In my latest day dreaming, I’ve contemplated how many times over the years I have visited Oz without L. Frank Baum, how many times I have been directed to the second star from the left without the guidance of J.M. Barrie, the many instances I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole without the assistance of Lewis Carroll. It’s so interesting how, as authors and readers, we become so fascinated with some of these worlds. My literary passport has a much greater number of stamps than my actual passport.
Of late, I have found Oz to be my most frequented destination. There is something sinister under all that cheer. The land of magic and talking Animals, of diverse peoples and races. I don’t think we would ever be able to find out all that Oz is capable of, even if we had until the next twister popped up.
In 1995, Gregory Maguire took us back to Oz with Wicked and showed readers that the land had existed and functioned well before Dorothy’s unannounced drop-in. There was political turmoil, there was class discrimination, there were bullys and outcasts. Readers followed Elphaba and her tumultuous life. We meet several of the characters with whom we are already familiar as well as many with whom we are not. The ever expanding world continues to unfold before us as we journey to school with Elfie and experience first hand how being green and smart are two giant and immediate strikes against her and she is discounted as a freak. From this point in the story, politics enter and so does reacquainted love and through the ever-changing-scape of Elphaba’s life, we are able to experience Oz in a very full manner, encountering the lands of Gilikin and Munchkinland and of course the Emerald City itself.
Throughout the four novel saga, we traverse Oz and become intimately familiar with the innards of the land. There is a civil war happening (that’s not a spoiler, tension has been growing since Wicked) and much as transpired across the board for our characters. Characters who become generational as we travel from view points of Elphaba to her son to her granddaughter. There are hardships placed on these characters and NOTHING is handed to them. They have morals and goals and yes, things don’t always work out for them (i.e. death) but they continue to grow and resolve.
While the Wicked series is geared towards a decidedly more adult audience, the Dorothy Must Die series by YA author Danielle Paige is a little lighter in tone but does not back down on the subject matter. In this series we examine the fundamental differences of what is Wicked and what is Evil. Set in the modern day, DMD follows Amy and the quest upon which she is set by the Order of the Wicked (who are the lesser of the two evils).
Dorothy has come back to Oz after [re]discovering how truly terrible Kansas is/was and the power (because some dumbass thought it wise to teach her magic) has gone to her head and she has become such a maniacal dictator that Hitler would be embarrassed by his own efforts. The mastermind of all of this Evil is of course Glinda (you knew all along she was bad at her core, admit it.) Amy must free Oz from this tyrannical rule and like most quests it is much harder than our heroine first anticipates.
This series has three books that are full length novels (the third set to be published this March) as well as seven novelas, detailing parts of the plot and history that Amy is not privy to in the main series. This approach to broadening the world is fascinating to me as it is creating a new cannon for which this history and these characters exist. Separate still from the history created by Maguire in his series. Yet somehow, they all can kind of coexist in my mind as one overarching history…past, parallel presents and future.
The amount of times Oz is revisited just in these two series I have mentioned tops out at 13 and that is not even including all of the books written by Baum himself which total 14! This world has entranced me for years in the complexity of its people and the wonder of its Oz-iness. Oz is one place I will never tire of visiting, no matter what color the road or my shoes or that horse is.
What are some worlds that you could visit or see yourself becoming a permanent citizen of? Reply in the comments section below!