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Animal Fairy Tales

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Animal Fairy Tales is a collection of short stories by L. Frank Baum — animal tales comparable to Aesop's Fables and the Just-So Stories and Jungle Book of Rudyard Kipling. Baum's stories were first published in 1905 in The Delineator, a popular women's magazine of the era. For several decades in the middle of the twentieth century, the collection was a "lost" work by Baum; it was first published in book form in 1969 by The International Wizard of Oz Club.

The nine stories in the collection were originally printed in nine consecutive monthly issues of The Delineator, from January to September 1905. The tales were part of the magazine's regular feature, "Stories and Pastimes for Children." They were illustrated by Charles Livingston Bull. The Delineator had printed Baum's story "A Kidnapped Santa Claus" in December 1904.

It is clear that Baum favored book publication of the collection. When his health declined in 1918, Baum worked ahead to prepare books for future publication in the event of his death. He readied three manuscripts, so that his publisher Reilly & Britton could issue annual Baum titles through 1921. Two of those three books were the last two in his Oz series, The Magic of Oz and Glinda of Oz, which were duly published in 1919 and 1920. The third book was the Animal Fairy Tales. It is unclear why Reilly & Britton did not publish the book, in 1921 or later; perhaps the firm thought Baum's book would detract from Ruth Plumly Thompson's first Oz book, The Royal Book of Oz, published in 1921.

The contents of the collection are:

The brief Prologue sets up the stories that follow. A narrator tells fairy tales to a friendly gray squirrel, who chatters back amiably; it feels like a conversation, though the human cannot understand the animal. What ensues is the narrator's ideas of the animal fairy tales that the squirrel told him.

All the stories were probably written in 1903 and 1904; they compare with other animal tales that appear in American Fairy Tales and The Twinkle Tales and as episodes in his novels. Baum's animal tales are composed in his own highly imaginative vein, colored with his interest in Theosophy, and different from the more naturalistic stories of Baum contemporaries like Albert Bigelow Paine. Baum's stories are distinguished by the presence of tiger fairies, dog fairies, and similar creatures.

Baum wrote another story for the collection; titled "The Tiger's Eye," it is an extraordinarily grim story about evil magic enchanting animals and men. That story was not printed until 1962.

The 1969 edition of Animal Fairy Tales has illustrations from the pen of Dick Martin, and an Introduction by Russell P. MacFall. It was reprinted in a second edition in 1989. Another edition, released by Books of Wonder in 1992, reproduced the original Livingston Bull pictures.

Animal fairies

Baum never gives a detailed or specific description of any of the animal fairies in his stories. It seems natural to assume that animal fairies share the forms their particular animals; gopher fairies have the forms of gophers, etc. This is the way Dick Martin pictures them in his cover illustration for the book, as winged and flying quadrupeds. In the final story of the sequence, Baum describes the porcupine fairy Athlos as so "radiant and beautiful" that the sight of her fills Bayal with awe and wonder. Apparently, she is a beautiful and radiant porcupine.

A sequel

Chris Dulabone wrote his own sequel to Baum's Animal Fairy Tales in his The Lunechien Forest of Oz (1990).

See also

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