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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a children's novel written by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by W. W. Denslow. Originally published by the George M. Hill Company in Chicago on May 17, 1900,[nb 1] it has since been reprinted numerous times, most often under the name The Wizard of Oz, which is the name of both the 1902 stage play and the extremely popular, highly acclaimed 1939 film version. The story chronicles the adventures of a girl named Dorothy in the Land of Oz. Thanks in part to the 1939 MGM movie, it is one of the best-known stories in American popular culture and has been widely translated. Its initial success, and the success of the popular 1902 Broadway musical Baum adapted from his story, led to Baum's writing thirteen more Oz books. The original book has been in the public domain in the US since 1956.
Baum dedicated the book "to my good friend & comrade, My Wife", Maud Gage Baum. In January 1901, George M. Hill Company, the publisher, completed printing the first edition, which probably totaled around 35,000 copies. Records indicate that 21,000 copies were sold through 1900.
Historians, economists and literary scholars have examined and developed possible political interpretations of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. However, the majority of the reading public simply takes the story at face value.
Background and publication
In January 1901, George M. Hill Company, the book's publisher, completed printing the first edition, which probably totaled around 35,000 copies. Records indicate that 21,000 copies were sold through 1900.
In a letter to his brother Harry, Baum wrote that the book's publisher, George M. Hill, predicted a sale of about 250,000 copies. In spite of this favorable conjecture, Hill did not initially predict the book would be phenomenally successful. He agreed to publish the book only when the manager of the Grand Opera House, Fred R. Hamlin, committed to making The Wizard of Oz into a play to publicize the novel.[nb 2] After Hill's publishing company became bankrupt in 1901, Baum and Denslow agreed to have the Indiannapolis-based Bobbs-Merrill Company resume publishing the novel.
Baum's son Harry told the Chicago Tribune in 1944 that he told his children "whimsical stories before they became material for his books". Harry called his father the "swellest man I knew", a man who was able to give a decent reason as to why black birds cooked in a pie could afterwards get out and sing.
Dorothy is an orphan raised by her Uncle Henry and Aunt Em in the bleak landscape of a Kansas farm. She has a little black dog Toto, who is her sole source of happiness. One day the farmhouse, with Dorothy and Toto inside, is caught up in a tornado and deposited in a field in Munchkin Country in the Land of Oz. The falling house kills the ruler of the Munchkins, the Wicked Witch of the East.
The Good Witch of the North comes with the Munchkins to greet Dorothy and gives Dorothy the Silver Shoes that the Wicked Witch of the East had been wearing when she was killed. In order to return to Kansas, the Good Witch of the North tells Dorothy that she will have to go to the "Emerald City" or "City of Emeralds" and ask the Wizard of Oz to help her.
On her way down the yellow brick road, Dorothy frees the Scarecrow from the pole he is hanging on, restores the movements of the rusted Tin Woodman with an oil can, and encourages them and the Cowardly Lion to journey with her and Toto to the Emerald City. The Scarecrow wants to get a brain, the Tin Woodman a heart, and the Cowardly Lion, courage. All are convinced by Dorothy that the Wizard can help them too. Together, they overcome obstacles on the way including narrow pieces of the yellow brick road, Kalidahs, a river, and the Deadly Poppies.
When the travelers arrive at the Emerald City, they are asked to use green spectacles by the Guardian of the Gates. When each traveler meets with the Wizard, he appears each time as someone or something different. To Dorothy, the Wizard is a giant head; the Scarecrow sees a beautiful woman; the Tin Woodman sees a ravenous beast; the Cowardly Lion sees a ball of fire. The Wizard agrees to help each of them, but one of them must kill the Wicked Witch of the West who rules over the Winkie Country.
As the friends travel across the Winkie Country, the Wicked Witch sends wolves, crows, bees, and then her Winkie soldiers to attack them, but they manage to get past them all. Then, using the power of the Golden Cap, the Witch summons the Winged Monkeys to capture all of the travelers.
