray bits of philosophy that will be a moving power on the child mind and will furnish fields of study and investigation for the future students and professors of psychology." More recent criticism of the Land of Oz books has focused on some of the darker aspects of Oz. Some commentators have argued that the theme of the primacy of home and family, usually attributed to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, actually comes more from the 1939 film based on the book. These critics have pointed out the rather grim description in the book of Dorothy's home, which Baum depicts as being desperately lonely and tedious. Still other reviewers have observed the political allusions in the Oz books, contending, in particular, that the Yellow Brick Road symbolizes the debate over the gold standard in American politics of the time. Most critics have concurred that Baum should have heeded his instincts and discontinued the series when he first planned. They have noted that the later books, such as The Lost Princess of Oz (1917) and The Magic of Oz (1919), appear hastily written and lack structure, style, and humor. But most commentators have agreed that, at his best, Baum was an original and innovative writer who created one of the most popular and imitated children's stories of the twentieth century.


The Maid of Arran [as Louis F. Baum] (play) 1881

Mother Goose in Prose [illustrations by Maxfield Parrish] (fairy tales) 1897

By the Candelabra's Glare [illustrations by W. W. Denslow] (poetry) 1898

Father Goose, His Book [illustrations by W. W. Denslow] (fairy tales) 1899

The Art of Decorating Dry Goods, Windows, and Interiors (essays) 1900

A New Wonderland [illustrations by F. Verbeck] (juvenile fiction) 1900; republished as The Surprising Adventures of the Magical Monarch of Mo and His People, 1903

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz [illustrations by W. W. Denslow] (juvenile fiction) 1900; republished as The New Wizard of Oz, 1903

American Fairy Tales [illustrations by Ike Morgan, Harry Kennedy, and N. P. Hall] (fairy tales) 1901; enlarged as Baum's American Fairy Tales, [illustrations by George F. Kerr] 1908

The Master Key [illustrations by F. Y. Cory] (juvenile fiction) 1901

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus [illustrations by Mary Cowles Clark] (fairy tales) 1902

The Wizard of Oz (play) 1902

The Enchanted Island of Yew [illustrations by F. Y. Cory] (juvenile fiction) 1903

The Marvelous Land of Oz [illustrations by John R. Neill] (juvenile fiction) 1904

*Queen Zixi of Ix: The Story of the Magic Cloak [illustrations by Frederick Richardson] (juvenile fiction) 1905

The Woggle-Bug (play) 1905

The Woggle-Bug Book [illustrations by Ike Morgan] (juvenile fiction) 1905

Daughters of Destiny [as Schuyler Staunton] (novel) 1906

John Dough and the Cherub [illustrations by John R. Neill] (juvenile fiction) 1906

Twinkle Tales. 6 vols. [as Laura Bancroft; illustrations by Maginel Wright Enright] (fairy tales) 1906; republished as Twinkle and Chubbins, 1911

Ozma of Oz [illustrations by John R. Neill] (juvenile fiction) 1907

Policeman Bluejay [as Laura Bancroft; illustrations by Maginel Wright Enright] (fairy tales) 1907; republished as Babes in Birdland, 1911

Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz [illustrations by John R. Neill] (juvenile fiction) 1908

The Fairylogue and Radio-Plays (screenplay) 1908

The Road to Oz [illustrations by John R. Neill] (juvenile fiction) 1909

The Emerald City of Oz [illustrations by John R. Neill] (juvenile fiction) 1910

The Flying Girl [as Edith Van Dyne; illustrations by Joseph Pierre Nuyttens] (juvenile fiction) 1911

The Flying Girl and Her Chum [as Edith Van Dyne; illustrations by Joseph Pierre Nuyttens] (juvenile fiction) 1912

Sky Island [illustrations by John R. Neill] (juvenile fiction) 1912

The Patchwork Girl of Oz [illustrations by John R. Neill] (juvenile fiction) 1913

The Tik-Tok Man of Oz (play) 1913

Little Wizard Stories of Oz [illustrations by John R. Neill] (juvenile fiction) 1914

His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz (screenplay) 1914; released as The New Wizard of Oz, 1915

The Magic Cloak of Oz (screenplay) 1914

The Patchwork Girl of Oz (screenplay) 1914

Tik-Tok of Oz [illustrations by John R. Neill] (juvenile fiction) 1914

The Scarecrow of Oz [illustrations by John R. Neill] (juvenile fiction) 1915

Rinkitink in Oz [illustrations by John R. Neill] (juvenile fiction) 1916

The Lost Princess of Oz [illustrations by John R. Neill] (juvenile fiction) 1917

The Tin Woodman of Oz [illustrations by John R. Neill] (juvenile fiction) 1918

The Magic of Oz [illustrations by John R. Neill] (juvenile fiction) 1919

Glinda of Oz [illustrations by John R. Neill] (juvenile fiction) 1920

Animal Fairy Tales [illustrations by Dick Martin] (fairy tales) 1969

*This work was originally serialized in St. Nicholas Magazine between November 1904 and October 1905.

†Comprised of a six-volume set, which included the titles Bandit Jim Crow, Mr. Woodchuck, Prairie-Dog Town, Prince Mud-Turtle, Sugar-Loaf Mountain, and Twinkle's Enchantment.

‡Comprised of a six-volume set, originally published in 1913, which included the titles Jack Pumpkinhead and the Sawhorse, Little Dorothy and Toto, Ozma and the Little Wizard, The Cowardly Lion and the Hungry Tiger, The Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman, and Tik-Tok and the Nome King.


David L. Greene (essay date 1974)

SOURCE: Greene, David L. "The Concept of Oz." Children's Literature 3 (1974): 173-76.

[In the following essay, Greene argues that, contrary to many popular portrayals of Baum's fictional world of Oz as a utopia, it is in fact a universe filled with both flawed and hypocritical characters.]

The Land of Oz, setting for L. Frank Baum's fourteen Oz books (published from 1900 through 1920), is for most readers a complete and believable fantasy world. In this respect, it ranks with J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-Earth, C. S. Lewis's Narnia, Lloyd Alexander's Prydain, and most recently Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea. Most scholarly discussions of Baum's creation have reached a relatively simple conclusion: Oz is a Utopia, reflecting an optimistic view of man's potentialities or at least an optimistic answer to the complexities of our own primary world and to the flaws in man's character.1 I believe that Baum's secondary world is more complex than this view indicates. His basic themes necessitate a world which is quite other than Utopian.2 These themes are the acquisition of self-knowledge and the importance of reality in the face of deception and self-delusion.

To be successful, a secondary world must be detailed and relatively consistent, and it must bear some resemblance to our own world, so that we will be able to suspend our disbelief toward it. In this sense, Lewis Carroll's worlds are unsatisfactory, which paradoxically is one reason for the greatness of the Alice books, since they are based on logical impossibilities. It is particularly difficult to use a subcreation as a satisfactory literary device—as is all too apparent from many of the "sword-and-sorcery" paperbacks on the newsstands. Either the secondary world becomes central, and character and theme become subordinate; or the fantasy land seems unrelated to character and theme, or even competes with them. A sense of place is important in most fantasies, but too many writers seem to believe that all that is necessary for a good fantasy is a believable secondary world. A sub-creation must not only bring about a sense of wonder, it must also accomplish the difficult trick of being important to the events and characters without dominating them. On the whole, Baum's world is successful in both regards.

Baum's conception of his fairyland is frequently, though not always, technological. Several of Baum's best-known creations, for example, are mechanical men, including the Tin Woodman, who first appeared in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900), and Tik-Tok, a clockwork robot introduced in Ozma of Oz (1907). Oz magic is not so much an art as it is a science, arrived at through experimentation and often dependent on special equipment. Of the major authors of fantasy, Baum is the most willing to accept technology as basically beneficial; many other writers (Tolkien most strikingly) are either indifferent to technology or frightened by it.3

Geographically, the world of Oz is created with care. The four major divisions of Oz (the countries of the Winkies, Gillikins, Quadlings, and Munchkins) are delineated with a fair degree of precision, as is the Emerald City, situated in the middle of Oz (somewhat like the District of Columbia, the capital of Oz and its immediate environs are not part of any other political division). Oz is surrounded by the Deadly Desert, which has magical destructive properties. Outside the desert are various fantasy kingdoms—Ev, Ix, Mo, Merryland, and others—and surrounding the entire continent is the great Nonestic Ocean. The Ozian world is mappable and, indeed, has been mapped several times.

Oz is peopled by an astonishing variety of grotesques, magical and otherwise, including a man whose body is made of wood and whose head is a pumpkin, a living scarecrow, a woodchopper made of tin, a living sawhorse, creatures who are blown up like balloons, people who eat thistles, and many others. This strange melange is ruled by the Princess Ozma, who ascended the throne of Oz at the end of The Marvelous Land of Oz (1904).

The egotistical isolation of many groups and individuals throughout the Oz books produces a distorted perception of reality. Many inhabitants of Oz are unwilling to attempt to understand those outside their own small groups. They create their own views of others and hold to these views rigidly; their insularity makes them incapable of seeing reality. Ozma, whose rule of Oz is never complete, is not only unable to end such isolation, she is also unaware of the existence of many of the different peoples in her realm. Not surprisingly, conflicts abound in such a situation. The battles between the Horners and the Hoppers in The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1913) occur because each group is convinced of its own superiority, and each group is equally ridiculous. A similar situation on a larger scale occurs in Tik-Tok of Oz (1914); in this book, the people of the small Oz kingdom of Oogaboo know so little about the world outside their mountains that the queen thinks she can conquer the world with an army consisting of sixteen officers and one private. Sometimes individuals have the same impervious sense of their own superiority. In The Lost Princess of Oz (1917), for example, when the various animals of the Emerald City argue about which is superior, each argues for himself.

Neither the characters in Baum's fantasies, nor the dangers they go through, nor the Land of Oz itself is what one would expect of a Utopia. Most of Baum's books have loosely organized quest plots, with a young boy or (more often) girl as a protagonist for children to identify with. During the quests, the participants face imprisonment, transformation, or other dangers, and in facing these threats successfully, they gain self-knowledge. Usually the main characters learn that they must place their confidence in themselves, for other supports might be humbug, like the Wizard of Oz. In Rinkitink in Oz (1916), for instance, Prince Inga loses the support of wealth and position. His kingdom is destroyed and his people enslaved, but with the intermittent help of three magic pearls, a fat poetic king, and a talking goat, he rescues his people and very nearly saves his parents. (Because Baum turned a non-Oz manuscript written about 1905 into this 1916 Oz book, he does not allow Inga to rescue the king and queen but delegates this task to an unconvincing dea ex machina, in the person of Princess Dorothy.)

Unlike the minor characters who have a false view of others, several important figures in the adventures promote a false view of themselves. Baum often depicts pretenders to wisdom, as he does with the three wise men of Gotham in his version of the nursery rhyme in Mother Goose in Prose (1897); in this early work, the three Gothamites are trapped by their own pretensions into going to sea in the ill-fated bowl. Professor H. M. Woggle-Bug, T.E., of The Marvelous Land of Oz and many later books is a satire on pompous pedantry ("T.E." stands for "Thoroughly Educated"); he seldom causes problems because his advice is usually ignored. The Frogman of The Lost Princess of Oz (1917) is particularly interesting, for he gives up his pretense to wisdom early in the book; he is therefore able to become an important member of the party which rescues the kidnapped ruler of Oz.

Baum's deepest depiction of hypocrisy is in the title character of Queen Zixi of Ix (1905), a fantasy which takes place in a kingdom bordering Oz. Queen Zixi is a witch, six hundred and eighty-three years old, who has remained alive through magic. She appears young and beautiful but is unable to fool a mirror: "her reflection . . . showed to her an ugly old hag, bald of head, wrinkled, with toothless gums and withered, sunken cheeks." In order to appear as beautiful to herself as she does to all around her, she manages to steal a magic wishing cloak owned by the sister of the boy king of Noland. She soon discovers that the cloak will not work for anyone who steals it, and realizing her own foolishness, she resolves to be contented with her lot. Later she renders great assistance to Noland when it is invaded. But when she appeals in the last scene to the fairy queen whose band had made the cloak, she is rejected: "Plead not to me, Queen of Ix! . . . You know that we fairies do not approve of witchcraft. However long your arts may permit you to live, you must always beware a mirror!" Even one who has become admirable cannot have appearance changed into reality.

In Baum's sub-creation, transformations must be broken because they are false. For example, Bilbil, the talking goat of Rinkitink in Oz, is returned to his true form as Prince Bobo of Boboland, and he is ashamed of what he has been (even though many readers find him more interesting as a goat). Mombi, the witch in The Marvelous Land of Oz, is unable to escape justice even when she takes the form of a griffin. The many transformations in The Magic of Oz (1919) and Glinda of Oz (1920) nearly lead to disaster in both books. Transformations into inanimate objects are feared most of all. The purpose of Ojo's quest in The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1913) is to disenchant the marble statue that was once his uncle; when the rescuers in The Lost Princess of Oz finally discover Princess Ozma, she is imprisoned in a peach pit. Both transformations are frightening rather than ludicrous. Transformation from one form of life to another raises complex questions of personal identity; transformation from life to non-life is terrifying.

As a child, I was not so much frightened by Medusa's severed head as I was by what Perseus did with it.

Oz is surely not Utopian in a visionary sense. Rather it is a proving ground for various personages who learn through dangers and conflicts. Frequently these adventures raise complex philosophical and psychological questions centering around reality and pretense. Oz can be heady fare for young readers.


1. Four important discussions of Oz argue a Utopian view: Edward Wagenknecht, Utopia Americana, University of Washington Chapbooks No. 28 (Seattle, 1929); S. J. Sackett, "The Utopia of Oz," The Georgia Review, 14 (Fall, 1960), 275-291; Fred Erisman, "L. Frank Baum and the Progressive Dilemma," American Quarterly, 20 (Fall, 1968), 616-623; and Michael Patrick Hearn, The Annotated Wizard of Oz (New York, 1973), pp. 74-75. See also Ben Indick's discussion of Baum criticism in the Spring, 1974, issue of The Baum Bugle, the journal of The International Wizard of Oz Club, 220 North Eleventh Street, Escanaba, Michigan 49829.

2. Baum tries consciously to make Oz Utopian in chapter three of The Emerald City of Oz (1910), which describes social, political, and economic life in Oz, and in chapter fifteen of The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1913), which describes the Ozian penal system. The little we see otherwise of the actual governing system is not Utopian, and these few references have little effect on the stories themselves.

3. Douglas G. Greene and I discuss Baum's attitudes toward technology at greater length in our introduction to his 1901 "electrical fairy tale," The Master Key, scheduled for publication in February, 1974, by Hyperion Press.

Osmond Beckwith (essay date 1976)

SOURCE: Beckwith, Osmond. "The Oddness of Oz." Children's Literature 5 (1976): 74-91.

[In the following essay, Beckwith discusses a broad range of topics in his analysis of Baum's first four Oz books, including the nature of transformation, the role of male versus female, and Baum's intention behind the creation of Oz's primary cast of characters.]

Twenty Years After

In 1950, a father wanting to read to a young daughter, I bought with other "children's classics" The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. Later, drawn by curiosity, I also bought most of the remaining Oz titles by Baum (for this series so popular with children had not been allowed to die with the author's death in 1919). In my own childhood I had known Baum only from his Ozma of Oz, a book I seem to remember having found in our school library: odd if true, for schools consistently denied shelf space to Oz as to most ephemeral or "fad" books which children read to the exclusion of anything else.

In my fatherly reading and re-reading I discovered—if what seemed so obvious could be a discovery—the material for an article on the unconscious in children's literature like that of an earlier study by an English novelist on Elsie Dinsmore. (If now known only to specialists, in their day the "Elsie books" were a juvenile series as frantically popular and endlessly extended as Oz. Of all such series, Oz seems the only one to please successive younger generations.)

I researched Baum in the New York Public Library, discovering nothing about Oz of the kind I feared; more oddly, since Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman and the Cowardly Lion were apparently firmly fixed in American public imagination, almost nothing in print about their creator. Of the few brief adult Oz-appreciations then extant, the best and longest—itself brief enough—was still the earliest, that of American editor and anthologist Edward Wagenknecht in a 1929 chapbook.

I intended my Baum article for Neurotica (1948-51), a little magazine edited by G. Legman, author also of the magazine's most sensational and influential article, "The Psychopathology of the Comics," also in its way a study of children's literature. It was Legman who made the rather mortifying suggestion that my interest in Baum was a name-fatality: "Oz," that is, because of Osmond or "Ozzie." (For whatever such name-fatalities may be worth, my daughter's as well is a variant of Dorothy.)

Later Legman told me, "If you're going to write about Baum there's a man you ought to meet." And so to Oz I owe my introduction to Martin Gardner, who needs no introduction as a writer and critic of children's literature. Among his numerous avocations at that time, he was, I think, contributing editor of Humpty Dumpty's Magazine.

My Baum knowledge shrank when faced with Martin Gardner's, his collection of Oziana and rarer Baum titles, his friendships and correspondence with other Oz-buffs. Martin prophesied truly that the forthcoming expiration of the Wonderful Wizard 's copyright (in 1956) would spark new interest in Baum. In anticipation he was then trying to place his own Baum-biography, "The Royal Historian of Oz," with a large-circulation magazine such as the Ladies Home Journal. He showed me the manuscript, which I examined nervously, expecting on every page to find myself anticipated. But to my relief it was straightforward biography in his usual lucid style.

In turn I showed my manuscript, which Mrs. Gardner began reading. Then and later its first two sentences ran: "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, America's most popular juvenile fantasy, originally appeared in 1900, a little more than ten years after the death of Louisa May Alcott. Like Miss Alcott, Oz-author L. Frank Baum made his appeal especially to young girls." At which point Mrs. Gardner stopped reading and demanded immediately, "Martin, is that true?" "I'm afraid it is," he replied. In our subsequent discussion I don't remember that we read any more of my manuscript.

Time passed. "The Royal Historian" did not appear in a magazine of large circulation, but in two 1955 issues of the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Neurotica was long defunct before I finished the thirty-second revision (a conservative estimate) of my article. That saw print finally (1961) in Kulchur, another little magazine, as "The Oddness of Oz."

Twenty years later Baum needs much less introduction than my article gave him. Beside Martin Gardner's, he has been the subject of another full-length biography and several respectful critical articles, while the Wonderful Wizard has reached publishing apotheosis in a 1973 coffee-table-sized annotated edition. Yet it is still questionable whether all this later research has better answered my article's theme-question: What made (makes) Oz so popular?

Explanations of Oz's vitality are generally in terms of the books' "native" or "indigenous" subject matter—which is merely to repeat Edward Wagenknecht's earlier definition of Oz as "the first distinctive attempt to construct a fairyland out of American materials." Wagenknecht had even insisted that only an American—in a country overrun with mechanical influences—could have conceived the robots and automata which are so characteristic a part of Ozian fantasy.

Creating robots and automata would seem automatically to place Baum as a forerunner in the United States' growing concern with science-fiction and scientific fantasy (a concern as great today as twenty years ago). Yet, to an unprejudiced adult, re-reading the Oz books will disclose little likeness to modern science-fiction. Rather the resemblance is to those English Christmas pantomimes in which the role of "principal boy" is traditionally played by a girl (in Oz, however, the principal boy always wears skirts). The question of the indigenous quality of the books deserves to be taken up in more detail.

The Oddness of Oz

There are strong similarities between The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the prototype of the series, and another more universally acknowledged children's classic: Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland (published in 1865, when Baum was nine).

Both Alice and the Wonderful Wizard are fables of innocence and experience. Both have as "hero" a little girl. Both are packed as full as puddings of unconscious distortions and symbolizations. The differences between them, including basic differences in literary ability, are biographical or, if you like, indigenous.

Carroll's Alice drops down the rabbit hole unharmed and unharming; she even replaces the crockery examined on her way, so as not to hurt anybody, but Baum's Dorothy enters Oz with a death, her cyclone-carried house killing an old woman. Though an atmosphere of delicacy, of social contretemps, embarrassing situations, tiffs, and misunderstandings accompanies Alice throughout her long dream—which is always identified as a dream—the only situation that seems likely to become serious is ended by her awakening. It is quite different with Dorothy. Her adventures not only include attacks by mythical beasts but by lions, wolves, bees, monkeys, and creatures who snap their heads like hammers. She is overcome by poison gas, and almost by chapter threatened with death in various forms.

The motivating force in both books is a search, but while Alice looks for the lovely garden she has glimpsed in her first hour in Wonderland, Dorothy, surrounded by all the beauty of a fairy kingdom, only wants to go home. Alice travels alone; Dorothy makes friends, but what sort of friends?—a straw-stuffed scarecrow, a wood-chopper who having chopped himself to bits is now completely artificial, and a lion afraid of his own roar (three different ways of writing eunuch). Searching for the wonderful wizard who is to heal them, and give each his heart's desire, the friends reach the Emerald City of Oz, but must be blinkered in order to enter. Aloof and terrifying, the Wizard refuses his help unless Dorothy kills off still another old woman, the powerful witch of whom he lives in constant fear. In attempting this exploit, the Scarecrow is eviscerated, the Tin Man scrapped, the Lion captured, and the girl enslaved.

Carroll tells his tale by puns, parodies, and witty transubstantiations of harsh reality. The word "death," if I am not mistaken, occurs only once in his entire book. But Baum's approach throughout is literal and matter-of-fact. He doesn't suggest that his horrors might not exist; he spares no detail to increase their vividness. The climactic episode of the first half of his book is Dorothy's "melting" of the Wicked Witch, who, in Baum's words, "fell down in a brown, melted, shapeless mass and began to spread over the clean boards of the kitchen floor. Seeing that she had really melted away to nothing, Dorothy drew another bucket of water and threw it over the mess. She then swept it all out the door."

