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The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
|Cover artist||Douglas Smith|
|Series||The Wicked Years|
|Media type||Print (hardback)|
|LC Class||PS3563.A3535 W5 1995|
|Followed by||Son of a Witch|
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West is a novel published in 1995, written by Gregory Maguire and illustrated by Douglas Smith. It is a revisionist exploration of the characters and land of Oz from the 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, its sequels, and the 1939 film adaption The Wizard of Oz. However, unlike Baum's writings and the 1939 film, this book was not written for children, as it contains adult language and content, including violent imagery and sexual situations. The novel presents events, characters and situations from Baum's books and the film in new ways, making numerous alterations.
The novel is a political, social, and ethical commentary on the nature of good and evil and takes place in the Land of Oz, in the years leading to Dorothy's arrival. The story centers on Elphaba, the misunderstood green-skinned girl who grows up to become the notorious Wicked Witch of the West. Maguire fashioned the name of Elphaba from the initials of Lyman Frank Baum, L-F-B. The story is divided into five different sections, based on the plot location. A prologue presents Elphaba spying on Dorothy and her friends, and hearing their gossip about her. It also shows how Elphaba wants the shoes that Dorothy is wearing.
Elphaba is born to Melena Thropp, who is the grand-daughter of the Eminent Thropp of Munchkinland, and is the wife of Frexspar, an itinerant unionist minister. Frex is the seventh son of a seventh son, all ministers. Because Melena is bored and outcast, she takes comfort in strangers and is known for the favors she gives. Melena is at some point approached by a mysterious stranger, who gives her a potion called "Miracle Elixir" from a green bottle. The elixir turns out to be some sort of drug; the stranger rapes Melena. Nine months later, Elphaba is born, a green-skinned girl.
Elphaba also has sharp teeth and seems savage, biting at anyone and anything; her parents put a muzzle on her. She is terrified of water, which causes her pain. Frex believes the baby is punishment from the Unnamed God for failing to protect his parishioners, and Melena has trouble caring for the child, asking her own nanny for help. After Nanny arrives, Frex decides to travel as a missionary for the Unnamed God. To dull her difficulties and loneliness, Melena chews pinlobble leaves (a type of Munchkinlander drug) and drinks heavily.
About a year and a half later, a traveling Quadling glassblower named Turtle Heart visits the home of Melena and Frex. Melena offers him food and drink, and Turtle Heart blows a beautiful glass reflecting mirror for Elphaba. With Frex absent, Turtle Heart and Melena begin a passionate affair. When Frex returns, he befriends Turtle Heart (seemingly ignorant of the relationship between the Quadling and his wife), out of unionist charity and religious zeal, and has his own attraction to Turtle Heart.
At the end of the first part, Melena is a few weeks pregnant with Elphaba's younger sister Nessarose. It is unknown whether the father is Frex or Turtle Heart. Melena orders Nanny to ensure her second child will not be born green like her firstborn, but the actions she takes to avoid this have unforeseen consequences. Nessarose is born as pink as Elphaba is green. She has no arms and requires constant supervision and care. Nessarose eventually embraces Frex's zealotry, becoming his favorite, to Elphaba's lasting angst.
Sixteen years later. On a steam train en route to Shiz, a city in southwestern Gillikin, two of the train's passengers, Doctor Dillamond and Galinda, are bound for Shiz University. Upon arrival, Doctor Dillamond retreats to his professor's quarters and Galinda goes to Crage Hall, the women's college.
Having lost her chaperone, Ama Clutch, during the train ride to Shiz, Galinda has no one to represent her in roommate negotiations. Refusing to bunk with the common girls in the group dormitory (the Pink Dormitory), Galinda rooms with seventeen-year-old Elphaba, with whom she initially does not get along very well. Elphaba is not interested in socializing, and Galinda, who descends from the noble Arduenna Clan of Gillikin, is more interested in climbing the social ladder than becoming friends with her green roommate. Later, Galinda decides to mock Elphaba by making her wear an unflattering hat. When Elphaba looks pretty anyway, Galinda says so, partly horrified that she talked to the "green girl." They start talking about evil, and Elphaba teaches Galinda how to think. They start attending Doctor Dillamond's biology lectures together.
