Birth in a Deathless Land

I’ve written before about how the Oz books handle the issue of aging, but I don’t think I’ve said much yet about childbirth, and Paul Dana’s The Magic Umbrella of Oz addresses that very topic. We’re told in The Tin Woodman of Oz that, after Lurline’s enchantment of Oz, “all the babies lived in their cradles and were tenderly cared for and never grew up,” which sounds terrible for the parents. What it doesn’t say is whether new babies are ever born, and what happened to women who were pregnant at the time of the enchantment. It does appear from later books, particularly those by authors writing after L. Frank Baum, that some children are born in Oz. This is explicitly the case in Purple Prince, in which Kabumpo tells Randy that Princess Pajonia was born four years previously. Since her parents, Prince Pompadore and Princess Peg Amy, didn’t even know each other before the events of Kabumpo, she was obviously born after that. There are a few other cases that aren’t spelled out so clearly, but still indicate births in post-enchantment Oz. Ojo, according to the story Unc Nunkie tells in Ojo, was born after Ozma took the throne of Oz. In Number Nine‘s family, the stop-growing age for boys is twelve, and Number Fourteen is still a baby. Granted, we don’t know for sure whether they age normally until they reach twelve or can take a few extra years along the way, but it still seems like this is a post-enchantment birth. Randy himself claims in Purple Prince that, although he appears to be ten, he’s actually lived about twenty years.

In Dana’s book, the Wizard of Oz explains, “It’s true that most children born here have a choice in the matter. You grew old as you wanted to and then you stopped. Easy. But it’s a little-known fact that there are some among us who absolutely cannot age no matter how much they want to. They’re frozen in time and they can’t get unfrozen. Babies, children, adults, old folks — every age you can think of. And I’ve only recently found out why. You boys gave me the clue. All of these time-trapped people were alive when Queen Lurline broke her Magic Egg and turned Oz into a fairyland. For them, the spell of immortality is irreversible. This is also true for a few pregnant women, like poor Chelery, who have never been able to have their babies.” In fact, Chelery Coglammen has been pregnant for about two centuries (now THAT sounds uncomfortable), and has to emigrate to Ev to have her baby. This makes sense, but it still raises questions. If people present at the time of the enchantment were frozen in time, wouldn’t that also preclude them from reproducing after that? Yet this would have to be the case, unless all the mothers after that came from outside Oz. So presumably babies conceived after the enchantment could still age, even if their mothers couldn’t. There’s also the issue of how old you have to be before you can decide to stop aging. You might think people who are functionally immortal aren’t as likely to have children, and that might well be true. That said, Captain Salt does raise the issue of overpopulation in Oz. Samuel says, “Besides, anyone can see that Oz is overpopulated and needs new territories and sea ports,” and Ruth Plumly Thompson later adds, “Each of the four Kingdoms in oz shown on Samuel’s map was so dotted with smaller Kingdoms, cities, towns, villages and the holdings of ancient Knights and Barons, there was scarcely room for another castle. With young Princes growing up on every hand, Roger could well sympathize with the need of Ozma for more territory.” This reflects Thompson’s vision of Oz as a collection of small kingdoms, which does have some precedent in Baum, but he never made it as much of a thing. It’s also a very top-down approach, gaining new territory not simply because people need places to live but because princes need places to rule. Regardless, it never seems to be much of an issue, as there are still plenty of uninhabited or sparsely inhabited parts of Oz in later books. Just so long as other Ozian families don’t reproduce like Number Nine’s, they should probably be fine.

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3 Responses to Birth in a Deathless Land

  1. Tarl says:

    Excellent food for thought. I will keep this post and its references in mind as I explore further in the history of Oz. In my stories, the deathless times are regulated by the Giant Hourglass. I have a plan for the “great enchantment”, but it will be a while before that comes up in my books.
    Thanks for the enlightening post.

    • Nathan says:

      So was the hourglass placed there by Lurline, or does it have a different origin?

      In Paradox in Oz, the lack of aging is due to a spell on The Man Who Lives Backwards, which is later transferred to Ozma herself.

      • Tarl says:

        The Giant Hourglass was created by the original band of Faeries that established Oz as an enchanted land. More explanation in the soon-to-be-released novel, Emerald Spectacles (The Hidden History of Oz, Book Three).

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