The story resumes as Dorothy's revivified friends return to claim the Wizard's promise. But the Wizard proves a fraud, an old balloon-ascensionist in Oz by accident, like Dorothy. For the three citizens of fairyland he is able to improvise placebos, not for the human being. He constructs a balloon, but bungles the take-off and leaves Dorothy behind, so the travelers renew their journey, this time to the palace of Glinda the Good Witch of the South, eternally young and beautiful. From her Dorothy learns that a pair of magic slippers—loot of that first accident with the cyclone—has been on her feet all the time. She wishes herself home, following a distribution of thrones: to the Scarecrow the missing Wizard's, to the Tin Woodman the melted Witch's, and to the Lion (who in a side excursion has knocked off the technical claimant) that of Beasts.

The Marvelous Land of Oz, Baum's second Oz book, offers no points of comparison with Carroll's sequel but is a fable of sex warfare, in which a palace revolt led by a strong-minded girl calling herself General Jinjur unseats King Scarecrow. It is more than a revolt, it is a revolution. As a "sad-looking man with a bushy beard, who wore an apron and was wheeling a baby-carriage," informs the Scarecrow: "Since you went away the women have been running things to suit themselves. I'm glad you have decided to come back and restore order, for doing housework and minding the children is wearing out the strength of every man in the Emerald City."

Most of the book's action is taken up, not so much by the Scarecrow's efforts to regain the throne as by his difficulties, aided by the Tin Woodman and other newly introduced manikins, in keeping out of harm's way. Tip, a boy brought up by the old witch Mombi, is the creator, thanks to the old woman's Powder of Life, of such contraptions as Jack Pumpkinhead, the Saw-Horse, and the "Gump." The Woggle-Bug, a ridiculous pedant, completes the party. These half-crippled makeshifts stumble through a series of flights and escapes, appealing finally to Glinda. The sorceress has her own army of young girls, which recaptures Oz and throws Jinjur into chains. Glinda overpowers the hag Mombi, who admits that the real heir to the throne of Oz, the missing princess Ozma, was committed to her care years ago and transformed by her into a boy! (Italics in the original.) All eyes turn to the boy Tip. Glinda orders Mombi to reverse her incantations, with this result:

From the couch arose the form of a young girl, fresh and beautiful as a May morning. . . . [She] cast one look into Glinda's bright face, which glowed with pleasure and satisfaction, and then turned upon the others. Speaking the words with sweet diffidence, she said:

"I hope none of you will care less for me than you did before. I'm just the same Tip, you know; only—only—"

"Only you're different!" said the Pumpkinhead; and everyone thought it was the wisest speech he had ever made.

Ozma of Oz, third in the series, reintroduces Dorothy, washed ashore in a floating chicken coop with a talking yellow hen, on the beach of the land of Ev (perhaps Eve?). The hen insists her name is Bill, though Dorothy prefers to call her Billina. Ev turns out to be the familiar Baum matriarchal fairyland, its temporary ruler the Princess Langwidere, who has thirty different heads, one for each day of the month.

Ev's late king has sold his wife and children to the Nome King before committing suicide. Dorothy rescues his faithful servant, Tik-Tok; he (Baum's automatons are always male) rescues her from the terrifying Wheelers, although his clockwork fails when it is a question of braving Langwidere, who has insisted on an exchange of heads with Dorothy. Coming to rescue the Queen of Ev, Ozma with her army of twenty-six officers and one private (this is not an efficient girl-army like Glinda's or Jinjur's) crosses the burning desert which separates Ev from Oz. Dorothy and Ozma love each other immediately. Dorothy frees Billina from Langwidere's hen-yard after watching her lick the rooster.

Ozma's expedition enters the underground Nome Kingdom by passing between the legs of a mechanical colossus. The Nome King, a fat and smiling villain, has transformed the Evians into bric-a-brac which he invites the Ozians to identify; if they guess wrong they become bric-a-brac themselves. All fail except Dorothy, until Billina, nesting under the throne, overhears the King's secret codes and disenchants everyone. The King summons his army, but, blinded and poisoned by two of Billina's eggs smashed in his face, he is unable to prevent the theft of his magic belt and the loss of all his prisoners.

The fourth book is the first to introduce a boy—that is, a boy who stays boy. Whether or not he is responsible, Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz is one of the most gloomy and depressing of the series. Most of the action takes place underground, and a steady succession of horrible characterizations express the most implacable hatred of anything fertile or human.

Dorothy and her companion Zeb (for which read Zed) are dropped by an earthquake into the kingdom of the Mangaboos (three syllables of fright, disgust, and horror), who are vegetables, reproducing asexually from a parent tree. The Wizard appears and slices up the Mangaboos' magician for disputing authority with him. Dorothy picks the Mangaboo Princess to restore, as usual, woman's rule.

This princess not remaining friendly, the earth people with their cat and horse are driven into the Black Pit. Beyond, in open country, they meet a normal family of two children with father and mother, but invisible: seemingly endurable in this form. They have a bloody encounter with invisible Bears, and take to the hole in the mountain again. Passing the Braided Man, who sells an appropriate brand of Baum comic-relief, they climb to the land of the Wooden Gargoyles. Earth, grass, leaves are wooden; nothing grows or flows; and the Wooden Gargoyles never speak; they hate sound. Inevitably the earth people are captured, and escape death only by stealing the Gargoyles' detachable wings. After touching a match to this firetrap, they plunge into another hole in the mountain, which seems, like Dante's Malebolge, to grow up through the middle of the earth.

Again they fall into a worse danger, the den of the Dragonettes. Since the half-grown monsters cannot eat them, having been secured by a careful mother before going out on her hunting, they engage in a "whimsical" conversation parodying the reactions of well-educated and dutiful children of a mother who happens to be a dragon.

Rescued through Ozma's magic intervention, the party is transported to Oz, and the remainder of the book is devoted to the humiliation of Jim, the flesh-and-blood Cab-Horse, by the mechanical Saw-Horse; and a trial for murder of Eureka, the cat, whose continual threats to eat one of the Wizard's pet piglets have furnished a cannibalistic commentary to the action.

These first four books contain the meat of Baum's message. The later stories merely dilute and conventionalize this strong original flavor.

In these books Baum has found a surprising number of ways to vary his message; or, as a psychoanalyst might say, his neurosis has found a variety of outlets. In the analyst's terminology again, everything is "over-determined." Nothing is ever simply demonstrated once.

Very particularly in the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the most artistic as it is the most honest of the series—for only there are we occasionally allowed to glimpse the pathos of his condition—has Baum set out, almost as a real artist might, to personalize all his anxieties.

He is by autobiographical definition Dorothy, an innocent child, who through no fault of her own (but very luckily, nevertheless) kills her mother as she is born. It is all for the best, everyone assures her, but still she is guiltily anxious to get out of a world where such things happen. She goes to look for her father, who can, perhaps, send her back. Her innocence is complemented and balanced by the innocence of the Scarecrow (Baum again), who has just been born and is therefore of the same age as Dorothy. A love affair is indicated, and of course Dorothy does love the Scarecrow best of all, but after all he is only a man stuffed with straw, an intellectual who only wants brains. As might be expected, the Scarecrow is never of any use to Dorothy in physical difficulties: he gives good advice, but is always getting knocked over or punched flat when the fighting begins. So the Woodchopper is required. He has once been a real man who has loved a woman, but an older woman has been jealous—not of him, but of his beloved who lives with her, in just what relationship is not explained—and by magic the Woodchopper's axe has repeatedly slipped until he is cut to pieces, a friendly tinsmith supplying prosthesis. The Woodman still loves until his heart is cut through; but then he ceases to love. He means to ask Oz for a heart and afterward to return and ask the girl to marry him, when he can love her again. (He forgets all about this, incidentally, after he gets the heart, but maybe that is because it is really a heart that Oz gives him. The Woodman is a very delicate person and would be unlikely to call things by their proper names.)

There is a great deal of fine characterization in the Woodman, who of course is Baum again at a more advanced stage. He is depressed, weeps easily, avoids stepping on insects and hurting people's feelings, and is pathetically grateful for Dorothy's ministrations. He is of tin—the ridiculous metal. The terrible "chopper who chops off your head" is armed with a gleaming axe which he uses for nothing except to cut down trees (until later—Baum's characterizations do not hold very long). He is a nightmare de-glamorized. All good so far.

The Lion is Baum again in man's conventional sexual role. What is the point of being king of beasts, he seems to be saying, and come roaring out of the forest, if I am full of inward doubts and fears and can be stopped by a slap on the nose? What is the use of a thick beard and big teeth and loud voice, if they cannot even get me a mate (as they apparently have not)? Better if I turned into a little dog and ran at this girl's heels—because that's what I want to do, if the truth were known. And so another nightmare is tamed.

It should not pass unnoticed that Baum, while satisfying himself, has also satisfied the canons of conventional romance by surrounding his heroine not only with protectors but with guardians. What was usually accomplished by relationship or senescence—and the nineteenth century made great play with uncles and grandfathers—he accomplishes by emasculation, not only once but three times.

However the attitude so far (and Baum is one-third through his book) is not unhealthy. Three objects of greater fear to a child than a Lion, a Scarecrow, and a Chopper (who is also a Cripple) could not easily be named, and yet Baum has kept them all gentle and touching. He has pumped them full of himself, and since he is a harmless and pathetic fellow, he is saying in substance to the child, "And so are your fears!"

But he has gone as far as he can go on that line. Ten pages after the fake-Lion he introduces the Kalidahs, terrifying invented animals. The childish reader invariably trembles at this point, puzzling the adult, to whom the Kalidahs do not seem that terrible. But the child is right. There are other terrors in the world, then, besides "men," he feels; the Kalidahs are real. They are all the more real because they are made up. There is no chance of their ever turning back into Daddy. We are in the world of nightmare, of fever dreams, where a pet grows the "body of a bear and the head of a tiger."

Baum is now definitely committed to a tale of adventure, and little more healthy can occur. The Emerald City ought by right to be a vast fake, since its people are compelled to wear green glasses, but actually it is a fake-fake and the emeralds are real. The Wizard plays out all over again the Baum "appearances": he is a Head, a beautiful Lady, and a horrible Beast. His ultimate exposure is long deferred. For the story he is a father-figure, who instead of being tender or loving, or even weak and pathetic, is suspicious and implacable. Instead of consoling and comforting his daughter, he ridicules her fears, and tells her she can only win his love by killing again. Even in the conventional story-book sense the Wizard is a horrible man. He insists that the witch is evil, but admits she has never harmed him; it is only because she might that he wishes Dorothy to kill her; he is too cowardly to do so himself. He is Baal or Moloch, immolating children to placate the elements; and this aspect of his character is suggested by his fourth appearance, as a flaming ball of fire.

No one could ever possibly like the Wizard after this self-indictment; and yet his subsequent devaluation is only used to humanize him, even to justify him: fear makes us do anything! "I think you are a very bad man," Dorothy says. "Oh no, my dear," he replies, safely complaisant now that his archenemy is liquidated, "I'm really a very good man; but I'm a very bad Wizard, I must admit." Dorothy is not quite reassured. When he satisfies her friends, however (which is not very hard to do), she allows herself to be appeased. Poor Dorothy! Her history is that of a gradual reconciliation.

Glinda, the Good Witch, must not be taken as a mother-symbol. The mothers are all ugly old women, who get it in the neck deservedly. Glinda is eternally young and eternally beautiful. She has never married; she could hardly be a mother! Glinda, in boarding-school terminology, is Dorothy's ideal. There is no man good enough for her. To emphasize this point, a long story is told about an earlier sorceress, possibly one of Glinda's remote ancestresses, and her difficulties in choosing a husband. True love, in Oz, is love between girls, when one is a little older than the other, innocent, sterile, and uncompetitive. Glinda thinks only of what Dorothy wants. She puts only one kiss on her forehead. She assists Dorothy's friends, who in her presence uneasily remember their rags, their scars, their crude beastliness. Kindliness repays adoration, for Glinda. The sixth form puts the third form on to the ropes, and all ends happily at Prize-Day.

Oz revenges as many old injuries as it invents fantastic fulfillments: the chief resentment apparently, next to having been brought into the world in the wrong form, is for having been brought into the world at all. Though "mothers" are worse than "fathers" in the Oz world, both are preferably extinct altogether. In no other American children's books, even Horatio Alger's, do there seem to be so many orphans. No human Oz-star in our four-book canon ever has both parents at once. Only the supers have a normal and usually comic family life. The animals fare no better: there are no records of the parentage of the Cowardly Lion, the Hungry Tiger, or Jim the Cab-Horse. Eureka the cat is a foundling. Billina is presumably immaculately hatched and brought up by a farmer boy who (to make the double point) never knew until too late whether she was a hen or a rooster. But the horrible Dragonettes have a horrible mother.

Baum's fondness for automata and magically created beings can be safely attributed to this same rejection or exclusion of natural begetting. Only the Tin Woodman, whom we already know to be the most honest and touching of the Ozian creatures, is allowed mention of a real father and mother, though both are long dead. The Scarecrow is the contrivance of two farmers (male), and Tik-Tok the invention of two inventors (male). Tip by himself, while still male, gives life to the Gump and the Saw-Horse, but these are very lumpish productions, almost stillbirths; it would seem, in Oz as in the real world, that two progenitors are really necessary. Mombi and Tip's creation of Jack Pumpkinhead seems to be an uglified travesty of birth (as Tip's later transformation is a sweetened travesty of emasculation). After the boy has laboriously worked to make his man, the old woman comes along and sprinkles it with the powder of life, quickening it for her own nefarious purposes. And even this powder she had originally stolen from a male magician. The solemn Jack Pumpkinhead insists on addressing Tip as "Father"; and since Tip is a little boy who is really a little girl, the confusions and insults appear deliberately multiplied.

The drama of decapitation (in the psychoanalytic vocabulary, decapitation and castration are synonymous) is played over and over and again as entr'acte. The Tin Woodman, who has once chopped off his own head, chops off the head of a hunting Wildcat. Oz first appears as an enormous Head, hairless, armless, and legless. The Lion kills his opponent, the spider-monster, by striking off its head. The Scarecrow twists the necks of the Crows. The Scarecrow's head is also removable (he tells Oz: "You are quite welcome to take my head off, as long as it will be a better one when you put it on again"); and this is only one of a selection of demountable, retractable, and replaceable heads that culminate in Langwidere's gallery of thirty. The Hammer-Heads use their heads like battering rams; the Scoodlers use theirs as missiles. The Gump is all head. Jack Pumpkinhead deserves his name: he is in continual fear lest his head rot off. And so on. The conversations about decapitation recall that other humorous work, The Mikado.

Billina the hen is Oz's final topsy-turvy insult to injury. On the surface a "sensible" young female, she will have nothing to do with love, which like the suffragettes of Jinjur's army she sees only as masculine presumption ("Do you think I'd let that speckled villain of a rooster lord it over me?"). She lays eggs and has, apparently, hatched them, but she never mentions the offspring of this incubation; the barnyard role of the mother-hen is not for her. She speaks of "thirteen" as a suitable clutch to illustrate, presumably, her real feelings about this unlucky necessity. Laying to her is a sanitary habit ("I feel better since I laid my morning egg"), and she is only concerned with the freshness (infertility) of her product. She connives in the use of her eggs as poisonous weapons, in fact suggests it. Though she frees the Queen-mother of Ev and her children, it is not out of maternal concern; she derides the Queen's anxiety and tells her sarcastically, "Don't worry. Just at present they [the lifeless children] are out of mischief and perfectly safe, for they can't even wiggle. Come with me, if you please, and I'll show you how pretty they look." Billina's reward, "a beautiful necklace of pearls and sapphires," is, like Ozma's new clothes, the typical material reward of the spoilt-child gold-digger—and should be contrasted with the merely appetitive fudge and chocolates awarded Jinjur and her suffragettes.

Sociologically viewed, the Oz myth as Baum created it can be considered a vast transvaluation of juvenile romantic values. Boys' adventures become girls' adventures; girls' humiliations become boys' humiliations; boys' affairs with older boys become girls' affairs with older girls; and the mother is the villain instead of the father. It is a transvaluation because the values remain the same: traveling, fighting, and killing achieve the rewards, and the punishments are subordination and domesticity. (It should be remembered that the Wicked Witch "tortures" Dorothy by making her do housework!) The arena is no longer the social one of Louisa May Alcott but the transvestite one of a boy-turned-girl. Baum has kissed his elbow; Tip has put on women's clothes; but it is only to breed more girls-turned-boys. (In this connection it may not be insignificant to note that the L. in L. Frank Baum stood for "Lyman.") A determination to expunge the "man" from his name might seem to explain this amputation of his signature, so important to a writer. But both his name's syllables would have quickly grown hateful to a young fantasist continually addressed as "Lie Man!"

Baum's frantic popularity with young girl readers really requires no further explanation. This audience, if not completely understanding, could appreciate his idolization of an immature and impubescent femininity. The combination of innocence with authority that produced all these girlish brows wrinkling over problems of finance and policy, these girlish arms driving chariots of state or extended imperiously, these girlish feet in the silver of safety or the satin of luxury, had the attraction, to them, of a mirror of Narcissus.

What young boy readers saw in Oz is not so clear, though clearly it was not the image of themselves they found in boys' books. But the boys Oz did strike were struck deep (all or most of the adults who find Oz unforgettable seem to be men). In psychoanalytic language, the boyish girls of Oz are phallic, and thus deeply reassuring to boys (or men) with castration anxieties. The reassurance is against their unconscious fear that girlish girls are what they seem to be, castrated boys.


Apart from Oz, many of Baum's other fantasies offer examples of his obsession for those who care to look. Even Father Goose, His Book (of which more later), Baum's first big "hit" as a children's author, has a title whose obvious commercial transposition (a father goose is a gander) also hints at a transposition of traditional authority-roles. The Enchanted Island of Yew (published a year before The Marvelous Land of Oz ) has a fairy heroine who—reversing Tip's sex-change—becomes a knight. The idea of ambivalent (interchangeable) sex is further emphasized in that book by the chapter on Twi land, where everything exists in double form. John Dough and the Cherub was Baum's try at purely equivocal sex: Chick the Cherub is an incubator baby, and his or her sex is never disclosed. The "Trot" books, The Sea Fairies and Sky Island (which Baum hoped would replace Oz), star another boyish little girl and her crippled (one-legged) male companion, with more queens and feminine warfare.

Of all Baum's unconscious embodiments, in or out of Oz, Billina the hen must be the one most based on actual experience. Baum had begun breeding and raising chickens in adolescence, a hobby—his family was wealthy—he still took seriously enough at the age of thirty to treat technically in his first published book, The Book of the Hamburgs. The previous portrait of Billina is too brief, chiefly because psychoanalytically she is an embarrassment of riches. Almost everything she does cries out for interpretation.

Note that Billina comes to her audience already equipped with the fascination young children find in domestic fowl such as chickens (or geese). They lay eggs, and from these fascinating eggs hatch apparently sexless, or sexually identical, babies. With admirable simplicity, as children see it, both eggs and droppings emerge from the mother fowl's single body opening or cloaca. Kept ignorant of the reproductive purpose of the second female opening in humans, young children commonly surmise that they too were born through the human cloaca or anus, like eggs. This belief is forgotten or repressed with growing knowledge but retains much unconscious strength.

Poultry-breeders must also consciously recognize—what many adult human males often resist recognizing—that male fowl do the work of fatherhood without a penis or intromittant organ. This characteristic in itself could explain young Baum's engrossing interest in chickens as well as his later over-determination, after the success of Father Goose, His Book, to decorate his newly purchased house everywhere, on porch, walls, furniture, even to the extent of a specially made stained-glass living room window, with pictured geese.

Throughout the book which should be named after her, Billina is characterized by her regular laying. She is indifferently casual about the results, inviting Dorothy for example to eat her first egg (though indignantly rejecting Dorothy's "cannibalistic" suggestion that she eat it herself) and assenting silently when the Hungry Tiger is offered her second. Baum the poultry-fancier knows these eggs are infertile and takes pains to excuse Billina's indifference by telling us so through Billina's beak. But his point is beyond his childish readers, to whom Billina's eggs are her babies. (Consciously Baum may not know this, but his unconscious creature the Tiger knows, and four times in one speech warns us that it is babies, "fat babies," who are in danger.)

The Hungry Tiger, by the way, has a previous record: another Oz-critic has already seen in his hangup between appetite and conscience the psychoanalytic concept of id and superego. Alas, this admission only conceals a deeper admission which is not made. The Tiger, a traditional glutton, is also a eunuch. Like the Cowardly Lion, with whom he has everything in common (both are now slaves, happily yoked to Ozma's chariot), he has resigned completely his too-demanding masculine role in the jungle. (Indeed, conceptually the Tiger is just another and weaker form of the Lion, as Tik-Tok is another and weaker form of the Tin Woodman.)

To return to Billina: while no eggs or babies actually suffer before the final climactic sacrifice (but in a good cause!) of her two egg-babies at once smashed on the Nome King's face, it is Billina's hard-headed acceptance of the risk that intensifies—for childish readers; adults hardly notice—the growing suspense as to when heaven's wrath (perhaps the mechanical giant's retributive hammer?) will fall on this unnatural mother.

Eggs or no eggs, Billina is a hen, and therefore a mother. But not a good mother. (Noticeable throughout the book is her repeated morning "kut, kut, kadaw!" coming in place of the "cock-a-doodle-do!" which is never heard. Quite literally and as the proverb says, Billina is a "crowing hen." But her feminist scorn of frivolous male animals—the two Ozians, with ribbons tied to their tails—or her rooster-licking revenge on bossy brothers and fathers, should not disguise that she is also a living reminder that mothers are hens.) To know she is a bad mother it is not even necessary to hear her mock a good mother (the Queen of Ev), though it helps. Since there is no other in this Oz book, Billina herself must be the mother-villain—as in a very real sense she is.

