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Prince Silverwings

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Prince Silverwings was a abortive theater piece prepared by L. Frank Baum for a projected summer 1904 production.

The planned play was Baum's theater adaptation of Edith Ogden Harrison's 1902 book Prince Silverwings and Other Fairy Tales. Ogden Harrison was a prolific author of children's books and fantasy tales in Baum's generation, as well as the First Lady of Chicago — she was the wife of mayor Carter Henry Harrison IV. Production of the play was forestalled by the Iriquois Theater Fire of 30 December 1903, which resulted in 570 deaths and forced a closure of all Chicago theaters.

Ogden Harrison and Baum did not abandon theater after this initial failure; as late as 1915 they were trying to establish a children's theater in Chicago — but without success.

The full text of Baum's dramatic adaptation has not survived; a synopsis and scenario was published in an edition of just a few copies, for copyright and production purposes. A single copy of that edition is preserved in the Syracuse University Library. A modern edition of this scenario was published in 1982 by The Pamami Press, with illustrations by Dick Martin. The Chicago Historical Society has a typescript of the synopsis that varies in a few details.


Several elements found their way from Baum's Prince Silverwings into his subsequent novels.

  • In the play, Charminia, queen of the fairies, sends members of her band to aid distressed mortals; the fairy queen Lulea sends one of her followers to give the magic cloak to the most unfortunate mortal she can find in Queen Zixi of Ix (1906).
  • The play's villain is a Gnome King named Kwytoffle; Baum uses that name for his villain in The Enchanted Island of Yew (1903), and his Nome King is his most dependable and frequently-recurring villain in the Oz books.
  • Kwytoffle is enraged by beans, as Baum's Nomes are by eggs.
  • Cloud Maidens from Harrison's work and Baum's adaptation appear as Cloud Fairies in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz (1908), and later as Mist Maidens in Glinda of Oz (1920). The Cloud Maidens are the daughters of the Storm King, and one of them, Nuna, is missing — which suggests the situation of Polychrome and her father the Rainbow.


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