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A Munchkin is a native of the fictional Munchkin Country in the Oz books by American author L. Frank Baum. They first appear in the classic children's novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) where they welcome Dorothy Gale to their city in Oz. The Munchkins are described as being the same height as Dorothy and they wear only shades of blue clothing, as blue is the Munchkins' favorite color. Blue is also the predominating color that officially represents the eastern quadrant in the Land of Oz. The Munchkins have appeared in various media, including the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, as well as in various other films and comedy acts.

The Munchkins
Oz books character
Munchkins.png
W. W. Denslow's depiction of Munchkins, from first edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
First appearanceThe Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)
Created byL. Frank Baum

Contents

ConceptEdit

While Baum may have written about it, there are no surviving notes for the composition of The Wizard of Oz. The lack of this information has resulted in mere speculation of the term origins he used in the book, which include the word Munchkin.[1] Baum researcher Brian Attebery has hypothesized that there might be a connection to the Münchner Kindl, the emblem of the Bavarian city of Munich (spelled München in German).[1] The symbol was originally a 13th-century statue of a monk, looking down from the town hall in Munich. Over the years, the image was reproduced many times, for instance as a figure on beer steins, and eventually evolved into a child wearing a pointed hood.[2] Baum's family had German origins, suggesting that Baum could have seen one such reproduction in his childhood. It is also possible that Munchkin came from the German word Männchen, which means "mannikin" or "little figure". In 1900, Baum published a book about window displays in which he stressed the importance of mannequins in attracting customers.[3] Another possibility is a connection to Baron Munchausen, whose name is now similar to the word "fabulous". This fictional character is based on a real baron who told outrageous tall tales based on his military career.[1][4] Like the other Oz terms, the word Munchkin ends in a diminutive which in this case refers to the size of the natives.[1]

AppearancesEdit

LiteratureEdit

Oz Books by Frank BaumEdit

"she noticed coming down toward her a group of the queerest people she had ever seen. They were not as big as the grown folk she had always been used to; but neither were they very small. In fact, they seemed about as tall as Dorothy, who was a well-grown child for her age, although they were, so far as looks go, many years older."

L. Frank Baum

The munchkins are first mentioned (quote shown) in an excerpt from chapter two of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, titled "The Council with the Munchkins". Dorothy initially meets only three of them, along with the Good Witch of the North. The rest of the munchkins then come out of hiding and are shown to be grateful towards Dorothy for killing their evil ruler the Wicked Witch of the East. Dorothy later eventually finds the yellow brick road, and along the way attends a banquet held by a Munchkin man named Boq. Sometime in the book a background story is also given about a "munchkin maiden" whom the Tin Woodman once loved.[5]

Baum also included the munchkin characters in his later works as minor and major individual characters. The munchkin Jinjur is the main antagonist in Baum's second book The Marvelous Land of Oz, where she seeks to overthrow the Scarecrow and take over the Emerald City. Jinjur makes a brief appearance in the next book entitled Ozma of Oz, and is later brought back in Baum's twelfth book The Tin Woodman of Oz. By this time, she is shown to be a more prominent character whom is helpful and friendly to Dorothy and her friends. Another munchkin that appears in that book is Tommy Kwikstep, whom is granted a wish for running an errand for a witch which gave him 20 legs. The mystery "munchkin maiden" from the first book is also given the name Nimmie Amee in The Tin Woodman of Oz, which overall tells about the Tin Woodman's origin.[5] Lastly, the munchkin Unc Nunkie appears in Baum's seventh book The Patchwork Girl of Oz where he is accidentally turned to stone. His nephew Ojo successfully goes on a quest in search of an antidote while learning more about himself in the process.

Subsequent Oz booksEdit

L. Frank Baum died on May 6, 1919 after which other writers took up writing additional Oz stories. In some cases these books were written under Baum's name, and include among other characters the Munchkins. There is at least one known munchkin character that was created after Baum's death that appears as a major character. Zif is a Munchkin boy who appears in John R. Neill's first adaptation called The Royal Book of Oz. Zif is a student at the College of Art and Athletic Perfection, he is both respectful and resentful towards his teacher Wogglebog who considers Zif a "nobody or a nothing." The munchkin characters that Baum had created in his lifetime also appear in these additional works.

