The Ozma Conspiracy

Mike Conway linked to this page of conspiracy theories for the Oz books, and I thought I’d offer my two squits on them.

Dorothy and other humans who find their way to Oz are Sliders.
Makes sense, and perhaps explains John R. Neill’s author’s note at the beginning of Lucky Bucky in Oz, saying that you have to be chosen to make it to Oz. And yes, it does seem harder to leave the fairylands than to enter them, which is why transportation back usually requires some powerful magic. In Speedy, Umbrella Island can fly from fairy realms to mundane ones and back, but it was a fairyland in the first place, so perhaps the rules are different. The fifth book, Road, does have Dorothy crossing into fairyland without realizing it, but this is later revealed to have been due to Ozma’s intervention. Why Ozma did this when she could easily just transport Dorothy to the Emerald City isn’t clear, but Ozma’s behavior in these early books rarely is.

Ozma was reincarnated.
I’ve heard this one before, and I think the main reason for it is (surprise!) inconsistency on Baum’s part. Fairly late in his Oz books, he introduced the idea that Oz was enchanted by the Fairy Queen Lurline. It seemed like he couldn’t decide whether this enchantment took place in the distant past or fairly recently, though. The Tin Woodman description makes it sound like an ancient myth, while Glinda suggests that the current Ozma was left in Oz at the same time the country was enchanted. Since Ozma was a baby when the Wizard of Oz took her to Mombi, that presumably doesn’t allow much time between the enchantment and the arrival of the Wizard, unless she remained a baby for a really long time for some reason. The reincarnation idea essentially allows for the enchantment and Ozma’s being left in Oz to have happened twice, once in the distant past and once in the recent past. It’s pretty convoluted, and comes across much the same way as the weird manner in which Biblical literalists attempt to reconcile contradictory passages, but it WOULD explain why Thompson sometimes refers to Ozma as being over 1000 years old. (Sure, you think that’s old, but what do you know?) And Baum was known to have an interest in the idea of reincarnation. As for the name “Oz,” Ozma doesn’t specifically state that it’s a title, but rather a name that all the rulers of Oz have, which isn’t exactly the same thing. Since her father is identified in Land as Pastoria, that leaves open the question as to whether both “Oz” AND “Pastoria” are parts of his name (my preferred explanation, and certainly possible for a king), or his name broke with tradition for some reason.

It wasn’t a coincidence that the Wizard of Oz picked that name.
The Wizard being an old king who was banished is an interesting idea, but I don’t think there’s much support for it. He says he was born in Omaha as the son of a politician. Granted, he could have been adopted, but that strikes me as an unnecessary complication. There are a lot of coincidences in the Oz series, and it’s possible there’s a force at work behind them (Lurline?), but I really do prefer the Wizard just being an ordinary circus performer who somehow ended up in fairyland. By the way, the Wizard is said to have deposed Pastoria in Land, but later books typically discount that idea in favor of the throne having been vacant when Oscar Diggs arrived.

Ozma is a Fisher King. (Fisher Queen?)
I think it might have been Michael Patrick Hearn who suggested this idea, and I think there’s definitely something in it. Hearn’s supposition was that the effects of Lurline’s enchantment might have been weakened or nullified when someone who wasn’t a member of the Oz family was on the throne.

Glinda “nullified” the Wicked Witches of the East and West after Dorothy incapacitated them.
Doesn’t seem necessary to me. Even if the Witches were still technically alive after being crushed and dissolved respectively, reassembling them wouldn’t simply be a matter of putting pieces back together. I would imagine they could come back, but it would be a difficult task to restore them.

And whoever wrote about the Nome King dying was presumably thinking of Return to Oz rather than the books, in which he was always left alive. He was hit with eggs in Ozma, but they didn’t destroy him.

Each Oz book takes place in its own alternate history
I guess this would except the ones that build on earlier plots, right? I’ve touched on this issue before, and I’ve made it known that I really prefer to include as much as possible, so that new works can add to the tapestry instead of just being shunted off into pocket universes. That doesn’t mean I don’t like the alternate universe concept (and it could be useful for explaining Oz-related materials that obviously don’t conform to the Famous Forty or even Baum’s fourteen), just that I think it should be a last resort. And I definitely recommend Paradox to any Oz fan who hasn’t yet read it.

