Nathan (vovat) wrote,

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In and Around Oz

When L. Frank Baum first conceived of Oz, he gave the impression that it was a hidden country somewhere in or near the United States, isolated from the rest of the world by a desert that surrounds the entire land. Later on, however, he started introducing other fairylands located across the desert from Oz. Ozma of Oz brought in the Land of Ev and the underground Nome Kingdom, while Road made explicit the fact that most of his other fantasy countries were in the vicinity of Oz. This included fairly normal lands like Ix and Noland, as well as stranger ones like Merryland. So our isolated magical land became merely the MOST magical of a lot of different fantasy countries. And even that can be called into question, when places like Mo are right on the other side of the Deadly Desert. The amount of Oz-like characteristics that these other countries have varies considerably. The people of Mo are immortal, but those in Ix apparently aren't. Talking animals are the norm in Merryland and not totally unheard of in Ev, but a total anomaly in Noland and Pingaree. Many of the surrounding nations have witches and wizards who practice magic quite openly, while King Gos of Regos claimed not to believe in magic. But it's never really clear where the lines are drawn, although the most magical countries (Oz, Mo, and Merryland being the big three) are isolated even from their somewhat less magical neighbors, by a desert in the former case and mountains in the latter two. We know that Oz was enchanted by Lurline, and perhaps some of the other places have similar origin stories. But are the properties of the more mundane fairylands the result of leaking magic from places like Oz, or was Oz already more magical than most of the Outside World when it was enchanted? I tend to opt for the latter (after all, the Flatheads were apparently alive before Lurline's visit, which they presumably couldn't have been in a place like the United States), but maybe with a hint of the former as well. Ruth Plumly Thompson seemed rather fond of the idea that the inhabitants of the lands surrounding Oz weren't deathless like the Ozites, but did have very long lifespans and some sorts of magical protection from some of the less severe forms of death, but it's inconsistent. Ruggedo observes in Pirates that "in fairy countries sovereigns are not destroyed or killed by such simple accidents" as falling into the sea, yet Ozma recounts how King Evoldo of Ev destroyed a long life that Ruggedo himself (while still called Roquat) had granted him by jumping into the ocean and drowning. (And if Evoldo had somehow survived his watery excursion, surely Roquat would have used this as fodder against Ozma and Dorothy in his legal wrangling.) So it's kind of a mess when you try to put it all together, but that's the case with a lot of stuff in the Oz books.

Next time, I'll be covering how fairylands differ from non-fairylands, and what sort of magic is effective in the civilized world. Well, unless I come up with some other topic that I think deserves attention first, but I don't know what that would be.
Tags: books, oz

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