The Wicked Witch of the West (or simply The Wicked Witch) was the ruler of the Winkie Country in the Land of Oz. She had only one eye, but it was as powerful as a telescope, and could see everywhere. She always carried an umbrella with her, and made a point to avoid contact with water. It was said that she was so wicked, the blood in her had dried up many years ago.
The Wicked Witch of the West is most significant antagonist in L. Frank Baum's children's book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1900. In Baum's subsequent Oz books, it is the Nome King who is the principal villain; the Wicked Witch of the West is rarely even referred to again after her death in the first book.
Major Story Arcs
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Long ago, the Wicked Witch conquered the Winkie Country with the help of the Winged Monkeys. She was a tyrannical ruler and made the Winkies her slaves. Once the Great Oz tried to recapture the Winkie Country, but with the help of the Winged Monkeys, she was able to fight him off.
After she had ruled the Winkies for many years, the Wizard of Oz sent Dorothy Gale and her companions to destroy the Witch. In self defense, she sent every creature she commanded. First she used the whistle around her neck to summon 40 wolves to kill Dorothy and her friends. Scarecrow and Tin Woodman saw them coming and the Tin Woodman slew them with his axe. Then the Wicked Witch of the West blew her whistle twice and summoned 40 crows to peck out the eyes of Dorothy and her friends. The Scarecrow defeated them by grabbing them and breaking their necks. Angered, the Wicked Witch blew her whistle three times and summoned a swarm of black bees to sting them to death. While Dorothy, Toto, and the Cowardly Lion were covered in Scarecrow's straw, the black bees died when their stingers broke on the Tin Woodman. Then she sent a troop of Winkie slaves wielding spears to kill the group. They were scared away by the Cowardly Lion. Finally, she used the Golden Cap to call the Winged Monkeys a final time. They captured Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion, and destroyed the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman.
With Dorothy as her slave, the Witch tried to steal the powerful Silver Shoes from the girl. Dorothy became so angry that she threw a bucket of water on the Witch, which melted her into a brown, shapeless mass putting an end to her wickedness.
The Wizard of Oz
In the 1939 version of The Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch, played by actress Margaret Hamilton, was stooped, green-skinned, and dressed entirely in black. In many people's minds, this representation of The Wicked Witch has become an archetype for human wickedness.
While this relationship is not mentioned in Baum's books, in the movie, the Witch is the sister of the Wicked Witch of the East, who is killed when Dorothy arrives in Oz. The Witch asks aloud, "Who killed my sister?" (albeit with more calculation than sorrow). As a result, The Wicked Witch of the West's role is made more prominent as she seeks revenge against Dorothy for killing her sister. When Dorothy claims the death was an accident, the Witch of the West replies, "Well, my little pretty, I can cause accidents too." It is from this movie that popular culture gets the oft-quoted phrase, "I'll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too!" Her other motivation is to get the powerful Ruby Slippers (changed from the Silver Shoes of the book). She often, but not always, flies on a broomstick, and has a crystal ball through which she can see happenings elsewhere.
When Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion are sent to kill her and bring her broomstick back, she captures them and tries to take Dorothy's slippers, threatening to drown Toto if she doesn't give them to her. She is unable to take them while Dorothy is still alive, so locks her in a room for an hour to figure out the best way to kill her without damaging the slippers' power. Toto escapes and gets the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion, who get her out of the room, but the Wicked Witch and her guards chase them and corner them. In the movie, Dorothy's reasons for throwing the bucket of water are different; The Wicked Witch decides to kill everyone else before Dorothy, starting with the Scarecrow by setting him on fire. Dorothy throws a bucket of water to put out the fire, which is unwittingly thrown onto the Wicked Witch in the process, causing her to melt.
The Witch also has a counterpart in the Kansas world: a rich, grumpy single woman named Almira Gulch who seeks to have Dorothy's dog, Toto, put down. There is some ambiguity as to whether Gulch turns into the Wicked Witch of the East or of the West in the Tornado scene when Dorothy sees her transform in the window. However, it can be argued both ways.
