Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West is a popular non-canonical prequel to the Oz series. The novel was written by Gregory Maguire and it tells the story of Elphaba, the protagonist who becomes the antagonist known as the Wicked Witch of the West. It has been turned into a very successful Broadway musical called simply Wicked. When Dorothy triumphed over the Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum's classic tale (from his novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and the 1939 MGM film The Wizard of Oz), we heard only her side of the story. This is the story about how Elphaba became the Wicked Witch of the West and Galinda became Glinda the Good Witch of the North.
Wicked is the first of four books in a series of novels titled The Wicked Years by Gregory Maguire.
Elphaba Thropp was born in Rush Margins, a rural area of Munchkinland in the Land of Oz. Unlike any other Ozian, she was mysteriously born with florescent bright green skin. In addition to the green skin, she was born with a full set of teeth, as well as a strange scientifically inexplicable allergy towards water, which causes it to painfully burn her to the bone like acid. Since she cannot bathe like normal people, Elphaba must sponge bathe herself in private with a special type of liquid oil to keep clean instead. Regardless of her bizarre skin condition, Elphaba seems to be a very normal young lady in all other aspects. She is highly intelligent, ambitious, cynical, an independent thinker and a tomboy at heart. Due to her family's noble blood, she is tall, unlike most diminutive Munchkinlanders who are short in stature.
Elphaba was the biological daughter of Melena Thropp, the Thropp 2nd Descending and heiress to the title of Eminent Thropp, and of Oscar Zoroaster Diggs, who would one day be known as the Wizard of Oz. However, years before he took over all of Oz, Diggs seduced and drugged Melena with a green "Miracle Elixir" so Melena did not recall the experience and Elphaba grew up believing her stepfather, the Unionist minister Frexspar, as her biological father. It is hinted that the green potion is what caused Elphaba's skin condition and that her Earthly lineage is what allows her to read the Grimmerie, due to Oz having a different writing system. This eventually allowed Elphaba to practice the book's magic spells that no one else in Oz could understand.
Elphaba would only live in Rush Margins of Munchkinland for the first couple of years of her life. Shortly after her birth, Melena turned into a alcoholic and called on the aid of her childhood Nanny to help care for Elphaba. When Elphaba was a toddler, her parents were acquainted with Turtle Heart, a Quadlingglassblower, who would later become lover to both. When Elphaba was about three, her family was apparently ran out of Rush Margins and forced to flee to her mother's childhood home of Colwen Grounds, where the glass blower named Turtle Heart, who was the lover of both Elphaba's parents was sacrificed to Clock of The Time Dragon to relieve a drought on the same day that Melena gave birth to her beautiful, handicapped daughter Nessarose. As both her daughters are disfigured, Melena believes this is punishment from the "Unnamed God" for her infidelity.
Growing up, Elphaba is a social outcast, not by choice though. Her mother, embarrassed by her green skin, never let her come in contact with other children. Eventually, Nanny convinces Melena to allow her daughter to play with others, hoping this would allow Elphaba to form some sort of armor to protect her and make her stronger later in life. The local children are cruel and bully the green girl mercilessly. Along with social pressures and hardships, Elphaba is growing up in a time period taking a turn for the worse economically and socially for the land. With the Wizard as ruler, everything is drastically changing as Oz is becoming segregated and racist, especially between the people and talking Animals who once lived comfortably hand in hand in Oz. Now Animals are being treated poorly due to the Wizard's government system which has created a structure for Oz that parallels the events of the Nazi Germany's Holocaust and the turmoil of the Great Depression. This explains why there are no talking Animals ever seen in the Emerald City. In L. Frank Baum's original story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, there wasn't any animals seen in Emerald City either. In Wicked this is supposedly because Animals are strictly not allowed. (Animals should be seen and not heard)
The guilt over Turtle Heart's death lead Frex and Melena to become missionaries in the southern quadrant of Oz known as the Quadling Country. When Elphaba is eight, her mother dies giving birth to her little brother Shell, who would one day become Emperor of Oz. Since Melena died, Nanny took on the role of mother to the Thropp children. Elphaba later says that she used to sing to the converts her father visited. At the age of 17, she was accepted to Crage Hall, the all-female college at Shiz University.