She is not only a bad mother but a bad child. Couched under the king's throne (hens more naturally roost somewhere higher, but let it pass), she is the primal guilty eavesdropper on the parents' secrets. (Everything is there, even to being awakened from sleep by their noise! The Nome King's nagging Chief Steward takes the part of wife.)

In her next-morning's bargaining with the King, Billina uses as counter her latest casual egg—for which, contrarily, the King shows the most frightened respect. In his womanless underground world women's alarming fertility is "poisonous," unsafe except as lifeless ornament (explaining his transformation of the Queen of Ev). His anxious fib about "surface" things should not deceive us: of the thirty-odd surface creatures invading the King's domain, only one has this quality he fears.

Billina is now revealed as the book's heroine, to the joy and confusion of the youthful reader. Joy because of the coming comeuppance of that wicked man, the King; confusion because this is going to be done, and can only be done, by a mother. (Mothers don't do these things in Oz. There is also here a very deep and troubling confusion between good and evil, which the childish reader—and probably also the author—feels but cannot resolve, and so must put out of mind by violent action.)

Billina must necessarily change her identification-role, which she does, aptly enough, in the transformation scene, where for the first time she acts alone and we see only through her eyes. She turns now into the girlish ideal (Glinda the Good again), though this time more down-to-earth: the swaggering, scoffing (but kindly) older girl, whom the younger girl watches with frightened awe as she breaks all of Mama's rules unharmed.

This scene also supplies the point, which few children—or mothers—will miss, of the Queen of Ev turned into a footstool. But the kindly transformations are not the climax of the book, which is of course the King's humiliation. In that violent hurly-burly the child reader is completely satisfied, put beyond good and evil. The chapter ends in a complete denial of fertility-value, with eggs being created wholesale and scattered by the hundreds on the ground.

Billina's portrait has been objected to on the ground that she appears in the fifth book, The Road to Oz, with baby chicks. Giving a whimsical answer to a whimsical objection, the explanation might be that in the interim she has matured, met the rooster of her dreams, married and settled down. But no father chicken is brought on the scene and Billina retains enough maternal indifference to announce she has given all her chicks the same name. We adults, who know what happens when a cock and a hen appear to be fighting, might consider these chicks the natural result of Billina's "fight" with the Evian rooster in Langwidere's hen-yard. But the right answer is that Billina's character is no more consistent than any other Ozian's from book to book.

As to the overall span of Oz books: not only their internal evidence but the demands of the commercial "series" they became (demands with which Baum was thoroughly familiar from his other potboiling work) must contradict the sentimental idea that Oz was extended as a planned Utopia, coherent legend, or "labor of love." As a recognized brand-name, Oz was continued for Money. The plain evidence is that Baum was reluctant to go on repeating himself. Though not carrying his reluctance as far as Arthur Conan Doyle, for example—who grew to detest the very mention of his unconscious creation—Baum did announce in his fifth book and confirm in his sixth that he had had it with Oz. (Making our four-book canon even more reasonable.) But Baum was a gentle, unaggressive man, in debt, the support of his family, a semi-invalid during his last years, and he can hardly be blamed for doing what so many other more healthy (and wealthy) writers do as a way of life.

Joel D. Chaston (essay date December 1994)

SOURCE: Chaston, Joel D. "If I Ever Go Looking for My Heart's Desire: 'Home' in Baum's 'Oz' Books." Lion and the Unicorn 18, no. 2 (December 1994): 209-19.

[In the following essay, Chaston examines how Baum presents the image of "home" in his Oz books, arguing that, as the Oz books progress, the shining ideal of returning to "home" becomes less and less desirous to the main characters.]

At the conclusion of the 1939 MGM motion picture version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy Gale makes a statement that sums up one of the film's major themes. "Oh, but anyway, Toto," she exclaims, "we're home—home! And this is my room—and you're all here—and I'm not going to leave here ever again, because I love you all! And . . . oh, Aunt Em, there's no place like home!" (Langley et al. 132) Anyone who has seen this film will remember Judy Garland's countless declarations that she wants to go home again and particularly her confession to Glinda that "if I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own backyard; because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with!" (128). In the end, Dorothy learns that the secret to getting back to Kansas is to click the heels of the Ruby Slippers together three times and say, "There's no place like home; there's no place like home . . ." (129). The film's interest in home is certainly not accidental. Arthur Freed, who assisted producer Mervyn LeRoy, told screen writer, Noel Langley, that he should remember at all times "that Dorothy is only motivated by one object in Oz; that is, how to get back home to her Aunt Em, and every situation should be related to this main drive" (qtd. in Hearn 12).

The motion picture version of L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) has, of course, greatly shaped many readers' impressions of the book. In the novel, however, Baum presents a much more ambivalent attitude toward "home." While it is true that, in the last chapter of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy exclaims, "I'm so glad to be at home again!" taken as a whole, Baum's "Oz" series rejects traditional views of the value of home (261). In fact, as the series progresses, Dorothy, herself, becomes an explorer who, along with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, eventually rejects her Kansas home and domestic life to join a community of homeless nonconformists. A close study of the first six Oz books—The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Marvelous Land of Oz (1904), Ozma of Oz (1907), Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz (1908), The Road to Oz (1909), and The Emerald City of Oz (1910)—reveals that, unlike the motion picture, Baum does not believe that one's "heart's desire" is to be found in one's own backyard. Instead, his works validate Phyllis Bixler's assertion that in "Golden Age" books by male authors, children "typically find their pastoral locus amoenus, or 'felicitous space,' at some distance from their homes . . ." (1).

On the surface, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the first in Baum's fourteen-book series, seems to support the MGM film's obsession with "home." After landing in Oz, Dorothy tells the grandmotherly Witch of the North (a separate character from Glinda), "I am anxious to get back to my Aunt and Uncle, for I am sure they will worry about me. Can you help me find my way?" (25). Throughout the novel, Dorothy reiterates this desire to return home; at one point, she tells the Scarecrow, "No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there than in any other country, be it ever so beautiful. There is no place like home" (44-45). As she continues her journey, she keeps trying to explain her home, Kansas, to individuals who have never heard of it. ". . . I'm sure it's somewhere," she tells one man (114).

The desire to return home prompts Dorothy to go on a quest to meet the Wizard, to seek out the Wicked Witch of the West in order to kill her, and to travel to the country of the Quadlings to find the sorceress, Glinda. When Dorothy has the opportunity to ask the Wizard to send her home, she bluntly states that she does not like Oz, "although it is so beautiful" (128). In fact, after the Wizard breaks his promise to help Dorothy by accidentally flying away in a hot air balloon, Dorothy weeps "bitterly" (203). Finally, Glinda teaches Dorothy how to use the magical Silver Shoes and she is transported back to Kansas and to Aunt Em. The novel ends with Dorothy's exclamation, "I'm so glad to be at home again!" (261).

Dorothy is not, of course, the only character to search for a home in the novel. The Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Lion all gain new homes in the kingdoms that they are to rule. Through the Lion, who loves the woods in the Quadling country, Baum also reiterates the novel's idea that the ideal home is a matter of personal taste. At one point, the Scarecrow says the woods are "gloomy." The Lion, however, claims he would like to live there forever, that "no wild beast could wish a pleasanter home" (238). This point is also supported by the china princess, who tells Dorothy that she and her people have pleasanter lives in their own country, where they can move about and are not forced to decorate mantels.

As already noted, Dorothy makes a similar statement to the Scarecrow. The Scarecrow's response to Dorothy, however, suggests the novel's contradictory attitude toward home. He cannot understand why Dorothy feels the way she does about Kansas. "If your heads were stuffed with straw, like mine," he remarks, "you would probably all live in the beautiful places, and then Kansas would have no people at all. It is fortunate for Kansas that you have brains" (45). This tongue-in-cheek remark actually suggests the opposite notion—only brainless people live in Kansas.

As a child reader of the Oz series, I remember agreeing with the Scarecrow. I never could understand Dorothy's affection for Kansas—for me, the ultimate wish fulfillment would be to go travel to Oz and eventually live there. Evidently, contemporary readers communicated similar feelings to Baum because, in Tik-Tok of Oz (1914)—the eighth book in the series—Betsy Bobbin, who has just permanently relocated to Oz, says that she wishes that "every little girl in the world could live in the land of Oz; and every little boy, too!" Princess Ozma, however, retorts, "It is quite fortunate for us, Betsy, that your wish cannot be granted . . . for all that army of girls and boys would crowd us so that we would have to move away" (255-56).

Interestingly, the novel and its sequels often include images and characters that subtly undercut the message that there is "no place like home." In the first chapter of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the Kansas landscape is described as gray and sunbaked. The tiny house belonging to Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, we are told, had once "been painted, but the sun blistered the paint and the rains washed it away, and now the house was as dull and gray as everything else" (12). Aunt Em, herself, had once been young and pretty, but her environment has "taken the sparkle from her eyes and left them a sober gray . . ." (12). She no longer smiles, and, when Dorothy laughs, she screams and presses her hand on her heart. Clearly, Dorothy's Kansas is a joyless, destructive environment. We are told that the only reason Dorothy has not grown gray, too, is because of Toto. In contrast, when Baum describes Oz, even with its dangerous witches and fierce Kalidahs, it is full of life and "marvelous beauty" (20).

As the novel continues, homes and houses are often presented as physically confining or destructive. In the first chapter, Dorothy's house is plucked from its repressive environment and turned into an instrument of destruction. When it lands in Oz, it destroys the Wicked Witch of the East. Granted, the house does free the Munchkins from bondage, but Dorothy is still repulsed by the fact that her home has become a killing machine. Dorothy is soon on her journey and, despite her protestations that she wants to return home, does "not feel nearly as bad as you might think a little girl would who had been suddenly whisked away from her own country and set down in the midst of a strange land" (33).

Before she leaves her home, Dorothy locks the front door and puts the key in her pocket. This may not seem significant, but, throughout this book and those that follow, homes and dwellings frequently become prisons that are carefully locked. The Emerald City is a garrison protected by the Guardian of the Gate, and the front gate must be locked and unlocked to let travelers enter and leave. For most of the characters, the Emerald City is prisonlike and confining. The domestic quarters in the Emerald City are not comfortable to the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman, who do not sleep. For the Lion, the Emerald City is stifling. "City life does not agree with me at all," he remarks when they finally leave it (220).

The Wizard of Oz, himself, has become a prisoner of his own palace; he closets himself in a room so that none of his subjects can discover that he is a humbug. "So I have to stay shut up in these rooms all day, and it gets tiresome," he tells Dorothy. "I'd much rather go back to Kansas with you and be in a circus again" (205). In the witch's castle in the land of the Winkies, the next house the characters encounter, the Lion is imprisoned in a cage, and Dorothy is enslaved, although she does not have anything worse to do than light domestic chores like those she performed back in Kansas.

As in later Oz books, the adults reject traditional homes and female roles. Few, if any, of the father and mother figures are married, and most live alone.1 The father figures in the novel generally have no interest in starting families. For example, the Tin Woodman once was a human being who, because of an enchanted axe, has lost all of the human parts of his body, which are, part by part, replaced with tin. As a result, he has lost all desire for the woman he formerly wanted to marry. He has become emasculated, and when—in a later novel, The Tin Woodman of Oz (1918)—he seeks out his former lover, he does not stay with her. As for the Scarecrow, twice in the novel (once by Dorothy and once by a mother Stork), he has to be removed from a pole that, without a lot of imagination, can be viewed as a phallic symbol. Neither the Lion nor the Wizard can be described as a whole man—the Lion lacks the stereotypical male attribute of courage, while the Wizard has no real power. He is a fake or humbug.

The only significant real father that Dorothy meets in the novel is a man who lets her and her companions stay at his farmhouse. But, for no apparent reason, Baum has chosen to render him physically powerless; the man has a hurt leg that confines him to a couch; he is another image of emasculation. Later, the King of the Winged Monkeys tells the story of the sorceress, Gayelette, whose greatest sorrow is that she cannot find a whole man to love, "since all the men were too much too stupid and ugly to mate with one so beautiful and wise" (172). To her chagrin, the boy she raises to be her husband, Quelala, is dumped into a river by the Winged Monkeys just before his wedding to cool him off. The novel's most-likely candidates for mother figures, with the exception of Aunt Em, are either destroyed by Dorothy, as is the case with the Wicked Witches of the East and West, or are, like Glinda, single women who have no need for men and who surround themselves with the young Amazons that are Glinda's court.

While Dorothy chooses to return to her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, her friends seem to be happy without families or traditional homes. As Baum continues the series, it becomes clear that his characters generally prefer a nomadic life, one without the traditional responsibilities of home and family, both of which are frequently attacked in his works. The first sequel to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Marvelous Land of Oz, more openly expresses an anxiety about domestication and the confining nature of homes. The protagonist, Tip, is threatened with being turned into a marble statue that will be placed in the garden of the only home he has ever known by the evil witch, Mombi, who, for all intents and purposes, assumes the role of his mother. Not wanting to be rooted to his home—whether as a marble statue or merely as a domestic slave doing chores for the witch—Tip determines to run away. Tip and Jack Pumpkinhead, the wooden man with the pumpkin head whom he has created, escape Mombi's house to seek their fortunes. They soon find themselves involved with the Scarecrow, whose new home is being threatened by the Army of Revolt, a group of young girls who attack the people of the Emerald City with knitting needles.

The Scarecrow, however, does not really care that he loses his kingdom or home. When he literally hangs up his crown, he says that he is "glad to get rid of it" (185). The Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, Jack Pumpkinhead, and Tip then flee the Emerald City. They depart just in time, for the Army of Revolt, led by young General Jinjur, has forced all of the men in the city to take on domestic roles—cooking and cleaning. At the end of the novel, however, they are freed with the help of the very nondomestic Glinda. We are told that at "once the men of the Emerald City cast off their aprons. And it is said that the women were so tired eating of their husbands' cooking that they all hailed the conquest of Jinjur with joy" (282-83).

Tip, however, is not so lucky. It turns out that he is really Ozma, princess of Oz, who has been turned into a boy so no one will find her. Tip has no desire to settle down and make a home in the Emerald City. "I want to stay a boy," he moans, "and travel with the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman, and the Woggle-Bug, and Jack—yes! and my friend the Saw-Horse—and the Gump! I don't want to be a girl!" (272). He is turned back into Ozma anyway. His one consolation is that no one will be able to claim that he is Jack Pumpkinhead's father anymore. Tip/Ozma now becomes the ruler of Oz and, whenever possible, she escapes from the Emerald City to play knight errant to individuals in trouble.

In the third book in the series, Ozma of Oz, Dorothy returns to Oz, and it becomes clear that her home life is in trouble. Uncle Henry is ill "because he had been working so hard on his Kansas farm that his health had given way and left him weak and nervous" (15). He and Dorothy leave Aunt Em to watch the farm and travel far away from home to Australia so he can regain his health. Dorothy, however, is washed overboard by a storm and sails to the Land of Ev, which is just outside of Oz, in a chicken coop, another prisonlike home image. Her companion is Billina, a talking hen who, as Osmond Beckwith argues, is "not a good mother" and uses her egg babies as weapons

The main quest in this novel is not to return Dorothy home—on this trip, she rarely mentions home after Ozma rescues her from the tower where yet another adult woman, the Princess Langwidere with her many interchangeable heads, has locked Dorothy up in order to force her to give up her own head. As Peter Glassman suggests,

The main theme of Wonderful Wizard is also present in Ozma, but this time it is less dominant. Dorothy still believes, "there is no place like home," but she is not as desperate to return to her uncle as on her first trip, perhaps because this time she does not feel so out of place in this incredible fairyland. Now an experienced adventurer with treasured friends in Oz, it is her love for her uncle, not her need for his love, that makes her wish to return to him.


The main plot of this novel, however, revolves around an act of domestic violence. The Queen of Ev, along with her ten children (five sons and five daughters), has been enslaved by the Nome King. According to the novel, Ozma "wished to undertake the adventure of liberating the poor prisoners . . ." (128). The queen and her children are the first major family encountered in the series and, we soon learn, they are the victims of a self-serving husband and father who sold them to the Nome King and then, out of remorse, killed himself by jumping into the sea. The Nome King, who takes the place of the King of Ev, transforms the royal family into ornaments—most significantly, the Queen of Ev becomes a footstool. Order is restored, the royal family is saved, the oldest son of the Queen of Ev ascends the throne, and Dorothy is returned to her Uncle Henry in Australia, with no assurance that life will be better back home.

Near the end of the novel, Dorothy and her friends once again encounter the former girl rebel, Jinjur, who is now married. While it might seem that Jinjur has finally been domesticated—she tells Ozma that she has married a man with nine cows and is "willing to lead a quiet life and mind my own business" (257)—her husband is home nursing a black eye she has given him because he milked the wrong cow.

Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, the next book in the series, also contains negative images of home and family life. This time, the novel begins with the 1906 San Francisco earthquake (the book was published in 1908), which transports Dorothy and her cousin, Zeb, to a world at the center of the earth. Their trip there, however, puts them in danger because they have become part of a rain of stones that destroys some of the glass homes of the Mangaboos. The head Sorcerer quickly indicts them. "Why did you wickedly and viciously send the Rain of Stones to crack and break our houses?" he demands (42). Despite the fact that they want to protect their rather delicate homes, the Mangaboos, like many of Baum's other creations, do not have mothers or fathers. They are vegetable people who are planted when they become old so that new Mangaboos can grow from their stalks.

Dorothy and Zeb are soon joined by the Wizard of Oz, who has never actually made it back to his Omaha home after he left Oz in the first book. As the group journeys underground, they encounter two other apparently happy families. The first are the people of Voe. The travelers have dinner with the seemingly happiest family in any of the Oz books. Its members, however, are completely invisible and cannot see one another. Such a family, apparently, cannot exist openly in the worlds of Oz, which are filled with homeless orphans and eccentric individuals. The next family Dorothy encounters is composed of several "dragonettes" and the mother who will readily devour Dorothy if given a chance.

The next Oz book, The Road to Oz, is filled with homeless people, including the Shaggy Man, Polychrome the Rainbow's Daughter, and Button Bright. At the beginning of the novel, Dorothy and the Shaggy Man become lost (actually they have been transported to a magical land by Ozma who allows them to have some adventures before bringing them to her birthday party, one of several described in the series). Dorothy is less concerned than ever about going home. (And who would be after attending a party with guests such as Santa Claus and Chick the Cherub, an "Incubator Baby" with no parents?) Eventually, Dorothy returns to Kansas. The Shaggy Man, however, has no home and relocates to Oz. By this time, Polychrome and Button Bright have also gone back to their homes, although they are to return to Oz time and time again. Despite the fact that they have loving parents, they are always wandering off and becoming lost; evidently, they are expressing a subconscious desire to escape from their homes.

Baum's clearly contradictory attitudes towards home come to a head in The Emerald City of Oz, which had originally been intended to be the last book in the series. In chapter 2, Baum reprises the beginning of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by discussing Dorothy's Kansas home. "Dorothy lived on a farm in Kansas, with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry," Baum writes. He adds:

It was not a big farm, nor a very good one, because sometimes the rain did not come when the crops needed it, and then everything withered and dried up. Once a cyclone had carried away Uncle Henry's house, so that he was obliged to build another; and as he was a poor man he had to mortgage his farm to get the money to pay for the new house.


Baum then recaps Uncle Henry's trip to Australia to regain his health and explains that "Uncle Henry grew poorer every year, and the crops raised on the farm only bought food for the family" (12). In short, Uncle Henry is about to lose the farm because the mortgage is due. He and Aunt Em then suggest that Dorothy might earn money by doing housework or becoming "a nurse-maid to little children" (24). Dorothy's fate, it seems, is to be domesticated, to become the sort of mother figure that she and her friends in Oz have tried to avoid. Like Tip/Ozma, Dorothy finds this idea repugnant. "Wouldn't it be funny," she tells her aunt and uncle, "for me to do housework in Kansas, when I'm a Princess in the Land of Oz?" (25).

In the end, the solution to the family's financial problems is that they will all relocate to Oz and desert Kansas altogether. Clearly, Dorothy can no longer find her heart's desire in her own backyard. First, she travels to Oz via Ozma's magic belt, and then she has Ozma transport her aunt and uncle there as well. She asks Ozma to give her aunt and uncle a little house in which they can live. Ozma, however, will not allow Dorothy to live with her aunt and uncle. "You are going to live in your own rooms in this palace, and be my constant companion," Ozma tells her (36). Dorothy, like the rest of her companions, is finally freed from the constraints of family and home and none too soon; once her aunt and uncle arrive in Oz, they become cartoonish, country bumpkins who are scared by the Cowardly Lion and who gape at the marvels around them.

Toward the end of the novel, Dorothy, her aunt, and her uncle are given the option of returning to Kansas. The Emerald City is to be attacked by the Nome King and his allies, who intend to lay Oz to waste. The characters—including Ozma, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, Tik-Tok the mechanical man, and Jack Pumpkinhead—all consider going to Kansas with a heap of emeralds that will pay Uncle Henry's mortgage. There, they will then find work to sustain themselves. Ozma refuses to abandon Oz, as does Dorothy, who feels she has a similar responsibility since she is now one of its princesses.

Interestingly, Aunt Em also echoes the sentiment: "'I've been a slave all my life,' Aunt Em replied with considerable cheerfulness, 'and so has Henry. I guess we won't go back to Kansas anyway. I'd rather take my chances with the rest of you'" (270). Aunt Em admits that her life as a farm wife has been slavery, and the threat of destruction in a paradisiacal fairyland seems preferable to returning to her dreary farm life. For the first time in any of the books, she is legitimately "cheerful"; this is a great change from the woman who screams when Dorothy laughs in the first book.

