Where in Kansas did Dorothy live?
June 28, 2013 8:53 AM   Subscribe

"Baum's description of Kansas in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is based on his experiences in drought-ridden South Dakota."

I remember baseball writer and native Kansan Bill James getting quite worked up on this subject.
posted by Fnarf at 9:09 AM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Weird honor to want to claim:
...Nothing but the great gray prairie on every side. Not a tree nor a house broke the broad sweep of flat country that reached to the edge of the sky in all directions. The sun had baked the plowed land into a gray mass, with little cracks running through it. Even the grass was not green, for the sun had burned the tops of the long blades until they were the same gray color to be seen everywhere. Once the house had been painted, but the sun blistered the paint and the rains washed it away, and now the house was as dull and gray as everything else.

When Aunt Em came there to live she was a young, pretty wife. The sun and wind had changed her, too. They had taken the sparkle from her eyes and left them a sober gray; they had taken the red from her cheeks and lips, and they were gray also. She was thin and gaunt, and never smiled now. When Dorothy, who was an orphan, first came to her, Aunt Em had been so startled by the child's laughter that she would scream and press her hand upon her heart whenever Dorothy's merry voice reached her ears; and she still looked at the little girl with wonder that she could find anything to laugh at.
Oddly enough, Baum never spent more than a couple days in the state. His description of the "Kansas" prairies is taken from his experience of northern South Dakota, which seemed a parched wasteland after a childhood spent in the riverine verdance of upstate New York.

(On preview: dang.)
posted by Iridic at 9:13 AM on June 28, 2013

Not sure why everyone is so anxious to get a piece of Baum action. Seems to be on the rise rather than wane.

Regarding Oz, I prefer to reflect on the probable ideological origins of Baum's Oz Utopia--his amazing mother-in-law, Matilda Joslyn Gage, who unquestionably had a major influence on his writings. It is said her fellow suffragists distanced themselves from her out of fear that her extremism might doom the movement, as she rightly named religion as one of the causes of oppression.
posted by kinnakeet at 9:22 AM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think the 1939 movie adaptation overshadowed the books in terms of lasting public perception. But the Oz Museum does start with the drab, washed-out scene, before leading you into the full color world of Oz, as if you are leaving the dull land of Wamega for something better.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:24 AM on June 28, 2013

The Oz Museum in Wamego is run by some very nice folks. When I showed up there in September of 2004, with my dog in tow, they were skeptical about allowing me to take him with me into the museum. But they quite understood that otherwise, if I were to be a patron, the dog would have to wait in my truck, and worse, miss his only chance to catch up on all the Oz trivia that place surely contained. So, after a bit of discussion, and my promise to keep the good boy on his leash the whole time, they charged us one adult and one child admission, and waved us in out of a warm Indian summer day. Worth every penny, too!
posted by paulsc at 9:24 AM on June 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have walked the yellow brick road.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:04 AM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

The afore-mentioned yellow brick road is plainly visible on Google maps.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:11 AM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's certainly hard to tell from the picture.

When Baum was an editor in Aberdeen, in 1879 he "might have read that six Gales, of Irving Kansas, were killed in a nationally famous double tornado."
posted by Twang at 11:23 AM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

MrMoonPie, very keen! Thanks for pointing that out.

Also, the roads and trails are still named for the theme park from the late 1970s.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:35 AM on June 28, 2013

I once worked at one of Kansas' larger newspapers. The publisher was not enthralled by all things Oz. He took a literary oath to refer to it only as "that movie." When Dorothy's House opened in Liberal, the paper sent a reporter out to cover the story. She had the cojones to bring the publisher a yellow brick souvenir. He was gentleman enough to place it on his desk where all could see it.

Also, until last year, I lived not far from from Troy. It's too hilly there to be the correct location for Dorothy's farm. And Wamego is in the Flint Hills. I'd have to go with Liberal, if I cared.
posted by bryon at 6:25 PM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

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