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Literature: Wicked

Rick: What are you reading?
Kirsten: It's a queer-revisionist telling of The Wizard of Oz.
Rick: There already was a queer revision of The Wizard of Oz. It was called Wicked, and it was even gayer than the original!

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (not to be confused with a creepy Australian kids' book series) is a 1995 novel by Gregory Maguire is the story of Elphaba, who will one day become that Wicked Witch of the West It was adapted into a hugely popular musical. The original novel was expanded into a four book series entitled the Wicked Years. Son of a Witch revolves around Elphaba's possible son Liir, A Lion Among Men around the the Cowardly Lion, and the fourth and final book Out of Oz around Liir's daughter Rain.

Wicked describes how Elphaba is born with green skin after her mother had an encounter with a travelling businessman. Her mother gives birth to an armless child, Nessarose, and then later dies giving birth to Elphaba's third sibling, her brother, Shell. When Elphaba is older, she goes to school at Shiz, and is roomed with the pretty, popular Galinda. At first Galinda is not happy about this.

Things change, however, when Professor Dillamond, their Talking Animal teacher, is found dead, soon after Animal hate speech started being promoted by faculty members prompting Galinda to change her name to Glinda in honour of him. Elphaba and Glinda become close compatriots and the former rescues a Lion cub brought in by his replacement, and gains a passion for fighting for Animal rights. Elphaba goes to the Emerald City to speak to the wizard of this, and her life changes forever. Events push the two friends along their paths towards becoming the Good Witch of the North and the Wicked Witch of the West.


Wicked and its sequels contain examples of the following tropes:

