Authors We Love: Lyman Frank Baum

Baum’s first novel as a novelist was Mother Goose in Prose (1897). The book is based on a story he told his own children and introduces Dorothy, the farm girl, in the final chapter. In the introduction to the book, he says his aim was to create modern fairy tales that would not scare children as the Brothers Grimm did. In 1899, his collection of stories, Father Goose: His Book, was published, and it quickly became a bestseller. One evening, while he was telling his sons a story, he had an idea he had never had before.

While trying to calm them down, he grabbed a scrap of paper he could write on and excitedly wrote it down. This is a story about the Emerald City, and is the original idea of the Oz adventure story. The book, illustrated and covered by W. W. Denslow, was published at Baum’s private expense in 1900 and sold 90,000 copies in the first two years. Within a short time of the publication of the The Wonderful Wizard of OZ, the author had received thousands of letters from young readers asking him to keep the story going.

Baum did, at the reader’s request, write a series of fairy tales based on his fictional “Oz,” such as “The Emerald City of Oz,” “The Tin Woodman of Oz,” and “The Hungry Tiger of Oz.” He has written 14 fairy tales in this series. It does not include a collection of short stories from the The Marvelous Land of Oz Illustrated, published in 1914, or 10 other quasi-Oz-fairy tales that are intimately connected with the people of the land of Oz. In 1901, the first of the Oz series was adapted into a musical, with Baum helping to write the screenplay and lyrics.

In 1914, Baum was on the set of The Patchwork Girl of Oz. In the same year, he founded The Oz Film Manufacturing Company in Los Angeles (later renamed The Features Film Company), where he also directed films from 1914 to 1915. The well-equipped studio on Santa Monica Boulevard sits on seven acres. But the company went out of business and produced only two films about Oz, His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz  and The Magic Cloak of Oz. In the years since, however, the story of the O.Z. has been brought to the screen many times. The Wizard of Oz, played by 16-year-old Judy Garland in 1939, was nominated for an Oscar for best picture.

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