About the Land of Oz

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[NOTE: Plot points to some of the Oz books are revealed here, so if you're interested in reading the stories, and want to be surprised, you may want to consider skipping this section.]

Is Oz real?

No. But the citizens of Oz would disagree with me...

Where is the land of Oz?

Nobody's exactly sure. As Judy Garland said in The Movie, "It's not a place you can get to by a boat or a train. It's far, far away. Behind the moon, beyond the rain..." A trailer for The Movie also claimed it was "many, many miles east of nowhere," while the 1964 television special Return to Oz, Dorothy describes Oz as being "halfway to yesterday and back." People from the Great Outside World that we live in have traveled there by a number of magical means, and via natural disasters such as tornadoes and storms at sea. Since these characters have come from all over the United States (and more recently, in some books outside of the FF, other countries), it's difficult to determine if Oz is located anywhere near them. The best guess is that it's somewhere in the South Pacific, maybe on or near Australia. The strongest evidence for this is one of Baum's short stories, "Nelebel's Fairyland," which clearly places the Forest of Burzee, which is on the same continent as Oz, an unknown distance to the west of San Diego, California; and also that Dorothy was on a sea voyage to Australia (a nation often referred to informally as Oz) in the opening chapter of Ozma of Oz before being washed overboard during a storm. Oz apocrypha author March Laumer placed Oz on a small, fast-moving continental plate in the Pacific Ocean. Many Ozmologists, however, believe that Oz is probably not actually part of our world, but is in some sort of parallel or alternate universe.

Illustration by Dick Martin from The Visitors from Oz, © 1960 The Reilly and Lee Co.

However you get there, once you arrive in that world, you will find the Land of Oz located in the middle of the Continent of Imagination, an island continent surrounded by the Nonestic Ocean (sometimes incorrectly named the Nonentic Ocean). Oz is cut off from the rest of the continent by a vast desert on all sides, which is poisonous to living beings and can turn them to dust. Some of Oz's neighboring countries, across the desert, are Ev, Ix, Mo, Merryland, Skampavia, Noland, Boboland, and the Forest of Burzee, where the fairies who originally enchanted Oz live. Santa Claus also lives nearby, in the Laughing Valley of Hohaho (which may or may not be near the North Pole).

How do you get to the Land of Oz?

As mentioned in the previous question, one of the most common ways to get to Oz is via some sort of natural disaster. Dorothy alone has started trips to Oz via tornado, storm at sea, and earthquake. Other characters have gotten there via whirlpool, falling into a hole, rocket accident, a geyser explosion, and a ship's boiler exploding.

Sometimes, however, it takes some magic to start one's journey to Oz. The first time we see this is in The Road to Oz, where Ozma uses magic to confound Dorothy and start her on her newest trip to Oz. Other magical means of getting to Oz have included a magic flying umbrella (before Mary Poppins ever did it), being kidnapped by a balloon bird, a magic piece of change, through a magic two-way television screen, and grabbing a magic ring on a merry-go-round. In a handful of cases, Ozma has just wished a character to Oz, but these were all people she already knew, so you can't count on that happening to you! And in The Cowardly Lion of Oz, one character discovers a rhyme that transports whoever says it to Oz. However, that seems to now have been disabled (or incorrectly transcribed), as many readers of that book have reported trying it, but few, if any, have actually gone to Oz as a result.

More recent Oz books outside of the FF have used scientific means of getting to Oz. In these cases, Oz is treated as a parallel or alternative world, and the United States government or some scientific institute finds a way to transport people and items to Oz. Most notable for this are A Barnstormer in Oz by Philip José Farmer, and The Emerald Burrito of Oz by John Skipp and Marc Levinthal.

What are Oz and its people like?

Oz is a pleasant land, with a mild, temperate climate and fertile farmlands. It is roughly rectangular, divided into four triangular countries, each with its predominant color. The Munchkins live in the east, and their favorite color is blue. The Quadlings live in the south, and favor the color red. The Winkies live in the west, and they like yellow, and the Gillikins, in the north, prefer purple. In the center, where the four countries meet, is the Emerald City, the nation's capital and only major city. Green is, naturally, the color of choice there.

