One thing we really don’t see in Baum’s fantasy universe is an ultimate evil along the lines of Sauron or Voldemort. About the closest we get is Zog, and he’s killed off in the same book that introduces him [Sea Fairies]. I know some fans have tried writing such a being into Oz, but they’ve generally reported that it didn’t work out. Maybe that’s actually a good thing, as the Almighty Lord of Evil is sort of a cliché by this point.Plus, the concept of embodied evil doesn’t fit with how the Oz books depict human nature.
Other fantasy universes include people naturally endowed with magical powers. In Oz, there are some magical beings (usually lumped together under the catch-all term “fairies”), but all humans can do magic if they have the right knowledge or the right tools. Baum often says that Dorothy is just an ordinary little girl, but when she gets hold of the Magic Belt—look out! There are no inherently magical people, just people who choose to learn magic.
Similarly, the books imply that all people can be good or bad, depending on their choices. True, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz offers characters named the Good Witch of the North and the Wicked Witch of the East, but it doesn’t say those women were born to those roles. And Baum’s storytelling in that book is in a different mode from how he created his others, as I wrote last year.
More typical is how Baum introduces the villain in The Lost Princess of Oz (1917):
A curious thing about Ugu the Shoemaker was that he didn’t suspect in the least that he was wicked. He wanted to be powerful and great, and he hoped to make himself master of all the Land of Oz that he might compel everyone in that fairy country to obey him. His ambition blinded him to the rights of others, and he imagined anyone else would act just as he did if anyone else happened to be as clever as himself.Ugu isn’t the servant of a dark lord or black force—he’s just selfish.
But perhaps in this cosmology selfishness is evil. That could well be so, but characters in the Oz books don’t defeat selfishness through magic. Rather, villains are deprived of their powers and then pressed to make up their own minds about whether to behave better. Some do, and some don’t. Here’s how The Lost Princess of Oz ends, with Dorothy having transformed Ugu into a dove:
“Are you sorry, then?” asked Dorothy, looking hard at the bird.There are some fine fantasies about saving the world and defeating evil, but the Oz books aren’t in that group. They’re almost all stories about getting home, whether that home is Kansas or the Emerald City or some other safe place of one’s own choosing.
“I am very sorry,” declared Ugu. “I’ve been thinking over my misdeeds for a long time,…and I’m surprised that I was such a wicked man and had so little regard for the rights of others. . . . But with the kind forgiveness of my former enemies, I hope to become a very good dove and highly respected.”