Discovering OZ: The Royal Histories-- With Gratitude, Honor, and Love to the Royal Historian


by John Fricke


[Above: While en route to face the gripping magical challenges detailed in GLINDA OF OZ, Dorothy and Ozma encounter “a Mist Valley, where” – as the Rightful Ruler of Oz explains – “these moist clouds always remain, for even the sunshine above does not drive them away.” This all occurred, of course, decades prior to Stephen King’s THE MIST, but Dorothy is still (and somewhat understandably) cautious; she summarily observes, “There may be dreadful things mixed up” in the haze of the Valley below, and she hesitates even “wading into it.” Omniscient Ozma, however, feels certain that her fellow fairies, The Mist Maidens, must dwell in such environs; she summons them, and those beautiful denizens swiftly and easily waft the two girls across the gulf to the bank on its opposite side.]


True Confession – or Total Disclosure; take your pick!

Our 2023 series about L. Frank Baum’s fourteen Oz books was supposed to appear across twelve months of “preview” Vlogs and detailed Blogs in the last calendar year. Well, as can be easily seen, it took us fifteen months and into 2024! 😊 There’s been a lot to say, however, as well as to pictorially share, and we’re now once again (or still) in that situation with our wind-up entry for this topic. The current Vlog, posted on Wamego’s OZ Museum Facebook page on March 18, promises that this Blog will offer the backstory of GLINDA OF OZ . . . PLUS information about the author’s many Oz short stories.

(In other words: Hold fast; here we go!)

Baum’s final two Oz books were published posthumously, for the “Royal Historian” died at his home in Hollywood, CA, on May 6, 1919 – just nine days before his sixty-third birthday. In terms of career perspective at that moment, the later Baum biography, TO PLEASE A CHILD (1961), put it best and most succinctly: “. . . Half a continent away, the presses were pouring out copies of THE MAGIC OF OZ” – the new book for that year. (If you like, please see the preceding Vlog and Blog [March 7 and 12] for details about 1919’s extraordinarily exciting Ozian novel.)

Fortunately, Baum had completed and submitted the manuscript of GLINDA OF OZ to The Reilly & Lee Co. prior to his passing, and her saga was printed and published in 1920. This was, however, the first of the Oz books that didn’t open with a letter from the author “to my readers.” Instead, the publishers preceded his story text with the gentle explanation that Mr. Baum had gone away a year earlier -- “to take his stories to the little child-souls who had lived here too long ago to read the Oz stories for themselves.”

Across the last two years of Baum’s life, he’d endured surgery, constant illness, and (although at home at Ozcot) remained essentially bedridden. Yet it came as no surprise to those who read GLINDA OF OZ that he managed to rise above those trials and provide a book that was alternately termed “delectable,” “the most fascinating of the famous Oz stories,” and “a fountain of fun . . . an American fun-classic of its merry kind” that “should have a place in every child’s library.” (The quotes come, respectively, from the 1920 reviews in the OAKLAND [CA] TRIBUNE, THE FARMER’S WIFE, the PORTLAND OREGONIAN, and the Louisville [KY] COURIER JOURNAL.) In the most sweeping commendation, the SACRAMENTO [CA] UNION cited the entire Oz series, stating that we “can recommend the whole group most enthusiastically. What an excellent nucleus for a child’s library [it] would make.”

Baum launched the plot of GLINDA OF OZ with his matriarchal trifecta of famous females, as Ozma and Dorothy arrive for a visit at Glinda’s palace.  



While the two rulers converse, the little girl from Kansas occupies herself by reading Glinda’s Great Book of Records. This gi-normous volume – and according to Baum’s exact words -- “prints a record of every event that happens in any part of the world, at exactly the moment it happens.” All three of the Oz heroines are thus disturbed when Dorothy quotes aloud the fact that “The Skeezers of Oz have declared war on the Flatheads of Oz, and there is likely to be fighting and much trouble as a result.” Swiftly, Ozma and Dorothy return to the Emerald City, and the next morning, they set out from there to address, “in person,” this declaration of hostility. (As sovereign of the entire Land of Oz, it’s Ozma’s duty.)

