Setting of the Wizard of Oz

In 1965, L. Frank Baum published the American children’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, a fictional adventure/fantasy. The story depicts the adventures of a young Kansas farm girl named Dorothy in the mythical Land of Oz after she and Toto (her pet dog) are whisked away from their home by a tornado in the first novel in the Oz trilogy. When she arrives in Oz, she discovers that it’s impossible to return home until she has bested the Wicked Witch of the West.

The George M. Hill Company released the book in the United States for the first time in May 1900. Following the phenomenal success of the original novel and the Broadway musical, Baum wrote thirteen more Oz books that serve as canonical sequels to the original plot. The book is still one of the most well-known stories in American literature and was named by the Library of Congress as America’s best-loved and greatest homegrown fairytale.

There are two key settings in the novel. The Kansas prairies, Dorothy’s home, are portrayed as dry and gray in the first set. In contrast to Kansas, the second location is Oz, which is vibrant, brilliant, and full of joy.

Continue reading to learn more about The Wizard of Oz‘s settings.

Kansas

Kansas, which is an actual place, is where the story starts and concludes. The details of this setting are sparse, focusing primarily on Dorothy’s aunt and uncle’s home. However, there is a mention of the scenery being rather dreary and lacking in color. The Wizard hails from Omaha, where his balloon was swept away to Oz while working at a carnival.

Land of Oz

the official map of Oz and its neighbouring kingdoms

The Land of Oz is a magical land divided into four sections: Gillikin Country to the north, Quadling Country to the south, Winkie Country to the west, and Munchkin Country to the east. Although each province has its ruler, the realm has always been governed by a single monarch. Princess Ozma, according to The Marvelous Land of Oz, is the ruler.

Oz is separated from Dorothy’s birthplace Kansas in the first book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by the lack of civilization; this explains why Kansas lacks witches and wizards, whereas Oz does. Oz is characterized as a “fairy nation” in the third book, Ozma of Oz, introducing new vocabulary to express its glories.

Unlike MGM’s 1939 musical film adaptation, which portrays Oz as a dream of main protagonist Dorothy Gale, Baum depicted Oz as a real place. 

According to the Oz stories, it is a hidden fairyland walled off from the rest of the civilized world by the Deadly Desert.

Geography

Oz is roughly rectangular and divided into four countries along the diagonals: Munchkin Country (also known as ‘Munchkinland’) is in the east, Winkie Country is in the west, Gillikin Country is in the north, and Quadling Country is in the south. The famous Emerald City, capital of the kingdom of Oz, and seat of the monarch of Oz, Princess Ozma, is located in the heart of Oz, where the diagonals cross.

The zones are color-coded: green for the Emerald City, blue for Munchkins, red for Quadlings, yellow for Winkies, and (in works after the first) purple for the Gillikins.

Rich and contented individuals populate the majority of these areas. Many people haven’t heard of Ozma, making it difficult for them to accept her as their legitimate queen. These areas are clustered around the country’s frontiers and serve as the primary settings for books set fully in Oz.

The residents of Oz are encircled on all four sides by a desert, which protects them from discovery and invasion.

Location

Like all of Baum’s fantastical realms, Oz was shown as a real place, albeit one shielded from civilization by geographic features. Indeed, nothing in the early volumes suggested that it was not concealed in the American deserts. It progressively absorbed neighboring magical countries, many of which were from Baum’s previously unpublished works, such as Mo from The Magical Monarch of Mo and Ix from Queen Zixi of Ix. The first is Ev, who originally appeared in Ozma of Oz.

The Radio-Play and Fairylogue map, like conventional western maps, had the west on the left and the east on the right. Those directions were reversed on the first map of Oz to feature in an Oz book, and the compass rose was altered correspondingly. 

This is said to be due to Baum replicating the map from the opposite side of the glass slide, resulting in a mirror version of his intended map. When he discovered he was reproducing the slide backward, he flipped the compass rose around to fix the directions.

However, a Reilly and Lee editor inadvertently inverted the compass rose, believing he was correcting an error, causing even more uncertainty. This particularly perplexed Ruth Plumly Thompson, who, as a result, routinely reversed directions in her Oz books.

Another theory arises from the initial depiction of Oz, which appeared to be set in an American desert at first. If Baum had considered the Munchkin land the closest region to him when living in Chicago, it would have been in the east, but it would have been in the west when he went to California.

Emerald City

Emerald city, city gate, dog

The Emerald City (also known as the City of Emeralds) is the Land of Oz’s capital. The Emerald City is located in the heart of the Land of Oz, at the end of the famed yellow brick road that starts in Munchkin Country. The Oz books describe the city as being made of emeralds, green glass, and other precious stones.

It was described as totally green in the older texts. However, in succeeding works, green was only the primary color, with gold being used to embellish structures and people wearing various colors in their clothes.

Inspiration

Baum’s design of the Emerald City may have been influenced by his frequent visits to the White City of the World Columbian Exposition. Its fast construction, which took less than a year, could have been a factor in the first book’s quick creation of the Emerald City.

In terms of geography, Oz resembles the United States, with the Emerald City replacing Chicago:

  • Mixed woodland and farming to the east
  • Treeless plains and wheat fields to the west
  • Warmth and lush growth to the south
  • Red earth to the south

Ruth Plumly Thompson adopted a different approach with her Oz stories, incorporating European aspects such as The Yellow Hero of Oz’s title character, a knight right out of Arthurian Legend.