It was first introduced in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) by L. Frank Baum, one of many fairy countries that he created for his books. It achieved a popularity that none of his other works attained, and after four years, he returned to it. The land was described and expanded upon in the Oz Books. An attempt to cut off the production of the series with The Emerald City of Oz, by ending the story with Oz being isolated from the rest of the world, did not succeed owing to readers' reactions and Baum's financial need to write successful books.
The land of Oz is depicted as real in the books depicting it, unlike the 1939 movie adaptation, which transformed it into an ambiguous dream of Dorothy's.
In all, Baum wrote fourteen children's books about Oz and its odd inhabitants, as well as six shorter books intended for younger readers. After his death, Ruth Plumly Thompson and other writers continued the series.
Because Baum himself wrote from an in-universe standpoint, many fans of the series treat the books as if they were true, known among the fans as the "Oz as History" standpoint. Any confusion or contradiction between the different versions of their histories is said to be the fault of the historian making an honest mistake, of the editors for removing parts which they did not consider suitable for the child audience, of the characters involved who reported the incidents in question back to the historian, or explained by the concept that many alternate versions of Oz co-exist simultaneously.
There are many discussions founded on clues in the series in Oz fan group Regalia (and previously Nonestica and the Ozzy Digest ) on how large Oz is, its population, and many other details not addressed explicitly in the books themselves. Articles of the sort frequently appear in The Baum Bugle as well.
While some fans enjoy trying to explain the various inconsistencies in the books, others prefer to ignore them, since apparently the inconsistencies weren't important to Baum himself. These fans prefer to view Oz from the contrasting, but more traditional, Oz as Literature standpoint. Many fans enjoy both standpoints, and it is not uncommon for new ideas about Oz to be examined from both standpoints by the same people.
Oz is roughly rectangular in shape, and divided along the diagonals into four countries: Munchkin Country (but commonly referred to as 'Munchkinland' in adaptations) in the East, Winkie Country (called 'The Vinkus' in Gregory Maguire's Wicked and its sequel Son of a Witch) in the West, (sometimes West and East are reversed on maps of Oz, see West and East below) Gillikin Country in the North, and Quadling Country in the South. In the center of Oz, where the diagonals cross, is the fabled Emerald City, capital of the land of Oz and seat to the monarch of Oz, Princess Ozma.
The regions have a color schema: blue for Munchkins, yellow for Winkies, red for Quadlings, green for the Emerald city, and (in works after the first) purple for the Gillikins, which region was also not named in the first book. (This contrasts with Kansas; Baum, describing it, used "gray" nine times in four paragraphs.) In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, this is merely the favorite color, used for clothing and other man-made objects, and having some influence on their choice of crops, but the basic colors of the world are natural colors. The effect is less consistent in later works. In The Marvelous Land of Oz, the book states that everything in the land of the Gillikins is purple, including the plants and mud, and a character can see that he is leaving when the grass turns from purple to green, but it also describes pumpkins as orange and corn as green in that land. Baum, indeed, never used the color schema consistently; in many books, he alluded to the colors to orient the characters and readers to their location, and then did not refer to it again. His most common technique was to depict the man-made articles and flowers as the color of the country, leaving leaves, grass, and fruit their natural colors.
Most of these regions are settled with prosperous and contented people. However, this naturally is lacking in scope for plot. Numerous pockets throughout the land of Oz are cut off from the main culture, for geographic or cultural reasons. Many have never heard of Ozma, making it impossible for them to acknowledge her as their rightful queen. These regions are concentrated around the edges of the country, and constitute the main settings for books that are set entirely within Oz. The Lost Princess of Oz, for instance is set entirely in rough country in Winkie Country, between two settled areas. In Glinda of Oz, Ozma speaks of her duty to discover all these stray corners of Oz.
In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, a yellow brick road leads from the lands of the Munchkins to the Emerald City. Other such roads featured in other works: one from Gillikin Country in The Marvelous Land of Oz, and a second one from Munchkin Land in The Patchwork Girl of Oz.