When the Wicked Witch gains one of Dorothy's silver shoes by trickery, Dorothy in anger grabs a bucket of water and throws it on the Wicked Witch, who begins to melt. The Winkies rejoice at being freed of the witch's tyranny, and they help to reassemble the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman. The Winkies love the Tin Woodman, and they ask him to become their ruler, which he agrees to do after helping Dorothy return to Kansas.
Dorothy uses the Golden Cap to summon the Winged Monkeys to carry her and her companions back to the Emerald City, and the King of the Winged Monkeys tells how he and the other monkeys were bound by an enchantment to the cap by Gayelette.
When Dorothy and her friends meet the Wizard of Oz again, he tries to put them off. Toto accidentally tips over a screen in a corner of the throne room, revealing the Wizard to be an old man who had journeyed to Oz from Omaha long ago in a hot air balloon.
The Wizard provides the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion with a head full of bran, pins, and needles ("a lot of bran-new brains"), a silk heart stuffed with sawdust, and a potion of "courage", respectively. Because of their faith in the Wizard's power, these otherwise useless items provide a focus for their desires. In order to help Dorothy and Toto get home, the Wizard realizes that he will have to take them home with him in a new balloon, which he and Dorothy fashion from green silk. Revealing himself to the people of the Emerald City one last time, the Wizard appoints the Scarecrow, by virtue of his brains, to rule in his stead. Dorothy chases Toto after he runs after a kitten in the crowd, and before she can make it back to the balloon, the ropes break, leaving the Wizard to rise and float away alone.
Dorothy turns to the Winged Monkeys to carry her and Toto home, but they cannot cross the desert surrounding Oz. The Soldier with the Green Whiskers advises that Glinda the Good Witch of the South (changed to the "North" in the 1939 film) may be able to send Dorothy and Toto home. They, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion journey to Glinda's palace in the Quadling Country. Together they escape the Fighting Trees, dodge the Hammer-Heads, and tread carefully through the China Country. The Cowardly Lion kills a giant spider, who is terrorizing the animals in a forest, and he agrees to return there to rule them after Dorothy returns to Kansas—the Hungry Tiger, the biggest of the tigers ruling in his stead as before. Dorothy uses her third wish to fly over the Hammer-Heads' mountain, almost losing Toto in the process.
At Glinda's palace, the travelers are greeted warmly, and it is revealed by Glinda that Dorothy had the power to go home all along. The Silver Shoes she wears can take her anywhere she wishes to go. She tearfully embraces her friends, all of whom will be returned, through Glinda's use of the Golden Cap, to their respective sovereignties: the Scarecrow to the Emerald City, the Tin Woodman to the Winkie Country, and the Cowardly Lion to the forest. Then she will give the Golden Cap to the king of the Winged Monkeys, so they will never be under its spell again. Dorothy and Toto return to Kansas to a joyful family reunion. The Silver Shoes are lost during Dorothy's flight and never seen again.
Illustration and design
The book was illustrated by Baum's friend and collaborator W. W. Denslow, who also co-held the copyright. The design was lavish for the time, with illustrations on every page, backgrounds in different colors, and several color plate illustrations. The distinctive look led to imitators at the time, most notably Zauberlinda, the Wise Witch. The typeface was the newly designed Monotype Old Style.
A new edition of the book appeared in 1944, with illustrations by Evelyn Copelman. Although it was claimed that the new illustrations were based on Denslow's originals, they more closely resemble the characters as seen in the famous 1939 film version of Baum's book, starring Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, and Bert Lahr.
Denslow's illustrations were so well-known that merchants of many products obtained permission to use them to promote their wares. The forms of the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, the Cowardly Lion, the Wizard, and Dorothy were made into rubber and metal sculptures. Costume jewelry, mechanical toys, and soap were also designed using their figures.