After being accepted to Crage Hall, Elphaba is paired off to room with Galinda Upland, a beautiful, spoiled and highly privileged girl of noble blood and Gillikinese descent. Galinda is popular and well known due to her wealth and being blessed with fair skin, attractive features, and curly golden hair. At first Galinda is repulsed and uncomfortable around Elphaba, due both to her green skin and lack of social standing. Elphaba slowly grows to like Galinda and concludes that she isn't such an unpleasant roommate after all, one who is more crafty and gifted than she is credited for. Elphaba also meets Boq, a former playmate from Rush Margins who soon becomes a close friend. During the first summer, Elphaba works as an assistant to Doctor Dillamond, a Goat professor who is trying to find the difference between Animals and humans. She was assisted by Boq, and Boq's friends, Crope and Tibbett, who help her get information from the Briscoe Hall library.
At the end of the long summer, Elphaba travels to visit Galinda at her summer home, only to discover it to be a prank by one of Galinda's friends. At the start of the second year, Elphaba's life turns dramatically when Dillamond is murdered and Glinda's chaperone, Ama Clutch, is incapacitated, forcing Elphaba to call Nanny to replace her, and Nessarose to begin school at Shiz early. The accident also brings Elphaba closer to Galinda (or Glinda as she is now known) and allows Elphaba to form a circle of friends. Elphaba continues to believe Dillamond was murdered, despite official claims he died accidentally, and this is confirmed by Ama Clutch on her deathbed. After Clutch is buried, Madame Morrible, the headmistress of Crage Hall, calls Elphaba, Glinda and Nessarose to her office and offers them to the chance of becoming Adepts of Magic, who would serve the Wizard, though she casts a spell on them so that they will not remember the offer until she speaks to them again. After this, Elphaba takes Glinda and goes to Oz's imperial capital called the Emerald City to show Dillamond's work to the Wizard. After a disappointing meeting, she parts ways with Glinda, telling her she will not return to Crage Hall, and later becomes a member of the resistance against the Wizard and his prejudice laws.
City of Emeralds
Five years later, Elphaba is a fully grown woman living in the Emerald City. The city is indeed an elaborate establishment, prosperous and beautiful, filled with elegant palaces made of green marble and solid gold, all decorated with real glittering emeralds and surrounded by lavish gardens with attractive fountains and ponds. Despite all the beauty and luxurious sights, the city did have what is described as a small ghetto or a slum that had issues with crime, amongst other things. Elphaba lived in an abandoned building in a rather isolated section of the city, probably within said ghetto district. In this district, many of the residents are prostitutes, pimps, homeless people, thieves and drug dealers/addicts, etc.
Elphaba eventually becomes a resistance member of a secret underground organization. She joins a terrorist movement with the goal of making real social change in the political scene of Oz, and she begins to view violence as a just means to enacting such change. However, her involvement in such acts is not explicitly detailed and it is unknown how many acts of terror she partook in or how many innocents possibly perished due to acts of terror committed by either her or her associates within the resistance movement. Due to the Wizard's hatred and obsession with her and all the negative propaganda surrounding her name later in her life, it is likely that she was involved in quite a bit of carnage, but it is not entirely clear.
Within this part of the book, the theme of terrorism is addressed throughout the text and especially in a discussion between Elphaba and her lover, Fiyero, who is seemingly against Elphaba's movement's use of vioence and/or murder. This makes the reader ponder whether or not violence is ever acceptable to enact change in society, even in situations where a group is being marginalized and oppressed, such as what was happening to the Animals of Oz.
When Elphaba unexpectedly runs into Fiyero Tigelaar, an old friend from college, at first she tries to avoid him. He catches up to her and they begin to meet in secret, which eventually becomes a passionate affair in which they both fall deeply in love. The secret relationship lasts for several months. On Lurlinemas Eve, she is assigned to assassinate Madame Morrible at a social event, but fails. At the same time, her apartment is raided and Fiyero is brutally killed out of spite to hurt Elphaba. This indicates that the Wizard and his people were secretly on to Elphaba, and likely also had plans to remove Fiyero from his throne in The Vinkus to open the provinceup to further colonization and exploitation by the Wizard's government.
In the Vinkus
Severely traumatized by the murder of her secret lover, Elphaba flees and permanently abandons her apartment. She has a severe mental breakdown and as a result she stops speaking entirely. A incoherent, unstable Elphaba eventually makes her way to a local mauntery (monastic convent) for help. She falls into a deep coma like sleep which lasts for a year. During this time, she gives birth to her son, Liir, who she is not even sure is hers or not due to being unconscious during the labor. She almost never treats him as a son, despite him following her to the Vinkus. However, Elphaba does on very rare occasions display motherly feelings for him, but is typically far more cruel and cold hearted towards him than she ever is kind. After recovering, she works as a maunt under the name of Sister Saint "Aelphaba" and takes a vow of silence. She spends most of her time cleaning floors by hand and working with dying patients. One day she meets the dying Tibbett, an old friend whom she befriended at Shiz, who encourages her to speak again and live her life. Tibbett's death also propels her to leave the convent after years of being verbally and emotionally shut down.