Much of Oz is made up of either isolated farms or small communities. Close to the Emerald City, and in other locations around the country, people are law-abiding and friendly, and acknowledge the rule of the king or queen of Oz. Further out, however, live many isolated tribes of strange peoples who don't know or care that they are part of a larger country. For the most part the Ozites keep to themselves, and there is rarely any trouble. But sometimes strangers visit these small villages, and unusual things happen as a result...

Oz is a place where magic abounds, but much of that magic is either naturally occurring — so that books and sandwiches grow on trees, for instance, and the animals can talk — or is wielded by a small number of magic workers, both good and evil.

Why do some books have the Munchkin Country in the west and the Winkie Country in the east?

Ozian geography — also called geozify — can be confusing. This mix-up of where the Munchkin and Winkie Countries lay comes from the first published map of Oz, which appeared in 1914 as one of the endpapers to Tik-Tok of Oz. On this map, the Winkies were shown on the right side, which is traditionally east, and the Munchkins on the left, which is usually west. However, the compass rose on this map was drawn with "E" on the left side and "W" on the right, the exact opposite of their actual directions. So, by its own logic, at least, that map was correct. (Some have pointed out that this is also the correct alignment of directions on a star chart, so this could indicate that Oz is actually somewhere in the sky.) Some theorize that this is a result of Baum looking at the earliest known map of Oz when designing this map. It was a glass slide used several years earlier in his Fairylogue and Radio-Play traveling show. If Baum had looked at the slide from the wrong side, the Munchkin and Winkie countries, and the compass rose, would all be reversed.

A few years later, when the endpapers were reprinted, the "E" and "W" were in their traditional locations — which now meant that the Munchkins were in the west and the Winkies in the east. Since Baum and other writers consulted these maps when writing the books, the inconsistency of these directions crept into the series. In 1962, when the International Wizard of Oz Club decided to publish a revised and updated set of maps, the question of how to place these two countries — and hence, the rest of Oz and the surrounding nations — was one of the first to be tackled. After carefully examining the directions given in the books and other considerations, it was decided that the Winkies should be in the west and the Munchkins in the east. The strongest argument in favor of this arrangement was that in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch of the East had enslaved the Munchkins and the Wicked Witch of the West had taken control of the Winkies. The two countries have remained there ever since, and most writers now try to be consistent with this idea.

To further complicate matters, Aleksandr Volkov in his books placed the Munchkins in the west and the Winkies in the east, which was the violet land. His yellow country was in the north. However, he was creating an entirely new geography and color scheme, independent of Baum's.

The earliest known map of Oz, from the Fairylogue and Radio-Play — and possible source of all the confusion

Where can I get a map of the Land of Oz?

The earliest published map of the Land of Oz, and another one showing the countries surrounding Oz, was published as the endpapers of Tik-Tok of Oz. The current Books of Wonder/HarperCollins edition of that book reprints the original endpapers, including the "incorrect" compass rose. These endpapers were also used in The Annotated Wizard of Oz. So either of those books would get you the maps. More recently, IWOC has printed a set of maps that take into account all of the books published after Tik-Tok of Oz, and tries to correct a few of that maps errors, including the compass rose. This set includes an explanatory leaflet, a map of Oz, and a second map of the surrounding countries, including several used by Baum in some of his non-Oz stories. These maps have been updated over the years, and have also been published in some Oz books, most notably those published by Del Rey. To order them, go to https://shop.ozclub.org/product/set-of-oz-maps/. The Hungry Tiger Talk blog is examines all of the maps of Oz in detail, and you can read what they have to say at http://hungrytigerpress.blogspot.com/search/label/Maps.

The first published maps of Oz and the surrounding countries, as first published in Tik-Tok of Oz, © 1914 L. Frank Baum. Note the two different compass roses.

Who rules the land of Oz?

When Oz was first visited in The Wizard of Oz, the Wizard was the ruler of the Emerald City, although perhaps not the entire country. He abdicated to help Dorothy return home, and left the Scarecrow to rule in his place. The Scarecrow ruled for a short time, but was usurped by the rebellious General Jinjur, who longed for power and riches. She was quickly overthrown by Glinda on behalf of the long-lost rightful heir to the throne, Princess Ozma, daughter of the deposed King Pastoria. Ozma helped reunite Oz and has ruled with kindness and justice ever since.

