Time in Oz is a simple subject that grows very complex in the Land of Oz.
From the start
In his Oz books, L. Frank Baum took a basic and naturalistic approach to time's duration in Oz. Time is vague, and specific indications of duration are rare; Baum did not try to complicate the issue with rigor or exactitude. The Royal Historians who followed him generally followed the same approach.
In some of her books, Ruth Plumly Thompson matches fictional time with real time. Prince Randy states that he was ten years old in The Purple Prince of Oz and sixteen in The Silver Princess in Oz; the two books were in fact published six years apart. Sir Hokus of Pokes says that his adventures in The Royal Book of Oz and The Yellow Knight of Oz took place "about ten years" apart; those two books were separated by nine years of real time.
Thompson's timing is not always dead on: In Captain Salt in Oz, nearly four years have passed since the characters' first adventure together, in Pirates in Oz — though those books were published five years apart, not four. Peter Brown is nine years old in his first visit to Oz, in The Gnome King of Oz; he is eleven in Pirates in Oz, which was published five years later.
Still, Thompson's ventures at chronological consistency, incomplete as they are, have encouraged the fans and readers who have taken Oz chronology seriously. (See below.)
Modern readers and writers cannot leave Baum's simplicity alone. Temporal complexity impinges on Oz along two broad avenues. Contemporary Oz authors recurringly apply the theme and concept of time travel to Oz; and the development of a complex and detailed Oz chronology continues apace.
A partial list of modern Oz books that feature time travel can include:
- The Colorful Kitten of Oz, by Chris Dulabone
- The Magic Tapestry of Oz, by Chris Dulabone and Marcus Mebes
- The Land Before Oz, by Chris Dulabone and Marin Elizabeth Xiques
- Paradox in Oz, by Edward Einhorn
- Time in Oz, by Jeremy Steadman
- Time Travelers of Oz, by Paul Dana
- Time Travelling in Oz, by Atticus Gannaway
- Sinister gases in Oz, also by Gannaway
- A Wonderful Journey in Oz, also by Gannaway
Oz chronologies date the events in Oz fiction as though they were real-time occurrences. Joe Bongiorno's Royal Timeline of Oz is extensive and detailed:
The same diligent cataloguer has produced supplementary material as well:
- "Parallel Histories of Oz" (Oz stories that contradict canon)
- Oz Beyond the Sovereign Sixty (Spin-offs, adaptations such as the 1939 film)
- The Dark Side of Oz (Oz stories with dark, violent or sexual themes)
Other researchers have developed timelines of their own, as in:
The timelines assume close correspondence between real-world events and Oz Time, so that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which was published in 1900, records events that took place in 1898 or 1899. Some modern Oz authors accept this presumption and include it in their fiction — so that Eric Shanower sets his The Giant Garden of Oz (1993) "eighty-some years" after Uncle Henry and Aunt Em first came to Oz, an event recorded in The Emerald City of Oz (1910). Similarly, David Hulan's The Glass Cat of Oz dates its story to the seventy-fifth anniversary of Betsy Bobbin's arrival in Oz, which is recorded in Tik-Tok of Oz (1914); and Scott Dickerson sets The Magic Book of Oz and Ruggedo in Oz a full century after Dorothy Gale first reached Oz.
Even works that are set prior to Dorothy's first Oz adventure can adhere to strict chronology. See Jane Mailander's "Buffalo Dreams" for an example.
Daily chronologies for each of the "Famous Forty" Oz books have also been developed. See:
Wilhelmina does seem to observe the passage of time in Oz, as she mentions to Frank and Lyman in Emerald Thumb that it was "six months since your last bath". Wil also mentions "we worked for MONTHS on that plan!" to her aunt in Too Predictable