THANKSGIVING . . . IN OZ!

THANKSGIVING . . . IN OZ!

by John Fricke

     

[Above: To Oz? To Oz! . . . as we review some of the happy moments for which the remarkable residents of the land are most thankful.]

Because of the wonderful books written by the “Royal Historians of Oz,” we’ve come to know much about the extraordinary citizens of that marvelous land.  As a result, I don’t think it’s possible to overemphasize the gratitude expressed by many of them for the experiences they’ve enjoyed across the 118 years since L. Frank Baum first brought Oz to our attention. Perhaps a number of you will read here for the very first time about such happy moments; others will already know them by heart! Regardless, they’re worth citing, especially at this thanksgiving (and Thanksgiving) time of the year.

The following is, of course, just a perfunctory “primer,” drawn from countless examples of the personal joys of some favorite Ozians. But every reference is meant to honor the appreciation felt by such genuinely loved inhabitants – and to celebrate the past week’s United States holiday.

Of course, it was Dorothy Gale who introduced most of us to Oz, and it was her cyclonic journey that first carried innumerable readers (and even more moviegoers and television viewers) “over the rainbow.” But her connection to Oz didn’t end when Baum’s silver shoes took her home to Kansas. In fact, she was delighted to return to the magic kingdom via other mystical routings: when swept off a ship during a Pacific Ocean storm; by falling victim to a California earthquake; and by becoming the pawn of a magical multiplication of Kansas roads. The Midwestern girl never failed to offer thanks for such adventures, but it’s safe to say that even they were surpassed when Princess Ozma invited her – plus Aunt Em, Uncle Henry, and Toto (too!) – to permanently relocate to Oz. [For specifics of Dorothy Gale’s second, third, fourth and fifth escapades, please (respectively!) see the books OZMA OF OZ, DOROTHY AND THE WIZARD IN OZ, THE ROAD TO OZ, and THE EMERALD CITY OF OZ.

[Above: An unexpected encounter of the best kind is explained and described in the paragraph below.]

It’s likely that the famous Scarecrow (often regarded as “the most popular man in Oz”) might describe himself as most appreciative of the brains given to him by the legendary Wizard. However, the straw genius is equally notable for his own capacity to care: One of the most rapturous and riveting (if emotionally fleeting) encounters in any of the hoztories comes with his first glance of Scraps, THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ, in that volume of the series. Significantly — In Baum’s perfect world — Scraps is equally bedazzled by the Scarecrow, and although they eventually settle down to become “just good friends,” their initial meeting is (you should pardon the expression) one for the books!

The scope of the Tin Woodman’s magnificent heart is a matter of record across many Oz legends. But like all three of Dorothy’s first companions, Nick Chopper (his given name) already possessed the gift he most sought from the Wizard of Oz. When the story of the Tin Man’s first trip across Oz with Dorothy & Co. was brought to the screen by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1939, the film’s limited running time meant that many indications of Nick’s care for his fellow travelers had to be dropped from the plot. However, those who would know more about the Tin Woodman’s sensitive response-and-defense (and sometimes necessarily ruthless use of his strength and ax) will find many examples in the full-length, first Oz book, THE WIZARD OF OZ.  Read how Nick saved the Queen of the Field Mice from a ravening wildcat! Discover his skills with the trees of different Oz forests, as he creates a bridge over an impassable chasm, builds a cart to transport (and save the life of) the Cowardly Lion from the Deadly Poppy Field, and teaches a lesson to the fighting saplings who would prevent Dorothy from reaching the palace of Glinda the Good! Learn how he dispatched the howling wolves of the Wicked Witch of the West – and overcame so many other challenges to those he loved. And let it be noted that he undertook many of these actions before he ever possessed a heart; they’re all described in THE WIZARD OF OZ book!