Elphaba sets off for Kiamo Ko to seek forgiveness for the death of Fiyero from his wife, Sarima, who welcomes her and allows her to stay at Kiamo Ko along with Liir, who the maunts had sent along with Elphaba. She also introduces Elphaba to her sisters and her children: the naive, yet likable Nor, the childish eldest Irji, and the monstrous and cold hearted Manek, who notoriously torments his siblings, including Liir.
On the journey to Kiamo Ko, Elphaba encounters a number of animals, including an orphaned snow monkey who she calls Chistery and a wolf-dog called Killyjoy. She first encounters Chistery stranded on a small patch of land in the middle of a pond. Elphaba, being allergic to water, puts her fear aside and darts towards the water with the intention to save Chistery. It is then that her magic powers come out and the entire lake suddenly turns to ice, per her will, allowing her to cross and save Chistery, who she adopts. The wolf-dog Killyjoy came into Elphaba's life on the trip to Kiama Ko when she met a chef who owned him and it was strongly implied that he abused the creature. Elphaba, enraged, is implied to have murdered the chef by using her powers to "speak" to a swarm of bees, instructing them to fly to his campsite in the dead of night and sting him to death, which they do. The next morning, his corpse is discovered, covered in bee stings to the point he is barely recognizable, and Elphaba smiles at his death, making a sarcastic remark that implies that she is the cause of it, and she adopts Killyjoy, as well as the bees, whom decide to come along with her. These animals, among others, would become Elphaba's dearest companions and her familiars later in life.
Though Elphaba had only intended to stay at Kiamo Ko until she received Sarima's forgiveness, Sarima refuses to listen to her story and she resigns herself to living in the castle indefinitely. As Elphaba refuses to give her name, Sarima calls her 'Auntie,' although her children end up calling her "Auntie Witch" behind her back a name she eventually gives in to, even though she resents it.
While living at Kiamo Ko, Elphaba discovers the Grimmerie (a book containing vast magical knowledge) in the attic of the castle. Elphaba begins the study the book and practice magic. She begins to realize she has latent magical ability, having frozen a lake to save Chistery and made an icicle fall with her mind that kills one of Sarima's children - Manek, whom she viewed as worthy of death after he pulled a prank on Liir that nearly cost him his life. Elphaba did not seem to feel remorse for Manek's death.
One day, troops led by Commander Cherrystone came to Kiamo Ko, claiming they are on an exploration mission and need shelter, though Elphaba suspects they have more sinister motives. One day, she sees Fiyero's daughter, Nor, surprisingly riding on the broom she was given by the maunts and begins to learn to ride it herself. With the broom, she returns to Munchkinland to pay a visit to her family at Colwen Grounds, where Frexspar proposes that she and Nessarose work together to rule Munchkinland, now that it had seceded from Oz. Elphaba is shocked to discover that Nessarose is now a witch herself and has become somewhat of a religious dictator, devoting herself entirely to the Unnamed God and insisting that her spells are "miracles" in His name. It is here Elphaba witnesses the arrangement between a woman whose servant was a young lady who was going to marry a woodsman. The woman pleads to Nessarose to prevent their marriage, and Nessa enchants the woodsman's axe, which the woman had stolen, to magically attack him and strike off his limbs the next time he uses it. Elphaba, apparently remorseful for own involvement in terrorism and violence n her younger days, seems a bit perplexed by this confrontation, but turns the other cheek, ignoring it.
Elphaba, declining political power, ends up rejecting her sister's proposal to help her rule the East and thus, returns to Kiamo Ko, only to discover that everyone, but Nanny (who had come to live there after Nessarose's ascension) and Liir, had been captured and taken away. It is not long after this that Elphaba ironically finds herself in a position of great political power, with the tribes of the Vinkus "rallying around her" after the capture of their royal family and the furthering encroachment upon their territory by the Wizard's government, as she admits later in life. Although it is not explicitly detailed how, Elphaba becomes the leader of the Arjikis in place of their ruling family. With Kiamo Ko as her fortress, she enacts her hostility towards the Wizard's government, allowing it to have a very limited presence in the West. This ties in with the original Oz canon in which Elphaba ends up ruling the West and obtaining ownership of Kiamo Ko Castle.
Devastated and desperate, Elphaba makes it her mission to find and rescue Sarima and her family and spends almost the next decade desperately trying to find them, but is unsuccessful due to her tragic and inevitable ending.