  • Adaptational Villainy: The Wizard. Rather than a mere conman a la the original stories, he's here the main antagonist.
  • Alternate Universe: The book is set in an alternate universe of both the Wizard of Oz movie and books series, which in themselves are alternate universes of each other. The musical for Wicked is also an alternate universe of the Wicked books.
    • Oz itself is implied to be an alternate universe version of the United States.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Several, Glinda and Elphaba to some extent (see Les Yay)
    • Her father, who admits to being in love with Turtle Heart but not in a specifically romantic or sexual way, may be a prime example.
  • An Ice Person: Elphaba subconsciously freezes a river in order to rescue Chistery.
    • 3 Books later in Out of Oz Glinda and Rain use the Grimmerie to freeze a group of dragons that are being used to attack Munchkinland.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Elphaba's skepticism towards her father's religious beliefs isn't arbitrary because Maguire deliberately wrote it with a cynical eye on Christianity, but insisting that the Kumbric witch couldn't be possible when she herself was born unable to touch pure water without it feeling like acid? Why does Nor need to demonstrate that the broom can fly when Elphaba has already seen magic at work...and magically killed a couple of people? Why isn't it possible that Dorothy and the Wizard are from another world?
  • Arranged Marriage: Fiyero was married this way before entering Shiz. Not that this mattered too much.
  • Bee Bee Gun: Elphaba keeps bees, and like in the original story she ends up sending them after Dorothy.
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: Played straight. Tibbet has sex with a male Tiger at the Philosopher's Club and is described as having 'never been the same.' He dies later of an unspecified illness.
    • The Cowardly Lion is married to Ilianora but their marriage is a chaste one (for obvious reasons.)
  • Bi the Way: Liir, Elphaba's father, and Turtleheart are the most obvious, but you can say that pretty much everyone is open for interpretation.
  • Big Bad: The Wizard.
  • Body Horror: Ilianora has her vagina sewed shut. Dear god.
  • Breather Episode: The third book staunchly refuses to move the plot at all, and presumably pretty much covers all the loose plot holes that aren't important to the ending of the next book.
  • Can't Get In Trouble For Nuthin': Elphaba murders Madame Morrible and then goes to a dinner party and talks about it. The guests refuse to judge or call the police—they're too entertained by the novelty of the situation and the opportunity to debate the meaning of good and evil.
    • Slightly subverted; the reason nobody calls the authorities is because they think it is a novelty; none of them believe she really killed her
  • Capital Letters Are Magic: There is an important distinction between common animals and sentient Animals, and you must pronounce the difference. Towards the beginning of the first book, Madam Morrible shares a poem which ends with the line "Animals should be seen and not heard", which causes a stir because people can't tell if she means "animals" or "Animals", and it might be a strong political statement.
  • A Child Shall Lead Them: Munchkinlanders try to invoke this with Dorothy. Glinda sent her to the Wizard to prevent the whole mess this would create. Some Oz citizens believe this will happen with their previous ruler - Ozma and Elphaba show her hatred to this trope a few times.
    • In the last book the Ozma supporters get their wish granted, as Ozma does return and is still a child, therefore playing this trope straight
  • Chastity Couple: Brrr and Ilianora. For obvious reasons.
  • Church Militant: Nessarose, in the book; in the musical she's just an Obstructive Bureaucrat.
  • Clingy MacGuffin: As much as Dorothy might like to hand Nessarose's ruby slippers over to Elphaba, they won't come off, thinking that Galinda might have put a spell on them so they'd stay stuck to her feet.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Rain. Up to 11.
  • Convenient Coma: It is implied that Elphaba carried Liir to term through this.
  • The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: Dillamond's death.
  • Crapsack World: This book basically takes every political interpretation of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" and makes them canon, with a spin and adds one hundred pounds of misery on everyone that means anything.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: Unionism seems to be Christianity. They even practice baptism.
  • Darker and Edgier: Than the original story, and especially the musical.
  • Dark Fantasy
  • Downer Ending: Just for starters, Elphaba and Fiyero die.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Again, mostly certainly subverted.
  • Deconstruction Fic. Of The Wizard of Oz.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Glinda. Elpahaba even refers to her as "Miss Galinda the Ice Queen" at one point.
  • Dude, She's Like in a Coma: Gender-flipped with Liir, who was raped by Candle while comatose.
  • Everyone Is Bi: In the book Oz seems to be a pretty sexually liberated world, and it's usually safe to assume a character is bisexual until proven otherwise.
  • Everyone Went to School Together
  • Evilutionary Biologist: Elphaba, sort of. Teaching monkeys to speak was probably good for them, but sewing on wings For Science!? That's rather morally gray.
  • Fan Fic: Wicked appears to be more of a fan fiction of The Wizard of Oz books and movies as a whole. It says something that the book (and musical) retain quality and fame in spite of this.
  • Fantastic Racism: Both against Elphaba and the sapient Animals.
    • The area Elphaba comes to preside over in the West as the "Wicked Witch" is properly known as "The Vinkus". "Winkies" and "Winkie Country" are rather insensitive slurs for the yellow-loving folk.
