Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Where is Oz?

To welcome people who are new to Oz, I thought I'd do a new series of blogs about basic Oz concepts. I generally haven't done a lot of this because someone already did do a great Oz 101: Eric Gjovaag's Oz FAQ, which I recommend to any Oz fan or just the curious. Still, my own take can be fun.

It's far, far away, beyond the moon, beyond the rain...
Halfway to yesterday and back!
Somewhere is Oz, magic land far away, beyond mountains, emerald seas...
It's just beyond the rainbow!

Where is the Land of Oz located? Just up above are lines Dorothy says from several adaptations of the Oz stories. But none of those descriptions are very specific...

The works of L. Frank Baum give us some idea of where it is. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz doesn't tell us much, but it seems to suggest a Kansas tornado can get you there. However, looking at tornadoes, that doesn't add up. Baum suggests the tornado Dorothy is in lasts for hours, when tornadoes can last about ten minutes and can move at speeds more than 300 miles per hour. A ten minute 300 mph tornado would be only 50 miles. Now, it's possible that it was a series of tornadoes, but for Dorothy's house to be smoothly carried from one to the next is a stretch. All we can assume is that the tornado was magical in origin, and who was behind it? They're not telling...

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz informs us that Oz is surrounded by a desert, and later books show magical borderlands beyond the desert and magical island kingdoms. The Marvelous Land of Oz has an episode in which the Gump flies over the desert and they assume they are in Dorothy's outside world, but infortmation from later books indicates that the Gump flew into one of the Borderlands.

In his later years, Baum wrote a comedy play that was never produced titled The Girl from Oz. A girl from "Oz" arrives on a US army base where all the men fall in love with her. However, the script calls her home "Delcapan," an island kingdom in the South Pacific ruled by an exiled Russian princess. So, while the "Oz" of that story wasn't actually Oz, is putting it in the South Pacific accurate?

In Ozma of Oz, Dorothy is on a trip to Australia. Dorothy lives in the middle of the US in Kansas, and given that she visits California in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, we can assume that she and Uncle Henry traveled to the Pacific Ocean and are sailing that way. (It's also a far more direct route than traveling to the Atlantic, unless for some reason, it was cheaper to sail past Europe, Africa and Asia by means of the Atlantic, which I doubt.) When Dorothy is washed overboard in a chicken coop, she washes up on the shore of the Land of Ev, which is revealed to be a borderland of Oz.

So, that seems to add up. If Oz is actually on Earth, it would be in the South Pacific.

That hasn't kept other interpretations, such as it being somewhere else in outer space (promotional material for Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz suggest that, though that series is rarely taken as an actual piece of Ozian history). After other "other world" fantasy series popped up—such as The Chronicles of Narnia—fans began to read Oz as an alternate world, reality, dimension, etc. But that doesn't seem to match up with Baum's writings. Easy to explain, however, yes.

In The Emerald City of Oz, to keep Oz from being invaded by the outside world again, Glinda puts a barrier around the land that renders it invisible from the outside. This was intended by Baum as a device to close the series, but as he revived it and it was carried on by other writers, the barrier really did not seem to have much effectiveness. Ruth Plumly Thompson's Pirates in Oz even features pirate ships flying over the desert directly into Oz.

What follows next is my own theory and my own ideas which I will be working into future works.

As the series progressed, it was clear that there was no point to closing the Land of Oz off from other magical countries. They knew it was there. In stories such as Rinkitink in Oz, Captain Salt in Oz and The Shaggy Man of Oz, characters from Oz interact directly with other countries outside of the borders of Oz. Thus, the problem of keeping Oz isolated shouldn't mean isolating it from its closest neighbors, but from countries further than that who did not know of magic.

Baum titled the ocean around Oz as the Nonestic Ocean (following on that, some fans—including myself—call the continent that Oz lies on "Nonestica," though Thompson called it "The Continent of Imagination"), so we may assume all the lands inside the ocean are magical.

But, of course, if this ocean is supposed to be on earth (aside from its usually believed fictional status), why hasn't it been seen? After all, we have satellites and space stations that can view and photograph our planet from space and they've never spotted it. The place where the Nonestic should be isn't invisible as that would look far more suspicious to satellite photos than uncharted waters and lands.

So, is it possible that Glinda joined with other magic users (Queen Lulea, Queen Zurline, Queen Zixi, Jinnicky, etc.) and put a new barrier around the entire Nonestic Ocean and all it contains? Now, how would this barrier work? My theory is that as the risk of being discovered by the outside world grows, these lands (collectively "fairyland") get more and more shunted into an alternate plane of reality.

Sure would be a shame if someone... undid that enchantment...

Well, that's my thoughts on where Oz is or was. If you're wanting a look at the development of the layout of Oz, David Maxine has done a series of blogs on his Oz blog titled "Map of Oz Monday," so check that out!

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Baum's short story "Nelebel's Fairyland" locates the Forest of Burzee (on the same continent of Oz) within traveling distance of the American Pacific coast.

Eric said...

One of my favorite explanations of where Oz is comes from, of all places, Philip José Farmer's A Barnstormer in Oz. This sci-fi novel is an explanation of the "real" Oz and why Baum chose to fictionalize it, so it is a very different version of Oz, and definitely not canonical. But his explanation of its location is that its in our own space-time continuum, occupying the same space as Earth, but on a different level. Farmer thus calls it a split-level continuum. From both Earth and Oz, we see the same sun, moon, and other heavenly bodies (which, if it is the true explanation, makes some of the events of Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz and The Wonder City of Oz extremely interesting), but the two places are essentially on different "floors" and under normal circumstances can't interact. Only violent weather phenomena, magic, or very advanced science can bring something from one to the other.

Sam Milazzo said...

I think the actual wording is "beyond mountains AND seas" ...

Scott Baugh said...

Why are the Munchkins and the Winkies swapped on later maps?