The Emerald City aka The City of Emeralds, is the official capital city of the magical Land of Oz. It is located in the exact center of the Land, which can be found at the very end of the Yellow Brick Road.
Standing in the exact enter of Oz, The Emerald City (City of Emeralds in the books) is a fictional city created by L. Frank Baum, author and creator of the Oz legacy. It is a magnificent place and is stately and imposing, the equal of which has never been seen or discovered, even in a magical fantasy or fairy land. It is surrounded by a high, glowing, thick green wall of the finest marble, polished smooth and set with giant sparkling emeralds that glisten and dazzle in the sun. There are four gates on each side of the wall, one facing each of the four vast countries in the Land of Oz. Each gate has bars of solid gold and is set between two high towers with pretty banners. Other towers are set at distances along the wall where] soilders of the Royal Army of Oz can sit and watch for unwanted intruders. At the top of the wall there also is a marble walkway that connects these towers which are broad enough for four people to walk abreast upon.
The graceful and handsome buildings are of stained green glass and built of marble as well, plated with solid gold and set with splendid emeralds and Gems. Hundreds of jeweled spires, domes, bridges and minarets flaunt waving flags and banners. The sidewalks are elegant marble slabs polished smooth as glass, and the curbs are also set with clustered emeralds. Along these streets in the city are candy shops, gorgeous gardens with marble water fountains that spray green purfumed water into the air. The city also has popcorn and lemonade stands, clothing and shoe stores, libraries and toy shops. At the center of the city is the glorious Royal Palace of Oz which is prettiest, biggest and tallest tower in the entire city. There are other buildings of importance such as the only prison in all the Land of Oz, which is hardly ever used.
It is mentioned in the Oz books that when Dorothy Gale and her little black dog Toto moved from their farm in Kansas to live in the land of Oz permanently and into the Emerald City with her aunt and uncle, there were 9,654 buildings and 57,318 residents who reside there.
The people who live in the city dress in only the finest garments of silk, satin, and velvet with silver and gold buttons. They are all extremely happy people and contented, and free from care. There is no crime, violence poverty or death in the city.
Although work is necessary to maintain the city and keep it beautiful and glowing, and provide food, no one works more than half his time, and the people enjoy their labor as much as their play. The Emerald City Cornet Band entertains its people who throw splendid celebrations and rich banquets on important occasions such as the ruler of the Emerald City child Queen of all of Oz, Princess Ozma's birthday. (The Road to Oz)
Baum may have been partly inspired in his creation of the Emerald City by the White City of the World's Columbian Exposition, which he visited frequently, having moved to Chicago in anticipation of the event. W. W. Denslow, the illustrator of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, was also familiar with the White City, as he had been hired to sketch and document the exposition for the Chicago Herald; Denslow's illustrations of the Emerald City incorporate elements that may have been inspired by the White City.
The quick building of the White City, in less than a year, may have been an element in the quick construction of the Emerald City in the first book.
When the Emerald city was first built for the Wizard of Oz by the citizens in Oz, the thick skyscraper wall that surrounded the entire city was completely green and covered in giant emeralds, but the city itself was not. However, the Wizard forced anyone who passed the city gates and entered the Emerald City was made to wear green-tinted eyeglasses by the Guardian of the Gates, which wear locked on by a key. The Wizard later explains this as an effort to protect the peoples eyes from the "brightness and glory" of the city and for ones eyes would not be dazzled and then blinded by the magnificent emeralds, but it really just made everything appear green. So the people who lived in the city believed it really was all Emerald. This was a "humbug" and illusionist effect created by the Wizard to fool all of his subjects so they all would think he really had magical powers. (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz)
After the Emerald City was conquered by General Jinjur and her Army of Revolt, the use of green spectacles was discontinued, although the city itself is still primarily green. (The Marvelous Land of Oz)
Soon after Jinjur's revolt, Ozma, the rightful queen of Oz, came to power, greatly reforming the city. Many of her friends moved into the palace with her, as trusted advisors. ("The Marvelous Land of Oz")
When the Wizard returned to the city, Ozma made him her close advisor and a prominant figure in the city, one of the few individuals in Oz allowed to perform magic. ("Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz")
Over many years of Ozma's wise rule, the Emerald City became modern utopia of a city, with cars called Scalawagons filling its streets and a variety of magical and technological shops bustling with activity. It was sometimes called the Wonder City of Oz. ("The Wonder City of Oz")
In The Wicked Years
In Gregory Maguire's revisionist Oz novels, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West and Son of a Witch, the Emerald City is a much darker place than in Baum's novels. It does have splendid palaces and gardens, but also sections beset by crime and poverty. Son of a Witch introduces Southstairs, an extensive political prison located in the caves below the Emerald City. The hit Broadway Musical also portrayed the city as slightly more darker as well.
In Other Media
The 1939 MGM Movie
The Emerald City in the classic MGM version starring Judy Garland is most likey the most well known look out of all the other Emerald Cities. The city is seen only from a great far off distance upon grassy, flowery hills beside neighboring mountains.
