Catching Fireflies

finding magic along the way

Glitter and Monkeys and the Shoes too!

L. Frank Baum (1856-1919) was the mastermind behind one of the most delightful and simultaneously frightening movies I ever saw as a kid. The Wizard of Oz (1939) starring Judy Garland was one of my first introductions to fantasy, and one that I still love. (I was even honored to play Dorothy in our high school version of The Wiz! 🙂 ) It was an adventure; it had memorable tunes; and it had the scariest creatures I had yet to encounter – flying monkeys!

What more could a kid wish for?

You feel alone and unwanted, and you are whisked away to a magical land where you meet some of the best friends you will ever have. You are tasked with a magical adventure. You get to sing and dance with munchkins. And you get to defeat the bad witch and go home when it is all over. In the end you even learn that you were never alone and unwanted. 🙂

What many movie goers may not realize is that this wonderful movie started as a wonderful series of books by L. Frank Baum. The series began with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and spanned 18 books, including two collections of short stories based in Oz.

Mr. Baum also wrote many other non-Oz books as well as numerous short stories and plays. He even wrote under seven different pseudonyms, something I learned in my research.

Scholars over the years will talk about the political imagery in his Oz books. It seems scholars always do. 🙂 But personally I like to just get caught up in the story.

In writing the Oz books, Mr. Baum wanted to write tales like the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson and make them up to date and more American.

Born and raised in Upstate New York, Mr. Baum started writing at an early age. His dad bought him a printing press and he published several issues of a journal that he and his brothers wrote. He later became a poultry breeder and fireworks retailer. He also had a love of the theater which would repeatedly land him in near-bankruptcy. His father built him a theater in 1880, which caught fire a few years later.

He spent some years in South Dakota where he worked as an editor for the local paper. Living there during a time of drought aided him in describing the midwest in his first book of Oz. He and his wife and fours ons later moved to Chicago where he took a job with the Evening Post. It was here started writing books.

Two years after the success of The Wizard of Oz (1900), he teamed up with others to work on the stage version. It differed from the book and was geared more toward an adult audience. He worked for years on an Oz theme park idea, and later started The Oz Film Manufacturing Company in Hollywood.

If you haven’t seen the movie since you were a child, watch it again.

If you have never treated yourself to the original works that inspired the movie, read them! Oh, and FYI, the first book can be had for under a dollar and the subsequent books in the series are free for Kindle on amazon.com!

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