April 13, 2021

O is for Oz

         (My #AtoZChallenge theme this year is Mythical and Imaginary Places.)
        The Land of Oz is a Fairy Country, located possibly somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, but hidden from the non-magical parts of the world.  It is further protected on all sides by an impassable desert of deadly sand, and then beyond the sandy wastes are further fairy kingdoms, including Ev, Ix, and the underground Dominions of the Nome King.  Oz itself is divided into four main quadrants, the lands of the Munchkins in the east, the Quadlings in the south, the Winkies in the west, and the Gillikins in the north, as shown on the map.  Each of these regions has a ruler, as well as multiple smaller kingdoms, countries, and more-or-less autonomous areas within it.  This map is actually a game board, which includes lots of extra details of people and places from the whole series of books.  At the center is the Emerald City, capitol of Oz and home to the ruler.  Each of the four provinces has a color scheme, although it is not entirely clear how pervasive that color is.  It 
ranges, throughout descriptions of the country, from merely being a popular color for clothes and flowers, to permeating everything in the entire country so that a traveller can tell when he crosses from Gillikin Country to, say, Munchkinland, because the grass changes from purple 
to blue.  Author L. Frank Baum was not much concerned with continuity, and the consistency was further eroded in later books by other authors.  This lack of definitive canon is reflected in illustrations of Oz.  You can see in my four views of Munchkin Country that the one by original Oz illustrator W.W. Denslow shows everything blue, while a recent illustration by Charles Santore shows natural objects in their natural colors with all houses and fences in blue, while the MGM movie set is so busy being fully technicolor that it doesn’t show any particular preference for blue.  And of course if you illustrate in black and white, like Barry Moser, you don’t have to worry about it at all.
        Yellow brick roads lead from at least two, possibly each of these provinces toward the Emerald City at the center.  A note on the directions of the four quadrants: maps of Oz are often shown with the east, and therefore the Munchkin Country, on the left, and the Winkies in the west to the right.  Some say this is because of an error in copying the map (see one of those maps here); others attribute it to good witch Glinda’s spell to hide Oz from the outside world, which perhaps may confuse our compasses.
        Most people are familiar with Oz primarily through the MGM musical “The Wizard of Oz,” released in 1939, although in fact there are 14 Oz books written by L. Frank Baum, plus another 26 that are considered “official” Oz books by other authors (plus many further books and movies that are not official.)  The first Oz book, on which the movie is based, opens with the Munchkins ruled by the Wicked Witch of the East, the Winkies by the Wicked Witch of the West, the Gillikins by the Good Witch of the North, the Quadlings by Glinda the Good Witch of the South, and the Emerald City (and thus the entire country) by the Wizard of Oz.  By the end of that chapter of history, the Wizard and both Wicked Witches have been deposed.  (In the movie, the two Good Witches are blended into a single character, and Glinda is called the good witch of the North.)  Today’s final illustrations include views of the Wicked Witch of the West’s castle, which is yellow in the Land of the Winkies, and Glinda and her castle, which is in Quadling Country and therefore red.
        Ozma, the subsequent queen of all Oz, bans the working of magic by anyone without a permit (and these permits are seldom awarded), but illicit magic turns up frequently in the Land of Oz nevertheless.  Another aspect of magic is that all animals can talk in Oz, although some choose not to.  A wide variety of magical people and creatures can be found there, including winged monkeys, kalidahs, people made of china, living paper dolls, Flatheads (who carry their brains in cans), Hammerheads, and many others.  There are also a number of people who are given magical life and sentience, such as the Scarecrow, Jack Pumpkin-head, the Sawhorse, and Scraps the Patchwork Girl.  (By the way, Ozma also has a magic picture that can show her what’s happening anywhere in her kingdom — much like Prester John’s magic mirror.)
        Baum originally invented Oz with the idea of creating a uniquely American fairy tale for modern children of the twentieth century, that emphasized wonder and joy while leaving out the darker elements of older fairy tales.  In some ways Oz is indeed a modern land, ruled by a young woman with a progressive philosophy of kindness and equality for all, and highly tolerant of eccentricity and even iconoclasm.  (Read more about Ozma here.)  In other ways, of course, it’s very much a product of its time.
        As I mentioned, the first illustrator of Oz was W.W. Denslow, who worked so closely with Baum that he was a co-copyright holder of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, published in 1900.  However, Denslow and Baum had a falling out, and subsequent Oz books were illustrated by John R. Neill.  As I child I preferred Neill’s Art Nouveau style to Denslow’s cartoonish one; however, Neill’s illustrations are mostly black and white and focus almost exclusively on characters rather than places, so I have fewer pieces by him (including, however, my only view of Gillikin Country).  As soon as Oz entered the public domain in 1956 there were a huge number of versions and adaptations with illustrations by other authors, from which I have selected a sampling based on what I could find on-line or in my library.  I have represented no fewer than ten different illustrators, so in order to keep my footnotes from getting completely out of hand, I’ve organized them by author, rather than by listing each picture individually.  The six blocks of images are organized by region:
Image 1 - Map
Image 2 - Views of Munchkin Country
Image 3 - The Field of Poppies and First View of the Emerald City
Image 4 - Scenes inside the Emerald City
Image 5 - Views of Winkie Country (and one scene from Gillikin Country)
Image 6 - Views of Quadling Country
        Why does Gillikin Country get short shrift?  Because it’s the only province we never see in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and no one ever bothers to illustrate new editions of any of the other Oz books.  You can see that Neill has made it look just the same as his view of Winkie Country beside it, differing only in color.  (And by the way, since I’ve squished so many pictures into this post, don’t forget to click on them to see them all bigger.)
        Because of Judy Garland’s song in the musical, Oz is often seen as being “Somewhere over the rainbow… where troubles melt like lemon drops…” as if it were a land of eternal happiness.  Of course this is not true, and Dorothy finds it at times lonely, terrifying, and sad.  A more accurate reflection of Oz is reflected in another famous quotation from the movie: I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more.  Perhaps the most important thing about Oz is that it is more magical, beautiful, strange, and unpredictable than the “normal” world.
        The MORAL of Oz:  We long for a world in which anything is possible.
              OR:  There’s no place like home.  Which may be why you wanted to leave.
        So, which artist’s versions of Oz do you like best?