Baum explores the theme of self-contradiction in The Wizard of Oz. He created characters who—like humans—have complex, contradictory natures. The Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion all lack self-confidence. The Scarecrow is dejected that he lacks brains, though he is very compassionate towards his friends. His pursuit of wisdom reveals that he holds it in high regard. Likewise, the Tin Woodman believes that he lacks a heart. He displays emotions in his attempts to find a heart. The Cowardly Lion believes that he is a coward. This belief is proven false when the Lion journeys companions on unsafe quests and defends them using his menacing roar. Carl L. Bankston, III of Salem Press noted that "These three characters embody the classical human virtues of intelligence, caring, and courage, but their self-doubts keep them from being reduced to mere symbols of these qualities."
By the end of novel, the characters ultimately attain self-fulfillment when they have fulfilled their objectives. To convince the characters they have the qualities they desire, the Wizard places an amalgamation of bran, pins, and needles in the Scarecrow's head to inspire intellect; gives a silk heart to the Tin Woodman to inspire love; and a drink to the Cowardly Lion to inspire bravery.
Sources of images and ideas
Local legend has it that Oz, also known as The Emerald City, was inspired by a prominent castle-like building in the community of Castle Park near Holland, Michigan where Baum summered. The yellow brick road was derived from a road at that time paved by yellow bricks. These bricks were found in Peekskill, New York where Baum attended the Peekskill Military Academy. Baum scholars often reference the 1893 Chicago World's Fair (the "White City") as an inspiration for the Emerald City. Other legends allude that the inspiration came from the Hotel Del Coronado near San Diego, California. Baum was a frequent guest at the hotel, and had written several of the Oz books there. Baum said that the name "OZ" came from his file cabinet labeled "O-Z"
Another influence lay in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland books. Although Baum found their plots incoherent, he identified their source of popularity as Alice herself, a child with whom the child readers could identify; this influenced his choice of a protagonist. Baum was also influenced by Lewis' belief that children's books should have many pictures and be pleasurable reads. Lewis rejected the Victorian-era ideology that children's books should be saturated with morals, instead believing that children should be allowed to be children. Building on Lewis' style of numerous images accompanying the text, Baum amalgamated the conventional features of a fairy tale (witches and wizards) with the well-known things in his readers' lives (scarecrows and cornfields).
The Gold Standard representation of the story
Baum did not offer any conclusive proof that he intended his novel to be a political allegory. Historian Ranjit S. Dighe wrote that for sixty years after the book's publication, "virtually nobody" had such an interpretation until Henry Littlefield, a high school teacher. In his 1964 article, "The Wizard of Oz: Parable on Populism", published in the American Quarterly, Littlefield posited that the book contained an allegory of the late 19th-century bimetallism debate regarding monetary policy. At the beginning of the novel, Dorothy is swept from her farm to Oz by a cyclone, which was frequently compared to the Free Silver movement in Baum's time. the Yellow Brick Road represents the gold standard and the Silver Shoes which enable Dorothy to travel more comfortably symbolizes the Populist Party's desire to construct a bimetallic standard of both gold and silver in place of the gold standard. She learns that to return home, she must reach the Emerald City, Oz's political center, to speak to the Wizard, representing the President of the United States. While journeying to the Emerald City, she encounters a scarecrow, who represents a farmer; a woodman made of tin, who represents a worker dehumanized by industrialization; and a cowardly lion, who represents William Jennings Bryan, a prominent leader of the silverite movement. The villains of the story, the Wicked Witch of the West and the Wicked Witch of the East, represent the wealthy railroad and oil barons of the American West and the financial and banking interests of the eastern U.S. respectively. Both these groups opposed Populist efforts to move the U.S. to a bimetallic monetary standard since this would have devalued the dollar and made investments less valuable. Workers and poor farmers supported the move away from the gold standard as this would have lessened their crushing debt burdens. The Populist party sought to build a coalition of southern and midwestern tenant farmers and northern industrial workers. These groups are represented in the book by the Good Witches of the North and South.
The Wizard of Oz has been translated or adapted into well over fifty different languages, at times being modified in local variations. For instance, in some abridged Indian editions, the Tin Woodman was replaced with a snake.
