A magical world famous for the adventures of Dorothy Gale, Oz was the setting for the stories by L. Frank Baum. The world of Oz was apparently divided into four realms; North, East, South, and West. The North and the South were ruled by friendly witches, while the East and West were reigned over by wicked witches.
Geography of Oz
Traveling to Oz
The famous Yellow Brick Road lead travelers towards the center of Oz where they would find the Emerald City. The whole of Oz was surrounded by a circle of desert sands. The four deserts known as the Deadly Desert, Impassible Desert, Shifting Sands and the Great Sandy Waste would instantly killed any biological life when it came into contact with the sand. This prevented travel between the real world (where Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz originated from) and Oz. Even the Winged Monkeys were unable to carry Dorothy over the deserts. Initially, the only apparent method of travel between worlds was by air; the Wizard of Oz flew by carnival balloon, while Dorothy arrived by her tornado displaced home. However, in a later adventure, Dorothy was swept away from Earth by a flood. When the waters subsided, she was stranded on rocks jutting out from the Deadly Desert's sands.
Oz & The Continent of Nonestica
It was originally believed that Oz was part of Earth, with only the deserts separating it from the mainland. However, further stories revealed that there were other magical countries neighboring Oz. The outlying countries make up a continent that is generally (but unofficially) referred to as 'Nonestica'. The countries of 'Nonestica' include; Noland, Hiland, Loland, Merryland, Happy Valley, Mifkets, Scoodlers, Country of the Gargoyles, Boboland, Vegetable Kingdom, Kingdom of Ix, Land of Ev (including a region for the Wheelers), and the Dominions of the Nome King. Although Oz lies within the circling countries, it is not part of 'Nonestica'.
The nearest body of water is the Nonestic Ocean, which is believed to be connected to the Pacific Ocean at an undisclosed point. It is generally believed that was how Dorothy returned to Oz when she was swept away during her journey to visit Uncle Henry in Australia.
Therefore the deserts acted as a barrier to prevent invasion. However, they did not stop the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy, other innocent children and even the invading Nome King from crossing into Oz.
The Regions Within Oz
Oz itself was divided into five primary regions; North, South, East, West, and Central. With the Emerald City being the focal point in the middle of Oz, the other regions consisted of various smaller villages. Some of the villages on the furthest outreaches of Oz appear to be cut-off from news and other important goings on. As such, they were ignorant to Ozma's true identity as rightful heir to Oz, and she therefore made it her duty to rediscover all the smaller settlements in Oz.
East Oz: Munchkin Country
Dorothy landed in the East of Oz. This area is famous for it's inhabitants, the Munchkins. Also referred to as Munchkinland or Munchkin Country, this region of Oz was ruled over by the Wicked Witch of the East. Dorothy's house landed on the Witch, instant killing her and therefore liberated the Munckhins. It was in Munchkinland that Dorothy was guided to the Emerald City by the Yellow Brick Road. Her journey took her through wild woods, across a raging river, and through a dangerous poppy field which would send anyone who smelt the pollen to sleep.
West Oz: Winkie Country
The latter half of Dorothy's adventure in Oz was in the West area, known as Winkie Country. Like Munchkinland, this West of Oz is named after it's inhabitants. This was the region of Oz ruled over by the Wickedest Witch of the West. Dorothy was sent on a mission to depose the Wickedest Witch as payment to return home to Kansas. Her subsequent journey into Winkieland took her across many rocky miles of inhospitable terrain. Although the Wickedest Witch managed to separate Dorothy from her traveling companions, she was inadvertently killed when Dorothy threw a pale of water over her. Subsequently the Winkies raise the Tin Woodsman up to be their new king.
North Oz: Gillikin Country
Once again, the North region of Oz was named after it's inhabitants, the Gillikins. One Gillikin named Tip was raised by a wicked wizardess named Mombi. Their story was featured on the Marvelous Land of Oz, and featured the rise to prominence of future Oz ruler, Ozma. Gillikin Country was also where the Good Witch of the North hailed from. She was the Good Witch who greeted Dorothy upon her arrival in Oz.
South Oz: Quadling Country
Maintaining the theme of Oz, the south of Oz is named after the Quadlings. Ruled over by Glinda the Good Witch of the South, this is the area that Dorothy and her friends traveled to when the Wizard of Oz had failed to return Dorothy to Kansas. On their journey, they crossed a diminutive community made from porcelain (the Dainty China Country), the Forest of Fighting Trees, a dangerous breed of creature known as the Hammer-Heads, and the forest where the animals named the Cowardly Lion as their king.
