CHRISTMAS lN OZ!
[Above left: The Mary Cowles Clark front-cover design for L. Frank Baum’s THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF SANTA CLAUS, published in 1902. Above right: Just eighty-three years later, Rankin/Bass, Inc., adapted the book for an “animagic” CBS-TV Christmas special in 1985, and THE BAUM BUGLE – journal of The International Wizard of Oz Club, Inc. [ozclub.org]. -- touted the production on the front cover of its Winter issue.]
‘Tis the Season to be Ozzy!
ln their respective tenures as “Royal Historian of Oz,” both L. Frank Baum and Ruth Plumly Thompson made the Christmas holiday – and its primary protagonist – an occasional feature of their writings. One of the illustrations in last month’s blog depicted that principal participant (and we do mean Santa Claus himself) as toastmaster of an Emerald City banquet in Baum’s 1909 book, THE ROAD TO OZ. This month’s Ozzy musings provide other glimpses of the very real connection between the yearly December festivities and the “over the rainbow” Imagi-Nation of many dreams.
Just two years after the first appearance of THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ, Baum published another full-length children’s fantasy, THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF SANTA CLAUS (1902). ‘Twas his own inventive tale of the origins of the legendary sprite of the season: Wood-nymph Necile discovers a forsaken baby in the magical Forest of Burzee and gains permission from the Great Ak, Master Woodsman, to keep and raise the child. When he comes of age, the young Claus begins to invent toys to delight neighboring children, and he is aided in his talents to amuse by the woodland Fairies, Knooks, and Ryls. Though threatened with destruction by the evil Awgwas, Claus continues into old age, creating along the way the traditions of the Christmas tree and Christmas stockings. When passing years finally weigh heavily on the beloved and generous human, Ak calls a counsel of The Immortals, who agree to bestow upon Santa Claus the Mantle of Immortality, enabling him to forever continue his favored work.
Two years later, Baum wove the jolly oldster into his “Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz” newspaper serial, as The Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, Jack Pumpkinhead, Woggle-Bug, and Sawhorse visit Claus in his Laughing Valley residence to provide him with toy miniatures of themselves to share with children on Christmas Eve. Jean Kellogg later adapted episodes of Baum’s short Oz stories into the 1960 book, THE VISITORS FROM OZ, and climaxed her recounting with the Ozian/Santa encounter. (Her text and -- especially -- Dick Martin’s illustrations for that Reilly & Lee hardcover volume immeasurably brightened December 25, 1960, for this ten-year-old Ozmaniac; I was especially “wowed” by my first-ever glimpse of a map of Oz and its surrounding countries!)
[Above: Aloft in The Gump (from left), The Woggle-Bug, The Scarecrow, The Tin Woodman, and Jack Pumpkinhead peruse a vintage map as they fly homeward after adventures in the United States. Dick Martin’s artwork utilized a piece of forty [plus!] year old cartography which, in turn, dazzled young readers with its colorful implication that one COULD get to Oz…if fortunate to possess the correct chart, diagram, or atlas.]
Between 1921 and 1939, Ruth Plumly Thompson wrote nineteen Oz books as Baum’s immediate “Historian” successor; The International Wizard of Oz Club published two more Thompson titles in 1972 and 1976. But several of her most charming flights of fancy appeared only in the Club’s journal, THE BAUM BUGLE, and three of those brief poems centered on the annual December celebration. In the issue for Christmas 1960, “RPT” revealed “Where Santa Spends Christmas,” and it will come as no surprise to readers of this column to hear that his final delivery stop is The Emerald City. (“That jolly old gent” has “real tears in his eyes” to discover that the famous characters are prepped and waiting to fete and gift HIM!) A year later, “A Christmas Wish” detailed Thompson’s holiday desire “to be/The Wiz of Oz, instead of me…,” so that she could utilize the enchanted pipe of the Great & Powerful One to conjure up gifts for the citizenry, “from Ozma down to her proud glass cat.” And finally, the rhymed patter for 1962 tells of The Scarecrow’s desire to provide “A Christmas Present for Ozma” – a challenge he meets with “a fine rocking chair.” Thus, “this year/whennstate matters grow pressing/Like Kennedy, Ozma/will find it a blessing”…a reference to the thirty-fifth President of the United States and the much-described piece of furniture to which he retired to combat chronic back pain.
[Above: A second Dick Martin drawing from THE VISITORS FROM OZ, a 1960 picture book adaptation of early Baum newspaper stories from 1904-1905. Here, the ebullient Father Christmas himself delights in the toy figures provided for him by their legendary Ozian counterparts.]
Happy recollections all! And if no map to the actual Land of Oz has yet to fall into our hands, here’s to creating more memories by heralding Oz together whenever possible in the New Year – whether in these twice-monthly ramblings or (better still!) at Wamego’s bountiful OZ Museum and the 2016 OZtoberfest.
Meanwhile, I send heartfelt greetings to all for every healthful blessing, benediction, and beauty of the season. THANK YOU for your ongoing attention to these random reflections, and here’s to the immeasurable joy that Baum, Thompson, Martin, and their compatriots have shared via their own gifts across these many decades of magic!
P.S. Don’t forget! You can satisfactorily one-stop shop – and delight the Ozzy souls of your acquaintance (and/or yourself!) – via the Wamego OZ Museum gift shop: http://ozmuseum.com/collections/all
Article by John Fricke