No Money, Mo’ Problems


As I said back in this post, whether or not Oz uses some form of money is no more consistent than many other aspects of the series. Certainly the earlier books show money in use, with children paying for green lemonade with green pennies in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and a ferryman in Land refusing to take Tip across a river since he had no money. The Scarecrow is also stuffed with money during the later book, and while the currency is obtained outside Oz, the Ozites clearly recognize it as money. Indeed, if Tip’s statement is correct, it’s all in dollars. Ozma mentions the Royal Army being paid; but by the time of Road the Tin Woodman is indignant at the idea that Oz would use money at all. Emerald City expands upon this by stating that all property in the land is held by Ozma, and that “[e]ach person was given freely by his neighbors whatever he requires for his use, which is as much as any one may reasonably desire.” This leaves open the question as to who defines what “as much as any one may reasonable desire” is (Ozma, I guess), but I’m sure it’s less of an issue in a land of plenty. L. Frank Baum goes on to write, “Each man and woman, no matter what he or she produced for the good of the community, was supplied by the neighbors with food and clothing and a house and furniture and ornaments and games. If by chance the supply ever ran short, more was taken from the great storehouses of the Ruler, which were afterward filled up again when there was more of any article than the people needed.” We later learn that the Shaggy Man is the Keeper of the Storehouses. The no-money rule is actually pretty consistent across the Baum books, the most notable exception being Jinxland in Scarecrow, and that’s presented as a remote country that ignores a lot of Ozma’s laws. In Magic, Kiki Aru, another resident of a remote area, is confused by the very notion of money.

It’s in Ruth Plumly Thompson’s books that we start to see signs of money still being used in Oz, but even there it’s not all that common. In Grampa, the title character carries an old fourpence coin, and tries to explain the concept of a fortune to a weather-cock who just recently came to life: “it might be gold, or jewels, or land. Anything precious and rare.” Sounds like a rather un-Ozzy description when you consider that Patchwork Girl mentions gold as the most common metal in Oz. When Grampa and Prince Tatters finally obtain the fortune that revitalizes the economy of Ragbad, it’s in the form of a thousand gold bricks. In Lost King, the people of Kimbaloo sell buttons and bouquets for coins, but when King Kinda Jolly buys a goose he pays with “a thousand gold buttons” instead of coins. Purple Prince has King Pompus of Pumperdink giving General Quakes “Pumper’s place and salary.” Perhaps the most problematic in terms of reconciling Baum and Thompson’s views on the Ozian economy is in Ojo, in which Mooj offers 5000 bags of sapphires as a reward to anyone who brought Ojo to Moojer Mountain.

Aren’t sapphires pretty common in Oz? This was brought up in the Book of Current Focus discussion, with a mention that they were all over the Ozure Isles. Now, there are places in Africa where diamonds are incredibly common, yet they’re still sold for top dollar in the United States. So maybe there’s a dearth of sapphires in the southern Munchkin Country, and J.L. Bell brings up the fact that the Seebanian government was likely a rival to that of the Ozure Isles. With what we’re told in Emerald City, however, is this really very likely? If people in the southern Munchkin Country really wanted sapphires and didn’t have access to them, couldn’t they just ask? Which leads into David Hulan’s point that being a bandit in Oz would probably take more effort than just being an honest citizen who’s given everything they want from their neighbors. I suppose it could just be for the fun of it, since these people presumably aren’t contributing to society.

John R. Neill goes back to the moneyless economy, at least in Lucky Bucky when he writes, “In Oz everything is so abundant that no one ever runs short, and never any charge for a single thing.” The economy doesn’t come up much if at all in the works of Jack Snow and Rachel Cosgrove, but Eloise Jarvis McGraw writes of an Oz where money is even more prominent than in Thompson. Halidom is a country with a depressed economy, having to sell flowers and bulbs because they can no longer produce luxury goods. And in Merry Go Round, there’s a system of currency used throughout Oz. Why would Ozma bring back money when she and her friends were so against it at the time of Road? It’s possible that her grand experiment in socialism didn’t work as planned, and she had to revive money to make up for people taking advantage of the system.

I think the view on money also reflects how Thompson and the McGraws viewed Oz as more of a confederation of tiny kingdoms than the centralized monarchy Baum described in Emerald City. Not that they were deviating all that much from Baum in doing so, as even when he’s describing Oz as a socialist utopia he admits that “there were some parts of the Land of Oz not quite so pleasant as the farming country and the Emerald City which was its center.” He expands upon this in Lost Princess with a visit to what a shepherd refers to as “the unknown territory that is inhabited by terrible, lawless people” between the two branches of the Winkie River. And in Glinda, the leaders of the Flatheads and Skeezers openly defy Ozma’s rule, although they’re brought into the fold by the end of the story. Still, most of these locations are outliers, and Baum even says in Magic, “Indeed, I’m sure it will not be long until all parts of the fairyland of Oz are explored and their peoples made acquainted with their Ruler, for in Ozma’s palace are several of her friends who are so curious that they are constantly discovering new and extraordinary places and inhabitants.” Several possibilities have been proposed by Oz fans as to why they’re still stumbling across unexplored locales in books written years later by other authors, but the more relevant issue here is that these remote lands might be more difficult to incorporate into the economy as run from the Emerald City. What’s also notable is that Thompson and the McGraws introduce a lot more small countries that ARE familiar with Ozma and loyal to her rule, yet don’t have much contact with the capital. What’s more, a lot of these places are responsible for providing specific goods to other parts of Oz: Ragbad with its clothing, Regalia and its grapes, Troth and its armor, etc. When these places trade with each other, perhaps they find it easier not to utilize the distribution system described in Emerald City. It fits with the idea that Ozma usually lets these places rule themselves unless they’re breaking major laws. She might intervene to stop wars and remove terrible rulers, but perhaps she feels that such places still using money as a means of trade isn’t worth stamping out.

So what kind of currency, if any, does Oz use? As I mentioned, the characters in Land recognize paper money in dollar denominations. Thompson makes a few references to “pence,” highlighting how her Oz is somewhat more European. A footnote from Forbidden Fountain that didn’t make it into the final book describes the land as using a complicated system of coins called fardledinks, squits, quingles, quants, ozzos, jangs, jeedles, and piozters. There’s no mention of paper money, which makes me wonder why Ozites would easily recognize banknotes in Land. We are told in the short story “The Queen of Quok” that Quok uses American-style currency, and James E. Haff and Dick Martin’s map places the jackdaws’ nest not too far from Quok. As far as other countries near Oz go, the Nome Kingdom has a unit of currency called a specto, Down Town also uses dollars and cents, and there’s a mention in Hungry Tiger of “Rash pence.”

This entry was posted in Communism, Dick Martin, Economics, Eloise Jarvis McGraw, Jack Snow, John R. Neill, L. Frank Baum, Oz, Oz Authors, Rachel Cosgrove Payes, Ruth Plumly Thompson, Socialism and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to No Money, Mo’ Problems

  1. Pingback: There’s Treasure Everywhere | VoVatia

  2. Pingback: Riches Do Not Bring Contentment (But Neither Does Poverty) | VoVatia

  3. Pingback: $ave! $ave! $ave! | VoVatia

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