Central Oz: The Emerald City
In the middle of Oz is a fantastic city. Founded by the Wizard of Oz, the Emerald City's inhabitants are forced to where green tinted goggles at all times. This was to ensure that the citizens wouldn't discover that they city wasn't genuinely emerald. The Emerald City was a cosmopolitan and advanced city, compared to the majority of Oz which was filled with farmed countryside and small villages. It is also the destination of the famous Yellow Brick Road. Within the city is a Royal Palace, which originally housed the Wizard of Oz. After the Wizard left, it was the primary residence of the Scarecrow and after him, Ozma. Palm trees grow outside the royal palace, which are indigenous to the Southern Pacific area.
The Colors of Oz
The various regions of Oz were distinctively colored. Obviously the Emerald City was green. The other compass directions were distinguished by other bright colors, on the map, in general fashions worn by their citizens, and in the scenery of those areas. As such, the Munchkin Country is blue, Winkie Country is yellow, Gillikin Country is purple, and Quadling Country is red. Some regions appear to have much more of their traditional colors more than others. Although some areas were described as having natural colors, at least one Gillikin remarked that he knew when he was leaving Gillikin Country because the grass would begin to change from purple to green. However, despite having purple grass, Gillikin Country still had orange pumpkins, because that was the origin of Jack Pumpkinhead's pumpkin head.
A map of Oz was drawn by Mr. H. M. Wogglebug, T.E. Unfortunately, despite the Wogglebug's inflated sense of self-importance, he drew the map flipped horizontally. It was if drawn next to a mirror image. Therefore, the blue colored East appears as West, and the Yellow Winkie Country appeared where Munchkin Country should be.
A subsequent map of Oz and the surrounding countries outside of the Deadly Deserts also depicts Oz in this mirror-flipped style. Like Oz, the out-lying countries also have their own distinctive coloring. Oz and it's neighboring countries were all colorful, in direct contrast with Kansas, which was repeatedly described as 'grey'.
L Frank Baum
When L. Frank Baum began writing his Books of Oz it was a popular trend for authors to present their fictitious stories as if they were factual events. Although Mr. Baum did not begin in the same fashion, he did later admit that the tales he published were in fact the histories of Oz. In some of his later books he indicated that Dorothy was his main source for many stories. He had maintained written correspondence with Dorothy for some years, and even exchanged telegraphs with some of her other friends in Oz. Such was Mr. Baum's accuracy that he was presented with the title of Royal Historian of Oz.
Mr. Baum wasn't the only author to write about the histories of Oz. After Mr. Baum sadly passed away, other authors made attempts to continue his hard work. They too were appointed as Royal Historians of Oz. Therefore, when authors tend to differ in their presentation of Oz's historical facts, it is generally believed that it was human error on the Royal Historian's part.
All animals born in Oz have the ability to speak in English. The most famous talking animal of Oz is the Cowardly Lion and the Hungry Tiger. There was also the Queen of the Field Mice, and the many animals of Quadling Country's forest that made the Lion their new king.
This is not restricted to creatures who are born in Oz. Any animals that travel into Oz will also have the ability to communicate orally. Toto, Dorothy's canine companion, was able to talk. However, he chose not to purely because it seemed unnecessary and he preferred to bark. The arrival of Billina, a chicken, proved that animal arrivals from Earth can also talk to humans.
However, while all Animals can talk, not all animals are sentient with the ability to communicate with humans. Historians of Oz have provided a distinction between sentient creatures by using a capital 'A' in 'Animals'. Dorothy originally believed that Toto couldn't talk because he wasn't 'a fairy dog', but it was later discovered that it was through Toto's personal preference not to. Other animals who have traveled to Oz and gained the ability to speak were Eureka the kitten, Jim the cab horse, and Hank the mule.
Strangely, horses are not native to Oz. Therefore, the only horses seen within Oz must have been brought by air or water from mainland Earth.
Oz had many magical inhabitants, some of whom were immortals. These include Nomes, Fairies, Mermaids, and Nymphs.
