The Wizard of Oz is a popular story known throughout the world. Everyone recognizes its plot: an innocent girl from Kansas falls into the Land of Oz, accidentally kills the Wicked Witch of the East, meets a mostly charming cast of characters, and escapes the evil-doings of the Wicked Witch of the West, all to get back home to Kansas. It's a classic tale of good versus evil. Or is it? What if the story were told from the Wicked Witch's perspective?
Written by L. Frank Baum in 1900, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz introduced readers to the Wicked Witch of the West, a character so cruel that her name became synonymous with evil. The 1939 movie (starring Judy Garland) made the Witch even scarier, with green skin, a cackling voice, and a pointy hat. Her flying monkey minions and Winkie guards did nothing to soften her image.
The Witch maintained an evil persona until 1995, when author Gregory Maguire gave her a reprieve. Influenced by the political turmoil of the Vietnam era, Maguire was curious about how people determined if someone was good or bad. Did a negative outcome make a person bad, even if his intensions were good? Maguire set out to study this question through the character of the Wicked Witch. The result was a book entitled Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.
In his original books, Baum had given the Witch no origin story and no name. By contrast, Maguire's book tells her story from birth to death and bestows on her the name Elphaba. As a child and teenager, Elphaba--with her green skin and savage nature--is an outsider among both her family and peers. As an adult, she becomes a political activist and joins a resistance movement against the Wizard of Oz, whom she sees as a tyrant. While her actions are meant to help a repressed people, they often have a negative outcome, making Elphaba appear wicked. The Wizard of Oz sees her as a threat, and it's in his best interest to turn the public against her. Maguire's book presents the Witch as mischaracterized rather than simply evil.
Though Wicked wasn't an instant bestseller, it gained in popularity and was adapted into a hit Broadway musical. The Wicked Witch has become an icon for some, representing a person who tries to improve society and a misfit who recognizes what she has to offer.
Maguire sketched this depiction of Elphaba in 2010 when a Kansas Historical Society staff member contacted him to acquire materials related to the book or musical for the collections. Because he felt he had nothing of interest, Maguire created this drawing of the Witch and donated it to the collections of the Society's Kansas Museum of History in 2010.
Entry: Wicked Drawing
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: December 2010
Date Modified: December 2014
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