Doctor Dillamond is a self-aware Goat, and part of a minority of talking Animals (designated by capital letter) that hold civil rights equal to humans. Doctor Dillamond informs the class that, under the despotic reign of the Wizard of Oz, Animals are being discriminated against, treated like regular animals and, in some cases, forced to return to the fields. Doctor Dillamond's fear that Animal discrimination is becoming widespread appears affirmed when Madame Morrible, the Headmistress of Crage Hall at Shiz University, holds a poetry soiree that becomes a forum for her to spread propaganda against them.
Elphaba is drawn to the Animal rights movement early on; she later becomes Doctor Dillamond's secretary and lab assistant. As she revolts against her father's faith, she develops a deep passion for Dillamond's growing movement against the new government regime. Dillamond becomes something of a mentor for her. He represents everything her father despises, and she forms a bond with him that is closer than to anyone she has previously met.
Elphaba becomes friends with Boq, the son of the Munchkin mayor from her hometown, who has a crush on Galinda. Galinda is a tall Gillikinese and he is a short Munchkinlander, so she rebuffed him. He hopes his friendship with Elphaba will bring him closer to Galinda. But he becomes involved in Elphaba and Doctor Dillamond's cause. Their friendship is shaken when Doctor Dillamond is murdered while on the verge of a great discovery about the genetic similarities between humans and Animals. Galinda's chaperone Ama Clutch sees the servant Grommetik kill Dillamond, but she is magicked into a false stupor to keep her quiet. Galinda is wracked with guilt over Ama Clutch's condition. Galinda adopts Dillamond's mispronunciation of her name, Glinda, to memorialize him and throws herself into her studies. Through Madame Morrible's manipulation, Glinda decides to study Sorcery. Boq's crush on Glinda eventually subsides, and she, Boq, Elphaba become close friends. They also befriend a Vinkus Prince named Fiyero, a quiet boy who is new to Shiz and draws attention by his strange customs and blue diamond tattoos all across his body. Elphaba's sister Nessarose is also called to Shiz, ostensibly to accompany Nanny, who will serve as the new chaperone for Glinda and Elphaba. Frex sends his favorite child the "back-to-school" gift of a pair of shoes covered with hand-blown glass beads. Meanwhile, Elphaba secretly carries on Dillamond's research.
Clutch's condition gradually deteriorates and, when it is clear that she is about to die, Glinda tries to use magic to save her. Clutch tells Glinda that she saw Grommetik kill Dillamond, which he could have done only on the order of Madame Morrible, the puppet of the Wizard of Oz. After Clutch's funeral, Madame Morrible invites Elphaba, Glinda and Nessarose to become "ambassadors of peace:" Elphaba will go east, to Munchkinland; Glinda will go further north in Gillikin; Nessarose will go south, to Quadling Country. No one is sent west, to Winkie Country, because few people live there. While Elphaba is reluctant, Glinda believes this is a chance at an aristocratic life. When they try to discuss the situation with one another, they find they cannot: they are bound by a spell that prevents them from discussing Morrible's proposition. Unwilling to remain silent, Elphaba decides that something must be done.
She and Glinda travel to the Emerald City, where they meet the Wizard of Oz and plead the case of the Animals. However, the Wizard of Oz dismisses their concerns out of hand and Glinda and Elphaba have no legal choice but to return to Shiz. Elphaba stays behind and sends Glinda back alone saying that she cannot see her again. She has decided to take matters into her own hands.
Almost five years have passed since Elphaba has seen Glinda, Boq, or any of her other friends from college and she now lives in the Emerald City, secretly involved in the movement to help free the Animals and get rid of the Wizard of Oz. Fiyero, now a Prince with three children, comes to the Emerald City to settle business with politicians. He encounters Elphaba in front of a shrine to St. Glinda, and though Elphaba at first denies being the girl he once knew from Shiz and evades Fiyero, she eventually gives in when he follows her home.
After this, they start to reconnect. He discovers she has started to take up magic, and tells her that Nessa has taken a class in sorcery, Glinda is now a sorceress and that they miss Elphaba. She and Fiyero begin to have an illicit love affair, and he neglects his wife Sarima and his children, Irji, Manek and Nor for his fear of losing her. The two lovers are at peace, and despite their occasionally conflicting personalities, Elphaba is actually happy with her life for once.
