Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Airy, Fairy Carrie Barry!

On July 10, 2010, the 1903 musical The Wizard of Oz will receive its first confirmed full-scale revival in over ninety years.  In this case "full-scale" means that it is the first production to use the original orchestrations and a twenty-eight piece orchestra. The single performance is taking place at the Canton Comic Opera Co. in Canton, Ohio, under the direction of Joseph Rubin. The image (at left) is a handbill from the last time the show played in Canton on August 28, 1908.

My infatuation with this long-forgotten show began about fifteen years ago when I discovered that period recordings of songs from the show survived on 78 rpm records and wax recording cylinders. This discovery combined four passions of mine: musical theatre, records, history, and Oz. I was utterly hooked! In 2003 I produced a 2 CD set of these Vintage Recordings from The Wizard of Oz. It is one of the projects I am most  proud of - and it was nominated for a Grammy Award as "Best Historical Album."

In honor of the Canton revival, our FREE Tiger Tune this month is the song "Carrie Barry" which was sung by Dorothy in Act I of the 1903 Wizard of Oz.. You can read more about the song, listen to a charming mp3 recording, and see a couple photos by clicking on the link above. The recording was prepared by James Patrick Doyle for my multi-media recreation of the show at the Centennial Oz Conference in Bloomington, Indiana, in 2000. The recording features an orchestration by Doyle and vocal by Stefanie Lynn. The original orchestrations (those being used in the Canton production) were only discovered a few months after my Bloomington talk in 2000 and they will eventually be the basis of our critical edition of the score.

You'll get a full-report on the Canton revival in about two weeks. Personally, I can hardly wait! In the mean time, listen to Dorothy Gale sing "Carrie Barry."

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Lost Army of Cambyses

Today's BLOG is written by Egyptologist and Baum scholar David Moyer, who wrote the foreword to our new edition of Baum's 1908 adventure novel Sam Steele's Adventures: The Treasure of Karnak.


In my foreword to the new edition of The Treasure of Karnak, I noted that in one of the letters Maud Baum wrote during the Baums' 1906 Egyptian tour, she refers to the Persian "invasion" of Egypt being the reason the priests of Karnak Temple threw the temple treasure into the temple’s Sacred Lake to save it. She does not mention Cambyses in that event, but does write that it was he who overthrew the colossal statue of Rameses the Great at his mortuary temple, the Ramesseum, on the West Bank of the Nile. I also noted that according to the Greek historian Herodotus, Cambyses set out from ancient Thebes across the Sahara Desert to consult the oracle of the god Amun at Siwa Oasis, but that the king and his army were lost in a sandstorm. Over the years, there have been many attempts to find remains of this army.

The latest attempt is that of two Italian archaeologists who have been working in the Sahara Desert for the past thirteen years and recently announced that they have found artifacts that may pinpoint the location where the mighty Persian army was swallowed up by a sandstorm in 525 B.C. If the brothers’ discoveries are proved correct, they will have solved one of the greatest mysteries of antiquity. According to Herodotus, Cambyses’s army, 50,000 men strong, traveled across the desert for a week reaching the oasis of El Kharga, 200 km west of the Nile, but after leaving there, nothing more was heard of them. The inhabitants of Siwa Oasis, however, claim that a few days later as the soldiers were eating their midday meal, a powerful and deadly wind rose up from the south bringing with it vast columns of swirling sand, engulfing the soldiers, causing them to completely disappear.

In 1996, while exploring to the south of Siwa, the two brothers found a pot buried in the sand with human remains lying nearby. Close by, a bronze dagger and a number of iron arrowheads were found. Although small items, they are extremely important as they are the first Achaemenid (Persian) objects (thus dating to the time of Cambyses), which have emerged from the desert sands in a location close to the Siwa Oasis. Also found was a silver bracelet, several small spheres - probably pieces of a necklace - and an earring, also of silver, dating to the time of the Persian king. In October 2009, the brothers announced their finds in a documentary film shown at a film festival in Northern Italy rather than through an archaeological journal, making it more difficult to corroborate their claim. Dr. Zahi Hawass, head of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, regards it as "unfounded and misleading," adding that since the brothers had not been granted legal permission to excavate in Egypt, their story is not credible.

This is not the first time that claims have been made that remnants of the Persian army have been found. In fact as far back as the early 19th century, pioneering Egyptologist Giovanni Battista Belzoni searched in vain for clues to the whereabouts of the vanished army. In 2003, Paul Sussman, well-known writer of mystery novels, published The Lost Army of Cambyses, a thriller that mixed stories of the ancient legend with the politics of modern Egypt. Just recently, the head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Organization announced that a group of Iranian archaeologists have been granted permission by Egypt to come there to study the remains. The organization has specified that they are not laying claim to the finds and that they belong to the Egyptian Government. This news, seen on the internet’s EEF Egyptian News site, also included a picture of skeletal remains, including skulls and miscellaneous bones. Like all reports of exciting discoveries in Egypt, including the very latest news of DNA studies to determine King Tutankhamen's lineage, which has the Egyptological world in a tizzy so to speak, one has to take this claim of finding the remains of the "lost" Persian army of Cambyses with a grain of salt until further corroboration. Personally, I’d love to see it proved, but must adopt a "wait and see" attitude.