Part of the reason for this change in attitude is that Oz is finally revealed as a utopia. In chapter 3, Baum expounds the advantages of Oz, which include prosperity for all of its 57,318 people and equality regardless of whether one is made of flesh and blood or straw and tin. Perhaps more importantly, it is the ultimate country in which to have adventures. Once Dorothy, Aunt Em, and Uncle Henry arrive in Oz, they do not settle down in their respective homes. Instead, they almost instantly go exploring to discover the unusual people of Oz—including the Cuttenclips, who are live paper dolls; the Fuddles, who are "jigsaw puzzle" people; and Utensia, which features live utensils.

Two chapters involve Dorothy's visit to Bunnybury, whose king longs for his old life back in his burrow. Dorothy helps the king reject his desire to return to his original home and to reconcile himself to his new, more luxurious lifestyle. "You see," Dorothy tells the king, "the rabbits all seem to like Bunnybury except you. And I guess you're the only one that ever has cried or was unhappy and wanted to get back to your muddy hole in the ground" (222).

At the end of the novel, Baum returns to the topic of home. Dorothy and her friends make a tour of the new homes of the Tin Woodman (a nickelplated castle), the Scarecrow (a mansion shaped like an ear of corn), and Jack Pumpkinhead (a giant pumpkin). The threat of Oz's destruction means that these homes will be destroyed. "But if Oz is destroyed of course this place will be destroyed too," the Scarecrow says of his unusual home. The Tin Woodman adds, ". . . also my beautiful tin castle, that has been my joy and pride," while the Wizard acknowledges that "Jack Pumpkinhead's house will go too, . . . as well as Professor Wogglebug's Athletic College, and Ozma's royal palace, and all our other handsome buildings" (260). The potential loss of these buildings, however, will be worse because they are beautiful and not because of any emotional attachment. Moreover, none of these buildings houses a traditional family—the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, Jack Pumpkinhead, Professor Wogglebug, and Ozma all live alone. Furthermore, they are willing to leave their homes at the drop of a Munchkin's hat to embark on potentially exciting adventures.

Oz, of course, is saved, as are the characters' homes, and the final eight books in the series are a succession of journeys and explorations, most of them as far away from the Emerald City as possible. (In fact, in Tik-Tok of Oz, the characters go through a glass chute to the center of the earth.) The map included in most current editions of the Oz books is a testament to the strange peoples and cities Dorothy and her friends eventually discover. There are so many places that the map is very crowded and nearly impossible to read.

The appeal of the Oz books to child readers, then, is that it provides the fulfillment of the wish for a world that is free from the constraints of home, where no one grows older and children do not grow up, and where life is one continual adventure. These books suggest that, if you go looking for your heart's desire, the place to go is not your own backyard. This notion, of course, is supported by the details of Baum's own life. Although his son reported that Baum had a happy home life, L. Frank Baum deserted the Midwest for the Ozzy glitter of Hollywood and continually searched for adventure in the many financial projects he attempted.2

It is, perhaps, the Oz books' rejection or encouragement of escape from domestic life and familial responsibilities that has led to their controversial status with librarians and critics. Perhaps Baum's attitude toward home is summed up best through a minor character in the series, Button Bright. As already mentioned, this little boy, to the chagrin of his mother and of the citizens of Oz, is constantly getting lost. At the end of The Scarecrow of Oz (1915), during one of many parties that fill these books, Button Bright disappears again. The novel's protagonist, Trot, is very concerned. She is reassured, however, by Ozma: "'Never mind, my dear,' said Ozma, with her charming smile, 'no one can go far astray in the Land of Oz, and if Button Bright isn't lost occasionally, he isn't happy'" (267). In Oz, the greatest happiness does indeed come from getting "lost" instead of from returning home.


1. Raylyn Moore has noted that Baum's "principal characters rarely have parents, and never a complete set," as well as a movement in the Oz series towards communal life (10).

2. See Frank Joslyn Baum and Russell P. MacFall's To Please a Child.

Works Cited

Baum, Frank Joslyn and Russell P. MacFall. To Please a Child: A Biography of L. Frank Baum, Royal Historian of Oz. Chicago: Reilly, 1961.

Baum, L. Frank. Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz. 1908. New York: Morrow, 1990.

——. The Emerald City of Oz. 1910. New York: Morrow, 1993.

——. The Marvelous Land of Oz. 1904. New York: Morrow, 1985.

——. Ozma of Oz. 1907. New York: Morrow, 1989.

——. The Road to Oz. 1909. New York: Morrow, 1991.

——. The Scarecrow of Oz. 1915. New York: Ballantine, 1979.

——. Tik-Tok of Oz. 1914. New York: Ballantine, 1980.

——. The Tin Woodman of Oz. 1918. New York: Ballantine, 1981.

——. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. 1900. New York: Morrow, 1987.

Beckwith, Osmond. "The Oddness of Oz." Children's Literature 5 (1976): 74-91.

Bixler, Phyllis. "The Child in the Female Pastoral World: Houses as Images of Nurturance in Early Twentieth-Century Children's Books by Women." Presented at the 19th Annual Conference of the Children's Literature Association. June 1992. Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut.

Glassman, Peter. Afterword. Ozma of Oz. New York: Morrow, 1989. 271-72.

Hearn, Michael Patrick. Introduction. The Wizard of Oz: The Screenplay. By Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson, and Edgar Allan Woolf. Ed. Michael Patrick Hearn. New York: Dell, 1989.

Langley, Noel, Florence Ryerson, and Edgar Allan Woolf. The Wizard of Oz: The Screenplay. Ed. Michael Patrick Hearn. New York: Dell, 1989.

Moore, Raylyn. Wonderful Wizard, Marvelous Land. Bowling Green: Bowling Green U Popular P, 1974.

Joel D. Chaston (essay date January 2001)

SOURCE: Chaston, Joel D. "Baum, Bakhtin, and Broadway: A Centennial Look at the Carnival of Oz." Lion and the Unicorn 25, no. 1 (January 2001): 128-49.

[In the following essay, Chaston offers a critical reexamination of Baum's Oz books on the occasion of the centennial anniversary of the first publication of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.]


A few years ago, I was invited to speak at the first annual L. Frank Baum/Oz Festival in Aberdeen, South Dakota, where L. Frank Baum and his family lived from 1888-1891. My lecture took place in a circus tent in Wylie Park where I found myself competing with an ice cream social next door and vendors outside selling Oz merchandise such as books, toys, ceramic figurines, and tee-shirts. High school students dressed as characters from Baum's books wandered through the audience, and the town's band was tuning up for a concert. The scene before me conjured up descriptions of the medieval carnival square, the subject of several essays I had read by Mikhail Bakhtin; and, despite the fact that it was hard to make myself heard, I decided that this scene would have pleased Baum, whose stories are filled with chaotic parties and banquets.

The Aberdeen festival is only one of many annual celebrations of Baum and/or Oz. Each year, Chittenango, New York (Baum's birthplace) hosts a birthday celebration and parade and the International Wizard of Oz Club sponsors several conventions. An obsession with Baum and his writings, however, is not limited to organized festivals. Partly because of the continued popularity of the 1939 MGM film, there are numerous Oz gift shops around the country and more Oz merchandise than is imaginable (although Baum's characters have graced peanut butter and jelly jars, desert mix packages, valentines, board games, and posters ever since their creation).1 Oz allusions appear regularly in political cartoons and comic strips and on the covers of magazines such as The New Yorker and Rolling Stone.2 The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has also inspired countless imitations and sequels, parodies, and pastiches (including around 150 Oz novels according to Dick Rutter's 1995 bibliography).3 Indeed, it is hard to imagine any other twentieth-century American children's book with as much impact on popular culture.4 Even during Baum's life, the Oz books were so popular that, upon his death in 1919, the New York Times suggested that "the children have suffered a loss they do not know" ("Fairy Tales" 1).

The reception of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its sequels in the scholarly and literary community has been much more mixed. In spite of the phenomenal success of Baum's fourteen Oz books, from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1900 to the posthumous publication of Glinda of Oz in 1920, the series has been intermittently attacked or ignored by librarians and critics.5 The books were removed from the Detroit Public Library in 1957 because, in the words of the library's director, "there is nothing uplifting or elevating about the Baum series" (qtd. in Hearn, [The Annotated Wizard of Oz ] 75). In 1962, responding to similar attacks, Martin Gardner posited reasons why Oz has not found favor with librarians: a negative attitude toward "series books"; Baum's publisher, Reilly & Britton (later Reilly & Lee), had a reputation for "second-rate" books; sloppy editing that allowed contradictory details; and a lack of appreciation for fantasy.6

Until recently, histories of children's literature have tended to skip completely over Baum and his fantasy lands or only grudgingly mention his popularity.7 In 1985, the Children's Literature Association, an international scholarly organization, produced a list of "Touchstone" books, "the best works for children of all time," and left Baum completely off its list. In an essay about this list, widely regarded critic Perry Nodelman acknowledges his own childhood love of the Oz books, conjecturing that Baum's works were probably excluded because they are "stylistically undistinguished" (8).

Those who criticize the Oz books have often voiced decidedly formalistic concerns, some of which were summed up by James Thurber in 1934. "The fatal trouble with the later books . . . is that they become whimsical rather than fantastic," Thurber opined. The books "ramble and preach"; they lack "quick movement" and "fresh suspense. . . . They dawdle along like a class prophecy" (141).8 Several critics cite this lack of unity and rambling structure as the lamentable result of Baum's fascination with the theater, especially the "musical extravaganza," the form in which he dramatized several Oz books.9 Peter Glassman, David L. Greene, Dick Martin, Michael Patrick Hearn, Daniel Mannix, and Fred Meyer have all argued that elements of the musical extravaganza found their way into Baum's Oz books and are manifest in their lack of structure.

In recent years, Baum's Oz series has generated another sort of criticism by scholars who, as suggested by the title of an essay by Richard Flynn, view the "Sequel as Commodity." To varying degrees, Flynn, Stuart Culver, William Leach, and M. David Westbrook draw on Baum's careers managing a dry goods store and editing a magazine about window dressing, arguing that the Oz books promote capitalist consumerism, conditioning "certain marginal consumers into approved modes of consumption" (Flynn 124). Culver, who discusses only Wizard, sees Oz as "a gaudy, artificial fantasy world that is given over to consumerism" (101). This perception of Oz contrasts with that of S. J. Sackett, Suzanne Rahn, and Jack Zipes, who are interested in the utopian aspects of Baum's series. In his introduction to The Wonderful World of Oz, Zipes takes on Culver, Leach, and Westbrook, arguing that they exaggerate "the significance of the commercialism of the Emerald City," which disappears with the Wizard's departure, leaving behind a utopian world in which magic benefits "the majority of people so they can live in harmony and foster respect for differences" (xxiii).

Most of Baum's readers would not discount the fact that the Oz books are often loose and unstructured and that consumerism is promoted through the material culture they have inspired. While the influence of the theater may have made Baum's Oz sequels aesthetically unfashionable for much of the twentieth century, this same influence might be more salutary in a postmodern critical era even as it might clarify some of Baum's more subversive and utopian elements and his continuing popular appeal. Ultimately, Bakhtinian theory provides a critical framework for this reassessment of Baum's achievement. In exploring the novel as a form, Bakhtin distinguishes between "serious genres," representatives of which are "monological" and "presuppose an integrated and stable universe of discourse," and "seriocomic genres," the "dialogical" works that "deny the possibility" or "experience of such integration" ([Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics] 106). Seriocomic works, Bakhtin explains, are "deliberate multi-styled and heterovoiced," rejecting "the stylistic unity . . . of the epic, the tragedy, high rhetoric, the lyric." They possess "a multi-toned narration, the mixing of high and low, serious and comic; they make wide use of inserted genres . . ." (Problems 108).

According to Bakhtin, seriocomic, dialogical works are "saturated with a specific carnival sense of the world" that "possesses a mighty life-creating and transforming power, an indestructible vitality" (Problems 107). Bakhtin's discussion of this "carnival sense" suggests that the "carnival" "brings together, unifies, weds, and combines the sacred with the profane, the lofty with the low, the great with the insignificant, the wise with the stupid" (Problems 123). This combination of opposites often occurs through images borrowed from the pageantry of the Middle Ages, such as the Festival of Fools, including "the mock crowning and subsequent decrowning of the carnival king" and the carnival square, where all people come together, not unlike the pieces of a patchwork quilt (Problems 124). A subversive form, the carnivalesque levels social distinctions, turning the world upside down in order to critique it.

Many of Bakhtin's ideas about the carnivalesque have, in recent years, found specific application in discussions of children's texts. Among others, John Stephens has theorized about a "carnivalesque" writing for children, one that is "grounded in a playfulness which situates itself in positions of nonconformity. It expresses opposition to authoritarianism and seriousness, and is often manifested as parody of prevailing literary forms and genres, or as literature in non-canonical forms. Its discourse is often idiomatic, and rich in a play of signifiers . . ." (121). Stephens further suggests that it mocks and challenges "authoritative figures and structures of the adult world—parents, teachers, political and religious institutions—and some of the (often traditionally male) values of society such as . . . striving, aggression, and conquest" (122).

Using Bakhtin's discussion of the carnivalesque to examine the development of Baum's Oz series and the impact of the American musical extravaganza on his writing, it becomes clear that Baum moved from writing "monologic" literary fairy tales to creating polyphonic, episodic stories—patchwork quilts of a variety of genres and many characters. Beyond a mere disregard for formal structure, Baum borrowed a number of carnivalesque elements from the extravaganza. Like the medieval carnival, Baum's later books subvert the usual authorities, bring down the pompous, celebrate individualism, and make room for the grotesque. They also overturn, critique, and lampoon traditional genres and literary values, combining both high and low traditions.


The specific theatrical genre that pushed Baum toward a polyphonic and carnivalized discourse was the American musical extravaganza of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. A forerunner to the modern American musical, the extravaganza borrowed a number of features from the English pantomime. Richard Kislan has described extravaganzas as "elaborate theater pieces loosely adapted from European models . . . spectacles featuring female dancers brilliantly costumed, novel scenic devices, sumptuous settings, unusual lighting effects and melodramatic scenes." Like the pantomime, the extravaganza was noted for "the awesome visual effects made possible by ingenious nineteenth-century machinery" (74).

A close relative to vaudeville, the extravaganza was often a pastiche of irrelevant, topical songs only loosely tied together and was constantly revised throughout its run. Its audience was inevitably a popular one, and its satirical songs and buffoonish characters often ridiculed respectable institutions and authority, as well as traditional love romances. In describing the extravaganza, Ethan Mordden writes that its "internal contradictions are staggering. The form employed fairy-tale settings and characters, yet invariably beveled the fairyland reflection with extremely vernacular comedy. It followed its tale in the usual order . . . but would throw in anything—literally anything—that might divert, without fitting this into the story even by contrivance" (9). Mordden also argues that it was "huge, a stage manager's nightmare" that "seldom organized well, getting by as much on improvisation as on ritual" (9).

In many respects, the American musical extravaganza was a carnivalesque genre in its audience appeal, formlessness, and subject matter. For many years, it was the theatrical genre of choice of the lower and middle classes. Through its disdain for formal plot structure, its broad and often satirical humor, and its intermingling of high and low characters (both kings and clowns) and stylistically diverse songs and dances (ballet and ragtime), the extravaganza resembled the medieval carnival as described in Bakhtin's Rabelais and His World (1984). According to Bakhtin, because of their "strong element of play, carnival images resemble certain artistic forms, namely the spectacle," an apt description of the extravaganza. Bakhtin explains that, in turn, "spectacles often tended toward carnival folk culture, the culture of the marketplace, and to a certain extent became one of its components" (7). One such component, the mock crowning and subsequent decrowning of the carnival king, was a stock convention of extravaganzas which, according to Daniel Mannix, were often set in "distant Balkan monarchies" or "Graustarkian [lands] with palace plots and counter revolutions" ("Off to See the Wizard" 93).

Baum was undoubtedly exposed to American musical theater in his early twenties when he became an actor and theatrical manager. In fact, he launched his literary career by turning William Black's A Princess of Thule (1874) into a musical melodrama, The Maid of Arran (1881). The play's original production, initially featuring Baum himself as the male romantic lead, opened in New York City in 1882 and toured successfully through 1885. Despite subsequent short-lived careers selling axle grease and crockery and editing a regional newspaper and a trade journal on window displays, Baum was never quite able to get the greasepaint out of his blood.

Not surprisingly, therefore, when his first children's book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, became a bestseller, Baum wanted to adapt it for the stage. Along with the book's illustrator, W. W. Denslow, and a composer, Paul Tietjens, Baum convinced Fred Hamlin, the business manager of Chicago's Grand Opera House, to produce it as a play. The play's director, Julian Mitchell, rejected Baum's rather literal adaptation of the novel and oversaw its transformation into a musical extravaganza. Under Mitchell's guidance, Baum's literary fairy tale became the most popular American musical extravaganza of the decade.10 With its title shortened to The Wizard of Oz, the musical transformed Dorothy into a romantic ingenue and Toto into a pet cow named Imogene; the novel's villainous Wicked Witch of the West was replaced by beautiful chorus "girls," topical songs, puns, and jokes. The result was a formless spectacle, a hybrid of Baum's original book, adult romantic subplots, comic characters, and popular hit tunes with no connection to the story. In the play, Dorothy's quest to return home is overshadowed by the comic antics of the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman, ex-monarch Pastoria II's plot to overthrow the Emerald City, and her romance with Sir Dashemoff Daily (a poet) and that of the Tin Woodman and Cynthia Cynch (a "lady lunatic").11 As Michael Patrick Hearn puts it, "Julian Mitchell's production turned Baum's fairy tale into little more than an expanded musical revue, with everything from opening with a cyclone to armies of marching girls and a magic box disappearing act" (Annotated 49).

This carnivalesque concoction made its way to New York City in 1903, where it played for almost 300 performances; then toured the country through 1911.12 Baum seems to have given his blessing to the dramatic changes in his original text. In a June 26, 1904, letter to the Chicago Times, he acknowledges his "chief business" to be "the writing of fairy tales," but vows that "should I ever attempt another extravaganza, or dramatize another of my books, I mean to profit by the lesson Mr. Mitchell has taught me" (qtd. in Baum and McFall 14).

Baum, however, was already using Mitchell's lesson in writing his children's books. The Marvelous Land of Oz (1904), Baum's second Oz novel, has "Broadway" written all over it. He dedicated the book to David C. Montgomery and Fred A. Stone, the tremendously popular actors who had played the Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow on the stage; these two characters became stars in the novel that eliminated Dorothy, who was not a particularly popular character on the stage. The book also contains stock conventions of American extravaganzas and English pantomimes, such as a chorus line of female soldiers and a young boy who is eventually revealed to be a girl.

Opening for a short, unsuccessful run in Chicago in 1905 and having the title The Woggle-Bug, the play based on Baum's second book was, like its stage predecessor, another loose, carnivalesque production full of songs, comic banter, and satirical elements, which included another army of dancing flowers, the crowning and dethroning of a carnival queen (General Jinjur), and satirical jabs at the suffragist movement and higher education. By this time the musical extravaganza was out of vogue in the United States. As a result, the play was lambasted for containing "virtually no story whatever" and lacking "witty lines" (Mannix, "The Woggle-Bug on Stage" 13). Baum's third Oz novel, Ozma of Oz (1907), became a more successful extravaganza, The Tik-Tok Man of Oz, premiering in Los Angeles in 1913. For copyright reasons, Dorothy in the novel was replaced on the stage by a new character, Betsy Bobbin, and Baum created the Rose Queen, Ozga, to take the place of Princess Ozma.13 Baum made so many changes for the stage, in fact, that he was able to novelize the play as yet another Oz sequel, Tik-Tok of Oz (1914).

Ever the improvisational entrepreneur, Baum adapted his books in other media as well. As early as 1908, he had written and produced a multi-media extravaganza, The Fairylogue and Other Radio Plays, a combination of live narration and actors, slides, and film clips featuring adaptations of several of his books, including The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz (1904). Although this production eventually led to his bankruptcy, Baum later tried his hand as a filmmaker through his Oz Film Manufacturing Company. The loosely structured silent films that resulted include the 1914 adaptation of Baum's The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1913), which Baum had originally intended as another musical play, and His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz (1914), which he later novelized as The Scarecrow of Oz (1915).14 Baum continued to follow Mitchell's "lesson" in making his films, which could be described as musical extravaganzas with the sound removed.


Just as Baum's novelization of stage play and film foreshadowed the late-twentieth-century practice of making books from popular movies or television shows, he seemed to anticipate a postmodernist aesthetic more sympathetic to his kind of fiction than the earlier formalism. Early in The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1913), the would-be magician, Dr. Pipt, brings to life a Patchwork Girl and a Glass Cat, two characters who figure prominently in the later books of the Oz series. One of Baum's most popular creations, Scraps, the Patchwork Girl, is a life-sized doll "made of patches of different kinds and colors of cloth," and her personality is similarly carnivalesque—irrepressible, subversive—having a mishmash of brains that come from vials marked "Cleverness," "Judgement," "Courage," "Ingenuity," "Amiability," "Learning," "Truth," "Poesy," and "Self-Reliance" (32, 38). Refusing to become a domestic slave for Dr. Pipt's wife, Margolotte, Scraps dances through this novel and the rest of the series, bursting into satirical songs at the most inopportune moments and directly questioning authoritarian and self-important Ozites, such as Princess Ozma, the Frogman, the Lavender Bear, and even Dorothy Gale.15 For Dr. Pipt and his wife, however, Scraps is a failure; her nonsensical nature mixed with cleverness undermines her usefulness as a servant. In sharp contrast, Dr. Pipt's other creation, the sleek Glass Cat, is colorless except for a cold ruby heart and pink brains, which make her "too high-bred" (30). This arrogant creature cares for no one but herself and never does anything that would not be viewed as logical or self-serving. Not so surprisingly, no one can bear to spend much time with the Glass Cat, and Baum expresses his clear preference for the Patchwork Girl by allowing her to become a prized companion of such notable Ozites as Dorothy Gale and the Scarecrow. Eventually, she even becomes one of Princess Ozma's counselors.

