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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

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*The first American Fairytale*

"Just like the story about the Wizard of Oz, I have a wish to be a very special girl, I really really wanna know so much, so tell me are you the Wizard of Oz? "
―Toybox Lyrics.
Written by  L. Frank Baum
Illustrator  W. W. Denslow
Published  1900
Publisher  George M. Hill Company

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, (also known as The Wizard of Oz for short), is the first book in the Oz series by late children's author L. Frank Baum. The book was originally illustrated by W. W. Denslow, and published in the year of 1900. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is also considered to be the first official American Fairytale and fable.

Book Reviews of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz From 1900...

"This story of The Wizard of Oz, is so ingeniously woven out of commonplace material. It is of course an extravaganza experience for any American child, but will surely be found to appeal strongly to adult readers as well as to the younger children, to whom it will be read by mothers or those having charge of the entertaining of children. There seems to be an inborn love of stories in child minds, and one of the most familiar and pleading requests of children is to be told another story, a story like this one."
―New York Times (1900)
" The drawing as well as the introduced color work vies with the texts drawn, and the result has been a book that rises far above the average children's book of today, high as is the present standard. "
―New York Times (1900)
"The book has a bright and joyous atmosphere, and does not dwell upon killing and deeds of violence. Enough stirring adventure enters into it, however, to flavor it with zest, and it will indeed be strange if there be a normal child who will not enjoy the story. "
―New York Times (1900)
  • Please Click Here to read the entire original story of 1900 page by page. See how different it is from the beloved 1939 movie musical adaptation. For those who have yet to read Baum's classic book that started it all, you've never seen Oz like this!

The Emancipation of Oz

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When someone mentions The Wizard of Oz many no doubt imagine families gathered around the television to share in the full-color glory of this timeless classic; but did you know that the book that the beloved movie is adapted from has been in the sights of censors since it was published? The common accusations are that it is “unwholesome” and “ungodly.”

L. Frank Baum's tale was originally published in 1900 and adapted into a stage play in 1902 before arriving on the silver screen in 1939. It remains one of the most well known American literary works over a century later.

The New York Times praised the novel in a September 1900 review, writing that it “would appeal to child readers and to younger children who could not read yet.” The review also applauded the illustrations for being a “pleasant complement to the text.”

Nevertheless, it has come under attack several times. Ministers and educators challenged it for its “ungodly” influence and for depicting women in strong leadership roles. They opposed not only children reading it, but adults as well, lest it undermine longstanding gender roles.

In 1928, the city of Chicago banned it from all public libraries. In the 1950’s, Florida state librarian, Dorothy Dodd said the books were ‘unwholesome for children” and pushed to have them removed from all of the state’s libraries. Children's illustrator, Michael MCcurdy even criticized W. W. Denslow's drawings, stating that the illustrations of the Oz characters are tacky, gaudy and mundane; even going as far as saying Denslow's appearance of Dorothy made her come off as plain, dumpy, even ugly!

In 1957, the director of the Detroit Public Library banned The Wizard of Oz for having “no value for children of today,” for supporting “negativism”, and for “bringing children’s minds to a cowardly level.” Professor Russel B. Nye of Michigan State University publically responded that “if the message of the Oz books- that love, kindness, and unselfishness make the world a better place- has no value today, then maybe the time is ripe for reassess a good many other things besides the Detroit Library’s approved list of children’s books.”

In one of the most noted cases of censorship efforts against the book, seven Fundamentalist Christian families in Tennessee opposed the novel’s inclusion in the public school syllabus and filed a lawsuit in 1986 based on the novel’s depiction of benevolent witches and promoting the belief that essential human attributes were “individually developed rather than God given.”

On the charge of including good witches in the story, they argued that all witches are bad, therefore it is “theologically impossible” for good witches to exist.


One parent said, “I do not want my children seduced into godless supernaturalism,” accusing the book of teaching children to be self-reliant rather than dependent on God to see them through difficult times. Other reasons for the opposition included the novel teaching that females are equal to males and that animals are personified and can speak.

The presiding judge ruled that rather than remove the book, the children were allowed to be excused from lesson plans centered on the novel. When they appealed the decision to the United States Supreme Court, the court refused to hear the case. The group’s lawyers advised all “God-fearing Christians to remove their children from public schools.”

In 2004 both Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson conspired to get the movie banned from broadcast on public television because of “moral turpitude.” Robertson would publically state that “The Almighty told me that flying monkeys and witches are an affront to all good Christians.”

When asked at the time if either had ever seen the movie or read the book, they denied, saying that they “feared ungodly influence.”

I guess it’s better to be influenced by uneducated opinion and superstitious vitriol.

