By John Fricke

[Above: This edition of THE WIZARD OF OZ “en français” was published in 1964 — just thirty-two years after LE MAGICIAN D’ OHZ (as it was then titled) became the first Oz book to be translated and issued abroad. An avalanche of foreign language volumes has followed ever since, and in this month’s blog, you’ll read more about the 1964 French version and three others – from Yugoslavia, Israel, and Japan. Their original artwork is uber-enjoyable!]

In last month’s entry, we shared brief history about — and multiple illustrations from — four overseas translations of L. Frank Baum’s THE WIZARD OF OZ. It’s worth noting, however, that the reaction of the blog’s All Things Oz adherents (while always graciously expressed) seemed even more than customarily enthusiastic when we displayed these colorful, curious, and sometimes bizarre narrative and pictorial approaches to Baum’s famous citizenry.

Well, we can take a cue; here are four more! 😊

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s 1939 Technicolor musical film of THE WIZARD OF OZ didn’t reach many European countries until after World War II, yet its subsequent release abroad almost immediately spurred varied translations of the original Baum book. One of the first of these appeared in 1947; it was issued by Izreel Publishing House of Tel Aviv. The abridged HUKOSEM MEIERETZ OOZ was translated by Chernowitz and included a raft of diminutive drawings by Mrs. Bena Gewirtz. The volume was popular enough to be reprinted a number of times, and the cover shown just above accompanied its 1963 edition. (In this charmingly imaginative pose, Dorothy and Toto are shown as they look through a pair of the “green spectacles” then deemed essential to protect the eyes of those who wanted to enter the sparkling and maximally jeweled Emerald City.)

Mrs. Gewirtz was only allowed a limited number of images, but she selected both expected and unexpected moments of Baum’s saga to share. Below, we see the Stork returning the Scarecrow to his friends. He’d been briefly trapped mid-river, clinging to a pole he’d been using to propel a raft as he helped transport himself, Dorothy, Toto, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion across one of those often inconvenient Oz rivers. The Scarecrow’s pole got stuck in the mud at the bottom of the waterway, and he was tugged from the raft and left to cling and hang, much to his friends’ despair. The gracious Stork flew by — and then flew in — to effect his rescue. The Gewirtz drawing beneath that one offers our five protagonists on their second visit to the Emerald City, as they’re discovering and confronting the “Great and Terrible” humbug himself. (Note that Mrs. Gewirtz interprets Dorothy’s companions at much the same petite height as Baum’s preteen heroine.) Finally, even in his truncated retelling of the OZ text, Chernowitz manages to detour to the Dainty China Country, where Dorothy and Toto confront the China Princess. (The milkmaid’s cow seemingly has its four legs intact, so the mishap that broke one of them apparently occurred after this drawing was made.) (A heartfelt suggestion: read the book! 😊 )

A curious and perhaps semi-hybrid edition was the 1963 CAROBNJAK IZ OZA, translated by Slobodan Glumac and published by Mladost in Zagreb; its cover is pictured just below. While a Yugoslavian version of two years earlier credits Baum as the book’s author, this one cites Alexander Volkov on its title page. As noted in last month’s blog, Volkov was the journalist who produced translations of THE WIZARD OF OZ in Russia in 1939 and 1960, crediting himself with the book’s creation and offering only passing reference to Baum. Despite its declared Volkov “authorship,” however, the 1963 Yugoslavian copy seems to be a more straightforward (if truncated) retelling of Baum’s verbiage, at least insofar as what might be ascertained by the Ferdinand Kulmer artwork. (Finally, to further muddy the issue, the volume then has a brief paragraph about Baum at the conclusion of the story text!)

CAROBNJAK’s Kulmer is not a painstaking draftsman, but his broadly or heavily stroked penwork has a sense of both fun and style. There is detail and/or humor in his handling (below) of: the tornado, as the trees on the Kansas plain bow to the ferocity of the passing wind; the sequence in which the Cowardly Lion is rescued from the Deadly Poppy Field on the Tin Man-built cart, pulled by thousands of field mice – notice their Queen bringing up their rear and simultaneously directing traffic; and the sight of Dorothy & Co. being transported to safety over a hill of danger in the Quadling Country. At least three of the now-helpful Winged Monkeys seem to be thumbing their noses at the frustrated Hammer-Heads below.

The 1964 LE MAGICIEN D’OZ was abridged and interpreted by Jean Muray, published by Hachette in Paris, and pictured by Romain Simon; the Simon cover illustration leads off this blog “up top.” Simon’s interior artwork is charming, especially in its alternating bright or lightly pastel color work, and three of those drawings have been selected for presentation here. Each falls into its own category of storytelling: the first is unusual in the moment chosen for portrayal; the second seems to subvert a basic tenet of “given” Oz characterization; and the third presents an – indeed! – special approach in its depiction of one of the minor tribes of Oz. In that order:

a) Early on in her journey, Dorothy and Toto have only met the Scarecrow, and when it comes time for the trio to find a place for the girl and dog to rest, they ultimately spend the night (in Baum’s words) “in a little cottage . . . built of logs and branches.” The Kansas kid “found a bed of dried leaves in one corner . . . and with Toto beside her, soon fell into a sound sleep. The Scarecrow, who was never tired, stood up in another corner and waited patiently until morning came.” When morning came, of course, the travelers discovered the rusted Tin Woodman nearby and eventually learned that they’d spent the night in his home:

b) The odd circumstance in the next picture offers the Cowardly Lion, swimming across an Ozian river and transporting the Tin Woodman in the process. While the Lion DOES pull the aforementioned raft from the river in that segment of the story, the scene shown here is not lifted from Baum’s text. It seems that translator Muray may have adapted the situation to suit himself, for as every Oz fan knows, the effect of that much water on the joints of the Tin Woodman would be — most definitely — detrimental and deleterious to his immediate future:

c) Even though an abridgement, LE MAGICIEN D’OZ manages to include some of the side jaunts of Baum’s original story, and the French art here offers a unique interpretation of the encounter with the attacking Hammer-Heads. As described in Baum’s text, they are shown as armless, with necks that can extend to great lengths to batter and deter trespassers from climbing their mountain. The lengthening cervixes here, however, seem more like balloon strings than the Baum-described “thick” necks. (Please refer to the Yugoslavian group of drawings above to see the more accepted, traditional Hammer-Head appearance.)

Between this month and last, the idea must have landed with blog readers that THE WIZARD OF OZ characters are world-wide wanderers! It’s equally happy to be able to cite the additional fact that there also have been numerous translations of Baum’s later Oz series books as well.

One of these is “book seven” of Baum’s fourteen Oz novels, THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ. Published by Hayakawa in Tokyo in 1977, it was the fifth Baum title they’d issued in three years; their translations were done by Takato Sato, and Sonoko Arai contributed excellent black-and-white line drawings, color covers, and a double-page color illustration for each volume. The PATCHWORK GIRL front cover below manages to portray eight characters central to the plot: Toto, Dorothy (shown holding the Glass Cat), Scraps — the Patchwork Girl herself, the famous Scarecrow, Ojo the Munchkin Boy (whose mission propels the story), a yellow butterfly, and the Woozy. (The latter’s eyes are angrily flashing fire in the background; one may assume someone has taunted him with the phrase “Krizzle-Kroo,” which invariably provokes such combustion on his part.)

Three other examples of Arai’s talents may be found below. The map for THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ artfully traces many characters and locations encountered by the principal cast on their quest. Just below, from top right of the art and moving left along the Yellow Brick Road, we see the simple, single Munchkin dwelling of Ojo and his Unc Nunkie, the similarly secluded home of the Crooked Magician, two Oz oddities — the Foolish Owl and the Wise Donkey, the imprisoned Woozy, the monstrous entrapment plants, a Horner and a Hopper, the embedded bars of Mr. Yoop’s mountain jail cell, the village of the Hottentots, Jack Pumpkinhead, and the respective tin castle of the Tin Woodman and the palace of the Emerald City. A single-page Arai drawing then shares the confrontation between Ojo, Dorothy, Scraps, the Woozy, and the Shaggy Man with Chiss, the overgrown Porcupine – and a much larger threat in this Japan art (the Godzilla influence?) than in that contributed by John R. Neill to the original 1913 edition of THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ. In conclusion, Arai uses the double-page color plate to memorialize the skirmish faced by Dorothy, Scraps, Ojo, and Toto when they’re beset by imprisoned giant, Mr. Yoop. (The latter already has the Scarecrow well in hand.)

Now . . . back from Oz and into the present! Or to be more accurate: Back from past Oz to present-day Oz and Chittenango’s OZ-STRAVAGNZA! 2023, which comes up in about eight weeks. In deference to such topicality, we’ll be eliminating excursions to foreign realms in the blogs for May and June and concentrating on – as they phrase it in Chittenango – “Where Oz All Began.” Certainly, were it not for native son, L. Frank Baum (born in this singular upstate New York hamlet in 1856), there’d be no Oz or any of its bands of merry players. There’d also be no annual weekend celebration (June 2nd, 3rd, and 4th this year) to attract the twenty-to-thirty-thousand celebrants, who’ve come from all over the world since this – the longest-running Oz festival in history – was first launched decades ago.

I hope to see many of you there! 

Meanwhile, I promise to return to the alternately odd, beauteous, creative, and evocatively illustrated topic of Oz Abroad in this space later in 2023 — if you like. Please give a shout out in the comments section on any of the Facebook links to this post; let us know how YOU feel and/or what other aspects of “hoztory” you’d like to see examined here. We aim to entertain. 😊

And, as ever, your presence and appreciation are appreciated!

Finally, I want to offer another grateful acknowledgement of the 1960s and 1970s research and journalism done by Douglas G. and David L. Greene. Their pioneering work in tracing, tracking, accessing, and annotating foreign editions of the Oz Books was frequently and generously shared across those (and other) years in THE BAUM BUGLE, journal of The International Wizard of Oz Club, Inc. (ozclub.org). It’s a joyous, Ozzy fact indeed that such effort on their parts is capable of bringing information, pleasure, and entertainment across all the decades ever since; may it continue to do so, to their everlasting credit!


Article by John Fricke