Even before dealing with the warring peoples, however, the girls are captured along the way in a seemingly unbreakable web by giant purple spiders. They’re next confronted by a mystical, cloud-obscured valley (please see the art “up top” to learn how that situation is surmounted) and then eventually collide with an invisible and seemingly impassable wall of stone.

To finally reach the mountain top home of the Flatheads, Dorothy and Ozma must climb a lengthy – and magical -- interior mountain staircase that has been carved from stone in an odd and repeated pattern of ten steps up and five steps down:



Every tenth step has been constructed to set off a warning bell in the village at the peak of the Flathead mount; thus, a suspicious delegation is awaiting the duo from the Emerald City, and the girls are quickly and unceremoniously led to a confrontation with the country’s Su-dic (“Supreme Dictator”). Although even less gracious than his people, the Su-dic explains that the local citizenry was born “flatheaded” -- unable to think and ignorant -- until the Fairy Queen Lurline provided each person with a can of brains to carry in a pocket. The Su-dic, however, has captured brains from two others; his wife has commandeered them from three others, and this excess has given both of them magical powers. They plan to lead a war against the Skeezers, as Coo-ee-oh -- the ruler of those people -- has forbidden the Flatheads to fish in the Skeezer Lake. (There’s an underlying reason for this, which is revealed later in the story.) Additionally, Coo-ee-oh has transformed the Su-dic’s wife into a golden pig, and the Su-dic craves revenge for that, as well. So he quickly dismisses Ozma’s offer to reverse the transformation and effect peace between the nations; he orders her and Dorothy imprisoned.



Almost adjacent to the Flathead Mountain is the city of the Skeezers, which rests on an entirely glass-covered island in the middle of a nearby lake. Fleeing from the Su-dic, the two girls manage to escape there, yet the disdainful welcome they receive from the much-feared “Krumbic Witch” Coo-ee-oh surpasses even that of the inhospitable ruler of the Flatheads. At the conclusion of their brief audience with Coo-ee-oh, she cavalierly dismisses Ozma and Dorothy to the home of one of her advisors, Lady Aurex.



At Ozma’s request, Aurex recounts the truthful backstory of Skeezer for her guests: A beautiful trio of women -- Adepts in Sorcery -- had peacefully ruled the nearby Flatheads, until the aggressive and evil Coo-ee-oh absconded with their magic, turned them into fish, and banished them to the lake. The Su-dic now plans to poison the lake, killing all the fish – including the Adepts – so as to retain his control over the Flatheads. Meanwhile, Coo-ee-oh knows that if the Adepts are killed, she will shrivel and lose her own magical powers, so she is prepared to wage war with the Flatheads to keep the fish alive.

Dorothy and Ozma are awakened the next morning by the grinding of magical mechanism: Coo-ee-oh is cagily sinking the island and entire domed city below the surface of the lake to protect it from the approaching army of Flatheads (first picture below). She then ventures out to confront them in a magic submarine, but before she can effect a conquest, the Su-dic douses her with poison, and she becomes a vain and preening Diamond Swan. In the process, she forgets all knowledge of her witchcraft capabilities (second picture below:)



Having temporarily triumphed, the Flatheads return to their mountain, leaving virtually the entire Skeezer population trapped under glass at the bottom of the lake – and Ozma and Dorothy with them. The only one who knows how to implement the magic that raises and lowers the island is now a helpless, self-adoring fowl.

You might have noted that I said “virtually.” Four Skeezers are actually free, yet stranded aboard the submarine they had navigated -- under Coo-ee-oh’s command -- from the submerged city to the lake’s surface. While three of them despairingly sleep, the enterprising young Ervic is approached by three fish who swim up to the open boat and tell him that they are the transformed Adepts (see top picture below). They ask for his help in regaining their human form, and – at their direction -- he takes them to a nearby cottage. This proves to be the home of Reera the Red, a secretive Yookoohoo witch who possesses extreme powers of transformation. She is surrounded by frightening animals and oversize insects, and she herself is in the guise of a huge gray ape when Ervic arrives.



With quiet, stealthy guidance from the three fish, Ervic slowly coerces Reera into giving the three girls their original forms. She then genially welcomes them and assumes her own appearance in their honor.



