Tomorrow, a prequel to the Wizard of Oz story, Oz the Great and Powerful, hits theaters, starring James Franco as the wizard. The Disney movie loosely references the film many of us are most familiar with, the 1939 adaptation The Wizard of Oz that stars Judy Garland as Dorothy. Another modern reinterpretation of the tale is the immensely popular Broadway musical Wicked, a prequel about Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West) and Glinda (the Good Witch of the North). But the source material for all these dates back to 1900, when L. Frank Baum wrote the children's novel that introduced us to Dorothy and the rest of the yellow brick road gang: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I was surprised by some of the facts about this fantastical story and its history, so if you're intrigued about the book that began it all, check out these interesting tidbits below, and click through for a look back at the vintage book covers and illustrations.
- In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy wears silver shoes instead of the iconic ruby slippers.
- Baum's first Oz book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, was turned into a burlesque-style Broadway musical in 1902 about Dorothy falling in love with a poet-prince. Instead of Toto the dog, there's a cow named Imogene, and the wizard is an Irish wisecracking comedian.
- Some scholars believe that the 1893 Chicago World's Fair (nicknamed "the White City") inspired the Emerald City. Others propose that since Baum often stayed at San Diego's Hotel Del Coronado and wrote some of his Oz books there, that could be another influence for the Emerald City.
- After Baum wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, he went on to write 13 more books in the Oz series. More than once he tried to end the Oz series, but since they were so popular, he continued writing them until he died in 1919. Other writers, including Ruth Plumly Thompson, continued the Oz series after his death.
- A majority of the heroes in Baum's Oz books were girls.
- Baum had a granddaughter named "Ozma," and his 11th Oz book, The Lost Princess of Oz (published 1917), was dedicated to her shortly after her birth. The story begins with the disappearance of Princess Ozma, the ruler of Oz.
- Until his death in 1943, John R. Neill illustrated all of the Oz books except the first one, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.