The wild, crazy-quilt Patchwork Girl and the sleek, orderly Glass Cat serve well as metaphors for two kinds of art. The Patchwork Girl, to use Bakhtin's terminology again, is a "polyphonic" work of art, one in which there is no attempt to orchestrate or unify the various pieces or patches from which she has been constructed. Her actions, both literally and figuratively, suggest that she is a "carnivalized" creation, a wise fool who brings down those who are pretentious. She is a "multi-style and heterovoiced" work of art who helps Baum develop the carnivalesque notion that the world "belongs to the whole people, it is universal, everyone must participate . . . (Bakhtin, Problems 128).

The Glass Cat, on the other hand, is a "monologic" creature, whose mechanical brains give her the single-minded purpose of self-aggrandizement. The Glass Cat is understandably at home in the monochromatic world of the Munchkins, who have no use for patchwork quilts because they prefer the single color blue to anything else. The Glass Cat can be seen as a metaphor for the kind of art that elicits flattery by flattering the viewer. Her purpose is single and thus easy to identify, and she satisfies the formalist's preoccupation with the inner workings of an artistic creation because the Glass Cat is transparent; anyone can watch her "pink brains roll around" and her "precious red heart beat" (Patchwork 49). Baum's attitude toward the Glass Cat and Patchwork Girl thus suggests his turning his back on art that strives for elitist perfection toward that which is more energetic and democratically accessible, if lacking in polish.

Largely free from the conventions of American musical theater, Baum's first Oz tale, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, comes closest to a Glass-Cat unity and monologic structure. A series of journeys framed by flights to Oz from Kansas and then back again, as well as travels to three countries within Oz, alternating with trips to the Emerald City, give the book a folktale-like symmetry. Additional repeated elements, such as the destruction of two wicked witches, followed by the blessing of Dorothy by two good witches, and Dorothy's symbolic trio of companions, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and Cowardly Lion (representing the mind, heart, and courage), reinforce the feeling that it is a tight "Glass-Cat" story.

Both Michael Patrick Hearn and Raylyn Moore have argued that the book would satisfy most formalists' desire for unity. "The Wizard of Oz is well-structured," Hearn argues in The Annotated Wizard of Oz (1973). "Dichotomy is important. The first and last chapter take place in Kansas; the loss of home is comfortably restored. . . . The second half of the story reflects the first. The first concerns the discovery of intelligence, kindness, and courage; after the brain, heart, and courage are received, their qualities, embodied now with outer symbols, must be put into practice in the second half" (76-77). Similarly, Raylyn Moore contends that "The Wizard is the best of all the Oz books. Action is constant, the characters live. The plot is tightly managed, and the outcome is immensely satisfactory. Above all, the allegory is sustained throughout" (168).

One reason for the novel's apparent unity is its protagonist, young Dorothy Gale, whose quest to return home provides the novel with its central action. Dorothy's quest is simple and personal. She never seeks to kill the Wicked Witch of the West; the latter's death is accidental, a byproduct of Dorothy's desire to return home. Arthur Freed, who helped produce the popular 1939 MGM film adaptation, caught the spirit of Baum's original book when he told his scriptwriters "that Dorothy is only motivated by one object in Oz; that is how to get back home to her Aunt Em, and every situation should be related to this main drive" (qtd. in Hearn, The Wizard of Oz: The Screenplay 12).

While Wizard does have a relatively simple structure, it is not absolutely monologic. As I have argued elsewhere, the book is full of conflicting messages, particularly in its attitude toward home.16 Some of the thematic contradictions in this book occur in its many interpolated stories (including those narrated by the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, Cowardly Lion, Wizard, and Winged Monkeys), which contrast both in style and tone with the main story of Dorothy's quest, vying with it for the reader's attention. In particular, the adult love romance of Gaylette and Quelala, as related by the Winged Monkeys, is a jarring insertion into a primarily nonromantic tale. For the most part, however, Baum keeps the novel focused on Dorothy and her journey, rarely leaving her side, except when each of Dorothy's friends separately meet the Wizard for the first time.

As critics have generally agreed, none of the sequels to The Wizard is as unified. Their plots frequently do ramble, the citizens of Oz proliferate, and the books become less overtly allegorical or moralistic. If they lack the monologic transparency of the Glass Cat, however, they often have the rebellious, carnivalesque energy of Scraps, the Patchwork Girl.


The carnivalization of Oz really begins with the second Oz book and continues throughout the series. The books become extravaganzas. Instead of focusing on a single character's quest, they become strings of seemingly unconnected adventures filled with subplots. There is much humor and romance and many parties filled with "grotesques," which, Bakhtin contends, are caricatures full of "exaggeration, hyperbolism, excessiveness" that reach "fantastic dimensions" (Rabelais 303-4). Among Baum's more memorable grotesques are his mechanical and metallic men (the Tin Woodman, Tin Soldier, and the copper-plated Tik-Tok) and giant animals (the "highly-magnified" Professor Woggle-bug and the Frogman).

Stylistically carnivalesque, the later Oz books mix genres such as comic poetry (the Patchwork Girl and talking phonograph in The Patchwork Girl of Oz ), love romance (Pon, the gardener, and Princess Gloria in The Scarecrow of Oz ), slapstick comedy (the antics of Jack Pumpkinhead in The Marvelous Land of Oz ), and traditional fairy tale quests (the rescue of the Royal Family of Ev in Ozma of Oz ). The sequels to Wizard are also increasingly concerned with the subversion of authority as the autocratic Nome King (Baum's spelling) and a variety of other would-be conquerors of Oz are, again and again, defeated by the girl-ruler Ozma and the Shaggy Man's Love Magnet. At times, these stories hark back to the satirical "Our Landlady" columns, which Baum wrote for the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer from January 1890 to February 1891. In fact, the Oz books tackle some of the same targets: higher education, organized religion, politics, and the military.17 The result is the transformation of Oz from magical fairyland to social Utopia, where everyone, no matter how grotesque, is equal.

Two of the best examples of the carnivalization of Baum's Oz series are his third and eighth books, Ozma of Oz and Tik-Tok of Oz, the novelization of his stage adaptation of Ozma of Oz. On the surface, both Ozma and Tik-Tok have the same storyline as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. All three feature a young girl who is transported to the land of Oz via a natural disaster—a cyclone in the first book and a shipwreck in the two sequels. In all three books, the young girl meets grotesques who help her depose at least one despotic dictator. The young girl's quest in each of these books is accompanied by a desire to return home, a wish that can be granted by a wise, female fairy at the end of the novel.

Despite their apparent similarities to The Wizard, however, neither Ozma nor Tik-Tok has ever been praised for cohesiveness or compactness. Of the two, Ozma is more structured and in many ways directly parallels the first book. In Ozma, Dorothy Gale makes her second trip to Oz, this time by being knocked overboard while accompanying Uncle Henry on a boat trip to Australia. As in Wizard, the narrative initially focuses on Dorothy as she washes ashore in Ev (a magical land on the other side of the Deadly Desert that surrounds Oz) and then follows her into the Nome King's kingdom to save the Royal Family of Ev. While Dorothy is reacquainted with old friends from the first book, she also encounters new grotesques: a bronze mechanical man, Tik-Tok; Wheelers, who roll over the ground on the wheels attached to their hands and feet; and the Princess Langwidere, who owns a cabinet containing thirty interchangeable heads. Accompanied by Billina, a talking hen who pinch hits for Toto, Dorothy once again bravely explores a new world, often drawing on her Midwestern American common sense to guide her.

After the first third of the book, however, Dorothy nearly disappears from the novel. The highly personal quest to return home in Wizard is no longer an issue; and the idea of getting home does not surface until the novel's end. Instead, Dorothy becomes subordinate to an army of Ozites as they confront the Nome King. Dorothy's small group of companions in Wizard (the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion, each of whom reappears in this book) becomes a cast of thirty-five helpers.18 The chapters are filled with puns and topical humor; the Army of Oz, for example, is composed of twenty-six officers who command a single private. When the protagonists encounter the novel's primary antagonist, the Nome King, it is Dorothy's hen, Billina, who saves the day by discovering how to undo the monarch's transformations and by laying eggs, which are as deadly to Nomes as water is to the Wicked Witch of the West.

Ozma, more than Wizard, directly addresses the topics that Stephens ascribes to carnivalesque literature, mocking adult authority and institutions. This time around, Dorothy and her friends are confronted with more dangerously authoritarian figures who, in turn, must be decrowned. Dorothy's life is first threatened by the Wheelers, who try to assert ownership over nature by controlling the magical lunch-box trees, and then by the vain Princess Langwidere, who threatens Dorothy's body by trying to steal her head for her collection. Unlike the basically harmless and easily frightened Wicked Witch of the West (not to be confused with MGM's Margaret Hamilton), Princess Langwidere is a real threat, as is the humbug Wizard's counterpart, the despotic Nome King. While he may look like Santa Claus, the Nome King blithely transforms the Royal Family of Ev and a number of Ozites, including Ozma herself, into bric-a-brac. Defeated by a lowly hen, the Nome King is stripped of power. The poor farm girl, Dorothy, a minor character in the second half of the book, is now elevated. She takes the Nome King's magic belt and is subsequently "presented with a pretty coronet and named a princess of Oz" (Ozma 260). As the novel ends, Dorothy and her childlike friends triumph over the nasty adults, and they find their way to the carnival square where all of the citizens of Oz flock to greet them and to celebrate. In the banquet that follows, "the wealthiest and most important citizens of the Emerald City were proud to wait upon these famous adventurers" (260-61).

Tik-Tok of Oz, which began as a direct imitation of Ozma, has an even more convoluted plot and is, perhaps, even more carnivalesque. The novel features Betsy Bobbin, a Dorothy-clone, who arrives in Oz after being washed overboard from a ship. Here, however, Betsy's quest for a home is even more marginalized than that of Dorothy in Ozma. It is overshadowed by at least six other plots: (1) the romance of Private Files and the Rose Princess, (2) Shaggy Man's search for his lost brother, (3) Polychrome's quest to find her rainbow, (4) Queen Ann Soforth's attempts to conquer Oz, (5) Quox the Dragon's punishment, and (6) the overthrow of the Nome King. Betsy is not even introduced until chapter four and, unlike Queen Soforth, whose family history is detailed in the first chapter of Tik-Tok, we are told virtually nothing about Betsy except that she is an orphan.

The subject matter of the many plot strands in Tik-Tok of Oz clearly point to the book's theatrical origins. Tik-Tok features no less than three of the "palace plots" popular in the extravaganza: (1) the intended attack of Ann's army on Oz, (2) the struggle to put Ozga on the throne of the Rose Kingdom, and
(3) the battle against the Nome King. Tik-Tok 's large cast of characters, who banter incessantly, using music-hall puns, also seem to have come right off of the stage. The group includes grotesques (Tik-Tok again), talking animals (Hank the mule), improbable lovers (Ozga and Files), and buffoonish monarchs ripe for decrowning (the Nome King and Queen Ann), again all stock figures of the extravaganza. There are also a number of chorus girls—Ozga's would-be subjects in the Rose Kingdom and the six ladies of light from the Jinjin's kingdom—and no less than three ingenues, Betsy Bobbin, Ozga, and Polychrome. By the time the major characters have their showdown with the Nome King, the band of travelers has expanded to include twenty-five individuals (counting talking animals).19

Tik-Tok of Oz is also one of the most episodic works in the Oz series. The main action of the play, another trip to the Nome King's domain, is in the novelization only one of a series of seemingly unrelated episodes. Before reaching the Nome King, the travelers encounter a monstrous creature called Rak; a kingdom of heartless, humanized roses; a tube that goes through the earth; and a kingdom of all-powerful fairies. Tik-Tok is also a patchwork of different genres: the romance quest for home found in many children's novels (Betsy Bobbin and Polychrome), as well as adult satire (Ann Soforth and her army), comic romance (the Princess and Files), and literary fairy tales and allegory (the Fellowship of the Fairies).

Significantly, this patchwork of characters, plots, and genres is accompanied by a transformation of Oz, which is no longer the land of "humbug" in the first story but a democratic paradise that, with a little prodding, opens its arms to misfit mortals, animals, mechanical beings, exiled Rose Princesses, and even reformed conquerors, like Queen Ann. As in other carnivalesque works of fiction, pompous authorities like the Nome King and Ann Soforth are dethroned and now enjoy the status of everyone else in their kingdoms. The democracy of Oz is dramatized when the Cowardly Lion, the Hungry Tiger, Hank the Mule, and the wooden Sawhorse argue about whether Dorothy Gale, Betsy Bobbin, or Ozma is "the dearest sweetest girl in the world" (265). The animals learn that the three girls are equals, and that, despite their physical differences, the animals are, too, for, as Ozma explains, "Our Land of Oz is a Land of Love, and here friendship outranks every other quality" (Tik-Tok 267). Oz has been reinvented as a Utopia, which, as Bakhtin says, now "belongs to the whole people, . . . is universal, everyone must participate" (Problems 128).

According to Bakhtin, one source for the carnival spirit in fiction is Menippean satire, which "often includes elements of social utopias which are incorporated in the form of dreams or journeys to unknown lands." (Bakhtin, Problems 118). The idea of Oz as a Utopia had already surfaced in Baum's sixth Oz novel, The Emerald City of Oz (1910), when Dorothy becomes a permanent citizen of the magical land. Baum now describes Oz as a paradise in which there is no disease, no death, no class distinctions, and no poor.20 The citizens of Oz, Baum explains, "were peaceful, kind-hearted, loving and merry, and every inhabitant adored the beautiful girl who ruled them, and delighted to obey her every command" (31-32). The few unpleasant characters still around exist "only in a few remote parts of the Land of Oz" and are the exception to the rule (33).

This carnivalesque inclusiveness of Oz is further reiterated at the beginning of Baum's last Oz novel, Glinda of Oz (1920), as Ozma gathers together her many counselors. "No Ruler ever had such a queer assortment of advisers as the Princess Ozma had gathered about her throne," Baum explains. "But Ozma loved them for their peculiarities and could trust every one of them" (139). Ozma's advisers certainly are an unusual lot, including—in addition to Scraps, the Patchwork Girl—beings made of straw, tin, quilted fabric, copper, wood, and pumpkin; a giant bug, a giant frog, and several humans who are either orphaned, disabled, or homeless. This utopian Oz is a multicultural melting pot, a refuge for orphans like Dorothy Gale, Trot Griffiths, and Betsy Bobbin; lost children (Button Bright and Polychrome the Rainbow's daughter); homeless individuals (Shaggy Man and his brother); and outsiders made of tin and straw.21


The utopian nature of Oz—the series' carnival-square-like celebration of the ordinary man and woman—helps explain why the Oz sequels continue to speak to a wide spectrum of contemporary readers even as these same characteristics account for the books' lack of literary acclaim. As James B. Twichell has pointed out in Carnival Culture: The Trashing of Taste in America, twentieth-century carnival art, such as soap operas and MTV, has often been denigrated as "common, unwashed, scumular, barbaric, or vulgar" (2). The perception of the Oz sequels as "vulgar" was undoubtedly the real reason for their censorship during the 1950s, though Baum would probably have welcomed that label if defined according to its Latin root—"vulgaris, of the mob"—and earliest meanings—"of or relating to the common people" (Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed.).

The carnivalesque quality of the Baum series also gives it a very contemporary, postmodern appeal. In Postmodernism and Popular Culture, John Docker has suggested that postmodernism is an outgrowth of carnivalesque impulses. According to Jean-François Lyotard, a distinguishing feature of postmodern art is that it is "not in principle governed by preestablished rules" and thus "cannot be judged . . . by applying familiar categories to the text or to the work" (46). To be postmodern is to favor Scraps with her dizzying array of patches over the transparent Glass Cat. Baum's Oz sequels are thus progenitors of David Macaulay's Black and White (1990) and John Scieszka's The Stinky Cheeseman and Other Fairly Stupid Tales (1992) that have a similar polyphony of voices and disregard for unity and linear structure.

Postmodern or not, the carnivalesque quality of Baum's books has not been lost on its adapters or imitators. The 1939 MGM film contains several long sequences that are clearly carnivalesque, in particular the six-minute sequence in which the Munchkins celebrate the dethroning of the despotic Wicked Witch of the East and, later, Dorothy's arrival in the Emerald City, which includes a celebratory parade and the mock crowning of the Cowardly Lion.

And Baum's carnival square has invited the participation of countless others who have written their own sequels and pastiches. At Baum's death in 1919, Reilly & Lee continued Baum's series with additional sequels by Ruth Plumly Thompson, John R. Neill, Jack Snow, Rachel Cosgrove, and Eloise Jarvis McGraw and Lauren McGraw for a total of forty Oz books, including Baum's. They, in turn, have been succeeded by non-canonical Oz books by writers such as Roger Baum (great-grandson of L. Frank Baum), Daniel Abbott, and Martin Gardner, among others.22 The non-Baum Oz books are diverse and of uneven quality, but most of them are carnivalesque. Thompson's second, eleventh, and sixteenth Oz stories—Kabumpo in Oz (1922), Pirates in Oz (1931) and Captain Salt in Oz (1936)—capture the carnivalesque spirit of Baum's series, as do Jack Snow's The Magical Mimics in Oz (1947) and Rachel Cosgrove's The Hidden Valley of Oz (1951). Perhaps the most carnivalesque of all recent Oz stories is Gregory Maguire's Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (1995), which turns Baum's Wizard on its head, transforming Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, into a sympathetic and misunderstood heroine, while revealing Glinda and the Wizard as self-seeking tyrants.

At its centennial celebration, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as cultural phenomenon has become one of the grandest carnivals of all. The hundreds of Oz books, plays, television series, motion pictures, toys, and bric-a-brac (enough to please even the Nome King) can be seen as one grand, polyphonic text with myriad voices, thousands of characters, hundreds of deposed monarchs, and carnivals and birthday parties everywhere the reader looks. And there is every reason to believe that the carnival of Oz will still be celebrated with new sequels, plays, and festivals at the end of the twenty-first century. The Patchwork Girl will likely be at the head of the Ozian parade, while the Glass Cat cowers on the sidelines.


An early version of this article was presented at the Twenty-Fifth Annual International Conference of the Children's Literature Association in Paris, France. I would like to thank Phyllis Bixler, Roberta Seelinger Trites, Elizabeth Keyser, and Jack Zipes for various useful suggestions.

1. John Fricke's 100 Years of Oz: A Century of Classic Images from The Wizard of Oz Collection of Willard Carroll is an excellent introduction to the ways in which Oz has been appropriated by material culture.

2. Featuring one of many Oz-related covers, the 16 November 1998 issue of The New Yorker depicts the Tin Woodman attempting to pass through an airport security system. In the thirtieth-anniversary issue of Rolling Stone (28 May 1998), the cover and a related feature story depict the cast of the NBC television series, Seinfeld, in Oz costumes.

3. See Dick Rutter's "Oz Pastiches and Parodies." Rutter's 1995 list includes 107 novels, not counting the forty books published by Reilly & Lee. It does not include graphic novels, short stories, or films. The International Wizard of Oz Club regularly publishes new Oz stories in its annual publication, Oziana.

4. For further discussion of the impact of both Baum's Wizard and the MGM motion picture on children's films, see my article "The 'Ozification' of American Children's Fantasy Films."

5. In addition to the fourteen novels Baum wrote about Oz, he also created several shorter books about this magical land not usually viewed as part of the series. These include The Woggle-Bug Book (1905) and six stories later collected as The Little Wizard Series (1914).

6. See Gardner, "Why Librarians Dislike Oz." Gardner, Suzanne Rahn, and Michael O. Riley all take issue with some of the criticism librarians have leveled against the Oz series.

7. Several critics have pointed out that the first edition of Cornelia Meigs' A Critical History of Children's Literature (1953) makes no mention of Baum whatsoever. The same is true of May Hill Arbuthnot's seminal textbook on children's literature, Children and Books (1947).

8. In a similar vein, David L. Greene and Dick Martin, two unabashed Ozophiles, have criticized the loose structure of Baum's sequels, notably Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz (1908), The Road to Oz (1909), and The Tin Woodman of Oz (1918), the last of which they dub "the most flawed of Baum's later Oz books, largely because it is spent in an episodic tour of Oz, without any real quest . . ." (51). Dick Martin has further suggested that the Baum sequels contain "a certain amount of poorly conceived, carelessly written stuff. . . . Undoubtedly, if there had been fewer Oz books, they would have been better; and consequently, less vilified by the librarians and critics of juvenile literature" (108).

9. See Peter Glassman's afterword to The Marvelous Land of Oz, David L. Greene and Dick Martin's The Oz Scrapbook, Michael Patrick Hearn's "How Did the Woggle-Bug Do?" Daniel Mannix's "Ozma, Tik-Tok and the Rheingold," and Fred Meyer's "Dramatic Influence on Oz."

10. For a discussion of the musical's popularity, see Michael Patrick Hearn's The Annotated Wizard of Oz, Frank Joslyn Baum and Russell P. McFall's To Please a Child, and Daniel Mannix's "Off to See the Wizard—1903."

11. While not a definitive script (given its constant revision), I have used the manuscript of the play in the L. Frank Baum papers at Syracuse University.

12. Michael Patrick Hearn notes that as late as 1911 The Wizard of Oz played at the Castle Square Theater in Boston (Annotated 51).

13. See Daniel Mannix's "Ozma, Tik-Tok, and the Rheingold."

14. According to Peter Glassman, Baum had planned to turn The Patchwork Girl of Oz into a musical as early as November 1913. See Glassman's "Afterword" to The Patchwork Girl of Oz. For further discussion of the Oz Film Manufacturing Company, see Anne Morey's "'A Whole Book for a Nickel'?"