Unlike in Baum's descriptions of the city, this city has no gate, only a giant door. All of the buildings are constructed out of hundreds of skyscraper cylinder domes and thin towers crowded together. Inside of the city the domes have windows and doors and splendid gardens with green watered ponds.
The image was selected by MGM Art Department head Cedric Gibbons, from a tiny photo of a sketch in the studio's library. The work of a pre-1914 German artist, the picture suggested a city of upside-down test tubes — more abstract than the Moorish, Spanish styled version of the City that Denslow provided in the original book. Assistant art director Jack Martin Smith later explained that the MGM personnel chose the look because it did not resemble any known buildings in any style; "It looked like some strange thing we had never seen before."
The Emerald City was the home of the Wizard of Oz, and the citizens were only allowed to see the Wizard infrequently. The Guardian of the Gates hesitated to let Dorothy and her companions into the city when they arrived, and then refused to let them see the Wizard until the Wicked Witch of the West threatened her via skywriting. The city is also home to the Horse of a Different Color and many other wonders. ("The Wizard of Oz")
Return to Oz
This Emerald City stays much more faithful to the books in appearance than the 1939 version. Even though it is in Apocalyptic ruins throughout the majority of the film, the viewer gets a tantalizing veiw of what all of the city looks like on the inside during the Celebration scene towards the end. That scene was shot throughout the silver and gold hallways and mirrored Throne room.
After Dorothy's first visit to the city, the Nome King turned the city's inhabitants into stone or into ornaments for his collection, and removed all the emeralds from the city, believing them to rightfully belong to the Nome Kingdom as they were originally mined from the Earth. ("Return to Oz")
The Emerald City in the 1978's musical The Wiz, staring Diana Ross, is actually used (along with all of the land in Oz) as a metaphor for New York City. And the Twin Towers are used for the Palace of the Wizard played by Richard Prior. The city's residents are a group of aristocratic, stuckup, shallow and sophisticated phonies who are fashion foward and materialistic, only caring about how they look and whats in or out of style.
Emerald City Confidential
The video game Emerald City Confidential give the Emerald City a film noir feel and was described as "Baum meets Raymond Chandler."
The Emerald City, while still beautiful and magnificent to behold, became a cesspool of violence and corruption following the Phanfasm War, with Queen Ozma ruthlessly oppressing magic and criminals like the Cowardly Lion operating unchallenged.
Petra, a private detective, began unraveling the tapestry of people in the Emerald City when a seemingly routine case provided some leads on the whereabouts of her long-lost brother. ("Emerald City Confidential")
- It is revealed that the O.Z. is actually the same Land of Oz visited by Dorothy Gale hundreds of years after her visit. As such, Central City would presumably be a much changed version of the Emerald City -- though the city shows no sign of its original Emerald coloring.
In Stage Productions
Wicked: The Musical
The Emerald City appears Wicked: The Musical, serving a similar role to the one in the book. It is prominantly featured on the Map of Oz shown in the musical.
Although at one point, the character Tip describes the city as being built by the Wizard, at another, the Scarecrow explains that the Wizard had usurped the crown of Pastoria, the former king of the city, and from the Wizard the crown had passed to him. The story, however, reverted to the Wizard having built the city in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, with the usurpation of the king's power being done by the four witches before his arrival.
In the first book, one scene of the Emerald City is of particular note in the development of Oz: Dorothy sees rows of shops, selling green articles of every variety, and a vendor of green lemonade, from whom children bought it with green pennies. This contrasts with the later description of Oz, in which money does not feature. Interpreters have argued that money may been introduced into the city by the Wizard, but this is not in the text itself.
Scholars who interpret The Wizard of Oz as a political allegory see the Emerald City as a metaphor for Washington, D.C. and unsecured "greenback" paper money. In this reading of the book, the city's illusory splendor and value is compared with the value of paper money, which also has value only because of a shared illusion or convention. It is highly likely that the Hotel del Coronado influenced its description in later books, as well as in the artwork by John R. Neill.
Allusions in popular culture
David Williamson (whose brother-in-law wrote the Oz-inspired musical Oz) wrote a play in 1987 called Emerald City. The term is used as a metaphor by the character Elaine Ross, describing Sydney as "the Emerald City of Oz", where people go expecting their dreams to be fulfilled, only to end up with superficial substitutes and broken dreams.
The 2006 Sydney New Year's Eve Festivities were entitled "A Diamond Night in Emerald City" also in reference to Williamson's play and the "Diamond Night" alluding to the 75th anniversary of the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 2007. (The bridge was the centrepiece of the celebrations). Subsequently "Emerald City" has occasionally been used as an unofficial nickname for the city of Sydney.
The city of Seattle, Washington, in the United States uses "The Emerald City" as its official nickname, on account of how green it is in that region of the world. (Note: Washington State is also known as the "Evergreen State.")