—David Moyer

Professor Moyer's foreword and all of Maud Baum's Egyptian correspondence are included in Sam Steele's Adventures: The Treasure of Karnak.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Sign of the Goose

A few months ago I was perusing Paul Beinvenue's very fine Book Collector's Guide to L. Frank Baum and in the section on Baum's Mother Goose in Prose (1897) I saw the image Paul chose for the 1905 Bobbs-Merrill edition and said to myself, "Why did Paul use some odd-ball variant with the goose on the spine missing it's white stamping?" (See image below.)

Well, I read through the description of the 1905 edition in Paul's book and found no mention of any copy of the 1905 edition as ever having a white goose on the spine! Yet my copy, (see image at left) which I have had for years, is sitting on the shelf with its sunbonneted goose as white as can be! I contacted Paul (and a few others who are interested in such bibliographical peculiarities) and it seems I have an unusual variant. All other reported copies have a plain red goose on the spine (see image below). I like to think my "white goose" variant is earlier than the other "plain goose" copies.

Aside from just sharing an unusual copy of an already rare book - I blog about this to show that sometimes an interesting rarity is sitting right on your shelves and you don't even know it!  The moral, of course, is: pay attention to your books, learn a bit about book collecting, read the pioneering work on the subject, Bibliographia Oziana, and get a copy of Bienvenue's lovely and informative Book Collector's Guide to L. Frank Baum.

Mother Goose in Prose was Baum's first published childrens' book; and it was also the first book illustrated by Maxfield Parrish making the book doubly collectible. The rather prosaic title is quite apt in that Baum was in fact retelling some of the most popular Mother Goose rhymes in prose. He gives short story accounts of the entire backstories for Humpty Dumpty, Old King Cole, and many others. In our FREE Tiger Tales you can read the Three Wise Men of Gotham and Pussy-Cat Mew, though our on-line version of Pussy-Cat Mew is Baum's slightly revised version from L. Frank Baum's Juvenile Speaker (1910).

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Comical Miss Thompson

Our FREE Tiger Tale on the main HTP website this month is The Seeress of Saucerville by Ruth Plumly Thompson. You can read it by clicking on the link. It reads just like a miniature Thompson Oz book:
"At the south end of Whatalow Valley lies the small but important Kingdom of Saucerville. . . ."
The story was originally written for the September 1941 issue of  KING COMICS, No. 65. Thompson edited this comic book series from the mid 1930s until the late 1940s, as well as editing ACE COMICS and MAGIC COMICS, all for the David McKay publishing company. KING COMICS was a comic strip compilation book, reprinting popular newspaper strips. This issue of KING includes "The Lone Ranger," Popeye's "Thimble Theatre," "Red Men," "Bringing Up Father," "Private Buck," "The Phantom," "Sappo," "Barney Baxter in the Air," "Flash Gordon," "Brick Bradford," "Little Annie Rooney," "Mandrake the Magician," "Sergeant Pat of Radio Patrol," "Sentinel Louie," and "Henry." It was a pretty full book!

Ruth Plumly Thompson gave the comic a personality by writing a full-page Letter to the Readers on the inside front cover, under the guise of Jo King (a name she also used for the King of the Gillikins!) The whole tone of these "letters" is pure Thompson. They're fun, a little goofy, and often very surreal. She's created a universe where all the comic strip characters live in the same neighborhood and interrelate with each other when they're not having adventures. She describes parties where the Lone Ranger and Henry and Popeye all come over for cake and ice cream! As in the Oz books, she encouraged the readers to correspond with her. She ran drawing and poetry contests, she wrote a "Pet Post" column under the byline "Arty" (her initials R. and T.) and she seemed to have a lot of fun.

But her most enduring contribution (and the real reason she was on staff) was the two page story she wrote for almost every issue. To get the cheapest postal rates, a comic book needed to have at least two pages of "text." So Thompson wrote a short story for nearly every issue. Sometimes the stories were standalone tales; other times she would serialize novels. Her 1936 fairytale book, King Kojo, was originally serialized in KING COMICS.

So, that's a little background on a little-known part of Ruth Plumly Thopmpson's career and where this month's Tiger Tale came from.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

25 Years of RETURN TO OZ

It's hard to believe that it's been twenty five years this month since the premiere of Walt Disney Studio's Return to Oz.