Related to the traditional garden Gnome, the Nomes were the antagonists of many later Books of Oz. They mined the earth for minerals. It was their belief that all the riches of the ground were their for the taking. It is worth noting that the Nomes weren't actually inhabitants within Oz itself. The term Fairies is used to described regular people who live in Oz, as well as other more magical creatures. Nature spirits and even Nomes have been referred to as Fairies.
Despite the name, not all Witches are bad. Glinda, the Good Witch of the South, aided Dorothy to return home. Good Witch of the North gave Dorothy a kiss on the forehead which protected her on her journey to visit the Wizard of Oz. Meanwhile, the Witches of the East and West were thoroughly wicked and schemed for more power. Since Glinda was a Good Witch, she was also a just ruler, and therefore made it illegal for anyone else to become a witch. Therefore after Dorothy inadvertently killed the Wicked Witches, Glinda made sure that no other wicked magic users would replace them. However, this did not prevent Mombi from hiding her powers from the Good Witch of the North by giving herself a different title. Instead of calling herself a Witch, she referred to herself as a Wizardess.
The Good Witch of the North was referred to as either Locasta or Tattypoo. She admitted to Dorothy that she had not been able to defeat the Wicked Witch of the East, otherwise she would have liberated the Munchkins long ago. It was later revealed that Glinda, the Good Witch of the South, was the most powerful of the four witches, which beggars the question; why didn't Glinda over-throw the witches of the East and West? Much later, Ozma prohibited any other beings to use magic except for herself and Glinda.
The good witches wore white to represent their goodness. Locasta (or Tattypoo) wore a white pointed hat with a white cloak decorated in stars, while Glinda wore a long white dress. Fashion was significant, since Dorothy was mistaken for a witch because of her blue and white gingham dress (as well as the fact that she dropped her house on the Wicked Witch of the East).
The Wizard of Oz was famously a great big phoney. He was a performer from a traveling troupe, who accidentally arrived in Oz when his hot air balloon was blown away. He was hailed as a Wizard by the inhabitants of Oz in much the same way that Dorothy was mistakenly believed to be a Witch. Since he had lived in Oz for many years, it would therefore seem that in order to be a Wizard you would need some technical and architectural knowledge.
Animated Inanimate Objects
Although Jack Pumpkinhead was animated through Mombi's magical powder, there were other inanimate objects which were granted with life. The Scarecrow, the porcelain people from the Dainty China Country and the glass cat are examples of how normally lifeless objects can achieve life. It appears that the magic which gave them life was well established. Although they were immortal in the sense that they had no need to eat, sleep or breathe, they were susceptible to damage. The Scarecrow was pulled to pieces on various occasions (even as a tactical method to hide Dorothy form the Wickest Witch of the West's minions) and restaffed without any effect to his life. Whereas the citizens of the Dainty China Country could be broken just as regular porcelain could be. They would also revert to being lifeless figurines if they were ever removed from their home country.
Oz In Comics
The Books of Oz have captured the hearts of people around the world for over 100 years. It is therefore unsurprising that many places, characters & elements have been featured in comic books.
There have been various dark renditions of the characters in a more gritty and violent setting from Caliber Comics. The original 20-issue series Oz was published in 1994. In 1996 and 1997 it was followed by two mini series Oz: Romance In Rags and Oz: Straw & Sorcery, which revolved around the Scarecrow.
There was another short-lived series from Arrow. The Land of Oz was released in 1998. Brighter in tone and appearance, it attempted to include various characters from the different Books of Oz.
The most recent interpretation of the Books of Oz is from Marvel Publishing. Artist and Oz fan, Eric Shanower has adapted the Wizard of Oz from L Frank Baum's original story (not the MGM movie version). With energetic art by Skottie Young, the original 8-issue mini series has been reprinted in a hardback book, which featured in the New York Times Top 5 best sellers list for over a month, reaching number 3 at it's peak. With the undying success of this newest retelling of the classic story, Marvel has begun to publish a second series; the Marvelous Land of Oz.
In Fables, Oz (also known as the Emerald Kingdom) and its surrounding kingdoms are controlled by the Nome King. The Scarecrow, Tin Man, Lion, and Dorothy were imprisoned at the Golden Boughs Retirement Village until Jack Horner helped them escape. Princess Ozma escaped and is currently a member of Fabletown's coven of magicians, witches, and sorcerers. It is revealed that a road is being constructed through the Deadly Desert linking Oz properly to surrounding lands and kingdoms.