The Age of Ozlectricity

When I was working on an Oz story back in high school (which, by the way, I never finished, although I incorporated some of the ideas from it into my rough draft for The Royal Crab of Oz), and I mentioned a Winkie’s house containing a coal-burning stove and a refrigerator. Someone (I think it was David Hulan) told me this came across as mutually anachronistic, and that I should probably replace the refrigerator with an icebox, since Oz never had rural electrification. That’s probably true, actually. While there are electric lights and appliances in Oz, most notably in Ozma’s palace, they don’t seem to be all that common. Kind of seems like another example of elitism in the fabulous fairyland, doesn’t it?

Are the wires outside Jack Pumpkinhead’s house merely a whim of John R. Neill’s, or should they be considered canonical?
In Melody Grandy’s The Disenchanted Princess of Oz, we learn that Zim invented a perpetually cold icebox, but there’s no indication that he’s mass-produced these. I’ll admit, however, that I like the idea of such old-fashioned appliances augmented by magic being used in place of the devices that have developed in our own society. And while characters in Tik-Tok and Ozmapolitan use portable long-distance communication devices, I kind of can’t imagine rural households in Oz containing telephones. I think this is mostly just because I like to use the time-honored plot device of characters getting lost in Oz, and if they could just use a cell phone or stop by someone’s house and call Ozma, it would make this harder to use.

Then again, the Magic Picture is probably even more difficult to write out than a telephone, and even L. Frank Baum found himself having to do that.

Wicked Witch seems to support the idea that Oz has electrical devices but they aren’t all the common. Leon the Neon reports how he was a Quadling farmer who won an electrical kit by showing his hens at the fair. It came with a book, which according to Eric Shanower’s illustration was written by the Wogglebug.

When Leon tried to wire up his house, something went wrong, and he turned into a living neon sign. In this form, he meets Dorothy and Percy, and helps them track down Singra.

Since I’m wondering about electricity in Oz, what about plumbing? There’s presumably SOME form of it in the Emerald City at least, since the bathrooms in the palace are described as having enormous bathtubs with taps. How the water actually gets into and out of the palace is never detailed, however. If it’s pumped in, that would take a lot of pumping, wouldn’t it? I can’t imagine a country being a paradise without indoor plumbing, but I’m looking at it from the perspective of someone born over a century after Baum. Not surprisingly, the original Oz authors say nothing about toilets (in the modern sense, that is), and we never explore the Emerald City sewers or water treatment plant. They might or might not be there, but can you really imagine the Ozites emptying their chamber-pots out of windows? Well, okay, I can technically imagine it, but I prefer not to. Actually, when Shanower’s “Abby” had the grown-up Twink and Tom remember details from their visit to Oz that Jack Snow didn’t include in Shaggy Man, ti’s mentioned that Conjo’s castle only had a small room with a hole in the floor. That’s not actually in Oz, though.

This entry was posted in Characters, Dick Martin, Eric Shanower, Jack Snow, L. Frank Baum, Magic Items, Melody Grandy, Oz, Oz Authors, Rachel Cosgrove Payes and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to The Age of Ozlectricity

  1. I’m too much a product of the late 20th Century to think of Oz as a paradise-like place without electricity and plumbing. Especially since I still haven’t given up on the idea of living there one day.

    • Nathan says:

      Yeah, I’m pretty much the same way. But then, someone born in the past twenty or so years might think the same thing about a paradise without Internet.

  2. Hm … That’s a tough one … but I think Oz would be better without the internet. Way too much to do and see outside.

  3. That thought did occur to me … the Magic Picture too, in its own way. But I’m not sure if I’d like the idea of everyone in Oz being connected by an Ozinet anymore than I’d like the idea of instant communication by telephone. It would take a lot of the fun out of it.

  4. Melody Grandy Keller says:

    Zim created his icebox with an ice magic spell that creates perpetual ice. Unfortunately, he almost froze his fingers off creating it (only somebody like Eric Shanower’s Ice King and his ice imps can safely wield ice magic) and so he decided never to create another one, much less mass-produce them. :-)

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