15. In The Patchwork Girl of Oz, Scraps stands up to Ozma at the trial of her friend, Ojo, the Munchkin boy, demanding his freedom. Scraps also questions the assumptions and authority of the Frogman, the Lavender Bear, and Dorothy Gale in The Lost Princess of Oz (1917) during the search for the kidnapped Ozma.

16. See my article, "If I Ever Go Looking for My Heart's Desire: 'Home' in Baum's 'Oz' Books."

17. Nancy Tystad Koupal's introduction to her edition of Baum's "Our Landlady" columns includes an in-depth discussion of Baum's politics and the thematic relationship of these pieces to his later children's work.

18. They include Ozma, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, the Sawhorse, Tik-Tok, the Cowardly Lion, the Hungry Tiger, Billina the hen, and the twenty-six officers and one private in Ozma's army.

19. While this group is slightly smaller than that of Ozma of Oz, it contains more distinct individual characters. For the record, the new group is composed of Betsy Bobbin; Private Files; Queen Ann Soforth; the sixteen officers of the Army of Oogaboo; the Shaggy Man; Ozga, the Rose Princess; the mechanical man, Tik-Tok; the dragon, Quox; the mule, Hank; and Polychrome, the Rainbow's daughter.

20. Oz of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has clearly not attained Utopian status. It features the deaths of a variety of characters (the Wicked Witches of the East and West, the monstrous Kalidahs, and various wolves and bees) and references to money.

21. I do not suggest that Baum's work is completely free from ethnic stereotypes. As Francis B. Randall has pointed out, there are some ethnic caricatures of the musical-comedy variety in some of Baum's fantasies, in particular The WoggleBug Book. In recent years, Baum has also been attacked for his allegedly racist editorials in the Saturday Pioneer prior to the massacre of 200 Sioux at Wounded Knee and long before he began writing for children. Both Randall and Raylyn Moore defend the Oz books for their encouragement of equality and friendship among all peoples.

22. See, for example, Roger Baum's Dorothy of Oz (1989), Daniel Abbott's How the Wizard Saved Oz (1996), and Martin Gardner's Visitors from Oz (1998).

Works Cited

Abbott, Donald. How the Wizard Saved Oz. New York: Emerald City, 1996.

Arbuthnot, May Hill. Children and Books. Chicago: Scott Foresman, 1947.

Bakhtin, Mikhail. Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics. Theory and History of Literature. Vol. 8. Ed. and trans. Caryl Emerson. Minneapolis: U. Minnesota P, 1984.

——. Rabelais and His World. Trans. H. Iswolsky. Bloomington, IN: Indiana UP, 1984.

Baum, Frank Joslyn, and Russell P. McFall. To Please a Child: A Biography of L. Frank Baum. New York: Reilly & Lee, 1961.

Baum, L. Frank. Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz. Chicago: Reilly & Britton, 1908.

——. The Emerald City of Oz. Chicago: Reilly & Britton, 1910.

——. Glinda of Oz. Chicago: Reilly & Lee, 1920.

——. The Lost Princess of Oz. Chicago: Reilly & Britton, 1917.

——. The Marvelous Land of Oz. Chicago: Reilly & Britton, 1904.

——. Ozma of Oz. Chicago: Reilly & Britton, 1907.

——. The Patchwork Girl of Oz. Chicago: Reilly & Britton, 1913.

——. The Road to Oz. Chicago: Reilly & Britton, 1909.

——. The Scarecrow of Oz. Chicago: Reilly & Britton, 1915.

——. Tik-Tok of Oz. Chicago: Reilly & Britton, 1914.

——. The Tin Woodman of Oz. Chicago: Reilly & Britton, 1918.

——. The Wizard of Oz [Stage adaptation of Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz]. L. Frank Baum Papers. George Arents Research Library for Special Collections. Syracuse University.

——. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. 1900. New York: Books of Wonder, 1987.

Baum, Maud, and Jack Snow. "Dear Sergeant: Maud Baum's Correspondence with Jack Snow." Baum Bugle 26 (Winter 1982): 8-11; 27.3 (Spring 1983): 2-8.

Baum, Roger S. Dorothy of Oz. New York: Books of Wonder, 1989.

Bordman, Gerald. American Musical Theater: A Chronicle. New York: Oxford UP, 1978.

Chaston, Joel D. "If I Ever Go Looking for My Heart's Desire: 'Home' in Baum's 'Oz' Books." The Lion and the Unicorn 18 (1994): 209-19.

——. "The 'Ozification' of American Children's Fantasy Films: The Blue Bird, Alice in Wonderland, and Jumanji." Children's Literature Association Quarterly 22.1 (Spring 1977): 13-20.

Cosgrove, Rachel. The Hidden Valley of Oz. Chicago: Reilly & Lee, 1951.

Culver, Stuart. "What Manikins Want: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Art of Decorating Dry Goods Windows." Representations 21 (Winter 1988): 97-116.

Docker, John. Postmodernism and Popular Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994.

"Fairy Tales." New York Times 11 May 1919, sec. 3:1.

Flynn, Richard. "Imitation Oz: The Sequel as Commodity." The Lion and the Unicorn 20 (1996): 121-31.

Fricke, John. 100 Years of Oz: A Century of Classic Images from The Wizard of Oz Collection of Willard Carroll. New York: Stewart, Tabori, & Chang, 1999.

Gardner, Martin. Visitors from Oz: The Wild Adventures of Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Woodman. New York: St. Martin's, 1998.

——. "Why Librarians Dislike Oz." American Book Collector (Dec. 1962): 14-16.

Glassman, Peter. "Afterword." In The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum. 1904. New York: Books of Wonder, 1985. 288-92.

——. "Afterword." In The Patchwork Girl of Oz by L. Frank Baum. 1913. New York: Books of Wonder, 1995. 342-46.

Green David L., and Dick Martin. The Oz Scrapbook. New York: Random House, 1977.

Hearn, Michael Patrick. "How Did the Woggle-Bug Do?" Baum Bugle 18.3 (1974): 16-23.

Hearn, Michael Patrick, ed. The Annotated Wizard of Oz. New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1973.

——, ed. The Wizard of Oz: The Screenplay by Langley, Noel, Florence Ryerson, and Edgar Allen Woolf. New York: Dell, 1989.

Kislan, Richard. The Musical: A Look at the American Musical Theater. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1980.

Koupal, Nancy Tystad. "Introduction." In Our Landlady by L. Frank Baum. Ed. Nancy Tystad Koupal. Lincoln: U Nebraska P, 1996. 1-20.

Leach, William. Land of Desire: Merchants, Power and the Rise of the New American Culture. New York: Pantheon, 1993.

Lyotard, Jean-François. "Answering the Question: What Is Postmodernism?" In Postmodernism: A Reader, ed. Thomas Docherty. New York: Columbia UP, 1993. 38-46.

Maguire, Gregory. Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. New York: HarperCollins, 1995.

Mannix, Daniel. "Off to See the Wizard—1903, Part One." Best of the Baum Bugle (1967-1969): 92-97.

——. "Ozma, Tik-Tok, and the Rheingold." Baum Bugle 22.1 (1978): 2-8.

——. "The Woggle-Bug on Stage." Baum Bugle 36.1 (1992): 8-14.

Martin, Dick. "The Wonderful World of Oz." Hobbies 64.3 (May 1959): 106-9.

Meigs, Cornelia, et al. A Critical History of Children's Literature. New York: Macmillan, 1953.

Meyer, Fred M. "Dramatic Influence on Oz." Best of the Baum Bugle (1961-1962): 35-38.

Moore, Raylyn. Wonderful Wizard, Marvelous Land. Pref. Ray Bradbury. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green U Popular P., 1974.

Morey, Anne. "'A Whole Book for a Nickel'?: L. Frank Baum as Filmmaker." Children's Literature Association Quarterly 20.4 (Winter 1995-1996): 155-60.

Mordden, Ethan. "The Last Vaudeville: Baum's Wizard on Broadway." Baum Bugle 28.3 (Winter 1984): 8-13.

Nodelman, Perry. "Introduction: On Words and Pictures, Neglected Noteworthies, and Touchstones in Training." Touchstones: Reflections on the Best in Children's Literature. Vol. 3: Picture Books. Ed. Nodelman. West Lafayette, IN: Children's Literature Association, 1989. 1-13.

Randall, Francis B. "Ethnic Stereotypes in Baum's Books for Children." Baum Bugle 28.1 (Spring 1984): 8-12.

Rahn, Suzanne. The Wizard of Oz: Shaping an Imaginary World. New York: Twayne, 1998.

Riley, Michael O. Oz and Beyond: The Fantasy World of L. Frank Baum. Lawrence, KS: UP of Kansas, 1997.

Rutter, Dick. "Oz Pastiches and Parodies." The International Wizard of Oz Club Webpage. 17 July 1995 <>.

Sackett, S. J. "The Utopia of Oz." Georgia Review 14 (Fall 1960): 275-91.

Snow, Jack. Jack Snow's The Magical Mimics in Oz. Chicago: Reilly & Lee, 1947.

Stephens, John. Language and Ideology in Children's Fiction. London: Longman, 1992.

Thompson, Ruth Plumly. Captain Salt in Oz. Chicago: Reilly & Lee, 1936.

——. Kabumpo in Oz. Chicago: Reilly & Lee, 1922.

——. Pirates in Oz. Chicago: Reilly & Lee, 1931.

Thurber, James. "The Wizard of Chittenango." New Republic 12 Dec. 1934: 141-42.

Twichell, James B. Carnival Culture: The Trashing of Taste in America. New York: Columbia UP, 1992.

Westbrook, M. David. "Readers of Oz: Young and Old, Old and New Historicist." Children's Literature Association Quarterly 21 (Fall 1996), 111-119.

Zipes, Jack. "Introduction." The Wonderful World of Oz. Ed. Zipes. New York: Penguin, 1998. ix-xxix.



Mark Evan Swartz (essay date 2000)

SOURCE: Swartz, Mark Evan. "Off to See the Wizard." In Oz before the Rainbow: L. Frank Baum's "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" on Stage and Screen, pp. 18-24. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.

[In the following essay, Swartz explores the various critical approaches taken by analysts when interpreting the meaning and symbolism in Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.]

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Michael Patrick Hearn (essay date January-February 2001)

SOURCE: Hearn, Michael Patrick. "'Toto, I've a Feeling We're Not in Kansas City Anymore . . . or Detroit or Washington, DC!'" Horn Book Magazine 77, no. 1 (January-February 2001): 16-34.

[In the following essay, Hearn outlines the critical diffıculties that Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz encountered from several vocal opponents—particularly librarians—who disliked Baum's new reformation of the traditional fairy tale.]

It may seem hard to believe, but in its seventy-five-year history The Horn Book Magazine never published a major article on The Wizard of Oz or L. Frank Baum. This omission was just part of the conspicuous silence toward the book and its author within the children's literature establishment during much of the twentieth century. Oz and Baum did receive some passing and generally unfavorable mention in one or two articles over the years, and recent editions of the story have been reviewed from time to time. Yet the Horn Book never explored the sometimes irrational controversy that has hounded the book through much of its existence. Like most prejudices, it is nearly impossible to track down exactly where and when the book got its bad reputation. However, it is appropriate now that the book has reached its centenary to ask, "Why was this so?"

Oddly, when The Wonderful Wizard of Oz first came out in 1900, the popular press almost universally acknowledged it as an important work of American juvenile literature. Baum and his illustrator W. W. Denslow had just published a nursery rhyme collection, Father Goose, His Book, which was the best-selling children's book of 1899, so they followed this success immediately with the even more ambitious "modernized" fairy tale, "in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heartaches and nightmares are left out." Baum's introduction was a manifesto for the new century, demanding the liberation of American children's books from the domination of European juvenile literature. Just as the Brothers Grimm a century before called for the overthrow of the French influence on German literature, Baum suggested replacing Grimm and Andersen's fairy tales with "a series of newer 'wonder tales' in which the stereotyped genie, dwarf and fairy are eliminated, together with all the horrible and blood-curdling incidents devised by their authors to point a fearsome moral to each tale." Baum believed in the inalienable right of American boys and girls to the pursuit of happiness in their reading. The era of sparing the rod and spoiling the child was giving way to one of celebrating youth. "Modern education includes morality," Baum argued; "therefore the modern child seeks only entertainment in its wonder-tales and gladly dispenses with all disagreeable incidents."

Baum longed to usurp the nineteenth-century genteel tradition of juvenile literature. He knew that what children desired in their books was not always what grown-ups offered. He saw no use for the "namby-pamby books" well-meaning adults foisted upon the young. "Kindly maiden ladies and reverend grandmothers write many 'sweet' stories for girls," he complained in "What Children Want" (Chicago Evening Post, Nov. 27, 1902):

and dignified, conservative publishers print them as "children's literature"; and scholarly reviewers commend them as most excellent for the childish mind. But, oh, if the girls could only tell what they think of these stories, what an astonished lot of writers and publishers and reviewers there would be! And in many cases the boy child is as grossly misunderstood as the girl.

Baum wrote the sort of books he would have liked to have read in his own boyhood. The voice of his stories spoke directly to the contemporary child in clear, clean, direct, vigorous, no-nonsense prose that gives conviction to all the strange events and characters of his story. It is remarkably free of any artifice. Gore Vidal has called it "the plain American style at its best." Oz compels because of Baum's mastery in presenting this secondary world to the young reader through gentle humor and carefully chosen detail. Baum was not self-consciously a stylist. Yet he had a command of the English language that allowed for considerable invention and playfulness in the storytelling. Puns, aphorisms, and whimsical asides fall effortlessly from the mouths of his characters. Some of his names (Oz, Munchkin) have entered the language. Dialogue rather than exposition defines Baum's characters, and he rarely stops the action of his story to emphasize a point that the reader might have missed along the Yellow Brick Road.

Baum did not waste words. "It is folly to place before the little ones a class of literature they cannot comprehend and which is sure to bore them and to destroy their pleasure in reading," he argued in "Modern Fairy Tales" (The Advance, Aug. 19, 1909). He therefore avoided long-winded descriptions, complex vocabulary, and obscure literary allusions that only frustrated the young reader.

Children do not relish descriptive passages, however beautiful they may be. They want their dialogue decisive and crisp. The action of the story must not lag—it should be a swift current whirling ever onward to the end. And the language employed should be simple and unadorned. As for a moral, children are quick to discover and absorb one, provided it is not tacked up like a warning on a signpost.

("What Children Want" )

And Baum generally stuck to these convictions in his children's stories.

Reviewers in the general press were immediately taken with Dorothy's adventures in Oz. "Not since the time of Alice in Wonderland has anything so delightful, so gay, so amusing and clever withal for children been produced as the handsomely illustrated account of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, " said the Boston Beacon on September 29, 1900. "I have known grown people, dignified fathers of families, and alert business men, to spend a whole joyous afternoon in the company of Dorothy, the Tin Woodman, the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion," reported the Toronto Mail and Empire on December 22. The Philadelphia Record predicted on September 22 that The Wizard of Oz "promises to have more than a transient place in children's literature."

The lavish book production enchanted the reviewers as much as the clever text did. Denslow's design and decoration of the book were equally radical, twenty-four color plates plus over one hundred two-color textual pictures that changed color according to the change in locale of the tale. "The story has humor," said the New York Times on September 8, "and here and there stray bits of philosophy that will be a moving power on the child mind and will furnish fields of study and investigation for the future students and professors of psychology." The book immediately became the juvenile best-seller of the year. The Minneapolis Journal, on November 18, declared The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to be simply "the best children's story-book of the century."

But the librarians' challenge to Baum and Denslow's supremacy in the juvenile field soon followed. In 1902, Anne Carroll Moore, then with Pratt Institute Free Library and soon to be the most powerful children's librarian in the country when she joined the New York Public Library in 1906, prepared A List of Books Recommended for a Children's Library for the Iowa Library Commission. Not only did The Wizard of Oz not make the list, but Moore had a few choice words to say about its creators' other works. "Most of the popular picture books of the time are unworthy of a place in the hands of children," she declared. "Such books as Denslow's Mother Goose [1901] and Baum's Father Goose, with a score of others of the comic poster order, should be banished from the sight of impressionable young children." These were the only books she attacked by name in the entire pamphlet. Taking their cue from Moore, many of her colleagues now thought twice about including anything by Baum or Denslow in their collections. Consequently, like Father Goose and Denslow's Mother Goose, The Wizard of Oz was banished from the sight of impressionable young children in many children's rooms around the country.

Baum himself was largely unaware of the brewing backlash to his work. Some librarians actually liked his books and sent the author fan mail, The Wizard of Oz was on an occasional recommended reading list, and Baum readily accepted invitations to speak at libraries and before women's groups. He often talked about the need for modern fairy tales like his own to replace traditional ones that terrified children, but he was not always warmly received by the ladies. Mary Austin, folklorist and author of Land of Little Rain (1903), was a "ringer" at one of these meetings with a mind "to jump upon Mr. Baum's arguments, hoping to provoke a retort." She believed that "the fault of the American people is their desire to escape realities; to shrink from pain, and to believe that everything is beautiful and serene." Baum's remarks also vexed Sarah Beckby, head of the juvenile department of the Los Angeles Public Library. "Newfangled fairy tales are simply grotesque," she replied. "I believe old-fashioned fairy tales teach children to be unselfish and loving, as against the tendency of modern books to teach them to be selfish and unsympathetic."

The children, however, could not have enough Oz and demanded more. Baum wrote many other books, but The Wizard of Oz and the 1902 musical based on the children's book were so popular that Baum produced thirteen more Oz stories, illustrated by Philadelphia newspaper artist John R. Neill. Although The Wizard of Oz remained Baum's most famous book, each of the others in the series was a work of distinguished fantasy in its own right and far superior to any other original fairy tales being published in America at the time. They were all among the best-selling children's books of their day, and there was no apparent loss of invention in the later titles as the author's health deteriorated. When L. Frank Baum died on May 6, 1919, he was eulogized in the nation's press. "That endless procession of 'Oz' books, coming just before Christmas, is to cease," predicted an editorial in the New York Times on May 11. "Years from now, though the children cannot clamor for the newest Oz book, the crowding generations will plead for the old ones."

Indeed, the Oz series was too successful to die with their creator, so the publishers contracted Ruth Plumly Thompson and others to continue the books. The fortieth and last volume of the Oz "canon," Merry Go Round in Oz (1963), was written by Newbery Honor Book winner Eloise Jarvis McGraw and her daughter Lauren McGraw. The sheer bulk of the Oz series was enough to make any children's librarian balk at even the original Baum titles. After World War I, when new children's rooms were appearing all over the country like spring flowers, the self-appointed custodians of the public taste in juvenile literature resisted stocking voluminous series. "The lack of shelf space and conservation of funds as well as artistic and literary values are points to consider in book selection," one of the librarians of New York's Central Children's Room lectured a baffled parent, to explain why Annie Fellows Johnston's Little Colonel books were missing from its open shelves. They were also "of very unequal value," and "the demand has not warranted their purchase."

Many a parent across the country during this era must have felt the same exasperation experienced by a mother in Kansas City who, in the summer of 1929, went to the local library and asked to see the Oz books, only to be curtly informed, "We don't keep the Oz books any more. They are considered too fantastic for children." "But children are more fantastic than the Oz books are," the mother replied. "Was our view of life distorted permanently?" asked an editorial in the Kansas City Star on August 26. "The damage is done, and it's too late now to do anything about it." The writer was ready to go get another copy of The Wizard of Oz at the library or a bookstore and tell off the attendant: "This isn't for the children. This is for myself. I'm twenty-one years old and can read what I please."

The public was outraged by the ban of Baum. "Why, the Oz books are classics!" replied an indignant reader of the Star, one who had grown up on the series. "They ought to be a part of every child's early education, and used to be." "A Defender of Oz" wrote, "I can't see why such lovable characters as kind-hearted little Dorothy, lovely Ozma, the Shaggy Man and all the other delightful characters should be a bad influence on children. Why, in Oz no one was allowed to do an unkind or wicked thing and no one ever died. All too soon children grow up and lose forever the way to this wonderful magical city. Let them stay as long as possible!"

"Fantastic?" asked another correspondent. "Perhaps, but no child foregoes such books without having been spiritually starved then and through all years of life."

The children's specialists saw it otherwise. "There is always that contrast between the 'best' as intelligent adults see it, and the best seller," noted Louise Seaman Bechtel in Books in Search of Children (1955). She, like many within the powerful juvenile literary sisterhood, was suspicious of "a great tendency today to let what is most popular prevail, to let choice of books to buy depend on what children say they like best, or vote for as their favorites." No one at the time bothered to explore exactly why these books were popular. They threw them out along with the Elsie, Dotty Dimple, Little Colonel, Pollyanna, Uncle Wiggily, Tarzan, Bobbsey Twins, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and Tom Swift books just because they were popular. It was as if all of these stories were exactly the same sort of literature, instead of each being "bad" in its own unique way.

The curse on Oz spread beyond the libraries. Russell Baker recounted in Growing Up (1982) how his Uncle Charlie caught him one day engrossed in reading The Land of Oz. "For God's sake, Russell," he said, "you've got a good mind and you're destroying it reading that trash. Here . . . read something worthwhile." He thrust The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin on him, but it was so boring that the boy tossed it aside when his uncle departed.

Not only was there a vast difference between what children read and adults wanted them to read, there was an apparent double standard followed in book selection in American children's libraries. There were series, and then there were good series. The Peter Rabbit, Doctor Dolittle, Little House, Mary Poppins, Betsy-Tacy, Freddy the Pig, Black Stallion, Danny Dunn, Mushroom Planet, and Color Fairy Books were almost universally approved and circulated by librarians. No one would call Lucy Fitch Perkins's interminable Twins books distinguished literature, and yet these volumes were available ad nauseum in children's rooms all over the country. Literary quality had little to do with actual selection. For decades practically the only juvenile biographies on the open shelves were those awful Bobbs-Merrill orange "silhouette" Childhood of Famous Americans books which were as much fairy tales as the Oz stories.