Oz is completely surrounded on all four sides by a desert, which insulates the citizens of Oz from discovery and invasion. In the first two books, this is merely a desert, with only its extent to make it dangerous to the traveler. Indeed, in The Marvelous Land of Oz, Mombi tries to escape through it and Glinda chases her over the sands. Still, it is the dividing land between the magic of Oz and the outside world, and the Winged Monkeys can not obey Dorothy's command to carry her home because it would take them outside the lands of Oz. In Ozma of Oz, it has become a magical desert, the Deadly Desert with life-destroying sands (no destruction is depicted in the Oz books, unlike in the film, Return to Oz), a feature that remained constant through the rest of the series. The desert has nonetheless been breached numerous times, both by children from our world (mostly harmless), by the Wizard of Oz himself, and by more sinister characters, such as the Nome King, who attempted to conquer Oz. After such an attempt in The Emerald City of Oz, the book ends with Glinda creating a barrier of invisibility around the Land of Oz, for further protection. This was, indeed, an earnest effort on Baum's part to escape the series, but the insistence of the readers meant the continuation of the series, and therefore the discovery of many ways for people to pass through this barrier as well as over the sands. Despite this continual evasion, the barrier itself remained; nowhere in any Oz book did Baum hint that the inhabitants were even considering removing the magical barrier.
Like traditional western maps, the Fairylogue and Radio-Play map showed the west on the left, and the east on the right. However, the first map of Oz to appear in an Oz book had those directions reversed, and the compass rose adjusted accordingly. It is believed that this is a result of Baum copying the map from the wrong side of the glass slide, effectively getting a mirror image of his intended map. When he realized he was copying the slide backward, he reversed the compass rose to make the directions correct. However, an editor at Reilly and Lee reversed the compass rose, thinking he was fixing an error and resulting in further confusion. Most notably, this confused Ruth Plumly Thompson, who frequently reversed directions in her own Oz books as a result.
Another speculation stems from the original conception of Oz, which at first appeared to be situated in an American desert. If Baum thought of the country of the Munchkins as the nearest region to him, it would have been in the east while he lived in Chicago, but when he moved to California, it would have be in the west.
Modern maps of Oz are almost universally drawn with the Winkies in the west and the Munchkins in the east, although west and east often appear reversed. Many Oz fans believe this is the correct orientation, perhaps as a result of Glinda's spell, which has the effect of confusing most standard compasses; perhaps resembling its similarity to the world Alice found through the looking glass in which everything was a mirror image; or perhaps just reflecting the alien nature of Oz. In Robert A. Heinlein's book The Number of the Beast he explains that Oz is on a retrograde planet, meaning that it spins in the opposite direction of Earth so that the sun seems to rise on one's left as one faces north. March Laumer's The Magic Mirror of Oz attribues the changes to a character named Till Orangespiegel attempting to turn the Land of Oz orange.
In Tik-Tok of Oz, Baum included maps in the endpapers which definitively situated Oz in a continent with its neighboring countries. Oz is the largest country on the continent unofficially known as Nonestica (this name was proposed by Robert R. Pattrick in The Unexplored Territory in Oz for the whole of the countries surrounding Oz. Pattrick proposed "Ozeria" for the whole continent, but that name is generally unused in fan discussions), which also includes the countries of Ev, Ix, and Mo, which has also been known as Phunniland, among others. Nonestica is, according to the map, in the Nonestic Ocean. A fair amount of evidence in the books point to this continent as being envisioned as somewhere in the southern Pacific Ocean. At the opening of Ozma of Oz, Dorothy Gale is sailing to Australia with her Uncle Henry when she is washed overboard (in a chicken coop, with Billina the yellow hen), and lands on the shore of Ev—a rare instance in which an outsider reaches the Oz landmass through non-magical (or apparently non-magical) means. Palm trees grow outside the Royal Palace in the Emerald City, and horses are not native to Oz, both points of consistency with a South-Pacific location; illustrations and descriptions of round-shaped and domed Ozian houses suggest a non-Western architecture. Conversely, Oz has technological, architectural, and urban elements typical of Europe and North America around the turn of the twentieth century; but this may involve cultural input from unusual external sources (see History below). Ruth Plumly Thompson asserts in her first Oz book, The Royal Book of Oz, that the language of Oz is English, which also suggests European or American influence.
