Lockup: Emerald City

My wife, who has read several books about prison and watched many episodes of Lockup on MSNBC, has mentioned to me that she doesn’t like the way the prison system in Oz is set up. Of course, thanks to an HBO show, the word “Oz” is associated with prison, but the main prison we see in the actual Oz books appears in The Patchwork Girl of Oz. It’s a nice, pretty, comfortable house in a quiet part of the Emerald City, kept by a kindly woman named Tollydiggle. Although it is apparently impossible to escape, the building can be freely explored, and contains all sorts of books and games. Prisoners are also fed quite well. When asked about this, Tollydiggle explains, “We consider a prisoner unfortunate. He is unfortunate in two ways–because he has done something wrong and because he is deprived of his liberty. Therefore we should treat him kindly, because of his misfortune, for otherwise he would become hard and bitter and would not be sorry he had done wrong. Ozma thinks that one who has committed a fault did so because he was not strong and brave; therefore she puts him in prison to make him strong and brave. When that is accomplished he is no longer a prisoner, but a good and loyal citizen and everyone is glad that he is now strong enough to resist doing wrong.” Also, when being taken through the streets of the city, a prisoner is made to wear a sheet that covers their entire body, so no one can know who they are.

This is also briefly mentioned in John R. Neill’s Runaway. I’ve read that the Amazon penal colony in Wonder Woman comics, alternately called Reform or Transformation Island, uses a similar idea of trying to rehabilitate criminals through love.

I have to wonder if William Moulton Marston ever read L. Frank Baum, as his idea of loving authority is similar to what Baum did with Ozma and Glinda. Theoretically, our own prisons are supposed to rehabilitate criminals, or at least scare them enough that they don’t want to commit any more crimes, but it certainly doesn’t always work that way. And putting them in an uncomfortable environment often makes them even more bitter. Ozma and Tollydiggle’s method, however, is disregarding the fact that some criminals are not at all sorry, and being treated nicely wouldn’t make them so. In fact, some might consider it a bonus to be able to commit a crime AND stay in a house that’s nicer than your own. We don’t even know for sure that it works for Oz, because we only ever see one prisoner there, and that’s Ojo. When the Soldier with Green Whiskers brings him to the jail, he and Tollydiggle both comment on how they haven’t taken anyone there before.

And if the people are that well-behaved, perhaps this sort of jail would be effective for the few who do break laws. When Ozma captures more serious offenders, like the villains who try to conquer Oz, she usually has their memories erased with the Water of Oblivion or, in more extreme cases, transforms them. Mind you, it’s also possible that Tollydiggle has a darker side, something that can be arrived at by mixing a few brief references in the books. Jack Snow’s Magical Mimics tells us that Tollydiggle is married to the Soldier with Green Whiskers, and Land has Jinjur say that Omby Amby’s wife had a bad temper and had pulled out most of his whiskers. Jinjur could be spreading an unfounded rumor, or the Soldier could have had a different wife at this point; but I kind of like the idea that Tollydiggle can be bad-tempered when she has the occasion to be.

Tollydiggle and the jail do appear in some non-canonical stories. In George Van Buren’s Zimbo and the Magic Amulet, Zimbo is forced to play Monopoly with the jailer, with her beginning the game with hotels on Boardwalk and Park Place. Later, his uncle Zimboobo has to play checkers with Tollydiggle starting with twelve kings. Phyllis Ann Karr’s Computer Wizard stories make Corwin Davidson Poe a perpetual prisoner who eventually develops a romantic relationship with Tollydiggle. She presumably isn’t already married in this continuity, and is also shown as considerably younger-looking than how Neill drew her. At one point, Corwin observes the uncomfortable similarity of the sheet to Ku Klux Klan garb. I also understand that there’s a book where Tollydiggle attempts to reform Adolf Hitler of all people, which would have to be the ultimate test of the system.

This entry was posted in Characters, Comics, Jack Snow, L. Frank Baum, Oz, Oz Authors, Phyllis Ann Karr and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Lockup: Emerald City

  1. Joe says:

    Yes there is, and its out now! Adolf Hitler in Oz. If I might shamelessly plug for a moment since this article came out the very day of its release: there are two editions of this completely revised book (which had earlier come out by Xlibris with no illustrations and several mistakes). The new one currently out is a trade paperback, fully illustrated in b&w: http://www.lulu.com/shop/sam-sackett/adolf-hitler-in-oz/paperback/product-21955733.html. There is also a Deluxe hardcover coming soon with color plates and exclusive “stained-glass” cover.

  2. Pingback: Art with Brains and Courage | VoVatia

  3. Pingback: Reformation Nation | VoVatia

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