William Wallace Denslow and Frank Baum in the Land of Oz
Meet the Wizard(s) of Oz!
Actually there were two original wizards behind the curtain when the magic of Oz originated: author Lyman Frank Baum and illustrator William Wallace Denslow. They were both extremely talented, both very successful, both very self confident, but with very different egos.
W. W. Denslow lived life to the full potential, being married three times, buying his own island and being self proclaimed king, but Baum was different, always focusing on his work (personally taking care of copyrights of his books for instance) and especially on his audience. How many writers personally answered on hundreds of fan letters? Well, he did just that!
There collaboration on the first book of Oz wasn’t their first. Father Goose, His Book, was bestseller of 1899 sold in more than 175 thousand copies and publisher expected The Wizard should surpass magical number of 250 thousand. Baum and Denslow were so sure they have a winner, they payed the money for color pages inserted in the book which was initially planned as black and white from their own pockets.
This was even more important because the specific areas of Oz were painted with different colors: Emerald City was Green, East blue, West yellow, South red and Kansas grey. Yes, the movie with a combination of black and white with colors wasn’t so original after all…
The resulting book was spectacular success.
“I am the Witch of the North.”
“You must be a great sorceress.”
“I was only made yesterday.”
“This is a great comfort.”
“You ought to be ashamed of yourself.”
The stork carried him up into the air.
“Permit me to introduce to you her Majesty, the Queen.”
The lion ate some of the porridge.
The Soldier with the green whiskers led them through the streets.
The Tinsmiths worked for three days and four nights.
The monkeys caught Dorothy in their arms and flew away with her.
“Exactly so! I am a humbug.”
“I feel wise indeed.”
These people were all made of china.
“You must give me the Golden Cup.”
We all know how the story ends, right?
It was of course only a beginning for Frank Baum but he and Denslow came into disagreement after a stage version of Wizard of Oz and their collaboration stopped before the next book from the series was made.
There are thirteen books of Oz written by Baum and several dozens by other authors. Denslow was replaced with John Rea Neill who was soon called “The Royal Illustrator of Oz” and many others followed.
Oz is now important part of American and world culture heritage, but everything started with this book presented above. Pure magic, right?