An argument against the South Pacific is that the seasons in Oz are shown as the same seasons in the United States at the same time. In addition, in The Wishing Horse of Oz, Pigasus follows the North Star when he flies to Thunder Mountain, which could only be done in the Northern Hemisphere.
Schematically, Oz is much like the United States, with the Emerald City taking the place of Chicago: to the East, mixed forest and farmland; to the West, treeless plains and fields of wheat; to the South, warmth and lush growth, and red earth.
It has also been speculated since The Wizard of Oz was first written that Oz may have been based on China. Either way, the oriental influence on Oz has been noted by more than one scholar.
All of the immortals are ruled over three immortal "masters", described in Baum's The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus:
The most powerful kind of fairy is never known by any other name in the books, although Baum sometimes differentiated them by spelling Fairy with a capital F. The Fairies seem to be the most powerful race, with seemingly limitless power. They travel in bands ruled over by Fairy Queens, and spend their time primarily in helping mortals and dancing.
Lurline is a Fairy Queen, and she and her band were the ones who made Oz a fairyland. According to Baum's later books, Ozma is a member of Lurline's band. There are no other Fairies of the highest sort in the Oz books, although The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus and Queen Zixi of Ix, which take place in lands neighboring Oz, both mention other Fairy Queens and their bands.
The Nomes are subterranean people who spend their time mining precious stones from the earth. They consider all of the mineral wealth of the world to be their own rightful property, which often leads to conflicts with other races; as, for instance, when the Shaggy Man's brother disappears in a mine, it is because the Nomes have captured him. They have a massive army, but not much innate magical ability. Although they play a major role in the Oz series, throughout a major part of the series, there are no Nomes actually living in Oz.
The mermaids care for all life in the ocean, and the nymphs serve a similar function under the Fairies in the forests. The nymphs are helped by the ryls, who color the flowers and care for all plants; and the knooks, who are crooked creatures who govern the beasts.
The massive gigans also served the Fairies until Fairy Queen Lulea, becoming annoyed with their large forms, transformed them into the tiny rampsies, smallest of all immortals. Whatever function they served is unknown, for they're only mentioned in Baum's short story Nelebel's Fairyland, in which the gigans reshape the land in their boredom.
The Wizard was the first mortal in Oz described in Baum's books, followed by Dorothy and all the characters she met in her travels. Apart from the Wizard, the only mortals who originally found their way to Oz without Dorothy in Baum's books were Trot, Cap'n Bill, and Betsy Bobbin.
During the first scene in Oz in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the Good Witch of the North (Locasta or Tattypoo) explains to Dorothy that Oz still has witches and wizards, not being civilized, and goes on to explain that witches and wizards can be both good and evil, unlike the evil witches that Dorothy had been told of. That book contained only the four witches (besides the humbug wizard), but despite Ozma's prohibition on magic, many more magicians feature in later works.
Baum tended to capitalise the word "Witch" when referring to the Witches of the North, South, East or West, but did not do so when referring to witches in general (eg. In the afore-mentioned first scene of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Locasta (or Tattypoo) thanks Dorothy for killing the "Wicked Witch of the East", and introduces herelf as "the Witch of the North", with the word "Witch" capitalised in both cases. However, when she goes on to tell Dorothy that "I (the Witch of the North) am a good witch, and the people love me", the word "witch" is not capitalised).
White is the traditional color of witches in Oz. The Good Witch of the North wears a pointed white hat and a white gown decorated with stars, while Glinda, the Good Witch of the South (called a "sorceress" in later books), wears a pure white dress. Dorothy is taken for a witch not only because she had killed the Wicked Witch of the East, but because her dress is blue and white checked.
Ozma, once on the throne, prohibits the use of magic by anyone other than Glinda the Good, the Wizard, and herself -- as, earlier, the Good Witch of the North had prohibited magic by any other witch in her domains. The illicit use of magic is a frequent feature of villains in later works in the series, appearing in The Scarecrow of Oz, Rinkitink in Oz, The Lost Princess of Oz, The Tin Woodman of Oz, and The Magic of Oz.
