One of the fun things about the Oz series are the many unusual characters that turn up and make short appearances, often never to be seen again. One of my favorites occurs in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, where there is a brief passage concerning the cloud fairies. I've always thought these were a lovely creation by L. Frank Baum - Dorothy, Zeb, and the Wizard come across these delicate creatures, as they are climbing back to the surface of the earth after falling through an earthquake crack. The segment is very short, but John R. Neill devoted one of the book's 16 color plates to the subject.
We meet very similar beings in Glinda of Oz, this time the mist maidens. Ozma calls upon them to help herself and Dorothy cross a deep misty valley. Here again, the encounter is brief but a color plate was designed to picture it.
I've always liked these slight references to creatures that play no major part in the main Oz series. Recently while doing some research for work, I ran across a couple interesting paintings which brought these to mind. One is by Herbert Draper from 1912 called The Mountain Mists, (shown below on the right), the other by Fabio Cipolla called The Maidens in the Mist, (shown at the bottom).
I can't help being struck by the similarities of the paintings and the visual conceptions of John R. Neill. Of course, Neill's cloud fairies were drawn 4 years before Draper's Mountain Mists. I haven't found a date for the Cipolla painting, but the artist lived from 1854 to 1924. Or maybe 1852 to 1935. It's interesting how uncertain basic facts can be on the internet! I'm curious as to the date of the Cipolla painting - who knows, it may have helped inspire Neill - or even Baum's description of mist rising over a billowing black sea!