I Want Those Shoes
-The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
By Gregory Maguire
“Well” said the Head, “I will give you my answer. You have no right to expect me to send you back to Kansas unless you do something for me in return. In this country everyone must pay for everything he gets. If you wish me to use my magic power to send you home again you must do something for me first. Help me and I will help you”
“What must I do?” asked the girl.
“Kill the wicked Witch of the West,” answerd Oz.
-L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
I know a lot of people who have seen and loved Wicked, the musical. However, I’ve found that few of those people have actually read Wicked, the novel and the ones who have read it, didn’t seem to care for it. With these mixed reviews I’ve put off reading this novel for years until recently when I had the urge to read it and get the full story.
This novel is the first in a series. It is about the life of the Wicked Witch of the West, who we come to know as Elphaba. We are introduced to her at birth and follow her little green self through childhood. Later we get to know Elphaba and her friends (including Glinda) at university. Eventually we get to know the Witch as an adult and see how she came to the west and might not be as wicked as the stories suggest.
“I sent this Dorothy, this girl, on to the Emerald City,” said Glinda. “I told her that I’d never seen the Wizard – well, I had to lie, don’t look at me like that; if I told her the truth about him she would never have left here.”
-Gregory Maguire, Wicked
Maguire did something pretty amazing here. He took characters and locations that we are familiar with from Baum’s The Wizard of Oz and he created a surprisingly original story. Oz becomes a land where you can visualize the west, the east, and the Emerald City and you come to understand what those places are really like. The characters have hopes and dreams and feel disappointment and pain. Also, much like Baum’s work, this novel contains subtle allegory which, in my opinion, makes this novel exceptional. Not only are you thinking about Elphaba and Oz, but you are thinking about politics and morality. I will definitely be reading the next novels in The Wicked Years.