Munchkins are the natives of the fictional Munchkin Country in the Oz books by L. Frank Baum. They first appeared in the 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, in which they are described as being somewhat short of stature, and wear only blue. Later books never note anything unusual about Munchkin height but emphasize the color preference.
They are probably better known from their depiction in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, in which they are played by adult proportional dwarfs, dress in brightly multicolored outfits, and live in "Munchkinland." On November 20, 2007, the Melinda was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Seven of the surviving Munchkins actors from the film were present. As a result of the popularity of the 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz, the word "munchkin" has entered the English language as a reference to small children, dwarfs, or anything of diminutive stature.
The following is an excerpt from chapter two of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
, in which Dorothy first meets three Munchkins and the Good Witch of the North
- "... she noticed her 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.
Origin of the term
Baum never explained where the term came from, but Baum researcher Brian Attebery
has hypothesized that there might be a connection to the emblem
of the Bavarian
city of Munich
, known as the Münchner Kindl
(Munich Child). 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. Baum's family had German origins: Baum could have seen one such reproduction in his childhood, and woven his story around it.
An urban legend claimed that a Munchkin can be seen commiting suicide far away in the background, while the main characters are walking on the Yellow Brick Road, however it can be clearly seen to be an Emu
not a Munchkin.
Footnotes and citations