In Gregory Maguire's 1995 revisionist novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, Elphaba is modeled after the Witch portrayed by Margaret Hamilton in the classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz: Green-skinned, clad entirely in black, and wearing a tall peaked hat. Maguire formulated the name "Elphaba" out of L. Frank Baum's name, taking the phonetic pronunciation of his initials: hence, L.F.B became El-pha-ba.
Elphaba is the illegitimate daughter of Melena Thropp and a traveling salesman (The Wizard of Oz). Elphaba does not discover her true father's identity until later in her life, and grows up believing that her mother's husband Frexspar is her father. Through her mother, she can lay claim to the highest held title of Munchkinland, the Eminent Thropp. Frexspar, the unionist minister and missionary, is her mother’s husband. Nessarose (later the Wicked Witch of the East), and Shell, the Emperor of Oz after the wizard's departure, are her half siblings. Because of her noble ancestry, Elphaba bears the title of "Thropp Third Descending".
Frex favors Nessarose over Elphaba, a source of constant resentment. Nessarose is almost comically pious, the preeminent quality the zealous Frexspar desires in a daughter. While Elphaba is born with green skin, Nessarose is considered beautiful, although she is born without arms. During her visit to Munchkinland near the end of the fourth section of the book, Elphaba discovers that the Quadling Turtle Heart may in fact have fathered Nessarose, and was also her father's lover.
Elphaba attends Shiz University where she eventually becomes best friends with Galinda (later "Glinda") and Boq. She also meets Fiyero, the Crown Prince of the Vinkus (Winkie Country), who later falls in love with her. Nessarose later joins Elphaba at Shiz. It is also at this time that Elphaba first meets Madame Morrible, the head of Crage Hall (the part of the university open to women) and develops a dislike for her that soon becomes a hatred due to the belief that Madame Morrible's Tik Tok, Grommetik, is responsible for the death of her favourite professor, a Goat by the name of Doctor Dillamond. Later on in life Elphaba attempts to kill Madame Morrible several times; the last time she attempts this, she finds Madame Morrible already dead, so Elphaba claims credit for killing her. Frex sends Nessarose a beautiful pair of jewelled slippers as a gift (these slippers are later enchanted by Galinda to enable Nessarose to walk without assistance). Elphaba pretends not to care that she received no gift from their father, but toward the end of the novel, the shoes become an obsession for her, as she sees them as a symbol of Frex's favoritism.
After meeting the Wizard she becomes increasingly disgusted with the ever-more tyrannical and anti-Animal policies of the Wizard (even more so following the murder of Doctor Dillamond), Elphaba drops out of Shiz and takes up residence in the Emerald City, where she joins a resistance movement.
Elphaba later meets up with Fiyero again and eventually permits him to keep coming back as long as he doesn't disclose her location. The two fall in love with Elphaba constantly asking Fiyero questions about her old friends. They begin an affair, despite the fact that Fiyero is married with three children (Irji, Manek and Nor), but Elphaba refuses to let Fiyero touch her below the waist. When he does catch a glimpse of her, he notices a scar somewhere around the groin. This ties into rumors elsewhere in the book that Elphaba is partially male(later proved false as Elphaba is the confirmed mother of Liir).
Fiyero is eventually murdered by the Gale Force (the Wizard's secret police) after disregarding Elphaba's instructions to stay away from Corn Exchange where she squats while she is taking part in an operation for the resistance. When Elphaba returns she finds the floor covered in blood; though no body is ever found it is implied that no human could survive blood loss of that magnitude. Severely traumatized and covered in Fiyero's blood, Elphaba makes her way to a nearby mauntery (nunnery) where she lapses into a coma for a year. A child, Liir, is apparently carried to term while Elphaba is in this state, and because of this Elphaba is uncertain as to whether or not she actually is the boy's mother, she doesn't even consider the possibility until Liir is about 7 years old as he doesn't seem to resemble her or Fiyero.