Film and musicalsEdit

Early works (1902–1933)Edit

While the 1939 film is the most well known adaptation (see section below), it was not the first outside work to show the munchkins in film or musical format. One of the first musical adaptations of Baum's books took place in 1902 which was also dubbed The Wizard of Oz.[6][7] The munchkins make their appearance in act one called "The Storm" in which they are shown dancing around their maypole, not noticing that Dorothy's house has fallen to earth killing the Wicked Witch of the East.[8] The first film adaptation of Baum's works titled The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was released in 1910, followed by three sequels. It wasn't until 1914 though, that munchkin characters first appeared in film works. Ojo the Lucky, and Unc Nunkie both appear in a film titled The Patchwork Girl of Oz (based on the book of the same name). This film stars American actress Violet MacMillan as Ojo, and was produced by Baum.[9]

1939 filmEdit

 
The Munchkins (specifically the "Lollipop Guild") as depicted in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. L-R: Jackie Gerlich, Jerry Maren and Harry Doll

The 1939 movie musical The Wizard of Oz was loosely based on Baum's novel. Notable differences of the munchkins include their country name of Munchkinland, and their clothes of many colors instead of an all-blue attire. In the musical the Munchkins are mostly portrayed by adult actors with dwarfism, but a few average-sized children were also included as background extras.[10]

In the musical, the Munchkins first appear when Dorothy and Toto arrive in the Land of Oz after her house lands on the Wicked Witch of the East. The Munchkins hide from all the commotion until Glinda the Good Witch arrives reassuring them that everything is okay. Dorothy tells them how she arrived in the Land of Oz (through a musical number) and the Munchkins celebrate. To make it official, the Mayor of Munchkinland and his assistant have to make sure that the Wicked Witch of the East is really dead before the celebration continues. The coroner confirms this to the mayor by saying that the witch is "not merely dead", but is indeed "most sincerely dead" while showing the Certificate of Death. The Munchkins then celebrate further as Dorothy receives gifts from the Lullaby League, and the Lollipop Guild. Near the end of the song, the Wicked Witch of the West arrives which causes the Munchkins to panic. After the Wicked Witch of the West leaves, Glinda tells Dorothy to follow the Yellow brick road to the Emerald City as the Munchkins guide her out of Munchkinland.

On November 20, 2007, the Munchkins were given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Seven of the surviving Munchkin actors from the film were present. As a result of the popularity of the 1939 film, the word "munchkin" has entered the English language as a reference to small children, persons with dwarfism, or anything of diminutive stature.

Actors and actressesEdit

The following is a list of actors who portrayed the Munchkins in the 1939 film. Most of the dwarfs hired were acquired for MGM by Leo Singer, the proprietor of Singer's Midgets.[11] A Daily Variety news story from August 17, 1938, stated 124 midgets had been signed to play Munchkins; modern sources place the number either at 122 or 124. An additional dozen or so child actresses were hired to make up for the shortage of little people.[10] At least one munchkin actor, Dale Paullin (stage name Paul Dale), did not make the final cut for the movie.[12] Only two actors (Joseph Koziel and Frank Cucksey) used their actual voices for the dialogue exchanged with Dorothy where she is given the flowers. The rest of the voices such as the "munchkin chorus" were created by studio voices recorded at a slow speed.[13]

In 1989, author Stephen Cox researched, found, and wrote about the surviving Munchkin actors fifty years after they made the film. He wrote about them in his book, The Munchkins Remember (1989, E.P. Dutton) which was later revised as The Munchkins of Oz (Cumberland House), and his book remained in print for nearly two decades. When he wrote the book, 33 of the actors with dwarfism who appeared in the film were still alive and were interviewed. Jerry Maren, who played the green "lollipop guild" member, was the last living Munchkin actor.

Notes: Some of the information presented in the table below may never be complete as social security records remain sparse prior to the mid-twentieth century. Stage names and/or aliases are present in italics and quotation marks.


