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The Sea Fairies
Baum-Sea Fairies.jpg
First edition
Author L. Frank Baum
Illustrator John R. Neill
Country United States
Language English
Genre Children's novel
Publisher Reilly & Britton
Publication date
Media type Print (hardcover)
Pages 240 pp.
Followed by Sky Island 

The Sea Fairies is a children's fantasy novel written by L. Frank Baum, illustrated by John R. Neill, and published in 1911 by the Reilly & Britton Company, the publisher of Baum's series of Oz books.


As an underwater fantasy, Baum's The Sea Fairies can be classed with earlier books with similar themes, like Charles Kingsley's The Water-Babies (1863), and successors too, like E. Nesbit's Wet Magic (1913). Baum's novel has no relation to the 1830 poem of the same name by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. In 1905, however, a musical setting of Tennyson's poem for female chorus and orchestra, composed by Amy Beach, was in performance; the title may have stuck in the back of Baum's mind.


Mayre Griffiths, nicknamed Trot, or sometimes Tiny Trot, is a little girl who lives on the coast of southern California. Her father is the captain of a sailing schooner, and her constant companion is Cap'n Bill Weedles, a retired sailor with a wooden leg. (Cap'n Bill had been Trot's father's skipper, and Charlie Griffiths had been his mate, before the accident that took the older man's leg.) Trot and Cap'n Bill spend many of their days roaming the beaches near home, or rowing and sailing along the coast. One day, Trot wishes that she could see a mermaid; her wish is overheard, and granted the next day. The mermaids explain to Trot, and the distressed Cap'n Bill, that they are benevolent fairies; when they offer Trot a chance to pay a visit to their land in mermaid form, Trot is enthusiastic, and Bill is too loyal to let her go off without him.

So begins their sojourn among the sea fairies. They see amazing sights in the land of Queen Aquarine and King Anko (including an octopus who is mortified to learn that he's the symbol of the Standard Oil Company). They also encounter a villain called Zog the Magician, a monstrous hybrid of man, animal, and fish, one of the very few absolutely irredeemable, pure-evil characters in Baum's writings. Zog and his sea devils capture them and hold them prisoner. The two protagonists discover that many sailors thought to have been drowned have actually been captured and enslaved by Zog. Trot and Cap'n Bill survive Zog's challenges, and the villain is eventually defeated by the forces of good. Trot and Cap'n Bill are returned to human form, safe and dry after their undersea adventure.

As many readers and critics have observed, Baum's Oz in particular and his fantasy novels in general are dominated by puissant and virtuous female figures; the archetype of the father-figure plays little role in Baum's fantasy world. The Sea Fairies is a lonely exception to this overall trend: "The sea serpent King the closest approximation to a powerful, benevolent father figure in Baum's fantasies."

Other media

In 1985, an independent producer commissioned a script based on The Sea Fairies as a follow-up to the movie Return to Oz, but because of the films poor reception, the project was apparently dropped.

The Oz Kids video Journey Beneath the Sea was a loose adaptation of The Sea Fairies.

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