In that same title (and in another episode that never made it into the Judy Garland musical), the Cowardly Lion rescues a forest of animals from a giant spider. In the process, the Lion also has a brief, pleasant encounter with “the biggest of the tigers” in those woods – a meeting which foreshadows a companionship that gave him much for which to be thankful across other Oz stories. When we next come across them in OZMA OF OZ, the Lion and the “Hungry Tiger” have become best of friends; they’re also Emerald City dwellers, serving as duo honor guard to Princess Ozma. Their later sojourns into the wilds of the land involve them in no little excitement and danger, especially in THE MAGIC OF OZ, when a single word of transformation turns them into a Munchkin boy and a rabbit! How the Lion and Tiger return to their original forms, save two other friends from shrinking away to nothing when they become literally ROOTED on an enchanted island, AND help to provide Princess Ozma with an amazing birthday gift . . . well, it’s nothing short of miraculous. There’s no question that such an amalgamation of events is something the Lion and Tiger were most beholden to experience together.

[Above:  Dorothy and the Wizard himself are “processioned” into the Forest of Gugu by the Cowardly Lion and the Hungry Tiger in the book, THE MAGIC OF OZ.]

Finally, what of the Wizard himself? Of course, the citizens of Oz built the Emerald City under his wise guidance (although in later years he modestly claimed he “only bossed the job”). Additionally, the Wizard most certainly gave the residents a sense of security during his rule; when he departed in his balloon, the populace was most sorry to see him go. All that being said, the Wizard’s most grateful moment is easy to pinpoint: When he unexpectedly returns to Oz in DOROTHY AND THE WIZARD IN OZ, Princess Ozma welcomes him graciously and warmly — and then offers him “a home here as long as you live. You shall be the Official Wizard of my kingdom, and be treated with every respect and consideration.” When describing this scene, L. Frank Baum notes that the Wizard had “tear-drops . . . standing in his keen old eyes. It meant a great deal to him to secure a home like this.” Even better, the former humbug thereafter goes on to study at length with Glinda the Good; in the process, he becomes a genuine, wonder-working Wizard.

[Above:  A combination of royal and fairy lineage has made Princess Ozma a supremely right and rightful ruler of Oz. Her kindnesses to her own citizens – as well as to Dorothy, the Wizard, and others from the “Great Outside World” – are copiously described in the Oz Books.]

So, as you can see, there’s always much for which to be thankful in Oz! Indeed, as noted above, these are just a very few depictions of the hundreds that could be cited. Imagine Glinda’s delight at possessing the Great Book of Records, in which every event that happens anywhere in the world – no matter how minor — is immediately noted. Conjure up the joy of Jack Pumpkinhead when he’s able to grow a pumpkin large and spacious enough to use as his home. Or consider the ebullience of Santa Claus when he takes a couple of days off from his North Pole duties to attend Ozma’s birthday party in the Emerald City.

All of these adventures are told in The Oz Books – there are forty volumes in all — and well worth the exploring by any “reading children” you might know. Or any children-to-whom-you-read. Or any people you know who used to be children — and who would welcome a reminder of the fact that some of the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true. (Chittenango’s All Things Oz Museum and Shop stocks many of the Oz Books . . . and Christmas is coming!)

Finally, and given all of the foregoing, it might be best to conclude with a slight reconsideration of the title of this month’s blog – and offer that it could just as easily be called:  THANKSGIVING . . . TO  OZ.

Here’s every heartfelt wish that your holiday was happy, fulfilling, and suffused with gratitude — Ozzy and otherwise! 😊

AMONG MY SOUVENIRS . . .

AMONG MY SOUVENIRS . . .

by John Fricke

 

Across the last sixteen months, I’ve been fortunate to spend even more than the customary amount of time in the All Things Oz Museum in Chittenango, NY.  The happy experience of being surrounded by so much “Oz collection” has led to a lot of reflection here on the wide variety of products, projects, and memorabilia launched by L. Frank Baum, when he discovered the marvelous land (and first wrote about it) in THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ book in 1900. Fortunately, much of that material has been preserved, gathered, and presented – both in the public/professional sense, as with the Chittenango holdings, and also in the private/personal sense, as is demonstrated in the many photographs that fans post or otherwise share of an “Oz room” at home.  (Of course, truth be told: sometimes it’s “Oz roomS” . . . and/or hallways and/or houses. But more power to ‘em!)