Actor Born Died Part(s) played Source
Gladys W. Allison Unknown Unknown Played a villager [14]
John Ballas 1903 Unknown Played a villager [15][16]
Franz Balluck ("Mike") Unknown Unknown Played a villager [14]
Josefine Balluck Unknown Unknown Played a villager [17][18]
John T. Bambury Unknown Unknown Played a soldier [15][19]
Charlie Becker 1887 1968 Played "The Mayor of Munchkinland" [19][20]
Freda Betsky 1916A Unknown Played a villager [14][21]
Henry Boers 1896 Unknown Played a villager [22]
Theodore Boers 1894 1945 Played a villager [22][23]
Christie Buresh 1907 1979 Played a villager [24]
Eddie Buresh 1909 1982 Played a villager [24]
Lida Buresh 1906 1970 Played a villager [15][24]
Mickey Carroll 1919 2009 Played a fiddler, a town crier, and a soldier [25]
Casper "Colonel" Balsam Unknown Unknown Played a villager [15]
Nona A. Cooper 1875 1953 Played a villager [14][26]
Thomas J. Cottonaro 1914 2001 Played a villager [14][27]
Elizabeth Coulter Unknown Unknown Played a villager [15]
Lewis Croft 1919 2008 Played a soldier [28]
Frank Cucksey 1919 1984 Played the villager that gives Dorothy some flowers [29][30]
Billy Curtis 1909 1988 Played the BraggartB [31]
Eugene S. David Jr. Unknown Unknown Played a fiddler [32]
Eulie H. David Unknown Unknown Played a soldier [32]
Ethel W. Denis 1894 1968 Played a villager [15][33][34]
Prince Denis 1892 1984 Played the Sergeant-at-ArmsC [33][35]
Hazel I. Derthick 1906 1989 Played a villager [36]
Daisy Earles 1907 1980 Played a "munchkin maiden" [37]
Gracie Doll Earles 1899 1970 Played a "munchkin maiden" [37]
Harry Doll Earles 1902 1985 Blue member of The Lollipop Guild [37][38]
Tiny Doll Earles 1914 2004 Played a "munchkin maiden" [37]
Major Doyle ("James D. Doyle") 1869 1940 Played a villager [15][35]
Ruth Robinson Duccini 1918 2014 Played a villager [39]
Carl M. Erickson 1917 1958 Played the 2nd Trumpeter [15][40]
Fern Formica 1925 1995 Played a villager and a "sleepyhead" [41]
Addie Eva Frank Unknown Unknown Played a villager [15]
Thaisa L. Gardner 1909 1968 Played a villager [15]
Jakob "Jackie" Gerlich 1917 1960 Red member of The Lollipop Guild [42]
William A. Giblin 1916 1985 Played a soldier [43]
Jack S. Glicken 1900 1950 Played a city father [44]
Carolyn E. Granger 1915 1973 Played a villager [15][45]
Donna Jean J. Stewart Hardaway 1933 2008 Played a villagerD [46]
Joseph Herbst Unknown Unknown Played a soldier [15][47]
Jakob Hofbauer 1898E Unknown Played a soldier [35]
Clarence C. Howerton ("Major Mite") 1913 1975 Played the 3rd Trumpeter [48][49]
Helen M. Hoy 1898 1945 Played a villager [15][50]
Marguerite A. Hoy Unknown Unknown Played a villager [15]
James R. Hulse IV 1915 1964 Played a villager [15][35][51]
Robert Kanter ("Little Lord Robert") 1886 Unknown Played a soldier [14][52]
Charles E. Kelley Unknown Unknown Played a soldier [14]
Jessie E. Kelley ("Jessie Becker") Unknown Unknown Played a villager [15]
Frank Kikel Unknown Unknown Played a villager [15]
Bernard Klima ("Harry") 1897 1957 Played a villager [29][53]
Mitzi Koestner Unknown Unknown Played a villager [15]
Emma Koestner Unknown Unknown Played a villager [10][15]
Willi Koestner Unknown Unknown Played a soldier [15][54]
Adam Edwin Kozicki ("Eddie Adams") Unknown Unknown Played a fiddler [15][55]
Joseph J. Koziel Unknown Unknown Played a villager [15][56]
Dolly F. Kramer 1904 1995 Played a villager [15][22]
Emil Kranzler 1910 1993 Played a villager [15][57]
Nita Krebs 1905 1991 Member of The Lullaby League and a villager [29][58]
Jeane LaBarbera ("Little Jean") 1909 1993 Played a villager [59]
Hilda Lange Unknown Unknown Played a villager [15]
John Leal ("Johnny") 1905 1996 Played a villager [15][60]