The book has even been used on the political spectrum, with some claiming that it promotes socialist and Marxist values due to its perceived lack of a divine presence.

Some librarians have also interpreted the book as a parody of American imperialism and racism. They rejected the author’s introductory explanation as an American fairy tale to encourage children to cherish life’s joyous wonderment, going so far as to describe the book as a “foolishly sentimental, poorly written, sensational, untrue-to-life, and unwholesome book.”

In an article posted by Professor Quentin Taylor of Rogers State University, it is argued that far from being a story to entertain children, The Wizard of Oz is actually an allegory for economics, politics, and 1890’s Populism.

In this modern age of YouTube and DVRs nothing ever gets lost, much to the chagrin of many politicians; but in the 1970’s something could be seen by millions and then disappear, never to be seen again, to be spoken about only as an urban legend. Such was the case of a fabled 1976 episode of Sesame Street, which featured Margaret Hamilton famously reprising her role as the infamous Wicked Witch of the West.

It wasn’t matter of a lost reel. The reason was far more bewildering- the Wicked Witch was deemed “too scary for the children watching the show.”

In the episode, the Wicked Witch is flying over Sesame Street when she drops her broom. David, a law student working at Mr. Hooper’s store, finds it. The Witch demands it back, threatening to turn Big Bird into a feather duster. Meanwhile, Oscar the Grouch becomes lovesick for the nasty witch.

She spends the episode trying to get the broom back, even going so far as to disguise herself as a kindly old woman. There’s even am inside joke when Mr. Hooper offers the Witch a cup of coffee and she tells him she can’t stand the stuff. Hamilton was appearing in Maxwell House commercials at the time the show aired.

According to information on the Muppet Wiki, the episode prompted a high volume of negative mail from parents. Typical responses included concerns that their children were afraid and now refused to watch the show, using such phrases as “screams and tears” and “the threat of the witch’s power remains in children’s eyes.”

A somewhat unusual response even came from a Wiccan viewer concerned with the perpetuation of a negative fairy tale stereotype and recommended a segment portraying witches as they really are in the modern world.

Due to the overwhelming reaction, additional test screenings were held from March 1 through the 5th, “to assess children’s reactions.”

Wow, I was three years old at the time and probably saw the episode myself. But, I digress…

The viewings indicated that that children were “exceptionally attentive during the Margaret Hamilton segments,” and those who watched the episode in color were fascinated by her green face. The issue of fear was difficult to fully judge, however, due to confusing answers and the fact that the children were surrounded by their peers and adults, and not watching alone. Despite all of the available information, Anna Herera of the Children’s Television Workshop Research Department suggested that “the Margaret Hamilton show not be re-run.”

What’s surprising is that Hamilton appeared as herself, albeit dressed up as a witch, a year earlier for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. The footage has found a home and new life on YouTube.

Baum wrote The Wizard of Oz with no intentions of a sequel; but after reading the novel, thousands of children wrote letters to him requesting that he continue the story. In 1904, he published the first sequel, The Marvelous Land of Oz, explaining that he reluctantly wrote the sequel to address the popular demand. He would write sequels in 1907, 1908, and 1909. In 1911’s The Emerald City of Oz the wrote that he could not continue writing sequels because “Ozland had lost contact with the rest of the world.” Children refused to accept this so Baum wrote a sequel every year from 1913 until his death in 1919.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Condensed-Detailed Summary Version of Baum's Original 1900 Story...

Set roughly in circa 1899-1900---

Dorothy is a young orphaned girl raised by her Uncle Henry and Aunt Em in the bleak, colorless landscape of a small and poor Kansas farm. She has a little black dog Toto, who is her sole source of happiness on the dry, gray prairies. One day, Dorothy and Toto are caught up in a monstrous cyclone inside their farmhouse which was deposited in a field in Munchkin Country, the eastern quadrant of the undiscovered realm, the magical Land of Oz. The falling house kills the evil ruler of the Munchkins, the Wicked Witch of the East for which the Munchkins are extremely grateful.

The Good Witch of the North who rules over the Gillikin Country in Oz, comes with the Munchkins to greet Dorothy and gives Dorothy the Silver Shoes with pointed toes (believed to have mysterious magical properties) that the Wicked Witch of the East had been wearing when she was killed. In order to return to Kansas, the Good Witch of the North tells Dorothy that the land of Oz is surrounded by a Deadly Desert so she will have to go to the "Emerald City" or "City of Emeralds" to seek out Oz's most powerful and dominant figure known as the great Wizard of Oz to ask him to help her. Dorothy is then told to follow the Yellow Brick Road which will lead her to the city. Before she leaves, the Good Witch of the North kisses her on the forehead, giving her magical protection from any unwanted trouble or even possible death.