Liir's maternity is never explicitly stated in the book, but he later sires a child with green skin, suggesting that Elphaba is indeed his mother; Maguire has also described Liir as "Elphaba's son" in interviews. However, his paternity is stated several times in the fourth section of the book. There is also a genealogy chart in the beginning of the third book that states that Elphaba is his mother and that Fiyero is his father.
Following her emergence from her coma, Elphaba spends another year recuperating and a further seven tending the terminally ill in the mauntery. After this, she visits Fiyero's wife, Sarima, seeking forgiveness for her part in Fiyero's death. Sarima welcomes her and allows her to live at Fiyero's castle of Kiamo Ko. Though Elphaba had only intended to stay at Kiamo Ko a short time, Sarima refuses to even talk about Fiyero and so she resigns herself to living in the castle indefinitely. Sarima also calls Elphaba 'Auntie', although the children end up calling Elphaba 'Auntie Witch' behind her back. Elphaba eventually gives in to this name even though she resented it before.
Though Elphaba had once considered sorcery to be nothing more than "entertainment", and was not interested in studying the art, she is revealed to have taken correspondence courses in magic during her time living in the Emerald City. While living at Kiamo Ko, Elphaba discovers the Grimmerie (a book containing vast magical knowledge) in the attic of the castle. Using the limited amount of information that she can decipher from the cryptic book, she begins to practice sorcery with greater success than ever before. She mainly uses sorcery to aid, enhance and further the scientific investigations initially begun by Doctor Dillamond while she was at Shiz, her main use of sorcery is creating flying monkeys.
The Wizard's Gale Forcers eventually capture Sarima and her family, Nor is later revealed to be the only survivor. Elphaba is left unsatisfied as Sarima can no longer provide the forgiveness she desires and plunges into madness.
After Nessarose is crushed by Dorothy Gale's house, Elphaba attends her sister's funeral, where she meets with Glinda. The two are originally happy to be reunited, but when Elphaba learns that Glinda has given Nessarose's shoes to Dorothy, she is enraged, and this sparks a conflict between the two women which remains unresolved at the time of Elphaba's death.
The possibility of Elphaba coming back to life in a future novel in the series has been widely debated among Maguire's legions of fans for many years. The reason many seem to think that Elphaba will eventually return to Oz is because of the ending of Wicked. The bucket splash that supposedly ends her life connects to the novel's fable of Saint Aelphaba, for whom Elphaba is named, who was said to disappear beyond a waterfall, she returned several hundred years later before once again disappearing behind the waterfall. This in turn connects Elphaba with the stories that Sarima tells her children about a wicked witch who disappears into a cave. At the end of the story it's tradition that the children ask if the witch ever comes out, to which Sarima replies "not yet". At the end of Wicked, that dialogue is repeated and "not yet" are actually the final two words that close out the book, suggesting that Elphaba will eventually rise again. Furthermore, in several interviews, Maguire has stated "a witch may die, but she will always come back- always."
Further evidence of the possible resurrection of Elphaba were brought to light towards the end of the 2008 novel A Lion Among Men (the third book in the series), when the character of Yackle (Yackle was always present in Elphaba's life in various forms, whether Elphaba was aware of it or not) is about to die. Before she does, she seems to have a realization of some sort and says "of course- she's coming back. Don't you understand, she's coming back!" However, the identity of the 'she' to whom Yackle was referring remains ambiguous, as she dies before she can make herself understood. Many fans of the series think that she was talking about Elphaba, while others believe she may have been talking about the long-lost Ozma. This is continued to some extent in Out of Oz; when Rain, Elphaba's granddaughter, returns to Kiamo Ko and finds Nanny still alive under the care of an equally elderly Chistery. It is revealed that Nanny closed and locked the door of the tower room Elphaba died in, disallowing anyone to go in. Rain repeatedly asks her what she saw and she refuses to say. However, it's also implied that Elphaba's return is actually Rain herself, since -once the spell disguising her green skin is removed- she looks exactly like Elphaba.