Ann Rice Leslie 1900 1973 Played a villager [15][61]
Charles Ludwig 1889 1941 Played a villager [15][62][63]
Dominick Magro 1909 1959 Played a villager [64][65]
Carlos Manzo 1914 1955 Played a villager [15][66]
Howard Marco 1884F Unknown Played a villager [15][67]
Jerry Maren 1920 2018 Green member of The Lollipop Guild [68][69]
Bela Matina ("Mike Rogers") 1901 1954 Played a villager [14][70][71]
Lajos Matina ("Leo") 1901 Unknown Played a villager [14][72]
Matyus Matina ("Ike Rogers") 1901 Unknown Played a villager [14][72][70]
Walter M. B. Miller 1906 1987 Played a soldier and a flying monkey [15][35]
George Ministeri 1913 1986 Played the coachman and a villager [15][35]
Harry Monty 1904 1999 Played a villager and a flying monkey [73]
Yvonne Bistany Moray 1917G Unknown Member of The Lullaby League and a villager [14][35]
Johnny Maroldo ("Johnny Winters") 1905 1985 Played the Commander of the Navy [35]
Marie Bernadet Maroldo ("Marie Winters") 1901 1979 Played a villager [35]
Olga C. Nardone 1921 2010 Member of The Lullaby League, a sleepyhead, and a villager [74]
Nels P. Nelson Unknown Unknown Played a villager [15]
Margaret C. Nickloy ("Princess Marguerite") 1902 1961 Played a villager [10][75]
Franklin H. O'Baugh 1922 1963 Played a soldier [76][77]
William H. O'Docharty 1920 1988 Played the coach footman and a villager [15][35]
Hildred C. Olson Unknown Unknown Played a villager [15]
Frank Packard Unknown Unknown Played a villager [15]
Nicholas Page ("Nicky") 1904 1978 Played a soldier and a city father [10][35]
Leona Megest Parks ("Duchess") 1897 Unknown Played a villager [22]
Margaret Williams Pellegrini 1923 2013 Played a "sleepyhead" and the "flower pot munchkin" [41][78]
Johnny Pizo Unknown Unknown Played a villager [15]
Leon Polinsky ("Prince Leon") Unknown Unknown Played a villager [15][79]
Meinhardt Raabe 1915 2010 Played the coroner [80]
Margaret Raia 1928 2003 Played a villager [81]
Matthew Raia Unknown Unknown Played a city father [81]
Friedrich Retter ("Freddie") 1899 Unknown Played a fiddler and villager [15][82]
Billy Rhodes ("Little Billy") 1895 1967 Played the barrister [83][84]
Gertrude H. Rice Unknown Unknown Played a villager [15]
Hazel Rice Unknown Unknown Played a villager [15]
Sandor Roka 1899 Unknown Played a villager [15][85]
Charles F. "Wojnarski" Royal 1900 1947 Played a soldier [15][86]
Helen J. "Wojnarski" Royal 1897 1958 Played a villager [15][86]
Stella A. "Wojnarski" Royal 1903 1959 Played a villager [86]
Albert Ruddinger Unknown Unknown Played a villager [15]
Elsie R. Schultz 1892 1987 Played a villager [15][35]
Charles Silvern 1902 1976 Played a villager [15][87]
Garland Slatton ("Earl") 1917 1995 Played a soldier [22]
Karl Slover 1918 2011 Played the lead trumpeter, a soldier, a "sleepyhead", and a villager [88][89]
Ruth E. Smith Unknown 1985 Played a villager [12][15]
Elmer Spangler 1910 Unknown Played a villager [15][90]
Pernell St. Aubin 1922 1987 Played a soldier [29][91]
Carl Stephan Unknown Unknown Played a villager [15]
Alta M. Stevens 1913 1989 Played a villager [15][35]
George Suchsie Unknown Unknown Played a villager [15]
Charlotte V. Sullivan Unknown Unknown Played a villager [15]
Clarence Swensen 1917 2009 Played a soldier [92]
Betty Tanner 1916 1994 Played a villager [35][93]
Arnold Vierling 1919 1949 Played a villager [35]
Gus Wayne 1920 1998 Played a soldier [94]
Victor Wetter 1902 1990 Played the Captain of the Army [10][35]
Grace G. Williams Unknown Unknown Played a villager [15]
Harvey B. Williams Unknown Unknown Played a soldier [15]
Gladys V. Wolff 1911 1984 Played a villager [35][15]
Murray Wood 1908 1999 Played a city father [15][95]
 