On her way down the road of yellow bricks, Dorothy attended a lavish banquet thrown by a rich Munchkin man named Boq in honor of Dorothy for liberating the Munchkin Country of its Wicked suppresser. After a hardy supper, Dorothy spent the night at Boq's residence. The next day Dorothy meets and frees the brainless Scarecrow from the pole on which he is hanging upon in a Munchkin cornfield, applies oil from a can to the rusted connections of the heartless Tin Woodman in the thick forest, and encourages the two of them, including a Cowardly Lion met in the jungle to journey with her and Toto to the Emerald City. The Scarecrow wants to get a brain, the Tin Woodman wants a heart, and the Cowardly Lion wants courage. All four of the travelers believe that the Wizard is capable of granting their request. The party finds many adventures on their journey, including overcoming obstacles such as gaps in the yellow brick road, vicious Kalidahs (beasts with bodies like bears and heads like tigers), a raging river, a female mother Stork bird, a field of deadly poppies and the Queen of the Field Mice.

When the travelers arrive at the Emerald City, they are asked by the Guardian of the Gates to wear green spectacles to protect their eyes from all the glittering emeralds within the city. The Soldier with the Green Whiskers escorted them through the city streets until they all reached the Royal Palace of Oz where the Wizard resided. The four are the first in history to ever meet the Wizard. He appears to each of them as someone or something different. Dorothy sees the Wizard as a giant head, Scarecrow sees the Wizard as a beautiful fairy, Tin Woodman sees the Wizard as a terrible beast, and the Cowardly Lion sees the Wizard as a ball of fire. The Wizard agrees to help them each if they defeat the Wicked Witch of the West, who rules over the western Winkie Country in Oz. Before leaving the Emerald City, the Guardian of the Gates warns them that no one has ever managed to successfully conquer the very cunning and cruel Wicked Witch.

As the friends travel across the Winkie Country, the Wicked Witch can see them coming with her one working eye that is as powerful as a telescope. The Witch sends all of her forces to kill the trespassing travelers on the spot. First, she sends her 40 great wolves and the Tin Woodman manages to kill them all with his axe. Second, she then sends her 40 crows to peck their eyes out and the Scarecrow manages to kill them by breaking their necks. Third, she summons a swarm of killer black bees to sting them but the Tin Woodman serves as a buffer sitting atop the Scarecrow's extra straw that hide the other three. Fourth, she has her Winkies, her soldiers attack them but the Cowardly Lion's stance repeals them. Finally, she uses the power of the magic Golden Cap to have the Winged Monkeys capture Dorothy, Toto and the Cowardly Lion, and immobilize the others by un-stuffing the Scarecrow and terribly denting the Tin Woodman. This plan is successful and the survivors are carried to the home of the Witch.

The Wicked Witch forces Dorothy to do housework for the castle, all the while scheming to steal Dorothy's magical shoes. The Lion is locked up without food until he will submit to being a pack animal; Dorothy sneaks him food at night.

The Wicked Witch tricks Dorothy out of one of her silver shoes and Dorothy in anger throws at the Wicked Witch a bucket of water. Dorothy is shocked to see the Witch melt away as she was apparently allergic to water. The Winkies rejoice at being freed of the witch's tyranny and they help restuff the Scarecrow and mend the Tin Woodman. The Winkies love the Tin Woodman, and they ask him to become their ruler, which he agrees to do after helping Dorothy return to Kansas.

Dorothy, after finding and learning how to use the Golden Cap, summons the Winged Monkeys to carry her and her companions back to the Emerald City. The King of the Winged Monkeys tells how he and the other monkeys were bound by an enchantment to the cap by the beautiful princess and sorceress named Gayelette.

When Dorothy and her friends meet the Wizard of Oz again, he tries to stall, but Toto accidentally tips over a screen in a corner of the throne room where hides the Wizard. He is found to an ordinary old man who, by a hot air balloon, long ago came to Oz from Omaha and has longed to return to his home and again work in a circus.

The Wizard provides the Scarecrow with a head full of bran, pins, and needles ("a lot of bran-new brains"), the Tin Woodman with a silk heart stuffed with sawdust, and the Cowardly Lion a potion of "courage". Their faith in the Wizard's power gives these otherwise useless items a focus for their desires. In order to help Dorothy and Toto get home, the Wizard realizes that he will have to take them home with him as he has been growing tired of being cooped up all the time, and wanting to return to circus work. He and Dorothy make a new hot air balloon from green silk fabric.

At the send off he reveals himself to the people of the Emerald City one last time and appoints the Scarecrow, by virtue of his brains, to rule in his stead. Dorothy goes after Toto as he chases a kitten in the crowd. She attempts to return to the balloon, the tethers break, and the Wizard floats away and Dorothy is left behind.