The boy and the Adepts hasten back to the Skeezer Lake to address the problem of the sunken city and captive populace. When they arrive, they find Glinda onsite and at the helm of a large rescue party from the Emerald City, all of whom are alarmed at the plight of Ozma and Dorothy. The participants include an amazing array: the Wizard, the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman, the Cowardly Lion, the Patchwork Girl, Jack Pumpkinhead, the Frogman, Tik-Tok, the Woggle-Bug, the Glass Cat, Button Bright, Ojo the Lucky, Cap’n Bill, Trot, Betsy Bobbin, Uncle Henry, the Woggle-Bug, and the Shaggy Man. (Needless to say, this makes for the perfect all-star cast, despite the fact that the all-star finale they -- and we -- hope to enjoy is as yet totally precluded by a treacherous and bewildering task.)

Building on a clever suggestion from Scraps the Patchwork Girl, Glinda, the Wizard, and the Three Adepts gain physical access to the sunken city, but they are stymied again and again in their search for the mystic means of raising the island. Fittingly, it’s Dorothy who makes an accidental discovery and then offers an idea of her own. Thanks to the presence of the three Adepts – one of whom is shown here with Ozma – a stunning, miraculous procedure is detected and instigated.



All ends well, of course. The Skeezers are provided a new and sage ruler in Lady Aurex (with Ervic as her Prime Minister); the Su-dic and his wife are vanquished; the Swan is left in oblivious, proudful peace; and the Three Adepts agree to return to – and maintain peace -- on Flathead Mountain. In a last flurry of necromancy, Glinda manages to provide the contents of every can of Flathead brains with a permanent home: one atop each citizen!


She then magically causes “the head to grow over the brains,” and – continuing in a few more of Baum’s own words – the Flatheads are “thus rendered as intelligent and good looking as any of the other inhabitants of the Land of Oz.” (In turn, the Adepts rename their people the “Mountaineers.”) The party from the Emerald City then returns home, and Glinda and Ozma’s loyal friends have helped her to bring peace to the Skeezers and former Flatheads.

It was for Baum – failing in physical health but valiant in mind and pen – an all-engrossing, all-fantasy, all-Ozzy denouement to his fourteen Oz books. Better still, the magic described in the manipulations of the Skeezer Island was both acknowledged and pictured as (at least partly) due to mechanical science. This was an assuredly Baumian means of subtly and quietly educating his young readers to seek the natural magic in their own surroundings and their own world—and to encourage their imaginations to carry out inventions and creations of their own devising during their lifetimes.

As both this book’s title AND the name of the country’s materfamilias since the first Oz story in 1900, how natural and fitting that GLINDA OF OZ was there to lead the way!


GLINDA OF OZ (1920) was Baum’s fourteenth full-length Oz book. As referenced above, however, he also penned a number of short stories about Oz and/or its characters in earlier years. The first cluster of these was published as a weekly, full-color, Sunday newspaper comic page, QUEER VISITORS FROM THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ, from August 28, 1904, through February 26, 1905. Syndicated by the PHILADELPHIA NORTH-AMERICAN and illustrated by popular cartoonist Walt McDougall, the twenty-six episodes regaled readers with the adventures – mostly in America – of the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, Jack Pumpkinhead, Woggle-Bug, and Sawhorse, who had flown here from Oz in the Gump. (All six of these Ozians were heavily featured in Baum’s new and second Oz book, THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ, which was being launched in stores concurrent with the appearance of the comic pages.) There was also a preliminary full-page introduction to the series, reproducing Princess Ozma’s proclamation that allowed the “queer visitors” to make their trip and “to romp with the children of the United States.” In her declaration, she warmly referred to Baum as a “Highly Esteemed Writeness” and asked that he “accord [the Visitors] a warm Welcome and watch carefully over their Interests.”