Each of the four countries is also ruled by a sovereign, who all owe their allegiance to Ozma. While there have been a few changes over the years, currently those rulers are:

  • King Cheeriobed and Queen Orin in the Munchkin Country (some books also mention the Scarecrow ruling the Munchkins)
  • Glinda the Good in the Quadling Country
  • Nick Chopper, the Tin Woodman, in the Winkie Country
  • Joe King and Queen Hyacinth in the Gillikin Country

What's the early history of Oz?

There are many statements in the books about the early history of Oz, before the events of The Wizard of Oz, and many of these are contradictory, causing some research, speculation, and good-natured arguments among Oz fans. But these are some facts that appear to be pretty well-established:

  • At one point, all of Oz was ruled by a long line of kings and queens. One of them, King Pastoria, was overthrown, kidnapped, and enchanted, and his baby daughter, Ozma, was not to be found, so the throne remained vacant. Four wicked witches seized control of each of the four countries.
  • Two of these witches, in the north and south, were later overthrown by two good witches. Tattypoo, the Good Witch of the North in the Gillikin Country, overthrew Mombi in the Gillikin Country, and Glinda, the Good Witch of the South, overthrew Singra, the Wicked Witch of the South, in the Quadling Country.
  • Some time after Pastoria's abduction, an American circus magician, ventriloquist, and balloonist, named Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmanuel Ambroise Diggs, got caught up in a storm and his balloon was carried far, far away. The balloon came down in Oz, and seeing Diggs's first two initials painted on the balloon, the people thought him to be their new king, as Oz was the traditional name for the ruler of their land. Diggs performed some simple sleight-of-hand tricks for them, and so they also took him to be a great wizard. The people proclaimed him their new ruler, and he ordered the Emerald City to be built. The Wizard now stayed mostly in his new city, fearful that the fact that he was a humbug, and not a real wizard, would be discovered. He did try to battle the Wicked Witch of the West at one point, but was pushed back by the Winged Monkeys. He also had some dealings with Mombi, the former ruler of the Gillikin Country, and may have had a hand in Ozma's disappearance.
  • The Wizard ruled in the Emerald City for a number of years until another visitor from the Outside World, Dorothy Gale from Kansas, blew to Oz in a cyclone with her dog Toto. She and her friends eventually exposed the Wizard for the humbug that he was, but he tried to get her home anyway. What happened after that...well, you'll just have to read the books to find out!

What language is spoken in Oz?

Ozzish, of course — which, by coincidence, is the same as American English, as Ruth Plumly Thompson points out in The Royal Book of Oz. Ozzish is spoken in most other countries on the Continent of Imagination as well. There have been words of Old Ozzish in a few books. Philip Jose Farmer's non-canonical science-fiction novel, A Barnstormer in Oz, invents a completely new version of Ozzish, derived from Middle German. There are some examples of two Ozian languages, Dan-Rur and Old Ozzish, in the "I Can Eat Glass" project, now archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20170907060602/http://www.reocities.com/nodotus/hbglass.html. These languages were invented by Oz fan and amateur linguist Aaron Adleman, but so far the most extensive writings in these languages are on the "I Can Eat Glass" site.

What is the Kingdom of Dreams, and which book does it appear in?

This has long been an Ozian mystery. On the first published map of Oz and the surrounding countries (see the question Why do some books have the Munchkin Country in the west and the Winkie Country in the east?), many locations were shown on both maps that had not been encountered in any of Baum's previous books up to that time. All were visited in later books — with one exception. The Kingdom of Dreams is on the map of the surrounding countries, sharing borders with Boboland, the land of the Growleywogs, the Ripple Land, and the Deadly Desert. Yet it never appears or is mentioned in any book by L. Frank Baum, nor in any of the later books of the Oz series. The closest guess that I can make is that Dorothy visited there in Ozma of Oz: "But she lay down upon her couch, nevertheless, and in spite of all her worries was soon in the land of dreams." I know, it's a pretty weak connection, but that's all I have. At least one short story has told more about the Kingdom of Dreams, however. "The Blue Raindrops of Oz" by Camilla Townsend, published in the 1984 issue of Oziana, IWOC's annual fiction anthology, gives more information about the Kingdom of Dreams and its people.

Can people grow old and die in Oz?