Outside of them are many other strange races who are often found living in the wilderness of Oz. Despite the overlordship of Ozma, many of the communities live autonomously; Oz has great tolerance for eccentricity and oddness.
Many characters in Oz are animated objects. Such figures as the Glass Cat and the Scarecrow are common. Entire regions are the homes of such animated beings. The Dainty China Country is entirely filled with creatures of china, who would freeze into figurines if removed; the China princess lives in fear of breaking, because she would never be as pretty even if repaired.
Many other characters are highly individual, even unique members of a species. Many such people from the outer worlds find refuge in Oz, which is highly tolerant of eccentricity.
In The Marvelous Land of Oz the prehistory was changed slightly. Glinda, the Good Witch of the South, reveals that the Wizard usurped the previous king of Oz, Pastoria, and hid away his daughter Ozma. This was Baum's reaction to the popular 1903 Broadway extravaganza Baum adapted from his book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, in which the Wizard took the role of the main antagonist and the Wicked Witch of the West was left out.
The wizard, however, had been more popular with his readers than he thought. In Ozma of Oz, he omitted any mention of the Wizard's having usurped the throne of Ozma's father, but the largest changes occurred in the next book.
In the preface to Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz Baum remarks that the Wizard had turned out to be a popular character with the children who had read the first book, and so he brought the Wizard back. During it, the Wizard relates yet another account of his history in Oz, telling Ozma that his birth name was Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmanuel Ambroise Diggs, which, being a very long and cumbersome name, and as his other initials spelled out "PINHEAD," he preferred to leave just as O.Z. The balloon part of his story was unchanged, except for the detail added by Ozma, that the people probably saw his initials on his balloon and took them as a message that he was to be their king. She relates that the country was already named Oz (a word which in their language means "great and good"), and that it was typical for the rulers to have names that are variations of Oz (King Pastoria being a notable exception to this rule).
Ozma elaborates further, saying that there were once four Wicked Witches in Oz, who leagued together to depose the King, but the Witches of the North and South were conquered by Good Witches before the Wizard arrived in Oz. According to this version, the King at the time was Ozma's grandfather. This version of prehistory restores the Wizard's reputation, but adds the awkwardness of both Ozma and her father having been born in captivity.
In The Tin Woodman of Oz Baum writes how Oz came to be a fairyland:
Maguire, author of Wicked addresses this inconsistency by saying that the people of Oz believe that Ozma is reincarnated—that her spirit was left behind by Lurline, but her body is reborn to different mortal queens.
Finally, it is discovered that the wizard had given the daughter of the last king of Oz, Princess Ozma, to the old witch Mombi to have her hidden away. Mombi had turned Ozma into a boy named Tip, whom she raised. When all of this is revealed Tip is turned back into Ozma and takes her rightful place as the benevolent ruler of all of Oz. Ozma successfully wards off several attempts by various armies to overthrow her. To prevent any upheaval of her rule over Oz, she outlaws the practice of all magic in Oz except by herself, the returned and reformed wizard, and by Glinda, and she has Glinda make all of Oz invisible to outsiders. Ozma remains the ruler of Oz for the entirety of the series.
Some political analysts have claimed that Oz is a thinly disguised socialist utopia, though some Baum scholars disagree. Advocates of this theory support it using this quotation from The Emerald City of Oz:
This is a revision of the original society: in the first two books, the people of Oz lived in a money-based economy. For instance, the people of the Emerald City use "green pennies" as coinage. Money was not abolished in the course of the series, but excised from the conception of Oz. Indeed, in The Magic of Oz, a character from Oz gets into trouble when he goes to Ev because he was unaware of the concept of money. This decision to remove money from Oz may reflect Baum's own financial difficulties in the times when he was writing these books.
Since Oz is ruled by a monarch, benevolent though she may be, Oz is closer in nature to a benevolent dicatorship than a welfare state or a Marxist one. When she was first introduced, Ozma was the monarch specifically of the Emerald City, but in the description of Ozma of Oz, Oz is presented as a federal state, rather like the United States, in monarchies rather than republics: having an overall ruler in Ozma, and individual kings and queens of smaller portions.