[Pictures: Map board for “The Wonderful Game of Oz” by Parker Brothers, 1921 (Image from PBA Galleries);
Illustrations by W.W. Denslow from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, 1900 - Image 2c, 3a, 4a (Images from Internet Archive);
Illustrations by John R. Neill from The Marvelous Land of Oz by Baum, 1904 - Image 5a, 5b, 6d (Images from Project Gutenberg);
Scenes from “The Wizard of Oz” film by MGM, 1939  Images 2d, 3c (Image from The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop by Isackes and Maness, and IMDb);
Illustrations by Charles Santore from The Wizard of Oz Random House condensed, 1991 - Images 2a, 4b, 5e, 6b;
Wood engravings by Barry Moser from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Pennyroyal Press, 1986 - Images 2b, 5c (Images from R. Michelson Galleries);
Illustrations by Lorena Alvarez Gómez from Usborne Illustrated Originals The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, 2014 - Images 3b, 4d;
Illustrations by Greg Hildebrandt, 1985 - Images 3d, 4f (Images from Book Graphics);
Illustration by Júlia Sarda, 2013 - Image 3e (Image from Julia Sarda);
Illustrations by Evan Dahm, 2013-4 - Images 4c, 5c, 6c (Images from Baum by Dahm);
Illustrations by Mauro Evangelista from Usborne Young Reading The Wizard of Oz, 2006 - Images 3e, 6a.]


Nilanjana Bose said...

I do love the wizard of Oz...lovely nostalgia fix! All the best for the rest of the A-Z.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

One of the first movies and books to put me on the path of loving fantasy. They are still very fun reads today and the movie is still fantastic.

Tim Brannan, The Other Side: 2021: The A to Z of Monsters

Olga Godim said...

The interesting thing about OZ for me was that I knew all the stories and read all the books about it in my childhood without once encountering the name of Baum, the author.
I grew up in Russia. One of the Russian writers decided to translate all the books of the series into Russian, with slight (very slight) changes, and then 'forgot' to say on the cover that it was a translation. All the books, starting with The Wizard of OZ, were published with his name on the cover exclusively. I read and enjoyed them all. Only after I immigrated to Canada when I was almost 40, I learned that it was Baum who wrote the original story.

Deborah Weber said...

I do love Oz. It might have something to do with the fact as a child I played one of the poppies in the poppy field. I remember my costume quite clearly and all my fabulous swaying moves. LOL.

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Nilanjana and Tim, I'm glad you enjoyed the memories.

Olga, I had no idea that the Russian translator basically stole credit for the Oz books! At least you found Baum's part in it at last.

Deborah, I bet you were a wonderful poppy, and lulled everyone into a lovely sleep. Maybe that's part of why you love flowers so much! (Myself, I always wanted to play the part of the Wicked Witch of the West! lol)

JadeLi said...

I've read a couple of the books and enjoyed the stories. Is it one continuing story or do each stand alone? I like the illustrations of Denslow as they give a whimsical aspect to the writing.

Have you seen the movie, "Return to Oz"? That one has some neat critters in it.

JazzFeathers said...

Oh, wow! I knew there were mor ebooks about the world of Oz, but I didn't imagine they were so many.
Really loved all the illustrations you found. I like the way monochromatic themes seem to be prevalent.

The Old Shelter - The Great War

AJ Blythe said...

How cool there is a board game / map of Oz. I've never seen that before.

Melanie Atherton Allen said...

I am dazzled by the artwork here. And I just spent several minutes studying that gameboard. Very immersive. And I love the idea of the different levels of color-coding of the kingdoms in different representations.

Frédérique said...

Beautiful illustrations, I love the poppies and the green castel!

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Jade, the books incorporate lots of characters introduced in previous books, but the plots are pretty much freestanding.

Yes, the color themes are a lot of fun -- although I think I would really hate living in a monochromatic world in real life!

Anne Higa said...

LOL. "There is no place like home which is maybe why you wanted to leave." No comment except to say no comment! Oz is definitely one of my favorite places to visit but I wouldn't want to stay there too long - and make all the other imaginary places jealous!

Anne from annehiga.com

A Tarkabarka Hölgy said...

My favorite book from Baum is the Magical Monarch of Mo :) But Oz is fun too. I like the heavily color-coded versions.

The Multicolored Diary

Kathe W. said...

This is one of my favorites!