Dorothy turns to the Winged Monkeys to carry her and Toto home, but they cannot cross the desert surrounding Oz, subsequently wasting her second wish. The Soldier with the Green Whiskers advises that Glinda, the beautiful and powerful Good Witch of the South, may be able to help Dorothy and Toto get home. Dorothy, Toto, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion journey to Glinda's palace in the Quadling Country. Together they escape the Fighting Trees, tread carefully through the Dainty China Country where they meet Mr. Joker, and the China Princess and dodge the armless Hammer-Heads on their rocky hill. The Cowardly Lion kills a giant evil spider who is terrorizing and eating up all the animals in a forest and he agrees to return there to rule them after Dorothy returns to Kansas. Dorothy uses her third wish to fly over the Hammer-Heads' mountain, almost losing Toto in the process.

At Glinda's palace, the travelers are greeted warmly by her all female army, and it is revealed by Glinda that Dorothy had the power to go home all along. The Silver Shoes she wears can take her anywhere she wishes to go. All Dorothy has to do is knock the heels of the shoes together three times. Dorothy tearfully embraces her friends, all of whom will be returned, through Glinda's use of the Golden Cap, to their respective kingdoms: the Scarecrow to the Emerald City, the Tin Woodman to the Winkie Country, and the Cowardly Lion to the forest. Then she will give the Golden Cap to the King of the Winged Monkeys, so they will never be under Gayellete's spell again. Having bid her friends farewell one final time, Dorothy does as she was instructed and wishes to return home. When she opens her eyes, Dorothy and Toto have returned to Kansas to a joyful family reunion. The Silver Shoes however, fell off on her flight back and were ultimately lost forever in the desert.

Aunt Em hugged Dorothy and covered the child in kisses. Aunt Em asked Dorothy where in the world had she come from and been. Dorothy told her about Oz and how glad she and Toto were to be home again.

The End


Land of Oz

In this inaugural book, Baum first delineates and begins to develop his concepts of the Land of Oz, with its central city and its four countries in the four cardinal directions, each with its characteristic color — the Munchkin Country in the east (blue), the Winkie Country in the west (yellow), the Quadling Country in the south (red), and the Gillikin Country in the north (purple). The characters in the first book visit all of the countries except the northern one.

A crucial point about Oz is that it is not "civilized," which allows witchcraft and magic and other odd traits to flourish. (Compare another pre-civilized society, the Island of Yew, which later succumbs to civilizing influences.)

Baum gives Oz an extensive development in the thirteen subsequent Oz books he wrote; his successors as Royal Historians carried that elaboration still further.

The History of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Baum wrote the manuscript for the book in soft pencil on pads; he was left-handed, and his writing was clear and easily legible. He saved and framed the last pencil used in the process, and displayed it on a wall in Ozcot, his Hollywood home. Its inscription read, "With this pencil I wrote the MS. of The Emerald City. Finished Oct. 9th, 1899."

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Original cover.

(The title of the book changed more than once during its genesis. When Baum and Denslow signed their 1899 contract to create the book, it was termed "The City of Oz or some other appropriate name." Publisher George M. Hill suggested From Kansas to Fairyland at one point; and the book was copyrighted as The Land of Oz.)

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Original cover back.

Denslow supplied 24 full-color plate illustrations for the book (including the title page), along with more than a hundred drawings, a total that included chapter headings and monochrome pictures that ran under the text. The colors in his plates match the journey of Dorothy and her friends through Oz — pictures of scenes set in the Emerald City are tinted green, and those in the Munchkin Country are dominated by shades of blue.

Baum and Denslow split evenly a 12% royalty of the book; each earned 9 cents per copy on the $1.50 cover price. On 15 January 1900 each man received a $500 advance on royalties from the publisher. The book was an instant success upon publication, selling more than 37,000 copies in fifteen months. Each of the collaborators received royalty payments of $1,423 on 1 November 1900, and another $1,966 at the end of the following year.


Cover from the late 70's.

The book passed out of copyright protection and into the public domain in 1956. By that time, it had sold over 4,195,000 copies.


The 1939 film and the musical The Wiz are based on this first Oz book.

It was also adapted into graphic novel form by Marvel Comics, and Puffin Graphics Campfire Classics.

In 1995 Gregory Maguire wrote a revisionist prequel to it called Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.

In 1997-1999, it was performed onstage at Madison Square Garden.


  • Aljean Harmetz. The Making of the Wizard of Oz: Movie Magic and Studio Power in the Prime of MGM — and the Miracle of Production #1060. New York, Delta edition, 1989.
  • Katharine M. Rogers. L. Frank Baum, Creator of Oz: A Biography. New York, St. Martin's Press, 2002.

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