The Land of Oz

Geography

Oz is roughly rectangular in shape, and divided along the diagonals into four countries: Munchkin Country (but commonly referred to as 'Munchkinland' in adaptations) in the East, Winkie Country (called 'The Vinkus' in Gregory Maguire's Wicked) in the West, (sometimes West and East are reversed on maps of Oz, see West and East below) Gillikin Country in the North, and Quadling Country in the South. In the center of Oz, where the diagonals cross, is the fabled Emerald City, capital of the land of Oz and seat to the monarch of Oz, Princess Ozma.

The regions have a color schema: blue for Munchkins, yellow for Winkies, red for Quadlings, green for the Emerald city, and (in works after the first) purple for the Gillikins, which region was also not named in the first book. (This contrasts with Kansas; Baum, describing it, used "gray" nine times in four paragraphs.) In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, this is merely the favorite color, used for clothing and other man-made objects, and having some influence on their choice of crops, but the basic colors of the world are natural colors. The effect is less consistent in later works. In The Marvelous Land of Oz, the book states that everything in the land of the Gillikins is purple, including the plants and mud, and a character can see that he is leaving when the grass turns from purple to green, but it also describes pumpkins as orange and corn as green in that land. Baum, indeed, never used the color schema consistently; in many books, he alluded to the colors to orient the characters and readers to their location, and then did not refer to it again. His most common technique was to depict the man-made articles and flowers as the color of the country, leaving leaves, grass, and fruit their natural colors.

Map of Oz

Most of these regions are settled with prosperous and contented people. However, this naturally is lacking in scope for plot. Numerous pockets throughout the land of Oz are cut off from the main culture, for geographic or cultural reasons. Many have never heard of Ozma, making it impossible for them to acknowledge her as their queen. These regions are concentrated around the edges of the country, and constitute the main settings for books that are set entirely within Oz. The Lost Princess of Oz, for instance is set entirely in rough country in Winkie Country, between two settled areas. In Glinda of Oz, Ozma speaks of her duty to discover all these stray corners of Oz.

Oz is completely surrounded on all four sides by a desert, which insulates the citizens of Oz from discovery and invasion. In the first two books, this is merely a desert, with only its extent to make it dangerous to the traveler. Indeed, in The Marvelous Land of Oz, Mombi tries to escape through it and Glinda chases her over the sands. Still, it is the dividing land between the magic of Oz and the outside world, and the Winged Monkeys can not obey Dorothy's command to carry her home because it would take them outside the lands of Oz. In Ozma of Oz, it has become a magical desert, the "Deadly Desert" with life-destroying sands (reported but never depicted, unlike in the film, Return to Oz), a feature that remained constant through the rest of the series. The desert has nonetheless been breached numerous times, both by children from our world (mostly harmless), and by more sinister characters, such as the Nome King, who attempted to conquer Oz. After such an attempt in The Emerald City of Oz, the book ends with Glinda creating a barrier of invisibility around the Land of Oz, for further protection. This was, indeed, an earnest effort on Baum's part to escape the series, but the insistence of the readers meant the continuation of the series, and therefore the discovery of many ways for people to pass through this barrier as well as over the sands. Despite this continual evasion, the barrier itself remained; nowhere in any Oz book did Baum hint that the inhabitants were even considering removing the magical barrier.

East and West

The first known map of Oz was a glass slide used in Baum's Fairylogue and Radio-Play traveling show, showing the blue land of the Munchkins in the east and the yellow land of the Winkies in the west. These directions are confirmed by the text of all of Baum's Oz books, especially the first, in which The Wicked Witch of the East rules over the Munchkins, and The Wicked Witch of the West rules over the Winkies.

Like traditional western maps, the Fairylogue and Radio-Play map showed the west on the left, and the east on the right. However, the first map of Oz to appear in an Oz book had those directions reversed, and the compass rose adjusted accordingly. It is believed that this is a result of Baum copying the map from the wrong side of the glass slide, effectively getting a mirror image of his intended map. When he realized he was copying the slide backward, he reversed the compass rose to make the directions correct. However, an editor at Reilly and Lee reversed the compass rose, thinking he was fixing an error and resulting in further confusion. Most notably, this confused Ruth Plumly Thompson, who frequently reversed directions in her own Oz books as a result.

Modern maps of Oz are almost universally drawn with the Winkies in the west and the Munchkins in the east, although west and east often appear reversed. Many Oz fans believe this is the correct orientation, perhaps as a result of Glinda's spell, which has the effect of confusing most standard compasses; perhaps resembling its similarity to the world Alice found through the looking glass in which everything was a mirror image.

Where is Oz?

Oz, like all of Baum's fantasy countries, was presented as existing as part of the real world, albeit protected from civilization by natural barriers. Indeed, in the first books, nothing indicated that it was not hidden in the deserts of the United States. It gradually acquired neighboring magical countries, often from works of Baum's that had been independent, as Ix from Queen Zixi of Ix, and Mo from The Magical Monarch of Mo. The first of these is Ev, introduced in Ozma of Oz.

Map of Oz and surrounding countries

In Tik-Tok of Oz, Baum included maps in the endpapers which definitively situated Oz in a continent with its neighboring countries. Oz is the largest country on the continent of Nonestica, which also includes the countries of Ev, Ix, and Mo, which has also been known as Phunniland, among others. Nonestica is, according to the map, an island in the Nonestic Ocean. A fair amount of evidence in the books point to this continent as being envisioned as somewhere in the southern Pacific Ocean. At the opening of Ozma of Oz, Dorothy Gale is sailing to Australia with her Uncle Henry when she is washed overboard (in a chicken coop, with Billina the yellow hen), and lands on the shore of Ev, a rare instance in which an outsider reaches Oz through non-magical means.

Ozian houses suggest a non-Western architecture, conversely, Oz has technological, architectural, and urban elements typical of Europe and North America around the turn of the twentieth century; but this may involve cultural input from unusual external sources. Ruth Plumly Thompson asserts in her first Oz book, The Royal Book of Oz, that the language of Oz is English, which also suggests European or American influence.

MGM's Technicolor Oz

The Land of Oz as portrayed in the 1939 MGM film is quite different from that portrayed in the books. The most notable difference is that in the film the entire land of Oz appears to be dreamed up by Dorothy (thus making it a dream world) and the apparent message is that one should appreciate one's home and not look elsewhere for happiness. Although, Dorothy earnestly tries to convince the adults at the end that she really was there. This contrasts sharply with the books, in which Dorothy and her family are eventually invited to move to Oz due to a bank forclosure on the farm, showing both that Oz is a real place, and that it is a Utopia compared to Kansas.

For more information visit Wikipedia's Land of Oz, from which I obtained much of this information.

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