Wednesday, September 29, 2010

John R. Neill's Oz: The House as Sentient Enclosed Space

I am still in an Ozzy mood, all started by this insightful and interesting book: The Origin of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Michele Rubatino (available on Each of the Royal Historians whom I have read so far has presented a unique view of Oz that reflects their own individual ideas and tastes. While I agree with Baum's social philosophy and would love to visit Thompson's tiny kingdoms, it is Neill's Emerald City that I want for my future home. Today I will briefly examine the housing situation there.

A new arrival in the Emerald City must find a house to make their home. This is easier said than done, because the houses have some choice in the matter. You must look for a house that wants you (Wonder City p. 69-70). And houses have strong opinions on the matter of who may nest inside them. By law (Scalawagons p. 294), they are not allowed to leave their places, though it seems that they would if they could, and indeed sometimes desire to do so. There is also a law forbidding houses to shout (WC p. 100). Most appear to be dome shaped, with a face-like front and two chimney apendages.
Once accepted, you are in for a treat. Your house will clean and decorate itself, prepare food, and set the table. The affectionate nature of the relationship is further illustrated in that houses shutter themselves when we depart and await our return with anticipation. If we stay out late (not a City custom), our bedroom will wait up for us, and presumably not be content untill we are safely settled in for the night. (WC p. 182-83, 190-91, 193, 258-59) The houses can defend themselves from 'Nome invasions, but not very well ^_^; (WC p. 193, 195-96, 202).
And personality! Wow! Houses sleep quietly, feel disgust, slam windown in anger, sneeze, listen to gossip, feel delight, and in rare circumstances (we hope!), houses can fight. (WC p. 99-107, 128, 202) Yes, fight! Wonder City chapter 10, 'The Battle of the Houses,' is a surreal twist on urban conflict, complete with flying furniture. People are accustomed enough to house fights that they know enough to hide for the duration, only emerging when the conflict has ended and the dwellings rebuild themselves and set things to right.
Curved sentient space, providing us with warm and protected interior space where we can find rest and nourishment. A sentience that has chosen us above all others as worthy to dwell within. In Neill's Wonder City, Jenny Jump finds a house which she can call her own, a firm foundation from where she can set up her Style Shop and contribute to the community of Oz. I hope there is a house in the Emerald City waiting for me.


  1. The houses in Oz are derived from: In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. John 14:2
    Fascinating story by a brilliant author of wonder tales. Fascinating transposing, causing fascinating imagination power in the interest of fostering a better civilization. Marvellous

  2. When I was self-identifying as a christian, that was one of my favorite verses. In the Emerald City, Jenny Jump's house becomes a home. To have a home is, in my opinion, a fundamental aspect of embodied humanity. Neill, with his sentient enclosed spaces makes the symbolic connection between the place where we live and our first home inside our mother's womb.