The Ozzing Dead


I’ve already written about the concept of death and afterlife in the Oz series and ghosts in Oz, but another theme I’ve seen occasionally in apocryphal Oz works is that of people coming to live in Oz when they die. While Oz has some qualities of paradise, it isn’t exactly Heaven. People there still have to eat and sleep, and they could theoretically be eaten by a Kalidah. I guess it’s a little more like the idea of people having bodies that don’t get old or wear out when Jesus comes back to Earth. Actually, the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21 sounds kind of like the Emerald City.

But anyway, the most frequent candidate for living in Oz after death is none other than L. Frank Baum himself.

It’s common knowledge that his last words were “Now we can cross the Shifting Sands,” referring to the eastern part of the desert surrounding Oz. According to Michael Patrick Hearn, common knowledge on this is wrong, but the idea has definitely stuck. Hearn’s afterword for the International Wizard of Oz Club’s edition of Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz quotes a 1954 letter by Ruth Plumly Thompson referring to John R. Neill having “joined Baum in Oz or elsewhere.” Deborah Holden has a story in the 1992 Oziana called “The Journey,” which tells of Baum “coming home” to the Emerald City and meeting up with Dorothy and Ozma. And the works of March Laumer not only make Baum a posthumous resident of Oz, but have other dead people living there as well. In his Fairy Queen, Ozma and the Wizard of Oz meet Lana Peethisaw, a five-year-old girl living in the northern part of Oz with a giraffe for a companion. Ozma learns that she died of leukemia in her former life in New Zealand, then reappeared in Oz as a Winkie. Whether Lana was based on a real person or not, I couldn’t say. His Farewell, which seems to be an attempt to write an equivalent of C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle for Oz, brings in other dead people as well, including March’s own brother Keith. Earl Abbe’s story “Fairness,” as published in the 1991 Oziana, also touches on the subject. When greedy, self-centered Oz fan Herchell Blind dies in a car accident, he ends up in Shutter Town from Giant Horse, which serves as sort of a purgatory for him.

The author writes, “Herchell believed that he was damned and there was little to suggest otherwise. He did not feel alive. He slept and ate and drank and had all the other body functions.” Eventually, he escapes in the company of a little girl, and they encounter Johnny Dooit. He tells Herchell, “I met another dead man once. He had a funny name for such a peaceable fellow. ‘Bomb’ I think it was. Anyway, he didn’t say Oz was heaven or hell, just a nice place to visit before going to somewhere better.” The story is apparently part of a book called Timmy and the Shutter Faces in Oz, but since I’ve never read the whole thing, I can’t say what else it might have indicated about dead people in Oz. The whole idea doesn’t sit all that well with me. I view Oz, at least as presented by the books, as “a real truly live place,” rather than some sort of metaphysical one. I guess there isn’t any reason why people couldn’t be reincarnated there, though, as there are some hints at that sort of thing in the series. If Baum is living there now, is it as a ghost or a person? Does he still write? Is his wife now there as well? It seems like he would be somewhat of a celebrity, wouldn’t he? Or do the Ozites not really care that much about the guy who introduced their homeland to the dull Outside World? After all, while he’s the creator of Oz from our perspective, within the context of his work Oz was already there and he just reported stuff that happened there.

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This entry was posted in Authors, C.S. Lewis, Christianity, Chronicles of Narnia, John R. Neill, L. Frank Baum, March Laumer, Oz, Oz Authors, Religion, Ruth Plumly Thompson and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Ozzing Dead

  1. Personally I’m not a fan of Oz as an afterlife.
    I’m sure a lot of arguments could even be made by the people who do think it is, many of the people who end up there were in some dire situations that could have/should have resulted in death…but Dorothy and the Wizard have went back and forth. (Maybe Dot had several near death experiences?)
    No, I prefer Oz as a living place, whether hidden here on Earth or in an alternate dimension connected to Earth.

    • Nathan says:

      Dorothy, the Wizard, and Button-Bright are all good arguments against death being the ONLY way for a mortal to reach Oz, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t ONE possible way.

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