The question of what counts as canon occasionally comes up in Oz discussion forums. Although there is a strong contingent that accepts only L. Frank Baum’s books, it seems that most fans throw in the others that were published by the same company with permission from Baum’s widow. Since this makes for a series of forty books, they’re often called the Famous Forty. Even this is a bit misleading, though. Baum himself wrote several short stories about Oz, and why would we exclude these when accepting works by other authors? Little Wizard Stories of Oz, a collection of short stories intended for somewhat younger readers than the main books in the series, is sometimes considered Baum’s semi-official fifteenth Oz book. He also made references indicating that the events of The Magical Monarch of Mo, The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, Dot and Tot of Merryland, Queen Zixi of Ix, John Dough and the Cherub, The Sea Fairies, and Sky Island all take place within the same world as the Oz stories, so even though they’re not Oz books, they are essentially part of the Oz canon. Strange how that works out, but certainly not unheard of, particularly among authors who like to do crossovers with their own characters. There is an oddity, however, in the Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz newspaper comic series, which has several Oz characters visiting the United States. These stories were written by Baum, but they’re never referred to in the main Oz series. Granted, Baum wasn’t someone who took continuity all that seriously, but there are some pretty major contradictions here.
Perhaps most difficult is that the Ozites pay a visit to Dorothy and Toto in Kansas, but none of them mention this meeting when they cross paths in Ozma of Oz. Indeed, she’s introduced to the Sawhorse for what appears to be the first time, even though he’s one of the visitors in the comic pages, and in fact saved her life from Uncle Henry’s charging bull. For that matter, even though I don’t think the Visitors stories ever specifically mention the Ozites meeting Uncle Henry and Aunt Em, they do stay on the farm for several days, so it would be rather odd if they didn’t. In Emerald City, however, they don’t believe her tales about Oz. If this visit never happened, though, did the other adventures of the Ozites in the States? If anyone ever asked Baum the question, his answer is presumably lost to history. The approach Baum used in the stories strikes me as being quite different from that of the series, both in that the Ozites have access to a lot of magic and that they become celebrities in America. Granted, people might have just taken it as a publicity stunt. Nonetheless, it does somewhat conflict with Ozma’s later policy of keeping Oz a secret from the mundane world. So I’d say I’d generally come down on the side of the Visitors stories not being canonical. Other fans disagree with me, and I’ve seen stories that incorporate elements from them. I suppose that, even if they’re not entirely accurate, they could contain some hoztorical truth. This story by Jared Davis helps to tie the Visitors tales in with the main series.
In addition to these stories themselves, newspapers that ran the comic also included some promotional material that might or might not have been written by Baum, which had the Ozites visit other planets before arriving in the States, stopping at Argo and Polaris before reaching our own solar system. Does this mean Oz is located somewhere out in space, or just that the Gump took a route that took him considerably out of the way? And since when can a creature made of sofas with palm leaf wings navigate through the void of space? It’s also interesting to note that the comic pages and related material indicate that the visit is taking place at around the same time Baum is chronicling the adventures, and that this begins within the second year of Ozma’s reign. So if that’s in 1904 when the comic started, what does this mean for the already tricky timeline of the first few books?