The Murder and its Afterlife
One day Elphaba received the news that her sister Nessarose, who had by now been given the nickname, the "Wicked Witch of the East", had been tragically killed. The sudden cause of death was a fallen farmhouse that came from another dimension and unexpectedly fell out of the sky and crash-landed in the heart of Munchkinland. As fate would have it, the house crushed Nessarose who was handing out religious attendance awards to the Munchkins.
When Elphaba finally arrived in Munchkinland to attend Nessarose's funeral, she sees her father and Glinda again. Glinda now goes by "Lady Glinda" and is known as the respected "Good Witch of the North", having mastered the art of magic and being renowned for her "legendary skills in sorcery," which she implies are not as great as the public believes and whether or not she is simply being humble is debatable. The two friends initially are elated to see one another and bond after not seeing one another for almost two decades. Elphaba mentions her grave fear that their entire lives had been the product of a spell cast by Madame Morrible, whom once in their college days told the two of them and Nessarose that she had a grand vision of the three of them rising to positions of political power and each governing a province of Oz as a high witch (Morrible envisioned it as Glinda ruling the North, Nessarose ruling the South, and Elphaba ruling the East). However, Elphaba makes note that if they were truly living their lives under a spell, it did not go as Morrible planned due to the reality of Nessarose ruling the East and Elphaba ruling the West, coupled with the fact that both of the Thropp sisters were strongly opposed to the Wizard's government and empire.
Glinda calmly tells Elphaba about the house's passenger who was aloft when it descended from the atmosphere. An adolescent farm girl by the name of Dorothy Gale from "Canziss" who was accompanied by a mangy pooch called Toto. Glinda explains that she sent Dorothy to see the Wizard to keep the girl from getting pulled into all the political chaos accruing in Munchkinland. Glinda also confesses that she gave the lost girl Nessarose's slippers and cast a spell upon them as protection to keep the girl from being seriously harmed on her journey. This outrages Elphaba, who believes it was not Glinda's place to give away her sisters beloved slippers. Elphaba immediately becomes determined to get the shoes back as it is the only thing that she will have left of her dead sister.
Glinda's thoughtless actions cause her and Elphaba to have a falling out and as a result they never speak again. During this time Elphaba meets with the Wizard, who reveals he has Nor. To Elphaba's horror she sees that Nor has been held captive all these years, but stripped of her independence and has been beaten into submission and kept as a slave by the Wizard who then asks Elphaba for the Grimmerie to be given to him. Elphaba refuses unless he gives up Nor, but he claims she is his protection against her. The Wizard threatens the possibility of his army invading the West, but Elphaba viciously retaliates by insisting that if any of the Wizard's soldiers dare to step foot in her province, the Arjiki militia will bombard them with arrows and leave all of them dead and unrecognizable, per her orders.
Elphaba sets out on her flying broomstick to find Dorothy who is oblivious that the Witch is after her. Dorothy is now following the yellow brick road and having her own set of adventures while she is on her way to see the Wizard. Elphaba then runs into Boq once more and they discuss the matter of Dorothy who spent the night at Boq's estate when passing through Munchkinland. When Boq tells Elphaba how charming Dorothy was Elphaba becomes offended and immediately sets off on her broom without saying goodbye.
Eventually Elphaba spots Dorothy who is by this point accompanied by three oddball companions that to Elphaba, looks like a straw man, a shiny woodman and a giant cat of sorts. She carefully eavesdrops on the group gossiping about her and suddenly she sees her sisters shoes sparkling on Dorothy's feet. Just as Elphaba attempts to retrieve them it begins to rain, thus letting Dorothy get away while Elphaba takes cover under a tree to avoid contact with water. Afterwards Elphaba decides to go to Shiz with the intention of killing Madame Morrible. To Elphaba's dismay Morrible has already died of old age seconds prior, so Elphaba could only bash the dead woman's head in with a marble trophy. Nevertheless, she claims to be Morrible's killer while paying a visit to a dinner party held by Avaric, though she is not taken seriously as a murderer until much later. On the way back to Kiamo Ko while drunk, she meets the crew of the Clock, who put on a show revealing Elphaba's true parentage, which reveals to be none other than Elphaba's worst enemy, the Wizard. Elphaba refuses to believe it to be true.
Back at Kiamo Ko, she finds the Miracle Elixir in Nanny's possessions and begins to drink it. However, she begins to have strange dreams that become haunting and nightmarish. So Elphaba makes up a potion to avoid falling asleep. However, the lack of sleep and paranoia over the Wizard having Nor and Dorothy having Nessarose's shoes start to take a toll on her mental health. When she finally learns Dorothy is on her way to Kiamo Ko, being sent by the Wizard himself, Elphaba notices the girl is still accompanied by the three oddball comrades from earlier.