The Desert surrounding Oz being deadly is just propaganda
It’s true that, within the canon, we don’t see anyone turned to dust by the desert, despite warnings on signs and such. You’d think some foolhardy adventurer would try walking in it at least once, though, which would result in word getting around. Then again, it can be pretty hard to shake superstitions. And maybe some Ozites ended up lost in the desert and the rulers said they had turned to dust. Nonetheless, I prefer the idea that the desert DOES have destructive powers, and some apocryphal books do show its effects. So does Return, but since it’s a scene that has no equivalent in the books, I wouldn’t say it counts as a counterexample. It’s quite interesting to see how the desert might work, though.

The Xanth books are part of the same universe as the Oz books.
Well, maybe. They both seem to be fairly accessible from the mundane world, and there are a lot aspects the two fantasy lands have in common: an array of odd creatures, trees that produce various useful items, the non-use of money (although both series occasionally contradict this), an abundance of puns, etc. On the other hand, there’s no indication that Ozites have the same overriding obsession with panties. Actually, the other magical land with which Oz seems to be linked most often is Wonderland, even though that was clearly Alice’s dream Lewis Carroll’s book. Oz and Xanth are both not dreams, and both interact with our own world, not belonging to some completely other universe like Narnia does. Unless Piers Anthony decides to tie Oz to Xanth in a later book, however, it’s basically irrelevant. As for the Region of Madness, well, there IS a Bewilderness in Gnome King.

Dorothy and Trot have innate magical abilities, but they have no knowledge of this.
Maybe. Magic seems to come fairly easily to Dorothy, although she doesn’t express any interest in learning its principles or anything.

It is all Dorothy’s fantasy.
Dr. Worley from Return would like that explanation, wouldn’t he?

The Nome King is Hades, or his avatar.
There’s some definite evidence that the episodes in the Nome Kingdom are at least partially based on Hades in Greek mythology. In addition to the Nomes controlling all the wealth under the earth, the seven-headed dogs mentioned in Emerald City can easily be compared to Cerberus, and three out of the four Baum Oz books that visit the Nome Kingdom have someone being held prisoner there. The rescue stories owe something to Orpheus and other heroes who travel to Hades to find someone, but whether it’s direct influence or something that came by way of other fairy tales isn’t something we’re likely to ever know for sure. That doesn’t mean that the Nome King IS Hades, just that he was at least partially inspired by the Greek deity. Would Tititi-Hoochoo really be able to remove most of the magical powers from a god?

Oz is not what it seems.
The authoritarian aspects of Oz have been discussed in the past. Certainly, in an age of illegal wiretapping and fear over privacy rights, the idea of a ruler having a Magic Picture that lets her see whatever she wants is rather scary. That said, it doesn’t seem to be too difficult to evade the Picture and Glinda’s Book of Records, as villains are constantly doing so. And I’m not sure about Ozma watching for thought crime, as there’s no indication that she or Glinda can read minds.

Ozma was adopted
This is directly stated in Magical Mimics, although that story also falls afoul of Baum’s confusion over when the enchantment and Ozma being left in Oz actually occurred.

The events of the first two books are a Xanatos Gambit by Glinda.
That Glinda really has more power than Ozma is something we definitely see in the books, and it could potentially cause a terrible shake-up if Glinda were to decide Ozma no longer suited her purposes. The two of them do disagree, with the occasion in Glinda of the sorceress advising the princess not to intervene in the Skeezers’ and Flatheads’ affairs being one major example that comes to mind, but this is usually over minor matters. The thing is, Ozma seems willing to question herself and change her policies when necessary, hence lessening her potential for going mad with power. Glinda, on the other hand, comes across as more stubborn and convinced that she’s always right. Both typically work for the benefit of their subjects, but people can do some pretty terrible things in the name of what they think is right.

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