I was a fervent and Ozzy collector myself as a preteen and teen; since then, during decades of Oz and/or Judy Garland-related work, there’s been additional happy accumulation. Many of the items are treasured here because of their special association with people, places, events, and heartfelt memories; given the social-media displays of favorite acquisitions joyously exhibited by so many fellow enthusiasts, I thought I’d take the same approach for this month’s blog.

The photos up-top show the front covers of two unusual editions of THE WIZARD OF OZ.  EL MAGO DE OZ (left) was published in 1940 in Santiago, Chile; O MAGICO DE OZ (right) appeared in Brazil in late 1939 and was one of the first foreign book publications to capitalize on that year’s release of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Judy Garland musical. These publications were comparatively unfamiliar to Oz historians until they were discovered in an ancient MGM file folder during research for projects attendant to the film’s fiftieth anniversary in 1989. They’re of additional interest in that their texts follow the movie plot rather than that of Baum’s original story — and they’re illustrated with film stills (and, in the case of O MAGICO, a variety of actual film frames).

 

As a little boy, I haunted the two used book stores in downtown Milwaukee, WI, and turned up a number of treasures – some of which I still cherish. One of the loveliest of these (above left) was a 1902 first edition/second printing of Baum’s beauteous fantasy, THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF SANTA CLAUS, which sold for a rip-roaring five dollars! (Well, that was a hefty price for a preteen, back in the day.) A couple of years later, in 1963, I began to attend the annual conventions of The International Wizard of Oz Club, then held in Bass Lake, IN, at Ozcot Lodge – the summer home of Baum’s only surviving son, Harry Neal. He and I had already enjoyed a brief correspondence, and he most kindly autographed my copy of SANTA CLAUS — which his father had dedicated to him some sixty-one years earlier.

 

The Oz Club was only five years old when I first became a member in 1962. Among its prime movers-and-shakers was the wonderful illustrator/writer Dick Martin. We became pen pals and then friends; a few months after our initial meeting at the 1963 OzCon, the fortieth (and final) “official” book in the Oz series was published by The Reilly & Lee Company of Chicago; Dick had pictured and designed it.  In a gesture that typified the sharing, generosity, and camaraderie of the Club’s early members and collectors, he sent me a copy of MERRY GO ROUND IN OZ as soon as it came from the press. Or, to be more specific, as soon as he’d had time to gently excise the book’s first page, inscribe it, send it off from his Chicago home to Oregon to garner and retrieve the additional autographs of the coauthors; and then carefully “tip in” the returned leaf. Over subsequent years, the McGraws – mother and daughter – befriended me and became revered companions, as well . . . but Dick holds a forever-place of his own in my gratitude and heart for being both an omnipresent compatriot and a marvel of talent.

(The explanation behind the origin of my Ozzified first name in the Martin drawing will have to wait for a future blog; it’s not a biggie!)

Finally, this little boxed set of 45rpm vinyl records was my sixth birthday present. Just twenty-seven days prior, I’d been introduced to the magic of Oz by the initial coast-to-coast telecast of THE WIZARD OF OZ movie over the CBS network. The lifelong delight, thrill, excitement (not to say glorious obsession) began that evening, and my ever-supportive and encouraging parents provided three related presents when my natal day came around. The record set was, perhaps, first among equals; there was the thrill of the color cover (I’d seen the film on a black-and-white TV); the eight black-and-while stills on the back of the box; the interior plot synopsis and production history; and the original soundtrack excerpts of song and story. Such an amalgamation went a very long way toward reinforcing my fascination with the movie I’d so recently viewed; to be sure, those records “held me” – way beyond entranced — for three years, until OZ was televised for a second time.

As I finished typing the foregoing sentence here, I found myself letting out a very happy sigh. And that was because there was the once-again realization that it’s not about the collecting or possessions – as euphorically pleasing as they can be. It’s about the recollections that come with each individual article.

So, I thank you for your possible interest in (or curiosity about) the items pictured here. But I most especially thank you for giving me the warmth of remembering people, places, events . . . and OZ.  😊