Thursday, September 13, 2012

Baum's History of Fairy Tale Authors

The following interview with L. Frank Baum was published in the Syracuse [New York] Post Standard, on June 28, 1905, taken substantially from the Milwaukee [Wisconsin] Sentinel. The H. C. Baum mentioned is L. Frank's older brother Henry Clay Baum.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the interview is Baum's assessment of his place among fairy tale authors.

Love in Children for Fairy Tales Is Natural, Says L. Frank Baum

To a Milwaukee Sentinel reporter a few days ago L. Frank Baum, the brother of Dr. H. C. Baum of this city, talked interestingly about children’s stories, The Sentinel says.

“L. Frank Baum of Chicago, author of the most fanciful and pleasing fairy tales for childhood since the days when Hans Christian Andersen used to charm readers, both young and old, with his great tales, is in Milwaukee on a business trip, and is registered at the Hotel Pfister. Mr. Baum talked interestingly yesterday about his work and the fascination that folk lore and fairy tales have always had for readers of every age and condition of life.

‘The love for fairy tales seems to be a natural inheritance of childhood,’ said Mr. Baum. ‘The reason for this has been debated by students of psychology and teachers of the young with frequency, and the only plausible explanation they have been able to reach is that the mind of a child, which unfolds with great rapidity during the first few years of life, is conscious of so much of the happenings of the real world it can only wonder at, that any story not containing a great deal of exaggeration and wonderful happenings seems tame to them.

‘In other words, children crave fairy characters and prefer their adventures to any other sort of a story.

‘Childhood seems to be perennial in the human race. Although we adopt grave and sedate airs, we are all children at heart, with the same love for the miraculous and the wonderful as in the days when as tiny tots we listened in round-eyed amazement while mother or nurse read us of the adventures that Jack had with the beanstalk. For that reason adults read my books with the same interest that characterizes the most youthful readers.

‘The recognized authors of fairy tales are few indeed. The Grimm brothers were simply collectors and compilers of tales and old folk lore. This is also true of Andrew Lang who has published so many entertaining books. These men have done work of inestimable value to the world in that they have preserved numerous legends which otherwise must have been lost or forgotten.

‘Hans Christian Andersen was the first author to be recognized as a producer of fairy tales, and he became famous in consequence as there was considerable satisfaction in being able to trace a fairy tale to its legitimate source. After him came Lewis Carroll, the famed author of “Alice in Wonderland,” who was the next author to create a distinct class in fairy literature, and so the list really ends as far as the Old World is concerned.

‘I think I was the first author of fairy tales in America to win recognition. My most famous book is the “Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” The “Scare Crow,” the “Tin Woodman” and the “Cowardly Lion” have all become famous in their way. All of my stories have some sort of a central figure, around which the somewhat gauzy plot is woven.’

“Mr. Baum has published no less than sixteen books of fairy tales.”

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