From left: Jerry Maren (Lollipop Guild), Karl Slover, Clarence Swensen and Margaret Pellegrini (1998)
Child actressesEdit

A dozen or so children of average height were hired so they could be used for background fill. Of these child actresses, five are known to still be living.[96][97]

Actor Born Died Part(s) played Source
Betty Ann Cain Bruno 1931 Living Child actress [96][98][99]
Priscilla Ann Montgomery Clark 1929 Living Child actress [98][99][100]
Joan Kenmore 1931 Living Child actress [96][98][99][97]
Eva Lee Kuney 1934 2015 Child actress [14][101]
Rae-Nell Laskey 1930 1991 Child actress [102]
Elaine Mirk Unknown Living Child actress [97]
Valerie Lee Shepard Unknown Unknown Child actress [10][97]
Ardith Dondanville Todd 1930 Living Child actress [96][98][99]
Shirley Ann Kennedy Vegors 1932 2005 Child actress [103]
Viola White Banks 1931 2000 Child actress [10][35]

Later works (1940–1989)Edit

The 1939 film was adapted into a musical that was released in 1942 that includes the munchkin characters. The events that take place mirror the film including the song "Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead".[104] Twenty-seven years later an animated film called The Wonderful Land of Oz, was made that has Jinjur as a major character.

Other worksEdit

  • The Munchkins appeared in The Wiz and were played by children and teenagers. (1978)
  • The Munchkins appear at the end of Return to Oz. They are seen celebrating Dorothy's return after defeating the Nome King and are present at Princess Ozma's coronation. Tommy Kwikstep was also seen there. (1985)
  • In The Muppets' Wizard of Oz, the Munchkins were played by Rizzo the Rat (who portrayed the Mayor of Munchkinland) and his fellow rats. (2005)
  • The Munchkins appeared in Dorothy and the Witches of Oz. The Munchkins were first seen in the battle against the Wicked Witch of the West's forces in Oz. They were later brought to Earth by Glinda in order to combat the forces of the Wicked Witch of the West. (2012)
  • The Munchkins appear in Oz the Great and Powerful. They alongside the Quadlings and the Tinkers as inhabitants of Glinda's protectorate. Although the film is not otherwise a musical, the Munchkins sing and dance much as they do in the 1939 film. (2013)
  • The Munchkins appear in more than one skit on Mad TV where the 1939 film is parodied. The actors are played by people with dwarfism.
  • The Munchkins appear in the television series Once Upon a Time. Not much is known about them, but they seem to be similar to the Dwarves in the Enchanted forest as Zelena originally thought that Sneezy was a Munchkin. Also, Regina Mills once mistakenly referred to the Seven Dwarfs as Munchkins.

NotesEdit

A.^ This year is based on the date on the paper, Freda Betsky (33 at the time) was either born in 1915 or 1916.
B.^ The "Braggart" can be heard saying: "and ohhhh what happened then was rich".
C.^ It was falsely reported in 1984 that Prince played the role of the Munchkin Mayor.[35]
D.^ It is unclear if Donna Jean Johnson Stewart-Hardaway was billed as a Munchkin.
E.^ According to Stephen Cox it is unknown what became of Jakob Hofbauer, he is rumored to have died in the late 1950s.[35]
F.^ Howard Marco is listed at 58 years old on May 9, 1942. As such, Marco was either born in 1883 or 1884.
G.^ Yvonne's friends stated that she died in the 1970s (according to Stephen Cox).[105]

ReferencesEdit

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