The society grew steadily more Utopian, in that its peace and prosperity were organized, but from the first book, it was a stupendously wealthy country, in contrast to Kansas's crop failures, droughts, and mortgages -- just as it also is colorful to contrast with Kansas's gray. On the other hand, despite the presence of the Emerald City, Oz is an agrarian country, similar to Kansas; the story has been interpreted as a Populist parable, and certainly contains many Populist themes.
In The Wonder City of Oz Princess Ozma (called "Queen Ozma" in this book) is seen running for election ("ozlection") to her office as ruler against Jenny Jump, a half-fairy newcomer from New Jersey. However, this book was not written by Baum, but by John R. Neill, Baum's second successor. Further, the concept of the "ozlection" was not in Neill's manuscript for the book, but was added by an editor at Reilly and Lee, the publisher.
At times the rulers of Oz's territories have grander titles than would normally be customary, but this is done mostly for the satisfaction of the incumbents. The ruler of the Winkie Country is the Emperor, the Tin Woodman. The ruler of the Quadling Country is Glinda the Good.
The Royal Flag of Oz is based on the map of the Land of Oz, the four colors represent the four countries, and the green star represents the Emerald City.
Security of Oz is mostly maintained by magic, such as Glinda's spell making Oz completely invisible. Oz also has a natural barrier in the form of a desert that surrounds the land: anyone who touches the desert turns to sand. The Nome King has tried to conquer Oz on several occasions. A nominal army once existed, but other than its commander the Tin Woodman and one private, it was composed entirely of cowardly officers. The private, named Omby Amby, is later promoted to Captain General.
Attempts by outsiders to conquer the Land of Oz are frequent, particularly in the Oz books by Ruth Plumly Thompson. But these attempts are always successfully thwarted in the end, usually by Ozma or by forces sympathetic to her.
See also: List of characters in the Oz books
There are many other small differences between the books and the movie. For example, the first witch Dorothy meets in Oz in the book is the Good Witch of the North, a minor character that only had one other appearance in Baum's books. In the movie this character is conflated with Glinda, who is the Good Witch of the South in the book.
It is also worthy of note that the Dorothy of the books is brave and resourceful, only crying when faced with despair, whereas the older Dorothy of the movie (portrayed as a twelve-year-old by sixteen-year-old Judy Garland) spends several portions of the film crying and being told by others what to do. This is more consistent with Thompson's portrayal of Dorothy—Baum is known for his strong female characters.
The Wicked Witch of the West also changes significantly between books and movie. In the books no mention is ever made of her skin color, whereas in the movie she is green without explanation, although the Winkies she has enslaved are also green. In the book she is portrayed as having only one eye, which could see distant objects like a telescope, but in the movie she uses a crystal ball to watch Dorothy from afar. The 1939 MGM film makes the first reference to The Witches of the East and West being sisters, which was not the case in the book.
The Wizard of Oz doesn't resort to anywhere near as much trickery in the movie as the book. In the book he entertains each member of Dorothy's party on a different day, and takes a different form for each. In the movie he takes only one false form—that of a giant head.
The nature of the Emerald City is changed in the film. In the book, the city is not actually green, but everyone is forced to wear green spectacles (ostensibly to protect their eyes from the dazzling splendor of the city), thus making everything appear green. In the film, the city is actually green. The architecture of the Emerald City in the movie uses a much more contemporary Art Deco style than Baum could have imagined.
The movie replaces the silver shoes of the book with ruby slippers. This was because full color motion pictures were still a relatively new technology in 1939, and MGM wanted to show off the process. Shiny red shoes were more impressive in a color motion picture than silver ones.Due to the popularity of the movie, the green witch and the ruby slippers are more well known to the general public than their book counterparts, and are even considered iconic.
Maguire's presentation of Oz's geography is also politically tinged. A large political prison, Southstairs, exists in caverns below the Emerald City. Gillikin, home of Shiz University, has more industrial development than other parts of Oz. Munchkinland is Oz's breadbasket and at one point declares its independence from the rule of the Emerald City. Quadling Country is largely marshland, inhabited by the artistic and sexually free Quadlings. And the Vinkus (Maguire's name for Winkie Country) is largely open grassland, populated by semi-nomadic tribes.