Russian author Alexander M. Volkov brought his own loose translation of the story to the Soviet Union in 1939 (the same year MGM released their film). The Soviet Union did not recognize foreign copyrights at the time, and neither Baum nor his family received any royalties for it. Volkov's version was published under the title The Wizard of Emerald City (Волшебник Изумрудного Города) and the country where the story takes place was changed from Oz, to "Magic Land". Volkov also took many liberties with the text itself, editing as he saw fit, and adding a chapter in which Dorothy, now renamed Ellie, is kidnapped by a man-eating Ogre and rescued by her friends. The Wizard is renamed "James Goodwin", the Scarecrow is called "Strasheela" (derived from a Russian word meaning "to scare"), and the Tin Woodman is called "the Iron Woodman". The four witches each have new names as well: Villina (The Good Witch of the North), Gingema (The Wicked Witch of the East), Bastinda (The Wicked Witch of the West), and Stella (The Good Witch of the South). Volkov subsequently wrote his own independent series of sequels to the book, even more tenuously based on Baum's books, including: Urfin Jus and His Wooden Soldiers, Seven Underground Kings, The Firey God of the Marrans, The Yellow Fog, and The Secret of the Deserted Castle. Some characters in these sequels have clear origins in the original Oz books, such as Ellie's uncle Charlie Black, who is a combination of Baum's Cap'n Bill and Johnny Dooit, and Volkov's last book invokes the Forbidden Fountain. The latter three sequels feature, instead of Ellie and Toto, her younger sister Annie along with her own dog, Toto's grandson Arto, and her childhood friend Tim. Baum's original version and all of its sequels were later translated in a more faithful fashion, and Russians now see these two versions as wholly different series. In 1959, illustrations by Leonid Vladimirsky depicted Volkov's Scarecrow as short, round and tubby; his influence is evident in illustrations for translations across the Soviet bloc, where the Scarecrow is usually portrayed in this manner. Vladimirsky has written at least two additional sequels to Alexander Volkov's alternative Oz; two more Russian authors and one German have written additional sequels to the "Magic Land" stories. The books have been faithfully translated to English by Peter Blystone as Tales of Magic Land. These last two books were previously made available as Oz books through Buckethead Enterprises of Oz, but were translated loosely to make them Oz books.
References to The Wizard of Oz (and Magic Land) are thoroughly ingrained in British, American, Russian, and many other cultures. In the U.S., however, The Wizard of Oz did not become a cultural phenomenon until after the highly successful annual network telecasts of the film began in the late 1950s. A mere sampling of the breadth in which it is referenced includes Futurama, Family Guy and Scrubs (the former parodied it in an episode, the latter based an episode on it), The Cinnamon Bear (a 1938 radio serial), RahXephon (a 2002 Japanese animated television show), Zardoz (a 1974 Sean Connery movie), Avatar (a 2009 fantasy film), The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass (a 1997 Stephen King fantasy/Western novel), World of Warcraft (in the form of a boss fight), and the science fiction literature of Robert A. Heinlein, particularly The Number of the Beast. The Wizard of Oz Mystery, a murder mystery game based on the famous characters was released in 2007 from Shot In The Dark Mysteries. John Connor, a character in the Terminator series who sometimes uses the alias John Baum (presumably in honor of L. Frank Baum), stated that one of his favorite memories was of his mother reading him the story of the Wizard of Oz in Spanish as a child. The terminator series also references the Wicked Witch, Scarecrow and Tin Woodman in a few episodes. The character of Cypher in the 1999 movie The Matrix explicitly quotes a part of a line from the original book. In the film, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, reporter Polly Perkins meets with scientist Walter Jennings at Radio City Music Hall during a showing of the 1939 The Wizard of Oz film.
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, by Gregory Maguire is a revisionist look at the land and characters of Oz. It was later made into a musical (also titled Wicked) that premiered on Broadway in 2003.
Many of these draw more directly on the 1939 MGM Technicolor film version of the novel, a now-classic of popular culture shown annually on American television from 1959 to 1991, and shown several times a year every year beginning in 1999.