Since the people in Oz are a superstitious bunch, no one in Oz dares to harm Dorothy due to the meaning of her name which means "Goddess of Gifts" and her coincidentally having the same last name as the Wizard's soldiers known as the "Gale Force". Added with the fact she also wears Nessrose's sparkling shoes, this makes Dorothy nearly untouchable. However, Elphaba believes the Scarecrow that accompanies the girl may indeed be Fiyero in a costume, coming back to her in a disguise. It also could be Fiyero's spirit inside, possessing the stuffed figure and giving it life. To find out if Fiyero is indeed still alive, rather in body or by spirit by any miracle, Elphaba then immediately sends out her animals to try to lead Dorothy to the Kiamo Ko castle. However, Elphabla's attempt backfires and all her pets are killed except the flying monkeys who bring Dorothy to the castle along with The Lion. The Scarecrow and Tin Woodman are left behind to wander on their own.
After a uncomfortable and disastrous meal, Elphaba pulls Dorothy into one of the castle's high towers in an attempt to straighten things out. While also assuming Dorothy had to be tied into the tapestry of conspiracies in Oz, Dorothy confesses that the Wizard sent her to kill Elphaba in exchange to be sent back to her home but Dorothy, being a mere child, cannot bring herself to do such a terrible task. Elphaba commands Dorothy to hand over the slippers, but the shoes are enchanted under the protection of Glinda and will not come off. Dorothy explains that the Wizard himself even tried to pry the shoes off and despite her efforts, the slippers simply will not come off her feet. Dorothy sincerely ask Elphaba for forgiveness in killing her sister, which psychologically and emotionally cripples Elphaba due to the fact she was never given the same chance with Sarima.
Elphaba's last moments before being liquefied by Dorothy Gale.
Throughout the argument, Elphaba realizes that Dorothy reminds her of herself, as both Elphaba and Dorothy are misunderstood outsiders. At this time Liir and the Lion barge into the room and come to Dorothy's aid. But Elphaba takes Dorothy to the highest room in the tower and locks the door.
In a state of insanity and psychological defeat, Elphaba accidentally sets her own robes on fire by not paying attention to her surroundings. It is when Elphaba waved her burning broom in the air and the hot sparks caught on her black dress and cape, setting her ablaze.
A frightened Dorothy quickly grabs a bucket near by that is filled with collecting rain water and without a second thought, throws the water at a panicking Elphaba to put out the flames and save the Witch.
Instead of saving the Witch, the water kills Elphaba and to Dorothy's horror she melts away before her very eyes.
Immediately after her death, the book gives a very strange description, speaking of a moment of startling pain, followed by "floods up above" and "fire down below," and the names of many people of prominence throughout the Witch's life are mentioned in peculiar detail, which could possibly be the Witch seeing the souls of said individuals, including her mother, Nessarose, Turtle Heart, Killyjoy and the Witch's other pets, Sarima, Dr. Dillamond, and "most of all" Fiyero, but individuals that are still living are also mentioned, such as Glinda, Boq, and Frex. So, whether or not the mentioned dead are actually the souls of the Witch's loved ones awaiting her ascension to the afterlife, or if they are merely hallucinations used as a literary device to better detail her tragic yet liberating death (like a life flashing before one's eyes) is unknown. The scene ends with a vague description of the Goddess of Gifts, reaching into the fire and water and pulling out the soul, cradling her. The rest remains unclear.
The novel ends by stating that there is no happy ending for a Witch, as no one mourns the Wicked. Mass celebrations all across loyal Oz occur, celebrating the death of the Wicked Witch of the West, with Dorothy being hailed a messiah of some sort, and the Wizard's abrupt resignation and departure and his secret suicide make many in the public wonder of conspiracy. Despite this, Oz erupts in turmoil, with Munchkinland still wanting to remain independent, and war likely to erupt between the tribes of the Vinkus and the Ozian army. Around the time of Witch's death, war broke out and many of the Arjikis in Elphaba's army died. Meanwhile, Dorothy supposedly left Oz by using the power of the slippers, as it is rumored by the Ozians that when Dorothy was sent home, she was seen descending up into the sky in the direction of her own homeland, waving her apron giddily and carrying that "damn fool dog". However, many conspiracy theorists believe that Dorothy never left Oz at all. Glinda the Good also became the temporary throne minster of the empire.
|Gregory Maguire's The Wicked Years series|