Her life changes the night she sets out to finally fulfill her task: kill Madame Morrible. Fiyero follows her, but she cannot complete her task due to a group of children interfering with Elphaba's line of fire. He returns to her apartment to wait for her, where the Gale Force, the Wizard's secret police force who are looking for Elphaba, attack him. He is kidnapped, hauled away and assumed murdered. Elphaba escapes from the City, and takes refuge in a mauntery (something like a convent), where she meets an elderly woman named Yackle, formerly the dame of the Philosophy Club and the crone who produced the unsuccessful curing potion for Elphaba's skin condition which resulted in Nessarose's physical ailment. Yackle takes the now homeless Elphaba, turned mute from grief after Fiyero's murder, under her wing.
Having been unconscious for almost a year and mute for six more, Elphaba goes to the Vinkus, where Fiyero was prince, and meets his wife and children. Elphaba brings along a boy named Liir, to whom she claims no relation, and stays at the castle Kiamo Ko for a year and a half or so. She attempts to tell Sarima, Fiyero's wife, of their affair but Sarima refuses to talk about her late husband. Elphaba and Liir unexpectedly become a part of Fiyero's family and are joined by Nanny after some time. While staying at the castle Elphaba also discovers a mysterious book of spells that she calls a 'Grimmerie.' Elphaba is the only Ozian able to read its language and she begins to study it. The Grimmerie is suggested to have been written in English, revealing that one of her ancestors was a human from Earth.
Manek, one of Sarima's sons, convinces Liir to hide in a well during a game of hide and seek and leaves him there. Liir nearly dies, and Elphaba's anger at Manek makes an icicle fall on him which penetrates Manek's skull thereby killing him. The experience makes Elphaba realize that she has motherly feelings for Liir, but her newfound warmth is not reciprocated. Liir claims that while in the well, a Fish (hinted to be Madame Morrible once again) told him he was Fiyero's son, confirming suspicions that Liir is the son of Elphaba and Fiyero.
Sarima becomes upset and grieves, and the family starts to fall apart. Elphaba gets a letter from her father Frex, asking her to come help him with Nessarose, who has taken Elphaba's position of Eminent Thropp of Munchkinland. When she arrives, he asks her to help him talk to Nessa, whom Elphaba discovers has become a witch, who she accidentally labels the Wicked Witch of the East. During a discussion with Frex, Elphaba learns that there is a very high chance neither she nor Nessarose are the daughters of Frex, leaving Elphaba more hurt than confused after Frex claims that he loves Nessarose more simply because she was the living proof there was a single good thing in the world and that even if she was Turtle Heart's daughter, he loved her even more because of it. Elphaba leaves after Nessa promises to give Elphaba the infamous silver shoes after she dies (Glinda enchanted them to allow her to walk without help). When she returns to Kiamo Ko, she finds everyone gone except Nanny. Nanny explains that the soldiers who were staying in the house took everyone because Nor let slip that Elphaba was not there to protect the household. The villagers and the previous residents of the house hope that she will rescue them. Elphaba vows to do everything in her power to get the family back.
Seven years later, a storm visits Munchkinland, dropping a farmhouse on Nessa, killing her. The farmhouse's passengers are a little girl named Dorothy Gale and her dog, Toto. Glinda, who was nearby, sends Dorothy off with Nessa's shoes for fear of their power igniting a civil war in Munchkinland. She sent Dorothy to the Wizard in hopes that he will send her back to Kansas. Elphaba comes to the funeral for Nessa. Elphaba and Glinda rejoice at seeing each other after more than a decade. When Glinda tells Elphaba that she gave Nessa's shoes to Dorothy, Elphaba becomes furious with Glinda, as they were rightfully hers. She is then forced into a meeting with the Wizard to bargain for the release of Nor, whom Elphaba is told is the last survivor of Fiyero's family. He reveals, after seeing a ripped page from the Grimmerie that the reason he is in Oz is to acquire the Grimmerie and learn the magic within, citing that only he could read some of its foreign pages. Elphaba refuses to part with it without Nor. The Wizard, however, refuses to make any agreements.