Some of these stories, originally very much of their time, were eventually adapted by Jean Kellogg (though still credited to Baum) and published by Reilly & Lee as THE VISITORS FROM OZ in 1960. This fine, large format picture-book was most jauntily and colorfully illustrated by Dick Martin.  An unexpurgated collection of the complete original text of QUEER VISITORS (with sterling artwork by Eric Shanower) appeared much more recently from the Hungry Tiger Press. Finally, all twenty-seven pages – plus related extras -- were reprinted in a huge, oversize facsimile edition by Sunday Press in 2009. (Below, top: This McDougall drawing from 1904 captures a happy reunion as the Scarecrow meets again little Dorothy – for the first time since her initial trip to Oz, and on her home turf in Kansas, no less! Just below that image is a Dick Martin picture from the 1960 THE VISITORS OF OZ book, in which Nick Chopper creates tiny replicas of himself for Santa Claus to give away as gifts for children at Christmas time:)



Six more Baum short stories appeared in 1913 as individual booklets, bound in paper-covered boards. They coincided with – and were meant to promote -- his own “official” return to Oz (after a two-year hiatus) with the full-length book, THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ. Heralded as The “Little Wizard Series,” the brief, fanciful tales centered on THE COWARDLY LION AND THE HUNGRY TIGER, LITTLE DOROTHY AND TOTO, TIKTOK AND THE NOME KING, OZMA AND THE LITTLE WIZARD, JACK PUMPKINHEAD AND THE SAWHORSE, and THE SCARECROW AND THE TIN WOODMAN. Sweepingly pictured throughout by the ever-wondrous John R. Neill, the six tales were then brought together in a single volume as LITTLE WIZARD STORIES OF OZ in 1914: 


The LITTLE WIZARD STORIES are especially fitting for younger readers; a reprint is available from Books of Wonder with the original Neill illustrations.




Even with the loss of L. Frank Baum in 1919 (and as plenty of you already know), there were many more Oz stories still to come. The franchise was too valuable to abandon, both to Reilly & Lee and to Baum’s widow. Thus, Maud Gage Baum authorized continuation of the Oz series under an agreement by which she was paid a royalty on all following titles, regardless of the identities of any succeeding author[s]. She also saw to it that Baum himself retained “billing” -- as well he should. The subsequent “official” 26 books, issued by Reilly & Lee between 1921 and 1963, carried Baum’s name on both the front cover and title page, in the same size type as that of the author or authors of the new book. Each volume was thus described and declaimed as “Founded On and Continuing the Famous Oz Stories by L. Frank Baum.”


Those latter twenty-six books were kept In print well into the 1960s. Since then, they have been sporadically reprinted and continue to sell. Meanwhile, Books of Wonder in New York City has brought out Baum’s fourteen titles in beautiful new hardcover editions, which include all the original color and black and white art.

I hope these twelve Vlogs and Blogs – designed to spotlight the first fourteen “Royal Histories” -- have proved to be informative and entertaining for you. Beyond that, I’m actually SURE that the chance to see a score or more of the Neill or Denslow pictures for each title has brought delight – for I’ve been told so! (Incidentally, the seventy-five second Vlog about GLINDA OF OZ – the “trailer” for this Blog – can be found on the Wamego OZ Museum Facebook page; it’s an entry dated March 18th. There you’ll find additional in-color Neill pictures, among them the cover of the first edition of GLINDA OF OZ; a view of the Glass Dome on the Skeezer Lake (prior to its submergence); a portrait of the sparkling Diamond Swan; a view of Dorothy, Ozma, and Glinda in the palace garden – plus a couple of covers from 1939 reprints of the LITTLE WIZARD STORIES and that of the 1960 THE VISITORS FROM OZ book.

 One vitally important (and, I promise, final!) summation: All fourteen of the Baum Oz books reviewed and embraced in the Vlogs and Blog posted here since January 2023 were first published between 1900 and 1920. That’s more than one hundred years ago – and all fourteen of those titles have REMAINED IN PRINT EVER SINCE. It’s a black-and-white AND Technicolor testimonial to an author who (even before he discovered Oz) realized -- and wrote -- that he had learned a simple fact: “To please a child is a sweet and lovely thing that warms one’s heart and brings its own reward.”

It’s a celebratory, incontrovertible fact that NO other American author in history has created such a tangible, palpable, “pleasing” for children than has L. Frank Baum . . . the Royal Historian OF “The Royal Histories.”


Article by John Fricke

(Meanwhile . . . COMING NEXT MONTH! The PREMIERE of John's 2024 Blog Series, “WHAT HATH METRO WROUGHT?” – honoring, ON ITS 85th BIRTHDAY, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's 1939 motion picture classic, THE WIZARD OF OZ!)


Article by John Fricke


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