Friday, March 01, 2013

Faeries and Wizards and Art, Oh My! The Not-So-Crazy Logic Behind this Creative Mashup

When I came up with the notion to blend the classic “Wizard of Oz” with our own beloved "Wee Faerie Village" it just seemed like a good idea. Since then, however, I’ve read the original book (I think for the very first time) and spent some quality time with a wonderful publication, “The Annotated Wizard of Oz” (2000) by Baum scholar Michael Patrick Hearn. Turns out that there are many more connections between the classic story and faeries in general.

First off, in his April of 1900 “Introduction” to the book, L. Frank Baum writes: “The winged fairies of Grimm and Andersen have brought more happiness to childish hearts that all other human creations. Yet the old-time fairy tale having served for generations, may now be classed as ‘historical’ in the children’s library… [The book] aspires to being a modernized fairy tale, in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heart-aches and nightmares are left out.”

In Chapter XI, “The Wonderful Emerald City of Oz,” Dorothy and her comrades are called before the great and terrible Oz individually, and he appears to each in a different guise. To Dorothy on the first day, he appears as a giant head. On the second day, it is the scarecrow’s turn to experience a one-on-one with the Wizard. The story goes like this: “So the Scarecrow followed him and was admitted into the great Throne Room, where he saw, sitting in the emerald throne, a most lovely lady. She was dressed in green silk gauze and wore upon her flowing green locks a crown of jewels. Growing from her shoulders were wings, gorgeous in color and so light that they fluttered if the slightest breath of air reach them.” The Wizard appears to the Scarecrow as a faerie! Although the faerie wings are in the text, Hearn points out in his notes that illustrator of the original book, the very talented W. W. Denslow, chooses to omit the wings in his illustration of the beautiful woman.

Another interesting allusion to faeries in the book are the Winged Monkeys. In the book, the band of Winged Monkeys are to grant three commands of whoever is the current owner of the Golden Cap. This cap passes in the story from the Wicked Witch of the West, to Dorothy, and lastly to Glinda, the Good Witch. According to Hearn, Baum writes other stories that feature animals as faeries. Baum states: “Why should not the animals have their Fairies, as well as mortals?” in his “Animal Fairy Tales” (1905). “Why should their tales not interest us as those concerning the Fairies of our own race?” Hmmm? So are the winged monkeys meant to be animal faeries?

In 1911, Baum publishes The Sea Faeries. This story concerns another female lead character who is magically transformed into a mermaid and enjoys an underwater adventure with the sea faeries before returning home, safe and on dry land. Again, “no place like home.” Although these watery fairies are very different from the winged ones above water, it is interesting that Baum continues to write stories that concern the larger notion of “fairies.”

As we move forward with this exciting project, I’m sure even more interesting coincidences between the wee faeries and Oz will emerge.

David D.J. Rau
Director of Education & Outreach

David D.J. Rau coordinates as well as participates in the Museum’s October creative endeavors. You can contact him at

Upcoming Blog Entries:

  • Sharing the Booking Prize White Paper "Wee Faerie Village"
  • Illustrating the Museum's October Events
  • Meet the Museum’s New Fantasy Illustrator Aaron Miller
  • Just C’Oz: Other Creative Endeavors Inspired by Oz

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