Oz did have its defenders, such as twenty-nine-year-old English professor Edward Wagenknecht, who published the very first critical study of Baum and the Oz books, Utopia Americana (1929) for the University of Washington Book Shop. Here he dared argue that "it is in The Wizard of Oz that we might meet the first distinctive attempt to construct a fairyland out of American materials." He loved these stories when a child and even received a letter from Baum while still in his teens. "I am very glad my books have given you pleasure, both in your childhood days and also now you are older," the author wrote him. "I have quite a few readers of mature years, who being children at heart still enjoy my tales." But Wagenknecht's academic training prevented him from entirely praising Baum and Oz. "Now I do not wish to be understood as feeling that I have written a marvelous essay on one of the great masterpieces of world literature," he hesitated. "In distinction of style they are utterly lacking and often in imaginative distinction as well." These remarks would haunt all future discussion of Baum and Oz, providing further fuel for their severest critics.

Ruth Plumly Thompson, the second Royal Historian of Oz, learned firsthand of the contempt that librarians felt toward the Oz books at a celebration where she was guest of honor. When General Foods sponsored a radio program based on the series, the company threw a lavish fortieth birthday party for The Wizard of Oz at the Duane Hotel in New York City, on September 21, 1933. Of course, the book was not that old yet, but this gathering of the biggest names in the children's book field seemed like great publicity for the new show (and for Jell-O). Unfortunately, the advertising agency Young & Rubicam imprudently invited local librarians, booksellers, and reviewers without checking first their opinion of Oz. "The latter were fine," Thompson recalled in a letter, "but the others tried in every way (subtle and blunt) to impress upon me their low opinion of Baum, R. P. T., and Oz. As the drinks progressed, they grew ruder and ruder."

Anne Carroll Moore, who was not one to miss a party, was telling Thompson her low opinion of her other books when she invited the writer to lunch the next day to discuss it further. But Thompson demanded to know at once why the Oz books were not in the New York Public Library. "For reasons I will explain when we go to lunch," Moore said. "Explain them now!" Thompson insisted. "At this," Thompson proudly recounted years later, "she backed off and melted into the crowd. Needless to say, that was one lunch I missed with great pleasure."

On addressing the Upper Midwest Regional Library Conference in Pierre, South Dakota, on October 4, 1947, Carol Ryrie Brink, Newbery Medal-winning author of Caddie Woodlawn, summarized a litany of common complaints about the book: "The Wizard of Oz was too popular with children. Presentable copies could never be kept on the shelves because they were worn out by eager hands. The Wizard of Oz won itself a bad reputation because it became a musical comedy and a movie, and because it was followed by hack writers who took over the original author's idea and extended it to impossible lengths." Brink, however, thought The Wizard of Oz "one of the few great American books for children." But she was unlikely to persuade anyone there, for few in the audience would agree with her reasons for why it was an important work. "It tells a good story in a simple, direct style," she said. "It has humor, fantasy and best of all truth and integrity in the interpretation of human nature."

Some readers suspected that the country's librarians were engaged in a vast political conspiracy against Oz. The books did not begin disappearing regularly from the nation's library shelves until the Red Scare in the aftermath of the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. In 1938, when writer Stewart Robb went over to the New York Public Library to borrow an Oz book and found only one circulating copy of The Wizard of Oz in the city's system, a library assistant informed him, "They've been banned." (No one noticed the irony that with permission anyone could study Denslow's original drawings for The Wizard of Oz in the Prints and Drawings Room of the New York Public Library, but could not check out the book in Central Children's Room on another floor of the same building.)

Curious to learn what could possibly be so offensive about Oz, Robb reported his findings in "The Red Wizard of Oz" (New Masses, Oct. 4, 1938). "Good heavens!" he wrote. "The land of Oz is a fairyland run on Communistic lines, and is perhaps the only Communistic fairyland in all children's literature." He was referring in particular to the political structure of Oz as described in The Emerald City of Oz (1910), in which the people worked half the time and played half the time and all their needs were provided for them by the supreme ruler of the country. But Robb neglected to mention Baum's wry, sensible aside, "I do not suppose such an arrangement would be practical with us, but Dorothy assures me that it works finely with the Oz people."

Of course, Robb was writing ironically, but others obviously took his observations literally. Meyer Levin reported in his review of the MGM movie in the leftistHollywood Tribune (Aug. 21, 1939) that Oz "is a land full of sly progressive ideas such as how all should share alike in work and produce of work." It could not have helped Baum's reputation when the Daily Worker (Aug. 18, 1939) recommended the Judy Garland picture as "an outstanding film." Although the reviewer regretted that "MGM neglected this opportunity to satirize dictators," it was still "one of the most expensive (and also the most beautiful) examples of film fantasy ever to grace the American screen." It probably did little for the cause of Oz to have the New Statesman (Feb. 3, 1940) report on the release of the MGM picture in England, "The book of The Wizard of Oz is as common in American homes as is Mein Kampf in German." Ironically, when The Wizard of Oz first appeared in Russia, also in 1939, its translator Aleksandr Volkov rewrote it to cleanse the story of "the bourgeois morality typical of Anglo-Saxon literature."

All of this seemed forgotten when World War II broke out. The Wizard of Oz inspired political cartoonists to caricature the Allies as Dorothy and her friends and Hitler as the Wicked Witch. Winston Churchill fondly recorded in his war memoir how Australian troops marched into battle singing "We're off to see the Wizard, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz . . ." Almost as if to correct Stewart Robb's New Masses article, Colliers' published an editorial about "45 Years of The Wizard" on February 9, 1946. It said the theme of the book was "Don't believe in the big, bad wolf . . . don't be overawed by people who talk big . . . dig out the facts for yourself . . . don't depend on hearsay and propaganda." And it was this lesson that "kept us from being intimidated by Messrs. Hitler and Tojo when they were riding their highest and widest, and inspired us in due time to step up and contribute heavily to the slapping of them down. Let's just hang on to that realistic, inquiring, skeptical and fearless attitude of mind. It's a priceless national asset."

But during the Cold War, not everyone recognized the book's "realistic, inquiring, skeptical and fearless attitude of mind." On April 3, 1957, Ralph Ulveling, director of the Detroit Public Libraries, clumsily denounced the book at a state library conference. He was on a crusade against "the common practice of many librarians . . . of pandering to frivolous 'escape' reading." While not objecting to "a reasonable modicum of wholesome books for recreational reading," he believed that book purchasing required "a constant awareness of the true educational objectives and function of a public library." Although Ulveling did not mention The Wizard of Oz in his formal talk, the next day a reporter from the Lansing State Journal asked his opinion of the book. The Oz series had no place in the Detroit Public Library, he said, because they gave child readers the wrong idea of life. Their "negativism" did not raise the young mind to a higher good but instead pulled it down to a "cowardly" level. "There is nothing uplifting or elevating about the Baum series," he insisted. "They do not compare in quality to fairy stories by Grimm or Andersen or to the thousands of other modern children's books we stock. The 'Wizard of Oz' stories, written a half century ago, have no value."

Ulveling's colleagues were quick to reinforce his opinions. The Lansing State Journal quoted juvenile librarian Mary Bobinsky as telling children's library students that the Oz books "have an entertaining appeal but do not broaden a child's horizon or help youth to establish a genuine set of values for life." She said, "The Wizard of Oz is not realistic, it's not true to life." "There is nothing really wrong with the Oz story," explained Mildred Batchelder, executive secretary of the National Association of Children's Librarians, "but the writing is bad; the book is poorly handled. . . . A modern publisher could have edited the original Baum manuscript into a much superior story."

The Detroit Times's response to Ulveling and his coconspirators was to serialize The Wizard of Oz with a statement at the head of each installment that this was the book banned by the Detroit Public Library. The Wall Street Journal wanted to know on May 1 "where are all the shouters against conformity and censorship? Who will stand up for the dream world of childhood Baum built and the American fairy tale he created?" As for The Wizard of Oz encouraging cowardice in children, the editorial replied that "a couple of generations of young Americans were raised on the Wizard and if the Cowardly Lion affected them very much it certainly wasn't apparent in two wars and a police action. The Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman are, the critics say, heartless creations (their hearts really are pretty big) but the America that learned to spell by words Baum wrote is the most charitable country (at home and abroad) that ever existed." Coincidentally, just the year before, the New York Times asked teenagers in the Greater New York area, "Which books did you like best when you were young?" They put the Oz books at the head of the class.

Anthony Boucher, editor of Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (August 1957), proposed adding a new verb to the dictionary: "ULVEL, v. t., to homogenize; to render tasteless; to reduce to an indistinguishable and insipid mass. v. i., to apply such a process, particularly to literature." Boucher's advise to librarians like Ulveling was "leave up-lift to the bra-designers." In United States (1993), Gore Vidal likewise spoke contemptuously of the well-meaning mentality of public servants who banned books. "Apparently, the librarians who dominate the 'juvenile market' tend to the brisk tweedy ladies whose interests are mechanical rather than imaginative," he wrote in "E. Nesbit's Magic." "Never so happy as when changing a fan belt, they quite naturally want to communicate their joy in practical matters to the young. The result has been a depressing literature of how-to-do things while works of invention are sternly rejected as not 'practical' or 'useful.'"

To make sure his memory was not playing tricks on him, Boucher reread The Wizard of Oz and testified that it "seems every whit as wonderful to me today as it did 40 years ago. Here is genuine fantasy, creative, funny, tender, exciting, surprising, delightful; and beside it the bulk of today's 'authorized' juveniles in our field, which bear the imprimatur of the American Library Association, seems more sterile than ever." As for being "negative" and "of no value," Boucher argued that "there certainly are moral and socially useful lessons (plus even a little social satire) in the Oz books; I need only refer to the warm, meaningful display of the Scarecrow's intelligence, the Tin Woodman's sympathy and the Cowardly Lion's bravery. . . . What the library director means by 'negativism' and 'a cowardly level' I have no idea."

Ulveling's remarks happened to coincide with the publication by the Michigan State University Press of The Wizard of Oz and Who He Was, a critical edition with commentary by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Russel B. Nye and Scientific American mathematical games columnist Martin Gardner. Professor Nye answered Ulveling that "if the message of the Oz books—that love, kindness, and unselfishness make the world a better place—seems of no value today, it is perhaps time to reassess a good many other things besides the Detroit Public Library's approved list of children's books." Glendy Culligan, Book Editor of the Washington Post, declared on May 12 that The Wizard of Oz and Who He Was was "a manifesto for a cause we have been espousing during five fruitless years of skirmishes with children's librarians around Washington." The author's son Frank J. Baum challenged Ulveling in a letter to explain exactly what he meant by calling his father's work "cowardly" and "generally degrading." He happily added that keeping Oz out of the libraries "means a greater sale of the books at the bookstores."

Not every librarian rallied around Ulveling. "I can no longer bear in silence the profession-wide disdain for the Oz books," Bernard M. Golumb, adult services librarian of the Hayward (California) Public Library, protested in Library Journal (Oct. 15, 1957). He confessed that he read little more than these stories between seven and ten and was the best reader in his class. "My vocabulary was better than most of my classmates, my grades as good," he said. "During the time that my playmates found other things to do, including car-stealing, the pleasure that I had gotten from the Oz books persistently drew me back to the library." In Library Occurrent (Dec. 1964) Richard Paul Smyers suggested to his colleagues, "Think back and recall the last time a young patron asked for more Oz books. How often does The Wizard go out while the new, modern praised-in-review book sits on the shelf? . . . Sit down and read an Oz book, just for fun; it won't hurt a bit and there's an even chance you will like it." As for children not being interested in Oz any more, a Milwaukee librarian reported that young readers had worn out 235 copies of The Wizard of Oz in eight years and were rapidly going through the remaining fifty, so another twenty-five were on order.

Ulveling, annoyed by the furor his off-the-cuff remarks had caused, accused the University of Michigan of creating a publicity stunt. He informed ALA Bulletin (Oct. 1957) that The Wizard of Oz had always been in the Detroit Public Library since it was published, even if it was in the closed stacks rather than in the circulating collection. "More than thirty years ago," he explained, "the decision was made that with so many far better books available for children than was the case when the Wizard was first published, the library would simply let the old copies wear out and not replace them. . . . This is not banning; it is selection." Scrawled across the Detroit Public Library card catalogue report on The Wizard of Oz was the opinion that "the reader's mind is not fired by this type of imagination," so there was "no need to reinstate this book." Martin Gardner suggested that when Ulveling, like Humpty Dumpty, used a word, it meant just what he chose it to be. "There are all sorts of ways of burning books," Ray Bradbury observed in the Los Angeles Times Book Review (Oct. 9, 1977). "One is by pretending they don't exist."

The controversy just would not go away. In February 1959, State Librarian of Florida Dorothy Dodd issued an order to the system that all books mentioned on the enclosed list were "not to be purchased, not to be accepted as gifts, not to be processed, and not to be circulated. Any title now on library shelves should be withdrawn from circulation." Dodd's mandate went even farther than Ulveling's "selection." She was on a mission to rid the state of "series type" books that were universally and unequivocally "poorly written, untrue to life, sensational, foolishly sentimental, and consequently unwholesome for the children in your community." The name at the top of her list was L. Frank Baum. Ulveling too circulated a memo throughout the Detroit Public Library system concurrent with Dorothy Dodd's in Florida, explaining why The Wizard of Oz "does not meet present day standards of book selection for children." It was "old-fashioned and out-dated," there was no true climax or character development, it relied "on fantastic rather than fanciful happenings" with "too much exaggeration in carrying out each detail."

The Soviet-American space race had begun, and publishers were listening to these modern Gradgrinds. "Ten minutes in the children's department of any bookstore will demonstrate clearly that our children are being cheated," reported Shirley Jackson in "The Lost Kingdom of Oz" in The Reporter (Dec. 10, 1959). "Magic has no place in children's books any more; facts are what children are supposed to be reading. The old favorites are being slowly frozen out, suppressed—and in some cases deliberately—by grave people who believe that reading and learning are inseparable, and provide good sensible books about the inspiring figure of John Quincy Adams or how Violet, Girl Horticulturist, found love and a career in a greenhouse." She feared that the country was producing children who "are fully capable of doing the week's marketing or putting together a steam engine by the time they are twelve, but they have never heard of the four countries of Oz." Baum's subversive fairyland threatened the very foundations of Cold War America. "Any sort of literature that encourages a child to contemplate alternative worlds," observed Gore Vidal, "might incite him, in later life, to make changes in the iron Puritan order that has brought us, along with missiles and atomic submarines, the assembly line at Detroit where workers are systematically dehumanized."

The official defenders of public taste had not budged an inch on Oz. Cornelia Meigs and her co-authors made no mention of The Wizard of Oz in the original edition of their admirable A Critical History of Children's Literature (1953); but, by the time of its revision in 1969, attention had to be paid to the enormous popularity of the MGM picture on television. "Had L. Frank Baum possessed stylistic genius along with his lively imagination," Ruth Hill Viguers added to the new edition, "he might have succeeded in being the first American to write great fantasy for children. But, inventive though it was, The Wizard of Oz (1900), was told in such lifeless prose that rereading it in adulthood is a disappointment. Because there is no grace in the style, no subtlety in the storytelling to give conviction to the fantastic people and incidents, it lost nothing in translation to the screen. It is probably one of the few children's books to be successfully filmed."

Viguers's analysis persists with certain critics as the official and final word on Baum and Oz. May Hill Arbuthnot had nothing to say about the issue in her mammoth Children and Books (1947); but as recently as the ninth edition (in 1997), her successor Zena Sutherland of the University of Chicago maintained that Baum and his Oz stories were still a "perennial bone of contention" (among teachers and librarians at least) because, despite their popularity with young readers, "many authorities in the field of children's literature feel that the style is flat and dull, and that the inventiveness of the first book was followed by mediocrity and repetition in subsequent volumes." Humphrey Carpenter and Mari Prichard repeated Viguers's sentiments in The Oxford Companion to Children's Literature (1984) as did Boston-area librarian Sarah L. Rueter in Anita Silvey's Children's Books and Their Creators (1995) and an unidentified critic in Peter Hunt's Children's Literature: An Illustrated History (1995). "Of all American classics this [The Wizard of Oz ] is the most difficult . . . to appraise," confessed British critic Gillian Avery in Behold the Child (1994), saying it was written "with a blandness that the European reader finds cloying." Ignorant of the book's rich history, she concluded, "Baum's success seems to have been due to lucky timing and a perceptive publisher." Perhaps the great misfortune of The Wizard of Oz is that it has now become so familiar, like the Mona Lisa, that its originality can no longer be immediately recognized. It has so long been taken for granted that The Wizard of Oz is poorly written that no one bothers to read it for herself. Perhaps no adult can approach the story with the same freshness that a child does on the very first encounter.

A few critics within the juvenile literature establishment challenged the conventional wisdom. Elizabeth Fuller in the British children's book review Growing Point (March 1966) called the Oz books "one of childhood's greatest pleasures." British novelist and critic John Rowe Townsend too came to Baum's defense. "I do not hesitate to say that L. Frank Baum . . . has been shockingly underrated by American authorities on children's literature," he wrote in Written for Children (revised edition, 1974). "I cannot help wondering whether some unconscious snobbery was involved. . . . Yet to an outsider it seems that the unabashed Americanness of the Oz books makes them all the more original and attractive."

A curious thing happened in the late 1960s: children who had loved the movie on television grew up to be librarians and saw no need to keep the book off their shelves. Ann E. Prentice, library science doctoral candidate at Columbia, suggested in "Have You Been to See the Wizard?" in Top of the News (Nov. 1970) that her colleagues reconsider the series in light of its perpetual popularity with young readers. She had been unable to locate any copies of the Oz books in a quick survey of New York State library card catalogues she conducted in May 1969. Times were changing for the better, but the old guard did not give up without a fight. Washington, DC, public libraries finally put The Wizard of Oz in restricted circulation in 1966, but the city's school library director Olive C. De Bruler was still not ready to add The Wizard of Oz to her lists. "I know children like it," she groaned, "but there is so much fantasy of better quality."

Remarkably, academia too now embraces The Wizard of Oz. It is taught as an important contribution to American literature in colleges where it was once shunned, and it is remarkable how such a deceptively simple children's story can be interpreted and reinterpreted according to the latest fashions in critical theory. Every year, journals publish learned articles on Baum and Oz. In 1976, the Children's Literature Association took a poll of its members to determine the best American children's books of the last two hundred years. The Wizard of Oz was among the top ten titles. But the old prejudices survive even within this organization. Oddly, when it formed a committee to develop a "canon," The Wizard of Oz failed to make the cut. According to Canadian academic Perry Nodelman in Touchstones (1985), Baum, like Beverly Cleary, was one of those "innovative and popular but stylistically undistinguished writers."

Still, Oz lives. Communities around the country hold annual Oz festivals to honor Baum and his beloved work. Much of this attention has of course been generated by the famous 1939 MGM movie, said to have been seen by more people than any other Hollywood picture. There have already been several full-length scholarly studies of Oz, and Baum's life and work were the subject of a 1990 NBC Movie of the Week, "The Dreamer of Oz." The book has been translated into nearly every language in the world, and reillustrated by many important children's book artists. No one has calculated exactly how many millions of copies of The Wizard of Oz have sold world-wide since 1900. It is part of the heart and soul of America.

What a difference one hundred years makes! In honor of its own centennial in 1995, the New York Public Library included The Wizard of Oz in a display of books which its staff said "played defining roles in the past 100 years." This past summer even the Central Children's Room celebrated the hundredth birthday of The Wizard of Oz with a delightful display of rare books and memorabilia. The Library of Congress, the greatest institution of its kind in the world, thought enough of Baum and Oz to mount its own elaborate centennial exhibition, which also marked the institution's two hundredth anniversary.

Of course, The Wizard of Oz is not entirely free of controversy even today. Fundamentalists have recently waged a campaign to ban it from schools and libraries, because they consider good witches blasphemous and object to Baum's suggestion that intelligence, love, and courage might be individually developed rather than God-given. And some of the old children's literature guardians still persist in calling the Oz books "trash." But The Wizard of Oz not only endures, it flourishes like no other American children's book has.

Nancy Livingston and Catherine Kurkjian (review date September 2003)

SOURCE: Livingston, Nancy, and Catherine Kurkjian. Review of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum, illustrated by W. W. Denslow. Reading Teacher 57, no. 1 (September 2003): 98-9.

Perhaps America's first fairy tale, this delightful story of adventure and mishaps changed children's literature from didacticism into fantasy. Frank Baum's goal [in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz ] was to please children, and the characters are both endearing and enduring. Though this narrative tale faced controversy, Frank Baum lived long enough to see it pass, and as it did the book's popularity increased. The Scarecrow who wants a brain solves every dilemma, but the Tin Woodsman knows brains do not make one happy. He seeks a heart, then frets about hurting the smallest insect. The Cowardly Lion yearns for courage as he bravely protects his friends. As with the human experience, they discover they must look within themselves to find happiness, which the Tin Woodsman defined as the best thing in the world. The Wizard of Oz has made generations of children—and adults—happy indeed.


Eva Mitnick (review date October 2003)

SOURCE: Mitnick, Eva. Review of The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, by L. Frank Baum, illustrated by Michael Hague. School Library Journal 49, no. 10 (October 2003): 60.

