The city is stately and imposing, the equal of which has never been discovered, even in Fairyland. It is surrounded by a high, thick wall of green marble, polished smooth and set with emeralds. There are four gates, one facing each of the countries of the Land of Oz. Each gate has bars of gold and is set between two high towers with gay banners. Other towers are set at distances along the wall, which is broad enough for four people to walk abreast upon.
The graceful and handsome buildings are built of marble, plated with gold and set with splendid emeralds. Hundreds of jeweled spires, domes, and minarets flaunt flags and banners. The sidewalks are marble slabs polished smooth as glass, and the curbs are also set with clustered emeralds. At the center is the glorious Royal Palace of Oz and other buildings include the only prison in all the Land of Oz.
The people dress in the finest garments of silk, satin, and velvet. They are happy and contented, and free from care. Although work is necessary to maintain the city 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 on occasions such as Princess Ozma's birthday. (The Road to Oz)
When first built for the Wizard of Oz the walls were green, but the city itself was not. However, anyone who entered the Emerald City was made to wear green-tinted eyeglasses by the Guardian of the Gates. He explained this as an effort to protect their eyes from the "brightness and glory" of the city, but it really just made everything appear green. This was a "humbug" effect created by the Wizard to fool his subjects. (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)
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.
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.
In the famous 1939 MGM film The Wizard of Oz, the Emerald City is seen from a distance as an assemblage of domes and tall thin towers. 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 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."
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.
Adaptations and allusions
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.
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.")
The video game Emerald City Confidential give the Emerald City a film noir feel and was described as "Baum meets Raymond Chandler."
- ↑ Michael O. Riley, Oz and Beyond: The Fantasy World of L. Frank Baum, Lawrence, KS, University Press of Kansas, 1997; p. 53. ISBN 0-7006-0832-X
- ↑ Riley, pp. 106-7.
- ↑ Riley, pp. 145-6.
- ↑ Jack Zipes, When Dreams Came True: Classical Fairy Tales and Their Tradition, New York, Routledge, 1998; pp. 175-6. ISBN 0-415-92151-1
- ↑ Riley, p. 57.
- ↑ Aljean Harmetz, The Making of the Wizard of Oz, New York, Delta edition, 1989; p. 215. ISBN 0-385-29746-7