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Literature / The Wicked Years

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The Wicked Years is a tetralogy by Gregory Maguire. It is a Twice-Told Tale on L. Frank Baum's classic Land of Oz books. Unlike its source material, The Wicked Years are certainly not a children's tale.

The series starts with 1995's Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch, which tells the story of Elphaba Thropp, better known as the Wicked Witch of the West, from birth to death. Its sequel, Son of a Witch, revolves around Elphaba's (possible) son Liir, the third novel A Lion Among Men is about the Cowardly Lion, and the fourth and final book Out of Oz is about Liir's daughter Rain.

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The Wicked Years is one of the most well-known and commercially successful Oz derivative works. It's been praised for its dark take on the franchise. The series takes elements from both the 1939 MGM film and the original books, making it easy to grasp whether you prefer Baum's books or know nothing of them. The first book has been adapted into a hit Broadway musical and a film adaptation has been in the works for many years (with the current release date being winter 2019).

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This series provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Amalgamation: It uses many elements from the MGM film (most noticeably, the Wicked Witch's design) but also features numerous references from the books. It even takes a bit from Return to Oz.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job:
    • Glinda is redheaded in the original books but is blonde in The Wicked Years.
    • Dorothy is described as having dark hair, going with the original illustrations rather than her blonde interpretation from most of the books.
  • Adaptation Species Change: Glinda is a normal human woman rather than of The Fair Folk.
  • Alternate Universe:
    • The series 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.
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    • It's implied that Oz is an alternate universe version of America.
  • Ambiguously Bi/Ambiguously Gay:
  • Anthropomorphic Animals: The Animals of Oz are a unique case. They can go between walking on all fours or on their hind legs and wear clothes, but they don't have anthropomorphic hands - in the first book Dillamond has to ask Glinda to give his ticket lying in the overhead to the conductor since he can't do it himself. Dr. Dillamond laments that other animals with cloven hooves are excluded from Shiz since they can't hold pencils; he only got his university position because his grandmothers paid for a teacher to privately tutor him and take dictation for him at his exams - the Wizard's Animal Bans stop other Animals from following Dillamond's example.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": This is used occasionally. Examples include "tsebras" instead of zebras and "crocodrilos" (which is similar to the Spanish "cocodrilo") instead of crocodiles. Robots are also referred to as "tiktok creatures".
  • Darker and Edgier: It's an adult-aimed derivative work of Land of Oz. While the original series has a lot of Family-Unfriendly Violence, The Wicked Years takes all the whimsical escapism out of Oz and warps it into a realistic world full of political strife, racism, and murder.
  • Decomposite Character;
    • Ozma is now a title passed down from mother to daughter instead of being an immortal fairy goddess, though some Lurline worshippers believe she passes her soul with her title.
    • Tiktok is the name for robots in general rather than just one character.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Most of the series takes place in the late 1800s and it shows. It's scandalous for young women to go outside without a chaperone, the Fantastic Racism concerning Animals emulates the racism of the period, and Fiyero receives mixed-reactions because he's from Vinkua (with Avaric outright mocking his dark skin-tone).
  • Hotter and Sexier: The Land of Oz is clean with nary even any romance. The Wicked Years has a lot of innuendo and sexual situations from the very first chapter.
  • Everyone Is Bi: Many of the characters are implied, or outright shown, to feel attraction to both men and women. It helps that there doesn't seem to be much, if any, problem with same-gender attraction in Oz.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • There's a lot, with the series especially focusing on discrimination towards Talking Animals. For years, sapient Animals have been discriminated by the majority of Ozians. Even in contemporary times, there are bans attempting to heavily restrict Animals lives so that they're barely any better off than animals.
    • Many Ozians look down upon those from the Quadling county and refer to them by the derogatory "Winkies". They're seen as low class as low class can be and are stereotyped as disgusting people who live in nothing but muck.
  • Fantastic Religious Weirdness: Elphaba lampshades the weirdness in many Animals, including Dr. Dillamond, being Unionist. The religion has never been subtle in its bias against Animals, though modern text tries to scrub away the more obvious speciesism.
  • Oh My Gods!: Characters either swear to Lurline or the Unnamed God, depending on their religious beliefs.
  • Talking Animal: Unlike in the original books where all animals in Oz can talk, The Wicked Years separates talking Animals from normal animals. Animals (capitalized) can be born from animals but are sentient and can talk like humans. Many Ozians don't consider Animals to be any different than animals and they suffer from a lot of Fantastic Racism.
  • Shrouded in Myth: The Nome King, the Big Bad from Baum's Oz books is little more than a "legendary menace" in Maguire's Oz.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The topic of whether there's any biological difference between Animals and humans, and whether it matters in the first place, is a reoccuring topic.
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