Did You Know: How 'Wizard of Oz' Creator L. Frank Baum Came Up with the Name for Oz?

Did You Know: How 'Wizard of Oz' Creator L. Frank Baum Came Up with the Name for Oz?

Dec 09, 2011

If you're familiar with your Wizard of Oz history, then you know Lyman Frank Baum is the man who first penned The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, along with illustrations from W.W. Desnlow, around the year 1900. The book took off, eventually becoming a cultural phenomenon, paving the way for multiple sequels and a classic movie in 1939 starring Judy Garland. The year 2012 will feature a comeback of sorts for the iconic story, with two different versions arriving in theaters. An animated film, titled Dorothy of Oz, and a live-action one called Oz: The Great and Powerful, directed by Sam Raimi. These new updates will no doubt inspire folks to revisit the story of the man who started it all, and already there's a great article about Baum posted over at Neatorama today, reprinted from a 2010 piece by Kelly K. Ferguson in Mental Floss magazine.

The article tracks Baum's adult life, which you'd think would be full of riches and wealth following his success with The Wizard of Oz, except that wasn't the case. Up until his death, Baum was still writing Oz sequels because it was the only thing people were willing to pay him for -- to the point where he was actually writing Glinda of Oz, his 14th and final book, while on his deathbed. One fun little tidbit we weren't aware of, though, was the story behind how Baum came up with the name Oz.

Legend has it that while searching his office for inspiration, he fixated on a filing cabinet where he noticed a drawer marked "O-Z." It was then that Baum decided what he'd call the magical land he wanted to write about, and the rest is history. Unfortunately Baum died long before the first movie arrived, and he never did get to explore other avenues and ideas because all his other projects always failed. His stories about Oz were the only thing that earned him a paycheck. Ironically, if anyone ever wanted to click their heels together three times and leave Oz once and for all, it was the man who invented the place to begin with.

Check out the entire article over here for more on Baum's real-life story.

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