Gr. 3-5—Originally published in 1902, this fantasy [The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus ] imagines that Santa Claus was once a human foundling adopted by woodland fairies, who grows up surrounded by elves, Knocks, Ryls, and other "immortals" of the natural world. Claus decides that his mission in life should be to bring joy to mortal children by making and distributing toys. His good works spread worldwide, and the mantle of immortality is bestowed upon him. This is a long and old-fashioned tale full of improvised fairy lore, a battle against the evil Awgwas, and unique explanations of such Christmas customs as hanging stockings. Claus is an appealing character, although he never quite comes fully alive. The illustrations, both full-color watercolor paintings and monotone ink drawings, add lots of Rackham-like charm to this handsomely designed book. An attractive addition but not necessary for most collections.


Martin Gardner (essay date 1973)

SOURCE: Gardner, Martin. "John Dough and the Cherub." Children's Literature 2 (1973): 110-18.

[In the following essay, Gardner appraises the publication history of Baum's lesser-known children's work John Dough and the Cherub, commenting that the story is not "among Baum's best fantasies, but that doesn't mean it is not worth reading."]

After Lyman Frank Baum's fantastic success in 1900 with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and his equally astonishing success two years later with the stage musical based on the book, Baum was at the height of his fame and creative energy. His second Oz book, The Marvelous Land of Oz, in many ways even better than its predecessor, was published in 1904 by Reilly and Britton, a small Chicago house that would publish all of Baum's Oz books and almost all of his juveniles not about Oz. Queen Zixi of Ix, which some critics consider the best of non-Oz fantasies, was serialized in St. Nicholas and published as a book in 1905.

Edward William Bok (later famous for his autobiography, The Americanization of Edward Bok) was then editor-in-chief of The Ladies' Home Journal. We know from a 1912 letter of Baum to his publisher, Frank Reilly, that sometime before 1906 Bok met with Baum and offered him $2,500 for serial rights to a new fantasy.1 Baum responded with an early draft of John Dough in which Chick the Cherub did not appear. Bok returned the manuscript, asking Baum to add a human child to the tale.

"I had either a grouch or the big-head," Baum said in his letter to Reilly, "and refused to alter the text." But after some second thoughts he decided that Bok was right. He rewrote the story, introducing a child with whom young readers could identify, and gave the manuscript to Reilly. The book's working title was John Dough, the Baker's Man. John Rea Neill, who had illustrated the second Oz book (and would illustrate all subsequent Oz books by Baum and his successor, Ruth Plumly Thompson, as well as three Oz books of his own), did the pictures for John Dough.

In a copy of the first edition of John Dough and the Cherub, published by Reilly and Britton in 1906,2 Baum wrote the following inscription to his son, Robert: "Too bad this wasn't an Oz book, but I like the story just as well. This was the first creation of a gingerbread man and John Dough was original with this story."

Why did Baum underline "first creation"? Dick Martin, in his article cited in the footnote, gives the reason. The words imply that he invented John Dough before the production in New York in 1906, the very year Baum's book was published, of a musical comedy called The Gingerbread Man. The play and lyrics were by Frederick Ranken, the music by A. Baldwin Sloane. "It, too," writes Martin, "involved a gingerbread man magically brought to life, and (to twist the arm of coincidence a little further) he was also named John Dough. Here the parallel ends—the plot and characters of the Ranken-Sloane musical are quite different from those of Baum's book. On the other hand, the 1902 musical comedy of The Wizard of Oz bore little resemblence to Baum's original book—so perhaps there is a connection—and a mystery yet to be solved."

John Dough and the Cherub is not, in my opinion, among Baum's best fantasies, but that doesn't mean it is not worth reading. It is typical Baum, funny and exciting, packed with Ozzy characters and episodes, and with outrageous surprises on almost every page. The book has its spots of humdrum writing, and some of its ideas are hackneyed, but it is hard to imagine a young reader, even today, who would be bored by the tale.

For readers unfamiliar with John Dough, a capsule summary of the plot may be helpful. A baker, making a large gingerbread man to celebrate the Fourth of July, accidentally mixes an Arabian Elixir of Life into the dough. John Dough comes alive, walks out of the bakery, and is carried by a skyrocket to the Isle of Phreex. Chick the Cherub, one of the island's "freaks," helps him escape (from a pursuing Arab who wants to eat him to acquire the elixir's power) in an airship with flapping wings.

After some adventures in the Palace of Romance (where Chick, like Scheherazade, forestalls their execution by telling an endless tale), they arrive on an island inhabited by the evil Mifkets. Para Bruin, a rubber bear, joins them. They are rescued from the Mifkets by the King of the Beavers. After a brief stop on Pirate Island, they come to the twin countries of Hiland and Loland where John Dough fulfills an old prophecy about the coming of a ruler who is not flesh and blood. John is crowned King Dough the First, the bear becomes a sort of court jester, and Chick "rules the ruler" as Head Booleywag.

There are many reasons for supposing that Baum hoped to make a musical out of the story. He had tried without success to put his second Oz book on the stage (as The Woggle-Bug, which had a short woggle in 1905) and in 1913 he would try again with the musical, The Tik-Tok Man of Oz. Michael Hearn, author of The Annotated Wizard of Oz, believes that many of John Dough 's defects can be attributed to Baum's intent to dramatize it. The episode on Pirate Island, for instance, does nothing for the plot, but pirates had been a big success in Maud Adams' Peter Pan and would have added considerable color to a stage version. Of course any hope for dramatizing John Dough was dashed by the Ranken-Sloane production.

Ironically, it is Chick, added to the story as an afterthought, who dominates the narrative. Is Chick a boy or a girl? Baum does not tell us. All masculine and feminine pronouns are avoided (often awkwardly, as when Chick is referred to as "it"), and at the book's close, when Chick grows up as the Head Booleywag (Prime Minister) of Hiland and Loland, we still do not know if the Booleywag is a man or woman.

Baum and his publisher exploited the mystery for all the publicity they could get. A mustard-colored contest blank, tipped in the book's early printings, offered cash prizes for the best statement of why readers thought Chick a boy or a girl. It is amusing to learn that the contest left the question unresolved. Although no documentation has yet been found, Baum's son, Frank, who collaborated with Russell P. MacFall on a biography of his father (To Please a Child), told MacFall that the first prize of $100 was divided between two contestants. One asserted that Chick was a boy, the other that Chick was a girl.3

Several press clippings about the contest are preserved in Baum's scrapbooks. One newspaper story (see The Baum Bugle, Spring, 1967) compares the mystery to Frank Stockton's famous "Lady or the Tiger?" story, then continues with what surely is a fabricated conversation. Asked by his publisher if Chick is a boy or girl, Baum reacts with amazement. "Doesn't it tell in the story?" Informed that it does not, Baum replies: "I cannot remember that Chick the Cherub impressed me as other than a joyous, sweet, venturesome and loveable child. Who cares whether it is a boy or a girl?"

Unsatisfied, the publisher questions his office staff only to get contradictory opinions. A second appeal is made to Baum. All he will say is, "Leave it to the children."

Another clipping, reproduced in the same issue of The Baum Bugle, shows three pictures of Chick, drawn by Neill to promote the story's serialization in 1906 newspapers. In the center picture, Chick wears the sexless pajamas and sandles that Chick wears in the book. On one side we see how the child would look if dressed like a boy, on the other, if dressed like a girl.

John Dough provides little information about Chick's background aside from the fact that Chick is the world's first incubator baby. This explains Chick's residence on the Isle of Phreex (Freaks) and probably why Baum chooses the name "Chick." (As Baum well knew—his first book was on chicken rearing— incubators were used for hatching chicken eggs long before they were used for prematurely born human babies.) Like most of Baum's child protagonists, nothing is said about Chick's father or mother. Indeed, the implication is that the Cherub has no parents. We do know that Chick is at least eight, blonde, blue-eyed, and curly-headed. The child is always happy, always frank, clever, "wise for one so young," creative, brave, unprejudiced, and friendly. Chick likes to use the latest slang. Anyone the child particularly admires is "all right." One of the Cherub's talents is producing an ear-splitting whistle.

Above all, Chick is an adventurer of the open road. The child doesn't care where it is (page 286). Chick is equally unconcerned with what happens: "I'm not afraid. Anything suits me" (page 275). "What's the use of staying outside, when the door's open?" (page 298). "It doesn't matter where we go, so long as we keep going" (page 273). Compare that last remark with this dialogue from Jack Kerouac's On the Road: "Where we going, man?" "I don't know but we gotta go."

In sum, Chick is a sandle-footed highway freak—a flower child of the counter-culture, self-sufficient, androgynous, parentless, and happily "into" oatmeal and cream instead of drugs.

Chick's companion, John Dough (an obvious pun on John Doe), is the book's principal "non-meat" personage. He is a life-size gingerbread French gentleman, with top hat and candy cane, made by Jules Grogrande (gros and grande?), a Parisian baker who has settled in an unidentified American city. The powerful Arabian elixir which brings John to life makes him wise and strong, and capable of speaking all languages, modern and classic. (Since John Doe is everyman, Hearn has observed, it is natural that he speak all languages.) He suffers occasionally from soggy feet, chipping, and loose glass eyes. Like the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman, he neither eats nor sleeps, though he is capable of drinking. He is deemed "all right" by Chick because, in spite of his dread of being eaten, he restores Princess Jacquelin to health by allowing her to nibble the stump of his left hand. (Note how cleverly Neill conceals John's mutilated hand in most of the pictures, after John's fingers have been eaten by Ooboo, and before the hand is finally restored.)

Para Bruin, the third member of the book's unlikely trio of adventurers, is one of Baum's most lovable creations. He is made of indestructible para rubber, hollow like a rubber ball, kind and harmless (how could his rubber teeth harm anyone?), and a ham vaudevillian who loves to roll up like a ball and bounce from high places to amuse the crowd. It is to his credit that he doesn't love everybody. I can still remember the satisfaction I felt as a child when Para Bruin bounced down from the sky to demolish Sport, surely one of the most unpleasant characters in all of Baum's fantasies.

Chick, John Dough, and Para Bruin attend Ozma's birthday party at the close of The Road to Oz. His "Gracious and Most Edible Majesty" brings Ozma a gingerbread crown as a gift. When Dorothy asks Button-Bright if Chick is a boy or girl, Button-Bright responds with his usual, "Don't Know." Para Bruin is amazed by all the strange people he sees in Oz. Button-Bright asks if John Dough is good to eat. "Too good to eat," says Chick, and the Scarecrow assures John that visitors to Oz are never eaten. Chick informs Billina, a yellow hen, that it (Chick) never had any parents.

"My chicks have a parent," the hen replies, "and I'm it."

"I'm glad of that," says Chick, "because they'll have more fun worrying you than if they were brought up by an incubator. The incubator never worries, you know."

There are scores of lesser characters in John Dough, both meat and meatless. Duo, the two-headed dog, anticipates the Pushmi-Pullyu of Hugh Lofting's Dr. Doolittle books.4 Sir Austin Alfred is a spoonerism on Sir Alfred Austin, poet laureate of England in 1906. Tietjamus Toips, whose symphony is harder to understand than one by Vogner (Wagner), plays on the name of Paul Tietjans, a friend of Baum who composed the music for The Wizard of Oz musical. The name is also a pun on "pajama tops." Is Sir Pryse Bocks, inventor of the rain-repelling tube, a spoonerism on "Bok's price"—Bok's demand that Baum add a child to the tale? More likely (as David Greene called to my attention) the name refers to the popular prize contest which The Ladies' Home Journal sponsored every month. Suggestions were mailed to "Mr. Bok's personal box," and (Greene adds), with "Sir" before the name it becomes "surprise box." Maria Simpson, the name of the Lady Executioner, is so artificially presented that Greene thinks it must refer either to someone readers of 1906 would recognize or to one of Baum's personal friends.

On page 233 John Dough, angry at the macaw who is laughing at him, calls the bird a "rampsy." What is a rampsy? The answer lies in an obscure spot: a short story called "Nelebel's Fairyland" which Baum wrote exclusively for The Russ (June, 1905), a college paper published in San Diego. The story (reprinted in The Baum Bugle, Christmas, 1962) gives added facts about the immortals who live in the Forest of Burzee, south of Oz, and who figure prominently in Baum's two earlier fantasies, The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus and Queen Zixi of Ix. It seems that Queen Lulea, "annoyed at the awkwardness of the huge gigans, transformed them into rampsies—the smallest of all immortals." So far as I know, it is the only other reference to rampsies in all of Baum's writings.

There are four fat ladies in John Dough : Madame Tina, the baker's wife; Bebe Celeste, one of the freaks of Phreex; the mother of the Princess; and the Lolander who bakes a new hand for John Dough the First. Baum is no doubt reminding his readers about the hazards of eating too much French pastry.

Taking cues from some references to Hiland and Loland in The Magic of Oz, James E. Haff, cartographer of the official map of Oz (available from the International Wizard of Oz Club, which publishes The Baum Bugle, 220 North 11th Street, Escanaba, Michigan, 49829) places the island in the Nonestic Ocean, due east of Oz. The four smaller islands of the story form a chain extending to the northeast. The Isle of Phreex is mentioned on page 20 of Rinkitink in Oz, and the same book, page 294, also refers to the Mifkets, whose island is the second to be visited by John Dough. The Mifkets should not be confused with the Mifkits, in John R. Neill's Scalawagons of Oz. Mifkits can remove their heads and hurl them at enemies. They are probably identical with Baum's Scoodlers, in The Road to Oz. The King of the Beavers and his subjects, who live under the water-fall on Mifket Island, reappear in Jack Snow's The Shaggy Man of Oz.

The ersatz General of Phreex, whose entire body has been replaced by artificial parts, raises the same perplexing metaphysical questions about personal identity as does the Tin Woodman. Ali Dubh's Elixir of Life is similar to the Powder of Life that vivifies Jack Pumpkinhead and the Sawhorse in The Marvelous Land of Oz. The Beaver king's Magic Box anticipates Ozma's Magic Picture, which in turn foreshadows the television screen. The electrically operated ornithopter—it works so well that its inventor, Imar, is in disgrace among his fellow cranks—recalls the flying Gump of the second Oz book. As MacFall points out in his biography of Baum, the Wright brother's flight had taken place in 1903, only a year before the second Oz book, and Baum had been quick to introduce flying ships into his stories. Two of Baum's pseudonymous books for teenage girls, The Flying Girl and The Flying Girl and Her Chum, were about a girl aviator.

The humor in John Dough ranges from low-level word play ("I'm sure I couldn't agree with anyone who ate me," John declares; I counted more than fifteen puns on words relating to food alone) to occasional remarks of existential import. John cannot recall when he was not alive. He informs a lady who thinks he ought not to be alive that he cannot help it. And on another occasion he observes that "it is better to be wrong than to be nothing." (Remember "Better Red than dead"?)

In 1910 the Selig Polyscope Company, Chicago, released a one-reel film of John Dough, starring Joseph Schrode as the gingerbread man and a girl named Grace Elder as Chick. The Selig studios had made most of the film a few years earlier for Baum's ill-fated series of "radio plays." These plays, each based on one of Baum's fantasies, had nothing to do with "radio" as the term is understood today. They were a curious mix of live actors, silent film clips (made by Selig and hand-tinted in France), colored stereoptican slides, live orchestral music, and commentary by Baum himself. Baum stood on the side of the screen with a pointer, and at times moved into the film by walking off the stage and onto the screen. In 1908 Baum and one of his sons, who served as projectionist, toured fourteen cities with this remarkable show, starting in Grand Rapids and ending in New York.

The project was a financial bust. Selig obtained rights to the films, and by patching them together and adding more footage, they produced four one-reelers, one of which was John Dough. The film seems not to have survived. In its radio play form it followed the book closely (omitting the eating of part of John by the Princess, and the visit to Pirate Island), but the movie version had a much different ending. According to Richard A. Mills (see his article on the radio plays, The Baum Bugle, Christmas, 1970), Chick somehow manages to meet with Ozma who prophecies:

The throne of Lo-Hi shall vacant be
 Until the coming by air or sea
 Of an overbaked man and Cherub wee.

John Dough then arrives in Oz to fulfil the prophecy and be crowned king of Lo-Hi.5 One of the highlights of the original film (presumably also of the 1910 version) was the Fourth of July fireworks scene in which John is carried into the clouds by a giant skyrocket. In an article on the radio plays which Baum wrote for the New York Herald (September 26, 1909), he explains how stop-action photography was used to substitute a dummy for the live actor, just before take-off, and to replace the dummy with the actor after the dummy falls to the ground.

It seems to me that John Dough, even today, could be the basis for a delightful stage or motion picture musical. Little is dated about its characters, plot or humor. Is that smiling, long-haired Cherub, on the side of the highway with upraised thumb, a boy or a girl? Think of the fun that public relations men could have with a new, unknown child star whose sexual identity is not known to the public! And what could be more appropriate now than John Dough 's final moral?

Hiland and Loland, where Chick, John and the rubber bear settle at last, are two rival cultures, flourishing side by side, each firmly convinced of its own superiority, each regarding its neighbors as uncouth barbarians. The wall that separates the tall, thin Highlanders from the short, fat Lolanders is no higher than the old Great Wall of China or the new Berlin Wall, or a hundred other "walls" that these material structures symbolize. Baum's vigorous plea for tolerance and understanding of alien ways is one that he would stress again in Sky Island, where he describes the equally irrational rivalry between the Pinks and the Blues. Need anyone be reminded that it is a moral on which the world's fate may depend?


I wish to thank David Greene, James Haff, Michael Hearn, Dick Martin, Fred Meyer and Justin Schiller for their help in writing this article.

1. Baum's letter is quoted by David Greene in The Baum Bugle, 1971, pg. 15.

2. There were four issues of the first edition. The first has the misprint "cage" (for "cave") on page 275, line 10. The second state corrects the error. The third (and all later printings) has no back cover picture, and "Co." is omitted after the publisher's imprint on the spine. This imprint is reset in capitals on the spine of the fourth issue.

The second edition, published about 1920 by Reilly and Lee, eliminated color from the head pieces and most of the full-page illustrations, retaining color on twelve full-page plates. The same company's next and last edition, circa 1930, drops all color plates except the frontispiece. A paperback edition, newly illustrated by a young Chinese artist, Lau Shiu Fan, was published in English in Hong Kong, by Opium Books, in 1966. For additional bibliographic details see Dick Martin's report on John Dough in The Baum Bugle, Spring, 1969.

A small book called The Gingerbread Man was published by Reilly and Britton in 1917 as one of Baum's six "Snuggle Tales" books. It reprints the first four chapters of John Dough, and adds a new chapter, "Safe at Last," that tells of John's arrival on the Isle of Phreex.

3. Perhaps a reader in Chicago can run down the contest results. According to the contest blank, the judges were Baum, the Chicago author Henry M. Hyde, and Wilbur D. Nesbit of the Chicago Evening Post. Was the book serialized in the Post? If so, the Post probably announced the outcome of the contest. The contest blank gave December 31, 1906, as the closing date, and said that prize-winners would be announced about January 15, 1907.

4. Michael Hearn has noticed that John Dolittle, M.D., is John Do with "little" tacked on, and that both Dr. Dolittle and John Dough were capable of speaking all bird and animal languages.

5. The only known source for the film's plot is a garbled synopsis that appeared in Moving Picture World sometime in December, 1910.



Rogers, Katharine M. L. Frank Baum: Creator of Oz: A Biography. New York, N.Y.: St. Martin's Press, 2002, 318 p.

Thorough biographical examination of Baum's life and career.


Brotman, Jordan. "A Late Wanderer in Oz." In Only Connect: Readings on Children's Literature, edited by Sheila Egoff, G. T. Stubbs, and L. F. Ashley, pp. 156-69. Toronto, Canada: Oxford University Press, 1969.

Offers a bio-critical analysis of the 'Oz' series, covering a broad variety of topics.

Estes, Sally. "Oz: 100 Years Later and Still Going Strong." Booklist 97, no. 7 (1 December 2000): 712.

Reviews several twenty-first century reprint editions of Baum's classic 'Oz' series.

Gose, Elliott. "Newer Wonder Tales." In Mere Creatures: A Study of Modern Fantasy Tales for Children, pp. 90-107. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press, 1988.

Examines how Dorothy's companions in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz—Toto, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion—serve the traditional roles that animal helpers normally occupy in classical fairy tales.

McMaster, Juliet. "The Trinity Archetype in The Jungle Books and The Wizard of Oz." Children's Literature 20 (1992): 90-110.

Uses religious analogies to compare how Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Books and Baum's Wizard of Oz utilize a trinity of characters to establish defined attributes for each.

West, Mark I. "The Dorothys of Oz: A Heroine's Unmaking." In Stories and Society: Children's Literature in its Social Context, edited by Dennis Butts, pp. 125-31. New York, N.Y.: St. Martin's Press, 1992.

Contrasts the ways in which Dorothy's heroic traits are displayed in both the movie and book forms of The Wizard of Oz, ultimately concluding that the framing devices used in the movie minimized the heroic traits she demonstrates within Baum's original version.

Zipes, Jack. "Inverting and Subverting the World with Hope: The Fairy Tales of L. Frank Baum." In Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion: The Classical Genre for Children and the Process of Civilization, pp. 121-33. New York, N.Y.: Wildman Press, 1983.

Proposes that The Wizard of Oz is an ingenious representation of a utopian fairy tale that offers a discourse on an idealized civilization.

Additional coverage of Baum's life and career is contained in the following sources published by Thomson Gale: Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Vol. 46; Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults, Vol. 16; Children's Literature Review, Vol. 15; Contemporary Authors, Vols. 108, 133; Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 22; Junior DISCovering Authors ; Literature Resource Center ; Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults, Eds. 1, 2; Major 20th-Century Writers, Eds. 1, 2; Novels for Students, Vol. 13; Reference Guide to American Literature, Vol. 4; St. James Guide to Children's Writers, Vol. 5; St. James Guide to Fantasy Writers ; Something about the Author, Vols. 18, 100; Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, Vols. 7, 132; and Writers for Children.