    • "But the Quadlings, oh the Quadlings, / Slimy, stupid, curse-at-godlings, / Eat their young, and bury their old, / A day before their bodies get cold."
  • Fantasy Counter Part Culture: The Vinkus to Africa.
  • Filk Song: Hannah Fury has made a few of them.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Elphaba will become the Wicked Witch, her sister will be squashed by a farmhouse, the Wizard will leave...
  • Foreshadowing: One particular example said by Trism to Liir in the second book: "Are you just slow, or are you falling in love with me?"
  • Freudian Slip: At the end of the book, Elphaba is talking with Liir about wishes. She doesn't want to say her true wish aloud, so instead she goes for "a soldier", but it just comes out as "a soul—". This surprises both of them.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Rain has shades of this.
  • Furry Confusion: Only the Animals (note the capital "A") are fully sapient, while the regular animals are just...well, animals. Further confused when Elphaba starts experimenting on animals to see if she can teach them to become Animals. Her monkeys seem to become nothing more than talking parrots, but the second book shows that Chistory became genuinely intelligent.
  • Heel Realization: The death of Doctor Dillamond in the book was a wake up call for Galinda to re-evaluate what's important in life and stop being obsessed with popularity and being such a dumb blond.
  • "Just Joking" Justification: Madame Morrible attemps to defend the egregiously anti-Animal quell she recited (without any criticism) by proclaiming it to be "satire". (after the Animals on staff, as well as Elphaba, have complained) Elphaba is not amused.
  • Kill It with Water
  • Kryptonite Factor
  • Language of Magic: The Grimmerie is full of this.
    • Elphaba can somehow read it without trying, but others find it trickier.
    • She does have to look hard to understand, as the words seem to move about the pages. It is implied that the book is simply a standard (though magical) book to people from Earth. To Ozians, it is not just reading in a different language, but in a different dimension, which Elphaba's real father aided her in.
  • Law of Conservation of Detail: Obviously, Liir is Elphaba's son, otherwise why would he be in the book at all?
  • The Lost Lenore: Undoubtedly Fiyero, for Elphaba, for a good chunk of the first book. Arguably Elphaba for Glinda in later books, depending on interpretation
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Elphaba and the Wizard. Liir to Elphaba, but much less of a surprise, since it's a main theme of the second book.
  • Meaningful Name: Elphaba's name is a tribute to L. Frank Baum.
  • Mike Nelson, Destroyer of Worlds: Dorothy has no idea about the problem with water. Elphaba accidentally gets her dress caught on fire, and the last words she hears are Dorothy saying "I'll save you!"
  • My Life Flashed Before My Eyes: As Elphaba dies after being splashed by Dorothy, she sees visions of all the major people from her life.
  • Mythology Gag: Elphaba sings a song about an imaginary land where there are no hardships, reducing her college friends nearly to tears.
    • Another reference to both the film AND the book is that when Elphaba dreams of the 'other world', which is suggested to be our United States, it is described as "Grey". It is described the same in the original book, and even visualized in the movie in that all the scenes in Kansas are in black and white, while the scenes taking place in Oz are all in glorious technicolor.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Elphaba, "The Wicked Witch of the West", actually isn't any of those things. She isn't evil (she's a Well-Intentioned Extremist), she isn't a witch (she's a political activist with no interest in sorcery and no formal magic training), and she isn't from the West (she's a native of Munchkinland, the Easternmost region of Oz).
  • Not So Different: In the final section of the book, Elphaba realizes that Dorothy reminds her of her younger self.
  • Patchwork Fic: For copyright reasons, Wicked is supposed to be based on the original Oz books, but both the book and musical draw heavily from the MGM Wizard of Oz film.
    • Most glaring example? In the original book, the Wicked Witch of the West is not green.
    • In the fourth book, Mombey gains the appearance-changing abilities of Mombi in Return to Oz.
  • Perspective Flip
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: The terrorists/resistance group never seem to do anything. Elphaba is foiled by her humanitarian instincts when a bunch of children unexpectedly surround her target, but we never find out about anyone else in the group ever doing anything either.
  • Progressively Prettier: In the book, Elphaba's described as having a long nose, gangly limbs, a mannishly strong jaw, and if it weren't for her being green, she wouldn't be much to look at. But in the musical, along with most book illustrations, and fan art, she's a generically cute girl whose only flaw is being green. Though to be fair, Elphaba is also compared to her mother a few times, as far as appearance; and Glinda at least at one point does describe her as beautiful (hat, dormitory).
    • That's probably in part because Fiyero says she's beautiful in her own way, both in the musical and the book. But still, she's not written as conventionally beautiful...
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain: Elphaba starts out sympathetic, but turns batshit insane.
  • The Scrappy: In-universe, nobody besides Dorothy can stand Toto. Not even the narrator.
