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The Emerald City of Oz

The Emerald City of Oz is the sixth of L. Frank Baum's fourteen Land of Oz books. It was also adapted into a Canadian animated film in 1987. Originally published on July 20, 1910, it is the story of Dorothy Gale and her Uncle Henry and Aunt Em coming to live in Oz permanently. While Dorothy, Uncle Henry, and Aunt Em are toured through the Quadling Country, the Nome King is assembling allies for an invasion of Oz. This is the first time in the Oz series that Baum made use of double plots for one of the books.

Baum had intended to cease writing Oz stories with this book, but financial pressures prompted him to write and publish The Patchwork Girl of Oz, with seven other Oz books to follow.

The book was dedicated to "Her Royal Highness Cynthia II of Syracuse" — actually the daughter (born in the previous year, 1909) of the author's younger brother, Henry Clay "Harry" Baum.

Plot summary

At the beginning of this story, it is made quite clear that Dorothy, the primary protagonist of many of the previous Oz books, is in the habit of freely speaking of her adventures to her only living relatives, her aunt and uncle. Neither of them believe a word of her stories, but consider her a dreamer. She is undeterred, unlike her alter ego in the film "Return to Oz", who is much perturbed by her guardians' doubts.

Later, it is revealed that the destruction of their farmhouse in the original book "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" has left Dorothy's Uncle Henry in terrible debt. In order to pay it, he has taken out a mortgage on his farm. If he cannot repay his creditors, they will seize the farm. Henry is not afraid for himself, but both he and his wife, Dorothy's Aunt Em, fear very much for their niece's future. Dorothy arranges with Princess Ozma to take them to the Land of Oz, where they will be safe. Using the Magic Belt, a tool captured from the jealous Nome King Roquat, Ozma transports Dorothy's aunt and uncle to her throne room. They are given rooms to live in and luxuries to enjoy, including a vast and complex wardrobe. They meet with many of Dorothy's animal friends, including the Cowardly Lion and Billina the Yellow Hen.

In the underground Nome Kingdom, the desirous Roquat is plotting to seize the Land of Oz. He was greatly embarrassed years ago when Dorothy, Ozma, and their many friends entered his domain and freed the royal family of Ev from imprisonment; as a result, he wants to embarrass them in a similar way. After ordering the expulsion of his General, who will not agree to such an attack, and the death of his Colonel, who also refuses, King Roquat holds counsel with a veteran soldier called Guph. This Guph believes that against the many magicians and magicks of Oz (the reputation of which has grown in the telling), the Nome Army has no chance alone. He therefore sets out personally to recruit allies.

Dorothy, accompanied by the Wizard of Oz and several other friends, departs the Emerald City in a carriage drawn by the Wooden Sawhorse, intending to give her aunt and uncle a tour of the land. Many of the people encountered have never been seen in other books: the living cut-out paper dolls created by an immortal called Miss Cuttenclip; the anthropomorphic jigsaw puzzles known as the Fuddles; the loquacious Rigmaroles; the paranoid Flutterbudgets; the living kitchen utensils of Utensia; the anthropomorphic pastries of Bunbury; the civilized rabbits of Bunnybury; and the zebra, who holds geographical disputes with a crab. Other figures, more familiar to readers of previous books, include the Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow, as well as the four tribes of Oz-- the Munchkins, the Quadlings, the Gillikins, and the Winkies.

The Nome General Guph visits three nations; the Whimsies, the Growleywogs, and the Phanfasms. The Whimsies are large and hulking, but possess disproportionately small heads. This causes other species to call them stupid, stripping them of any self-esteem. To deny this, the Whimsies wear enormous, luridly designed masks that cover all of their heads. The Growleywogs are muscular giants, possessing no surplus flesh and no mercy. They are arrogant and cruel. As such, they are eager to not only help the Nomes conquer Oz, but also to subjugate the Nomes as well. Of the latter plan, they say nothing, but send Guph on his way. Last of his meetings is that which is with the mysterious, diabolical Phanfasms. To Guph, the Phanfasms resemble men, but having the heads of various carnivorous animals. Their true forms, number, standard of living, culture, and extent of influence remain unknown to both Guph and the reader, although both receive hints in the narrative. The Phanfasms send Guph home, telling him that they will conquer Oz alongside the other armies. It is their plan to do so, then to turn traitor and dominate their allies.

Having learned of this through Ozma's omniscient Magic Picture, the people of Oz become worried.

The climax takes place in the Emerald City, where Ozma wishes (using her magic belt) for a large amount of dust to appear in the tunnel. The Nome King and his allies are defeated after they drink thirstily from the Fountain of Oblivion and forget all their evil plans. Ozma uses the magic belt to send them all home. To forestall a future invasion of Oz Glinda uses a magic charm to render Oz invisible and unreachable to everyone except those within the land itself.

Commentary

The Emerald City of Oz contains more material on the social organization of Oz than most of the earlier books, and as a consequence has attracted commentary on its Utopian aspects. The "explicitly socialist" economy of Oz has been contrasted to other "fantasy" projections of socialist societies, like Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward *1888) and William Morris's News from Nowhere (1890). How far such analyses and comparisons should be pursued is of course open to debate; as Baum writes of the social structure of Oz in Chapter Three, p. 31, "I do not suppose such an arrangement would be practical with us....

Gregory Maguire, author of the revisionist Oz novels Wicked and Son of a Witch, has written that The Emerald City of Oz "is suffused with an elegiac quality" and compares its tone with that of The Last Battle, the final volume of C. S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia.

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations

The 1986 Japanese animated series Oz no Mahōtsukai included the story. It was later shortened and edited into a single feature for US video and DVD release.

Footnotes

External links

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