Many Oz fans have a sort of love/hate relationship to the film. The truly wonderful elements, Tik-Tok, Jack Pumpkinhead, and Fairuza Balk, are overshadowed by so many bad choices: electro-shock therapy for Dorothy, a Nome King in Ruby Slippers, and the film's murky ending. Is Oz just a delusion of Dorothy's or is Oz real and Ozma's aim with the Ruby Slippers really so bad as to send Dorothy home to find herself face down in the mud? The movie is such a disaster in so many ways! Yet the middle section of the film, from when Dorothy meets Tik-Tok until the Gump takes flight, is really terrific.

Presented here is a production design drawing of the Scarecrow from the film. It was drawn by comic book artist Michael Ploog who also drew the graphic novel version of L. Frank Baum's Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (1992).

There were several Return to Oz drawings I could choose from when I bought this one. But this one won out as it showed the Scarecrow in a different costume than he wears in the film. I especially like the purple tailcoat and Oz medal around his neck.

So happy Twenty-Fifth Birthday to Return to Oz!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Big Things in Little Packages

The second volume in IDW's reissue of Eric Shanower's much-loved Oz graphic novel series has just been released! And it's packed with three complete stories: The Forgotten Forest of Oz, The Secret Island of Oz, and The Blue Witch of Oz. The book's page-size has been reduced to 6"x 9" but the price has been shrunk, too, to the modest amount of $9.95.

Two of these stories are probably the three darkest of  Shanower's five Oz graphic novels. Forgotten Forest deals with complex feelings about loyalty, and when and if it's ok to break the law. Blue Witch is about broken families, child custody, and tough choices. It's still an Oz book, but it shows Oz characters can have very real problems to solve. Fairyland isn't perfect after all.

Shanower has created a new cover design. A never-before-reproduced color illustration of the Cowardly Lion and a small ink drawing of Eureka are both new to the book, too.  At the back are some Blue Witch of Oz character designs and a painting of Nelanthe the Wood Nymph standing on the rim of the Troll King's volcano - both of which were only previously published in the pricey but sumptuous Adventures in Oz Hardcover Collector's Edition.

Little Adventures in Oz - Volume 2  is available now in our on-line store. Its 136 pages are printed in full-color. It's a perfect size and perfect price for introducing someone to Oz or comics for the first time.

Click here to check it out!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ruth Plumly Thompson meets John Dough

One of my favorite projects at HTP was our beautifully restored edition of Baum's 1906 fairytale John Dough and the Cherub. The book had been long out of print and it really deserved to be made available once again.

The illustrations were prepared from a 1906 first printing and were then meticulously cleaned up removing much dirt from the original engravings so the book actually has better reproduction than the rare original. Our edition of John Dough also has a great foreword by J. L. Bell. It's a thick oversized book and it just feels like a fairytale novel should.

As part of our 2008 publicity campaign we prepared some John Dough bookmarks featuring a recipe for Gingersnaps by the second Royal Historian of Oz Ruth Plumly Thompson. I've tried the recipe and it's a pretty good cookie! The recipe is given exactly as Thompson wrote it. But do read the "Modern Notes" at the end of the recipe!

by Ruth Plumly Thompson

Did you ever come out from bathing or come home from a long ride and find a plateful of hot ginger snaps and a glass of ice cold milk waiting for you? If you did, you will never forget how good it tasted, and because I want you to know, here is the recipe:

One cup of butter, one cup of molasses, one cup sugar, three-fourths cup of milk, one teaspoon of saleratus, two teaspoonfuls ginger.

Mix together with enough flour for a pretty stiff dough. Roll out thin, cut out into little round cakes and bake quickly.

You can eat just as many as you want, too, because they won’t give you the mullygrubs or the doldrums or anything like that!

Modern Notes by David Maxine
Saleratus is just an old-fashioned name for baking soda. Dough requires five to six cups of flour and is best chilled before rolling. Bake at 375 degrees for 12 to 14 minutes. Modern tastes may desire a teaspoon of salt. The recipe can easily be cut in half. This is a subtle, old-fashioned cookie. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Welcome to Hungry Tiger Talk!


Welcome to Hungry Tiger Talk! This is our first post on our new blog.

While we will be bringing you news on our various books and CDs we will also be sharing information and images of rare L. Frank Baum and Oz material (and even a few Oz collecting tips!)

We also hope to nurture and support our writer and illustrator friends. So you may see an occasioanl review or promo piece for a non-Hungry Tiger Press book that's just too good not to share with you!

So welcome! And if you like our blog please let your friends know about it. Share it on Facebook, tweet about us, tell the Milkman to check us out. Keep checking back and see all the neat stuff that awaits you!

Best Oz wishes,
Hungry Tiger Press