On her way back to Kiamo Ko, Elphaba stops at Shiz to kill Madame Morrible. She bashes in her skull with her broom; however, it is revealed that Madame Morrible had died only minutes before Elphaba came to murder her. Regardless, Elphaba decides to claim to have committed the murder and confesses to Avaric, an old schoolmate, so that she will get the credit when the news spreads. She comes upon the Clock of the Time Dragon, which puts on a special show for her: it shows the Wizard, and not Frex, to be her father. The dwarf running it (also found working with Yackle in the Philosophy Club) claims to be not of this world, and remarks that Yackle is also not what she seems. Elphaba, who is drunk at the time, dismisses the scene, simply because she does not wish to believe it as it renders her entire life's work all for nothing.
Some time after returning to Kiamo Ko, Elphaba finds out that Dorothy and a few friends are heading to Kiamo Ko, apparently to kill her under the Wizard's orders. When the friends are almost at the castle, Elphaba, having convinced herself that her beloved Fiyero had survived and was now masquerading as the Scarecrow, sends her dog Killyjoy out to lead the friends to the castle. Dorothy and her friends misunderstand the group of dogs howling toward them and the Tin Woodman kills the dogs. The Scarecrow somehow kills the crows Elphaba sends next. Elphaba then sends her bees, which are killed as well, and Elphaba is forced to believe the Scarecrow is what he seems. With all her pets gone, the shock of this revelation only serves to further unhinge her.
When Dorothy arrives, she tells Elphaba that the Wizard did indeed send her to kill the witch, but Dorothy herself came to apologize for killing her sister. Furious that Dorothy is asking for the forgiveness when Elphaba has never received absolution for her own perceived sins, Elphaba waves her now-burning broom in the air and inadvertently sets her skirt on fire. Innocently, Dorothy throws a bucket of water on her to save her. Instead the water kills her, melting her away to nothing but a puddle.
Dorothy returns to the Wizard with the green potion bottle that has been kept in the family for years. He recognises the bottle as the potion that subdued Elphaba's mother Melena in some way. It is implied that the Wizard is the father of Elphaba. (Elphaba, around the age of 2 or 3, had a vision along with Turtle Heart of the Wizard arriving, but later events confirm that the Wizard [Oscar Zoroaster Diggs] was indeed her father.) Rumors abound through Oz about the whereabouts of Dorothy, few actually believing that she returned to Kansas. The Wizard departs the Emerald City mere hours before a Gale Force-led coup would have overthrown and killed him, and it is implied he returns to Kansas, only to later commit suicide. The book ends with political chaos reigning over most of Oz, as Munchkinland rests on the verge of civil war, and the failure to capture the Wizard has left the coup plotters without any ability to form a new government.
The last lines of the book suggest that Elphaba will rise from the ashes some day:
"And there the wicked old Witch stayed for a good long time."
"And did she ever come out?"
Baum wrote of silver shoes in his novels. These were changed to ruby slippers for the 1939 movie, because red showed up better on screen than silver, when the filmmakers decided to use the new Technicolor film process when making The Wizard of Oz.
In 2003, the novel was adapted as the Broadway musical Wicked. The musical was produced by Universal Pictures and directed by Joe Mantello, with musical staging by Wayne Cilento. The Broadway production has inspired long-run productions in Chicago, London's West End, San Francisco, and Los Angeles in the United States, as well as Germany and Japan. It was nominated for ten Tony Awards, winning three, and is the 5th longest-running Broadway show in history, with over 6,600 performances. The original Broadway production starred Idina Menzel as Elphaba and Kristin Chenoweth as Glinda.
A film adaptation was speculated, with original Broadway cast members Kristin Chenoweth as Glinda and Idina Menzel as Elphaba mentioned as possible film leads. Lea Michele and Amy Adams have also been rumored to be potential leads. Potential writers include Winnie Holzman and Stephen Schwartz. J. J. Abrams, Rob Marshall and Ryan Murphy have been mentioned as possible candidates for director. In December 2012, following the success of Les Misérables,Marc E. Platt announced the film was going ahead, later confirming the film was aiming for a 2016 release. After long development, Universal announced in 2016 that the film will be released in theaters on December 22, 2021, with Stephen Daldry directing.
On January 9, 2011, it was reported by Entertainment Weekly that ABC would be teaming up with Salma Hayek and her production company to create a TV miniseries of Wicked based solely on Maguire's novel. No further information, such as casting, has been revealed.