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In the upside-down: the hobo life in Oz: 05/12/18

Cover art

The original map of Oz shows Munchkin Country (where Dorothy and her house land) on the left and the Winkie Country (where Dorothy and friends are sent by the Wizard) on the right. Above is Gillikin Country and to the South is Quadling Country. We know though from the witches that Dorothy encounters (and kills), that Munchkin Country was the domain of the Wicked Witch of the East, and that the witch she is sent to kill is the Wicked Witch of the West — which is in the Winkie Country. The Good Witch of the North who meets Dorothy and gives her a kiss to allow her safe passage throughout Oz is from the North. Glinda, Good Witch of the South, is Dorothy's final destination.

One possible reason behind the mirroring of east and west could be a printer error or artistic error. Regardless though of it's origins, I propose that this mirroring of East and West is crucial to the very nature of Oz and it's surrounding nations — namely that these are extra dimensional lands accessible through special portals or as the case is often in the Oz books, near death experiences. Oz and surrounds are the nicer parts of the Upside-down, as coined by the kids in Stranger Things (2016).

Original map of Oz

The Oz books, especially the early ones, put an inordinate amount of emphasis on directionality and orientation, something that other contemporary children's fantasies don't. For Alice, getting to Wonderland is either through a rabbit hole or through a mirror, and Peter Pan's Neverland is "the second star on the right and straight on til morning" which is vague but brings to mind night time nautical navigation, thus playing into the pirates the Darlings meet there.

Oz, though, takes care to give a sense of direction while still maintaining the mirror nature / upside-downness of Wonderland. The Wizard of Oz being written in the late 1890s, would have come into being as a the hobo (homeward bound) alternate lifestyle was coming into vogue. Hobos were itinerant workers who often hitched rides on the freight trains that criss crossed the nation. There are actually a number of possible meanings / origins for the word hobo, but for Oz, I believe the "homeward bound" origin story is the one that drawn upon for inspiration.

In this first foray into Oz, Dorothy's one goal, after the initial one of surviving the cyclone, is to find her way home. She travels Oz along the Yellow Brick road, as other trails, doing odd jobs, finding other travelers, and taking up odd jobs all with the goal of finding or earning her way home to Kansas.

In Soupy Leaves Home by Cecil Castellucci (2017) there is a passage where Remi is describing the cardinal directions to Soupy, showing how they can be used as philosophical statements on life. The passage is:

When we need a star to guide us, a man goes north. North is steady. We know where are in the world. East and west, that's the sun's path. But when a person wants to get lost, like I suspect you do, you go south.

Let's look at Dorothy's first travels through Oz against this hobo rubric. Dorothy, carried away in her house from Kansas — an event that should have killed her but didn't — lands her instead in the Eastern expanses of Oz and kills a witch that has been oppressing the people of Munchkin Country. She has started at the beginning of the sun's path — except that it's a reversed path here in Oz. She is literally forced to travel widdershins in order to stay oriented and find her way home.

Dorothy, though, is oriented to the Yellow Brick Road by the Good Witch of the North. She also gives Dorothy a motherly kiss on the cheek that serves as a visible mark that she is protected by the Witch of the North, allowing her safe passage. So although Dorothy is pointed widdershins west, she is being guided by Oz's version of the north star. Once at the Emerald City, Dorothy and her companions — a woodsman, a scarecrow (farmer), and a lion (wild untamed wilderness) are sent further west (where hobos go to die), either to meet their deaths or if they are lucky, kill the Wicked Witch of the West. When Dorothy succeeds and returns (or goes in the homeward direction) to the Emerald City she is unable to go with the Wizard via balloon, and instead must go to Glinda in the South (the direction ones goes to get lost) in order to finally learn that she has had the power to get home under her own power all this time.

Thus Baum has combined the mirrored / upside-downness of Lewis Carrol's wonderland books with the Hobo rose compass to map Oz while still keeping it magical and otherworldly.

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