The musical Wicked, based on Maguire's first Oz novel, portrays an Oz slightly closer to the version seen in Baum's novels and the 1939 film. The oppression of the Animals is still a theme, but the geographical and religious divisions portrayed in Maguire's novel are barely present.
In both the book and musical, several characters from the traditional Oz stories are present, but named differently, Glinda is originally called Galinda, before changing her name to Glinda, The Wicked Witch of the West is called Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the East is called Nessarose. In the musical, Boq becomes the Tin Man, and Fiyero becomes the Scarecrow, but this only happens in the musical not the book.
Laumer also made several controversial changes to Oz. He married off several of the major characters, often to unlikely prospects. For example, the intelligent and mature sorceress Glinda was married to Button Bright, who had been a small and dim-witted child throughout Baum's books. He also aged Dorothy to a teenager to make her a romantic prospect for several characters, made Ozma a lesbian based on her upbringing as a boy, and made the Shaggy Man an ephebophile based on his frequent travels with young girls.
Laumer's books do not portray one consistent version of Oz. Because most of his books were collaborations, he often included elements of other author's visions of Oz which may have been inconsistent with his own. For example, while he explicitly made Dorothy sixteen in A Fairy Queen in Oz, he had her physically eight in Aunt Em and Uncle Henry in Oz; and while he portrayed Volkov's Oz as a parallel universe in Farewell to Oz he also showed Volkov's characters living in Baum's Oz in many of his other books, such as Aunt Em and Uncle Henry in Oz. Despite these discrepancies, many of his books are consistent with each other, and characters introduced in some often appear in others.
Farmer portrays the land of Oz as a science fiction author, attempting to explain scientifically many of the "magical" elements of Baum's story.
The Oz portrayed in the book is very close to Baum's Oz, although Heinlein does make an attempt to explain some things from the standpoint of a science fiction author. He explains that Oz is on a retrograde planet, where the direction of rotation relative of the poles is reversed, resulting in the sun seeming to rise in what would normally be the west.
Heinlein also explains that the population remains steady in Oz despite the lack of death because it is impossible for children to be born in Oz. When the population does increase through immigration, Glinda just extends the borders an inch or two in each direction, which makes more than enough space for all additional people.
Being a fantasy series Oz is rich in magic. In particular, there are many magic items which play an important role in the series.
It is a magical powder that brings inanimate objects to life. The witch Mombi first obtained it from a "crooked magician." Later in the series it is revealed that the substance is made by a Dr. Pipt. In order to make the substance, Dr. Pipt had to stir four large cauldrons for six years. Only a few grains of the powder could be made at a time. It is always described as being carried in a pepper box.
Mombi's shaker also contained three "wishing pills" fabricated by Dr. Nikidik.
In the Oz books, this object is always identified as the Magic Belt -- in capitals -- to distinguish it from any generic magical belts that may exist in the fantasy universe.
In The Lost Princess of Oz, Dorothy states that the Magic Belt only grants one wish a day: she used yesterday's wish on a box of caramels, but saved today's for an emergency. Baum's decision to ration the Magic Belt to one wish a day may be a retcon attempt to limit the Belt's otherwise infinite ability to get his characters out of predicaments; at any rate, this one-per-day wish limit is never mentioned again in any other Oz book.
Note also the spell which caused this also prevented aging, and took effect on everyone in Oz at the same time; this means that any babies in Oz are eternally babies, and that anyone who was at the moment of death is permanently caught there, and so on.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz shows an early example of the problem: although the Tin Woodman does not die when his limbs and head are severed, the two wicked witches are killed. One theory brought forth as to why the Tin Woodsman doesn't die is discussed in Edward Einhorn's book "Paradox in Oz", where King Oz says that the Tin Woodsman (then Nick Chopper) would have died were it not for his time magic. When the Tin Woodman rescues the Queen of the Field Mice by chopping off the head of a pursuing wildcat, it seems unlikely the cat's unjoined head and body continue to live independently of each other, although this goes unmentioned. Again, although the Tin Woodman survived losing all his body, prior to that, he had grown up and lost his parents in a manner inconsistent with later descriptions of Oz. Again, in Ozma of Oz, Jack Pumpkinhead was described as "a little overripe", and in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, he does not appear at all, although all the other characters do reappear; the implication is that he spoiled, as he feared from his creation.