  • Ship Tease: At the end of Son of a Witch, Liir is separated from both of his love interests, Trism and Candle, but only due to circumstances - he's open to a relationship with either. The third book is entirely silent on the matter, as they don't appear, though the family tree at the beginning shows relationships out of wedlock to both of them. The fourth book would appear to finally resolve the matter, with Liir married to Candle, and Trism assumed to have betrayed the both of them. But by the end of the book, Candle has left Liir indefinitely, and while his reunion with Trism was fraught with argument, it was also heavy in Unresolved Sexual Tension, revealing that their attraction hasn't faded. The book ends with Liir alone, stating that his door is open to either of them should they choose to come back. Since this leaves open any option a fan prefers, including a One True Threesome, it can come off as fanfic baiting.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The book ending. Every single sympathetic character is dead or no longer sympathetic, and the Wizard leaves for reasons mostly unrelated to their struggle. Elphaba fails at every single major initiative she attempts during her lifetime.
  • Shout-Out from A Lion Among Men:
    Yackle: A comedian. I come back from the very gates of death to be interviewed by a vaudeville wannabe. Bert Lahr got his start in vaudeville.
    • From Out of Oz:
      Rain: "Don't wish, don't start. Wishing only... The same words are sung by Elphaba in the musical.
    • Other examples from Out of Oz, though they may be a stretch, might include Dorothy singing about rainbows, a section entitled "Somewhere" (as in 'Somewhere over the Rainbow'), and Brr being called King of the Forest. Even more of a stretch might be Dorothy repeating in sing-song 'Maybe this time...', which could be looked at as a shout out to Kristin Chenoweth who sang that song on "Glee" and who played Glinda in the musical.
      • To say nothing of Liza Minelli, Judy Garland's daughter, who sang that song a long time before Cheno introduced it to the tweens of the world.
    • There's a shout out to Charlotte's Web in "Out of Oz". Rain asks if the spiders could write words in their webs for her to read. Mr. Boss says that would be "some spider". The first words Charlotte wrote in her web were "some pig".
    • There are plenty of shout outs to the movie and the original book, as well - like when Nessa gets the slippers.
      'First they were silver — now blue — now red.'
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The much more cynical version.
  • Start of Darkness: For the Wicked Witch of the West
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Tip, in Out of Oz, is eventually revealed to be Ozma Tippetarius.
  • Time Skip: Multiple throughout the series. Wicked alone has four, jumping from Elphaba's birth and infancy straight to Elphaba's time at university, through to the university crowd in their mid-to-late twenties, and finally to Elphaba in her mid-thirties. Son of a Witch starts out with Liir still a child only a little older than he was in Wicked, but quickly skips to his early-to-mid twenties. A Lion Among Men focuses on a different set of characters and actually goes back and forth compared to the main continuity, but has a lot of internal skips of its own as Brrr's life story is told in disjointed order from birth to middle-age. Finally, Out Of Oz skips again to Rain (born at the end of the second book) as a child of seven or so, and proceeds to follow her more or less continuously until the age of sixteen.
  • Too Much Information: Dorothy explains to Elphaba that she's been trying to remove Nessarose's slippers for days. Fair enough. But did she really have to mention how sweaty her socks had gotten from wearing the slippers for so long?
    • At one point in time, Fiyero thinks that one of his tattoos has rubbed off on Elphaba ...down there. Which means he has tattoos there as well. Fiyero is attractive, yes, but still: TMI...
  • Twice Told Tale
  • Unable to Cry: One of the reasons why she grew up to be such a distant, cold, and antisocial was because of water burning her skin, causing her to be unable to cry without her tears painfully burning her face like acid.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: The story documents Elphaba's journey from her beginnings as a friendly, sensitive young girl, to, well, the Wicked Witch of the West.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: The Wizard.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Elphaba
  • Wham Line: At the end of Son of a Witch: "He took her to the doorway and held her up in the warm rain. She cleaned up green."
    • Notably (and frustratingly), this is the very last line in the book.
    • This may or may not count. It had already been confirmed to the readers that Liir was Elphaba's son. By showing us his infant daughter was green, it confirms it to himself
  • What Is Evil?: A major theme in the book. After Elphaba bashes Madame Morrible's head in she attends a dinner party where all the guests sit around discussing the nature of evil, all of them having different opinions on exactly what evil is.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Underlined in heavy red crayon in the novel. It's hard out here for an Intellectual Animal.
  • Who Is This Guy Again?: It's pretty easy for a lot of people to forget about Elphaba's brother Shell. He wasn't mentioned much in the first book, and was cut completely from the musical, causing his sudden appearance in the second book quite a "oh yeahhhhh...." moment for some.
  • Window Watcher: Boq is able to see the windows of one of the girls' dormitories from his room at Shiz, but it's too far away for him to make out any details. When his roommates leave for a night on the town, Boq takes the chance to climb atop a nearby roof and get a better view. At least until Elphaba spots him.
  • Yaoi Guys: Crope and Tibbet in the first book. In the second book Liir and Trism.

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alternative title(s): The Life And Times Of The Wicked Witch Of The West; The Wicked Years
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