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Crossing the Cornfield: 01/16/17
In my review of "It's a Good Life" by Jerome Bixby, I looked at the roll the cornfield plays. I said it "serves as a barrier, marking a threshold between the safety (perceived or actual) of the town and the outside." Further, I suggested that those who can cross the cornfield and can otherwise control have power over everyone else — even if they don't perceive their power.
And this got me to thinking about Oz. Oz is a kingdom of four countries ruled from a centrally located capital, the Emerald City. The kingdom is encircled by an impassable desert. In later books this desert is then described as being encircled by various seas. The other key factor about Oz is that it's compass is flipped from ours so that east is west and west is east.
This flipping of the compass along one axis makes me think of "the upside-down" as described in "Chapter Five: The Flea and the Acrobat" episode of Stranger Things. Despite Oz's remoteness and the Ozian subjects being unable to cross out of their kingdom, there are outsiders who can get in (and out) of Oz.
Before Dorothy, there was the Wizard. He came to Oz by way of balloon from Omaha, Nebraska. Dorothy, on her first journey, came via tornado from Kansas. Interestingly, too, the wizard claims he had the Emerald City built — though that explanation is ignored in later volumes, especially with the return to power of Ozma.
Let us suppose perhaps that he found the Emerald City in ruins, inhabited by shepherds and their flocks. Let us suppose he had the city rebuilt, rather that built from whole-cloth.
Now there is Dorothy who rides her house through a tornado to Oz. Her very first act upon landing in Munchkin Country is to crush the Wicked Witch of the East to death. The Munchkins having their long time oppressor suddenly dead assume that the girl who has come from the direction of an impassible desert and infinite sea must be a witch herself. She promptly denies their claim, speaking towards her innate ability to understand the cornfield. Her act of crossing it was one of survival, not of travel with the aim to conquer.
Later in the Road to Oz, Dorothy and a raggedy man travel back to Oz by way of the cornfield. It all begins when the raggedy man arrives at the Gale farmstead and asks for directions to Butterfield. Dorothy's instructions begin with: "You cross the ten-acre lot, follow the lane to highway, go north to the five branches, and—" Essentially the traveler is asking to get to an impossible place from where he is starting. Dorothy, to show him the way, ends up having to show him. Together they get lost at the five branches and after numerous adventures, end up in Oz. Had she taken the long way around — sticking to actually roads — none of this would have happened.
The thing that the travelers have in common is their proximity to cornfields. It's not the cornfield itself, per se, that allows them in, but, I argue, their understanding of cornfields that allow them safe passage.