Both Ozma of Oz and Tik-Tok of Oz describe trees with meat growing on them, so it is possible that no animal was killed for most of the meat eaten in Oz. However, in Tin Woodman of Oz a hungry Jaguar tries to eat a live monkey, suggesting that occasionally (among animals, at least) animal flesh is preferred to that of plants.
Death is a matter of some debate among Oz fans, and there seem to be as many explanations as there are fans, none of which has ever been widely accepted by a majority of the fans because none of them explain all the deaths. For example, in The Road to Oz Baum attempted to explain this inconsistency by saying that only bad people could die. However, he'd already mentioned the death of good King Pastoria in a previous book, and went on to mention the death of good King Kynd in a later book.
Another of Baum's attempts to explain death in Oz is the following passage from The Emerald City of Oz.
Any working theory must make Baum wrong about something, but fans may never reach a consensus on exactly what he was wrong about.
The issue of death leads into another issue of much dispute among fans. Baum says in The Emerald City of Oz that no one ever ages in Oz either. Many Oz fans feel that this is unfair as it leaves extremely old people eternally bedridden, and it leaves some families changing diapers and comforting crying infants for eternity. Presumably this includes pre-birth aging, which makes everyone in Oz sterile and fixes the population. However, although pregnancy is never mentioned in Oz, it's also possible that some women are left eternally pregnant, although if Dot and Tot in Merryland is considered canon, babies are delivered by storks.
It has also been questioned whether children continue to be mentally childlike, or remain children only in body.
It is important to note that Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West emphasized the difference between Animals and animals. Animals (capitalized) are sentient beings that can talk. Several theories exist as to how animals gained the gift of speech.
The treatment of non-native animals was inconsistent. In the first book, the dog Toto never speaks, although brought to Oz. In The Patchwork Girl of Oz Dorothy even outright says that Toto can't talk because he's not a fairy dog. However, in Ozma of Oz, the chicken Billina acquires the ability to speak merely by being swept to the lands near Oz, and in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, the kitten Eureka and the cab horse Jim also gained the ability when reaching the land of Mangaboos, a similarly magical land. In Tik-Tok of Oz, Baum restored the continuity: Toto can speak, and always could, but never bothered to, because it was unnecessary.
An additional inconsistency is introduced with Tik-Tok of Oz: Hank the Mule can not speak until he reaches the Land of Oz, although he lands on the shore of Ev first, where Billina the chicken gained the ability to speak. This might be because Tik-Tok of Oz was originally a stageplay version of Ozma of Oz. Dorothy was replaced by Betsy because he'd sold the stage rights for Dorothy, and Billina was replaced by Hank because a mule could more convincingly be played by two people in a costume. Hank probably couldn't talk because Baum already had his speaking comedy characters: the Shaggy Man, and Tik-Tok. Thus Hank would fill a better niche as a visual comedy character, in the tradition of British pantomime. The part of Hank was also an analog to the part of Dorothy's cow Imogene, Toto's replacement on stage in the immensely successful 1903 Broadway version of The Wizard of Oz, a success that Baum tried to duplicate for the rest of his life.
Another theory is that Oz is a corruption of Uz, the homeland of Job in the Old Testament. It is also speculated that Oz was named after the abbreviation for ounce, in the theory that Oz is an allegory for the populist struggle against the illusion (the wizard) of the gold standard. "Os" (with an s) is also Old English for God.
Several of Baum's fairy stories that take place in the United States were situated on the Ozark Plateau, and the similarity of name may not be a coincidence.
Oz is a common vernacular contraction of Australia (Australia - Aussie - Aus - Oz). Australia is a large continent predominated by desert regions, with pockets of intense green tropical, sub-tropical and sub-alpine greenlands and rainforests. It is quite possible that Baum took the popular nickname of Australia as the national name for his fictional world. Also note that many fans place Oz in the South Pacific, see Location above. However, according to the Oxford English dictionary, the first references to Australia by this name were made in 1902 -- after the first book had been published.
Others have said that Oz stands for New York, since the letters before O and Z respectively are NY.