This is a matter of some debate among Oz fans, as the evidence is contradictory. In The Wizard of Oz there are several instances of death in Oz, particularly the two Wicked Witches that Dorothy inadvertently kills. However, as the series progressed, Baum stated that people in Oz could not die — although they could be injured or made uncomfortable. Ozians could even be chopped up into small pieces, yet each piece would still be alive. Finally, in The Tin Woodman of Oz, he said:

From that moment [of Oz's enchantment] no one in Oz ever died. Those who were old remained old; those who were young and strong did not change as years passed them by; the children remained children always, and played and romped to their hearts' content, while all the babies lived in their cradles and were tenderly cared for and never grew up.

This clearly is not the case, however, since death and aging were shown or implied in many instances in previous books. Later instances of aging include the existence of Princess Pajonia in The Purple Prince of Oz (her parents met and married at the end of Kabumpo in Oz), and a Munchkin family in The Wonder City of Oz with a "stop growing" age of twelve for boys and ten for girls. However, no characters, with the exception of a very few wicked ones, have died in the Oz books since The Emerald City of Oz, as far as I can recall.

Where this all appears to point is that when Oz was enchanted, it didn't happen all at once, despite Baum's statement in The Tin Woodman of Oz. To avoid the shock of everyone in the country suddenly not aging, the change was more likely introduced gradually so that everyone could get used to it. Now, it appears that the citizens of Oz can stay at the same age for as long as they want.

The question of whether or not visitors from the outside world can grow old or die has also been asked. While Dorothy and several other characters from our world have not aged, the Wizard did grow older when he was ruler of Oz. The only example I can think of where an American has been exposed to life-threatening conditions is in Lucky Bucky in Oz, where Bucky weathers a talcum powder snowstorm — which would be extremely harmful if you or I were to breathe it — with no ill effects, not even a cough.

Where did the silver shoes come from, and what happened to them?

No origin for the silver shoes has ever been given in the official Oz books, nor any that I am aware of in any other stories. Their final fate, however, in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, is revealed when Dorothy returns to Kansas: "Dorothy stood up and found she was in her stocking feet. For the Silver Shoes had fallen off in her flight through the air, and were lost forever in the desert." While they never turn up again in the official Oz books, they have been recovered and written about in some unofficial Oz stories.

Is the Emerald City based on a real place?

It all depends on how you're asking the question. If you mean are the various illustrations in books, movies, and so forth based on real places, then that depends on who illustrated or designed it. In The Movie, the Emerald City was based on a pre-World War I sketch found in a German book in the MGM Art Department. But the idea of the Emerald City may have been inspired by the White City, the setting on the shores of Lake Michigan for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Baum moved to Chicago at about that time, and in the original novel, W. W. Denslow shows a somewhat Moorish walled city that resembles part of the fair. The White City was principally all one color, visible from many parts of Chicago, had a lot of fantasy in it and humbuggery behind it, and after the fair ended, it quickly disappeared and Chicago was back to its normal self again.

Why is the yellow brick road yellow?

Nobody's quite sure why Baum chose yellow bricks for the main roads (yes, there are more than one) of Oz, but in his day, yellow bricks were a common building material, and many roads and buildings were made of them. So in this case, he was probably using something familiar to his readers, rather than something exotic, as some interpret it today. (Some people seem to want the yellow bricks to actually be gold, and have found symbolism in that, but they're just ordinary yellow bricks, not shiny and metallic.) What would be unusual about the yellow brick road is that the road was paved the entire way from the Munchkin Country to the Emerald City, as very few roads in Baum's time were paved outside of cities.

What's up with that house in The Patchwork Girl of Oz?

In The Patchwork Girl of Oz, Ojo the Munchkin, Scraps the Patchwork Girl, and Bungle the Glass Cat have an unusual encounter with a house where they stay overnight. They see a light in the distance and try to get to it, but the light never seems to get closer. Nevertheless, they find a darkened house, which they enter. Ojo, being the only one of the three who needs to eat or sleep, finds food and a bed, which a disembodied voice commands him to use. When the Patchwork Girl decides she doesn't want to follow the voice's directions, she is thrown out by invisible hands. In the morning, after a refreshing night's sleep, Ojo finds a breakfast waiting for him. But once he leaves the house, he is tired and hungry again, as if he'd never spent any time in the house. It's an odd little incident that has no bearing on the rest of the story, and doesn't appear to have any purpose. I can not begin to even speculate what Baum meant with this incident, for I've never figured it out, either, nor have I found anyone else who has an idea of what it means. It seems that some Oz mysteries will always remain mysteries.