Lyman (long for "L.") Frank Baum (May 15, 1856 May 6, 1919) was an American author, best known for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz—a work so popular that, in fact, he was chained to the series and wrote Oz book after Oz book while longing to write anything else. He wrote the second Oz book to capitalize on the success of the stage version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and although he didn't plan to turn it into a series, he was talked into writing four more books by the publisher. After trying to end the series at six books and move onto a new fantasy adventure series starring his characters Trot and Cap'n Bill, some bad theater investments and poor book sales necessitated his return to the Oz series after only a three year absence, which he would be stuck writing for the rest of his life. That the series was in no way pre-planned helps explain what a Continuity Snarl the Oz books are, as well as the fact that he often juggled various side projects while rushing out yearly Oz books, such as theater productions (arguably his true passion over writing) and later, silent films for his short-lived film studio. Baum also wrote many novels for adult audiences under various pen names; in total he wrote close to 80 books in his lifetime, and only 15 were Oz books (counting a short story collection). Even in death he was not able to escape Oz, as in a state of tenuous after a stroke and a short coma, he awoke one last time to tell his wife "Now we can cross the Shifting Sands." note
Before being utterly trapped by Oz, he wrote a number of other works, such as his first best selling book Mother Goose in Prose, and The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus.
Works by L. Frank Baum with their own trope pages include:
- The first 14 books of the Land of Oz series:
- The Sea Fairies
- Queen Zixi of Ix
- The Master Key
- The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus
- The Magical Monarch of Mo
Other works by L. Frank Baum provide examples of:
- Author Appeal: Magic (he had a strong interest in Theosophy), strong and sensible female characters in positions of power (his wife and mother in law were suffragettes and proto-feminists).
- Cameo Prop: Baum died before MGM's version of The Wizard of Oz was filmed, but, in a remarkable coincidence, his coat played a role in the movie. The studio wardrobe department had trouble getting just the right look for Frank Morgan's "Professor Marvel". Finally, they went to a nearby thrift shop and bought an old, shabby frock coat for him to wear. While on the set, Morgan turned out the pocket of the coat, and noticed a name tag of the previous owner: L. Frank Baum. (This was later confirmed by Baum's widow and the tailor that made the coat.) Amusingly, when Margaret Hamilton first heard about it, she initially refused to believe it, claiming it to be nothing more than an MGM-concocted rumor to drum up publicity for the movie.
- Creator Backlash: While he didn't exactly hate the book that made him famous, he was disappointed that none of his other literary attempts were anywhere near as successful, forcing him to continue writing Oz sequels for the money. He tried several times to end the series (for instance, by having Oz be permanently cut off from communication the outside world), but the public would have none of it.
- Direct Line to the Author: Was fond of using this trope in the introductions to the Oz books, calling himself the Royal Historian of Oz; and since they're in a Shared Universe with his other fantasy books one could presume this trope applied with all of his books, whether stated or not. For instance, after Oz was shut off from the rest of the world, he was able to find a way to communicate with Oz via telegraph in order to get more stories.
- Embarrassing First Name: Baum considered his first name Lyman to be embarrassing and preferred going by Frank, hence his abbreviation to L. He was named after his uncle.
- Expansion Pack World: The continent of Nonestica, which later was revealed to be the location of Oz, Ev, Mo, Noland, the Forest of Burzee, and nearly every other fantasy location in Baums work.
- Grows on Trees: Appears in The Magical Monarch of Mo. In the land of Mo, everything the people need in their daily lives grows on trees. This includes swords, hats, rings, peanuts, medicine, preserved apricots, shrimp salad, animal crackers, and bicycles.
- This was also true in Ev (where lunch pails grow on trees) and some parts of Oz (particularly the region of Oogaboo, where anything from books to guns grow on trees).
- Meaningful Name: The Sea Fairies has the mermaid queen, named "Aquareine", "Aqua", invokes the water in which a mermaid lives, while "reine" is similar to "Siren", also used as a word for mermaids.
- Murderous Mannequin: In the "The Dummy That Lived", a fairy named Tanko-Mankie pulls a cruel prank in which they bring a mannequin to life by breathing on her forehead and then leaving her without guidance just to see what chaos follows. The mannequin can talk, reason, and walk, but those are the only skills she has that separate her from a newborn. She wears clothes and accessories because she saw the women gawking at her do that, but the clothes she picks don't match. She sits down at a cafe and orders coffee 'n' rolls because she sees another person do that, but the coffee burns her waxen and wooden body and she walks off without knowing she's supposed to pay. When a man raises his hat in greeting, she copies the greeting unaware of the gender association. Eventually, she's hit by a car and the huge hole in her head positively identifies her as a living dummy. She's taken to the police station, where Tanko-Mankie takes her life away the moment no one's looking.
- Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant: He wrote the Oz books partly because he thought traditional Fairy Tales were too scary (and definitely had a point there).note But when your first book has a character who was enchanted to hack himself to pieces with an axe, becoming a Steampunk Cyborg; the second book has a protagonist forced to live her life as the wrong gender; and the third book has a vain princess and her hall of interchangeable heads, then you kinda missed the point about not loading your work with Nightmare Fuel.
- Baum even exaggerates this trope, because the Land of Oz series is known for its Surprise Creepy, with a fair amount of Family-Unfriendly Violence and Nightmare Fuel for a little kid's series. Many readers have also noticed some oddities about how Oz is presented (often due to Values Dissonance), such as how no one but the two regents are allowed to use magic or how the former Wizard of Oz is treated as a "good man" despite all his previous misdeeds. It's essentially a dictatorship, but it's a ''benevolent'' one, so few citizens are unsatisfied. Still, these Unfortunate Implications are enough to make writers brainstorm. So the Land of Oz books are reinterpreted as more political than intended. As a result, Oz and its characters routinely get referenced in dark, political manners and many adaptations politicize the setting. Glinda the Good Witch and the Wizard of Oz are especially prone to getting reinterpreted as more amoral than intended. The Emerald City will also be turned into a Stepford Suburbia that looks pretty and shiny but hides darker secrets underneath. To resume, L. Frank Baum unintendedly created a whole literary genre, that is a Sub-trope to Fractured Fairytale called Dystopian Oz.
- Public Domain Character:
- Santa Claus appears in both The Road to Oz and his own earlier book, The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus.
- All of Baums Oz books are now public domain. Certain aspects from later books and adaptations are still copyrighted, most famously the 1939 film's Ruby Slippers (they're silver in the original).
- Santa Claus: The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus is a partial Trope Codifier for some of our modern Santa mythos.
- Shared Universe: It may not have started this way, but by The Road to Oz and its Massive Multiplayer Crossover ending it was canon that all of Baum's fantasy novels took place in the same universe. Later on when maps of Oz and the continent it resides on were created, it was revealed that all of Baum's fantasies take place on the same continent. This later allowed Baum to rescue Trot and Cap'n Bill after their series was cancelled by having them end up in Oz.
- Together in Death: This seemed to be Baum's last thought before he passed away, saying he and his wife could finally cross the Shifting Sands. She would however later become the executor of his estate and basically the go-to source for information on Oz and Frank, as well as the person who selected Ruth Plumly Thompson to write more Oz books, and only join him 40 years later where they share the same gravestone.
- Wacky Wayside Tribe: The Oz books in particular are loaded with them.