Welcome to my blog, featuring various pieces from my collection of Oz books, artwork and memorabilia!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The White Elephant

The White Elephant was a short-lived monthly magazine of short fiction, published in the late 1890's. It's best remembered by fans of L. Frank Baum for publishing one of Baum's earliest stories, The Suicide of Kairos, in September of 1897. This is a dark tale of the death of a Greek money lender, at the hands of an upstanding bank clerk. There is no moral retribution to the story, it's a simple tale of a means to an end.

The magazine featured very whimsical color covers, with the namesake white elephant prominently displayed in a wide range of activities. It started publication in June of 1896 as Poker Chips, and changed to White Elephant in December of that year. It survived under that name through September of 1897 before folding. I don't think its failure would have been due to dull cover design!

An interior page proudly announces that the magazine has celebrated its second birthday, which seems a bit premature, and invites submissions for future issues. It even gives some writing tips, such as "Quick action and the "get there" quality in a story will assure prompt acceptance" Stories were to be from 2,000 to 4,000 words in length, and humorous stories were in "especial demand". Baum's name and story title are featured on the front cover of what ended up being the final issue, along with the other authors and their tales - perhaps, if it had survived, additional tales by Baum would have been featured. At any rate, I suppose this may have been the first time Baum was on the cover of a nationally available magazine!

The story was reprinted in 1954 in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. A couple minor alterations were made, to delete two remarks by the Greek moneylender concerning his Jewish competitors. This time Baum didn't rate front cover space, but he was in good company - the issue also featured stories by Agatha Christie, Jack London, and Erle Stanley Gardner!

Saturday, June 21, 2014


 John R. Neill created images of a variety of dragons for the Oz books - but I think the most memorable is Quox, the dragon from Tik-Tok of Oz. Quox is a large blue dragon with silver scales, who wears a pearl necklace and locket around his neck. He comes from the other side of the earth, and helps to save the day when our intrepid heroes find themselves at the mercy of the Nome King!

This is an original illustration from Tik-Tok that was used as a header for Chapter 15, The Dragon Defies Danger. Quox is shooting flames from his mouth, after being threatened by the evil Nomes. This is another example of an illustration that was printed with an additional half tone in the book - in my opinion, to the detriment of the image. On the drawing, the background is colored a pale blue indicating the areas intended for shading, but I think the grey printing in the book results in a rather muddied image. An interesting side note - the ink blot that appears to the lower right of Quox in the drawing is present in early printings of the book, but disappeared in the 1960's white cover versions.

There are a number of dragons in the Oz books, from the underground den of Dragonettes, tied by their tails to their cavern walls, to the two-headed dragon in John R. Neill's own Oz stories. But my favorite will always be Quox!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Urfin Jus

Last October, I posted a set of postcards illustrating the Russian version of The Wizard of Oz, written by Alexander Volkov, in which Oz is known as Magic Land. Here's a partial set of cards illustrating one of Volkov's sequels to that story, Urfin Jus and his Wooden Soldiers. I think the creation of an alternate Russian Oz is a fascinating phenomenon!
The cards shown are numbers 1, 3, 4, 7, 9, 10, 11, and 12. I'm not certain if this set ends at 12 - the other series had 16 total. So, there are at least 4 cards missing, and possibly 8 - I'll have to keep my eyes open!
In any case, it's fun to see these interesting characters featured, together with a few old favorites!