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The Ryl of the Lilies

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"The Ryl of the Lilies" is a short story by L. Frank Baum. For a long time it was thought to have been published in 1903 but the story was actually printed in the San Francisco Call newspaper on April 21, 1901 in its Sunday magazine supplement making this the earliest known appearance of the story. This version also includes a copyright of 1901 by the National Press Agency. Its title was shortened to "The Ryl" when it was included in the 1908 Bobbs-Merrill edition of Baum's American Fairy Tales. The story was reprinted in the Spring 1995 issue of The Baum Bugle, with new illustrations by Eric Shanower.

Summary

A local church is being decorated for Easter; the town's children gather flowers for the purpose. A little boy named Bob is distressed that he has none to bring; his mother is a poor laundress, without the time or space for a flower garden. The laundress sends her son to the fields outside town, to gather the daisies and buttercups that grow wild there; but it is too early in the season for the flowers to have blossomed. Disappointed, Bob gives way to tears — and discovers that a second creature weeps with him. He meets a ryl, who is distraught about his lilies. The ryl has a field of lilies growing in Brazil, but lacks one natural ingredient to give them their characteristic yellow stamens. Bob offers to help, if he can; and the ryl asks for a blue bottle of plant food stored in Bob's house. (There are rules against ryls asking help from humans; but they can accept aid if it is offered freely.)

The ryl takes the bottle and transports himself and Bob magically to Brazil. The missing ingredient does its job quickly; for a reward, the ryl heaps Bob's arms with fresh-picked lilies in bloom. The parishioners at home are amazed, and consider the flowers an Easter miracle.

Background

The story has no direct connection with the Land of Oz; but it does feature one of the mythological beings, like knooks and fairies, that are significant in Baum's fantasy world.

When they first meet, the ryl instructs Bob on the differences among creatures: the ryl points out that he lacks the wings and golden hair of a fairy, and the distended body, toothpick legs, and saucer-sized eyes of a brownie. The ryl comes nattily dressed, in green and yellow striped trousers, a red top hat, and a lavender necktie.

It can be noted that Baum tells this story simply, without irony. The Christian minister who appears in it is presented as sincere and tolerant; compare "The Strange Adventures of an Easter Egg."

The original publication date of this story is significant because it predates the introduction of Ryls in Baum's novel The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus.

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