Oz and Beyond

The Fantasy World of L. Frank Baum

Michael O. Riley

Long before Judy Garland sang "Over the Rainbow," the denizens of Oz had already captivated the American reading public. The quintessential American fairy tale, L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has had a singular influence on our culture since it first appeared in 1900. Yet, as Michael Riley shows, Baum's achievement went far beyond this one book, or even the thirteen others he wrote about that magic kingdom.

The Land of Oz was just one in a whole continent of fantasy countries whose histories, geographies, and citizens Baum developed in detail over the course of his writing career. In this Other-world, Baum created a full-scale mythology that foreshadowed Tolkien's Middle Earth in its imaginative detail.

“A most readable guide to that land over the rainbow, firmly establishing Baum’s importance to the history of American children's literature and to the fantasy/folklore tradition. Will inspire renewed appreciation for a great writer's magical vision.”

Library Journal

“Sure to be of interest to both ‘old timers’ in the Oz field and to those who are just discovering L. Frank Baum and the fantastic products of his imagination.”

Yellowback Library
See all reviews...

Taking us on an entertaining tour of this endearing and unforgettable Other-world, Riley illuminates Baum's richly creative imagination in the Oz books and other works of fantasy, like the much neglected Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. He restores for millions of readers Baum's original conception of Oz as it existed long before other writers were hired to continue the immensely popular series following Baum's death in 1919. Equally important, he shows us how Oz and its companion countries evolved over time, as Baum repeatedly responded to a loyal readership clamoring for an endless supply of Oz stories.

While there have been other studies of Baum, this is the first to examine his Other-world in its entirety. Oz and Beyond provides the first comprehensive analysis of all of Baum's fantasy creations and his evolution as a fantasy writer, demonstrating that Baum had a more consistent and disciplined imagination than is generally recognized. It also explains the influence of Baum's childhood and adult experiences on his writing and illuminates his philosophy concerning nature, civilization, and industrialization.

Oz's enduring influence on American culture is indisputable—witness its endless replication in books, films, musicals, and theme parks. In returning to the original source of that influence, Riley serves as our guide to that land over the rainbow and inspires renewed appreciation for a great writer's magical vision.

About the Author

Michael O. Riley, like so many of us, has been enchanted with Oz all of his life and for years has studied "the combined visions of the seven different authors" who have maintained the series up to the present. Currently, he teaches children's literature at Castleton State College in Vermont.