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The Sea Fairies by L. Frank Baum

The Sea Fairies (original 1911; edition 2009)

by L. Frank Baum

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246569,904 (4)15
Title:The Sea Fairies
Authors:L. Frank Baum
Info:Public Domain Books
Collections:ebooks, Working on
Tags:Fic, Childrens, __make_cover, _import130521

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The Sea Fairies by L. Frank Baum (1911)

  1. 10
    Sky Island by L. Frank Baum (HollyMS)
    HollyMS: Sky Island is the sequel to The Sea Fairies.
  2. 00
    Wet Magic by E. Nesbit (HollyMS)
    HollyMS: Both works are mermaid stories featuring normal children.

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» See also 15 mentions

Showing 5 of 5
I’ve been reading a blog called Burzee of late, which is about a pair of Oz fans working their way through the canonical Oz works, plus related stories. Thus far, every novel they’ve done has been one I’ve read before, but when they hit the two Trot and Cap’n Bill books that L. Frank Baum wrote during the Great Hiatus between Emerald City and Patchwork Girl, I decided to read along with them, as I’d never read them before. So the commentary that follows is mostly a response to Sarah and Nick’s commentary at Burzee.

I’m not even sure I knew The Sea Fairies existed when I was a kid; while I owned some of the other Baum fantasies that tied into Oz, like Queen Zixi of Ix and Dot and Tot of Merryland, I kind of remember being perplexed as how Trot and Cap’n Bill knew Button Bright already in The Scarecrow of Oz, which would seem to indicate I wasn’t even aware of a book that would plug the gap.

I didn’t like this very much. It wasn’t terrible, but I did find it dead boring. I have a friend who really likes children’s fantasy but can’t get into the Oz novels because they’re so plotless—so many of them are about getting from point A to point B, with just a series of visits in between, like Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, The Road to Oz, and so on. This doesn’t bother me if the places are interesting and there’s some kind of urgency to the quest (I like Dorothy and the Wizard a lot, Road less so), but Sea Fairies is like one of those novels except no one is going from anywhere to anywhere! There’s no goal or purpose to anything that happens in the first half of the novel, it’s just a travelogue without the actual travel. Sarah and Nick connect it to The Twinkle Tales, a series of short fantasies for younger readers, but I found that pretty hit-or-miss, which I guess corresponds to my reaction to this book. Nick says the book eventually clicked for him… but it never did for me! (I guess there were some good bad puns, though.)

The arrival of a villain in the character of Zog halfway through wasn’t a “merciful release” for me as it was for Nick, though, because by the time the plot turned up, I was so disinterested that I didn’t care what evil he did. And the powers of the mermaids are so amazing and absolute that it’s hard to feel like anyone is ever actually in real danger.

I did like Trot and Can’n Bill more than Nick and Sarah did—they both have a nice practicality to them. Bill sort of veers between out of his depth (heh) to the only person on top of things, but I guess it depends on how closely he can connect his fairyland experiences to a real world one. (He does a pretty good job leading the troops in Sky Island, I feel.) Having an adult along is interesting, and something Baum didn’t do a whole lot: the Wizard in Dorothy and the Wizard and the Shaggy Man in Road, and Rinkitink in, well Rinkitink in Oz seem to be principle ones.

My Dover edition’s illustrations aren’t very high-quality reproductions, and it omits the color plates, sadly. I don’t think there’s a reprint that has them. As a result, the illustrations didn’t make much of an impact on me. I’m glad I read this at last, but I have to agree that it’s hard to imagine giving this to a kid now. I was starting to wonder if Baum was a terrible writer, and I only liked his other books because I was nostalgic for them! Thankfully Sky Island was much much better.

Sarah connects Sea Fairies to Charles Kingsley’s The Water-Babies, and I did too, but in the context of the 1978 film, which maybe gives an indication of what a 1980s adaptation of The Sea Fairies (which was supposedly planned) would have been like. Having seen the film I can easily imagine an adaptation of Sea Fairies in the vein of The Water Babies, which features Jon Pertwee as a singing Scottish cartoon lobster. (Actually, there are some elements of The Water Babies film that are closer to Baum’s novel than Kingsley’s!)
1 vote Stevil2001 | Dec 9, 2017 |
Although far from being Baum's best fantasy, The Sea Fairies has an easy charm - magnified, I'm sure, if you're a small child growing up on the California coastline. The first half of the novel is pure underwater tour, sending the reader to look up antiquated and euphemistic terms for various sea creatures; the plot doesn't really kick in until chapter 11, when the protagonists are captured by a soft-spoken, genteel adversary who might as well be Satan by another name. In a slightly disquieting set of chapters, we meet the slaves he has made from sailors presumed drowned, and our heroes are nearly boiled alive and frozen to death in his attempts to gain the upper hand. Everything ends happily, but it all gets a bit dark for a book that otherwise seems to be for very small children.

The Sea Fairies lacks the awkward stop - start - stop - start inconsistency that plagues some other Baum books of the period, but it's still easy to see why this wasn't a huge seller. Fortunately, even a lesser Baum book still boasts many aspects to enjoy, and illustrator John R. Neill seems to have been inspired to draw incredibly glamorous, even sensual mermaids. It's a gorgeous book, particularly in its original edition with two-tone color plates. ( )
1 vote saroz | Feb 12, 2017 |
A sea captain, a little girl, magical mermaids, an evil wizard and an odd assortment of sea creatures all combined in an under-the-sea story. My thoughts turned to a fantastical, amazing ocean adventure created through [a:L. Frank Baum's|3242|L. Frank Baum|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1383720421p2/3242.jpg] imaginative writing abilities. YES? Sorry, no.

Unfortunately, this is my least favorite book that I have read by Baum so far. The story seemed to be driven by the need to include a wide variety of sea creatures and most were given unlikable human qualities. The mermaids thought the fish were stupid, the fiddler crabs played annoying songs and the clown crabs told stupid jokes. Even Trot, the young girl that was temporarily allowed to become a mermaid, was often rude and unlikable. Where is a character like Dorothy when you need her?

Since this book was on my tbr for a while, I am glad to have finally read it. I am not sure who I would recommend the book to though. Maybe younger children who like mermaids and villians would appreciate the fantasy world that Baum created, flaws and all, especially since the story isn't a particularly deep or frightening one. In that case, I would suggest finding a copy with illustrations as a picture is worth a thousand words, or so I have been told. :) ( )
1 vote This-n-That | Jul 23, 2016 |
Read during Summer 2007

Ah, not a BookCrossing book. This has been sitting on the shelf for ages, waiting to bubble up to the top. The illustrations are lovely and, even if it is not as good as the Oz books, still very enjoyable and nice to read an early adventure of Trot and Capt'n Bill.
  amyem58 | Jul 14, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
L. Frank Baumprimary authorall editionscalculated
Neill, John R.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0486401820, Paperback)

Enchanting fantasy by creator of beloved "Oz" stories whisks young readers away on an exciting underwater adventure! They'll meet a school of beguiling mermaids and an aristocratic codfish, attend an elegant banquet, confront an awesome sea monster, and much more. Enhanced by 78 of John R. Neill's original black-and-white illustrations.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:53 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Trot and her uncle, Cap'n Bill, encounter unusual experiences with mermaids, sea-serpents, and other strange creatures while journeying in the depths of the sea.

(summary from another edition)

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