Tag Archives: The Wizard of Oz

Happy Birthday, L. Frank Baum

15 May

“Oh, I see;” said the Tin Woodman. “But, after all, brains are not the best things in the world.”
Have you any?” inquired the Scarecrow.
No, my head is quite empty,” answered the Woodman; “but once I had brains, and a heart also; so, having tried them both, I should much rather have a heart.” – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Today is the birthday of Lyman Frank Baum (May 15, 1856 – May 6, 1919), famously known as L. Frank Baum. In 1900, he published The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. He went on to write 13 more Oz books, as well as numerous other works.

Baum’s avowed purpose in writing The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, was to write an American fairy tale, a book for children without the dark tone of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson.

The first musical version of The Wizard of Oz was produced in Chicago and then on Broadway in 1902. In the stage version, Toto was replaced with Imogene the Cow. Apparently Mr. Baum did not have final script approval and there were other significant changes as well–including the elimination of the Wicked Witch of the West entirely, and the addition of topical references to President Theodore Roosevelt and other politicians of the day.

Baum, who actually lived in Aberdeen, Dakota Territory (later South Dakota) rather than Kansas, was a strong advocate of women’s suffrage and when Susan B. Anthony came to Aberdeen, she stayed at the Baum’s house. Baum’s belief’s about women’s equality are reflected in several of his works, include the second Oz book, The Marvelous Land of Oz.

In 1905, Baum announced his plans to open an Oz amusement park on an island off the coast of California. Baum said he planned to live on this island and have children as advisers in the development of the park. Alas, financial reversals prevented Baum from moving forward with his vision. Another problem may have been that no one has ever been able to locate the island Mr. Baum claimed he was buying to headquarter the park.

The classic film, The Wizard of Oz, was released 20 years after L. Frank Baum’s death. When I was growing up, annual television broadcasts of this movie were a big event. I watched every year. While not entirely faithful to the book (few movies are) the movie owes its genesis, message and its spirit to L. Frank Baum, the man who gave us The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

The message of both the book and the movie resonates for me every day. All too often we go through life thinking we are “less than” when, in reality, if we look within, we can find that we had everything we needed all along.

You have plenty of courage, I am sure,” answered Oz. “All you need is confidence in yourself. There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces danger. The true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid, and that kind of courage you have in plenty.
― The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Thank you, Mr. Baum. Happy Birthday wherever you are (hopefully over the rainbow…)

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