For the musical Wicked, Elphaba was written to be less cynical, more likable, and far more sympathetic than the novel counterpart. Her only abnormality is her green skin. In the book, Elphaba virtually goes insane, and genuinely becomes "wicked", though understandably so. In the musical, Elphaba is framed by the Wizard and Madame Morrible for crimes she "committed" on the Wizard's orders, and because she refused to turn her powerful magic to the wizard's sickening cause. Therefore, the public turns against her. Later she truly turns wicked because she is depressed and frustrated that she could not save Fiyero, decides that "no good deed goes unpunished" and vows never to do another good deed.
Liir, Sarima and her children are not present in the musical, and a love triangle with Fiyero and Glinda exists instead of the posthumous one (after Fiyero's death) with Sarima. The young Elphaba shows interest in sorcery from the beginning of her education, as opposed to having it thrust upon her as in the book. Elphaba is explicitly shown to survive at the end, and goes to live a life beyond Oz with Fiyero, where in the book her impending resurrection is only hinted. Elphaba is also the creator of the Tin Woodman (through a spell to save Boq, who had had his heart shrunken to apparent non-existence by Nessarose), the Scarecrow (through a spell with which she attempts to save Fiyero from being tortured to death on her account) and the Cowardly Lion (the Lion Cub she rescued from the class after Doctor Dillamond's removal); in the book the former is a result of an axe bewitched by Nessarose, and the latter's existence has nothing to do with Fiyero, other than her slight suspicion that he might indeed be her love coming back to find her, which just proves to be a paranoid delusion. Elphaba also has a less significant vendetta with Madame Morrible in the musical than in the book: In the novel, Elphaba relentlessly attempts to kill Morrible, but in the musical, Elphaba has virtually nothing to do with her after the conclusion of the first act, being more focused on the Wizard.
Her relationship with Glinda (called "Galinda" until she renames herself in the latter part of the first act claiming it to be in honor of Doctor Dillamond, in fact it is an attempt to get Fiyero to notice her again) is a central feature of the musical. As in the novel, the two initially despise each other, but eventually develop a strong friendship. For a while, Elphaba goes along with Glinda's attempts to make her popular, but her rebellious and revolutionary nature ultimately forces her to reject both social and political popularity in favor of doing what she knows to be right in fighting to save the Animals. Just prior to Elphaba's supposed melting, the two confess that each has been changed by their friendship. In addition, Elphaba admits that Glinda was the only friend she ever had, and Glinda replies that Elphaba was the only friend she has ever had who really mattered.
Elphaba demonstrates a natural talent in the field of sorcery early in the musical, and is selected by Madame Morrible to be tutored personally. She progresses quickly, and is eventually called before the Wizard of Oz himself, with a view to becoming his "magic Grand Vizier". However, she learns that the Wizard is in fact a powerless fraud after he tricks her into creating the flying monkeys which he plans to use as spies. Elphaba steals the Grimmerie from him and sets herself up as a rebel. In retaliation, the Wizard has Madame Morrible spread the rumor that Elphaba is a "Wicked Witch", to turn the public against her. She becomes the subject of national hatred thereafter, and her attempts to convince the people as to the Wizard's corrupt rule are regarded as slander. As more and more of her friends turn against her, Elphaba gradually comes to accept her reputation as a villain, and the supposed death of Fiyero is what finally causes her to embrace it completely. However, when she realizes that Fiyero has in fact survived, Elphaba acknowledges the mistakes she has made in her life, and decides to get a fresh start outside of Oz.
In the musical, Elphaba's aversion to water is no more than one of several ridiculous rumors started by those who fear her. Elphaba uses this to her advantage by disappearing when Dorothy throws a bucket of water at her, fooling everyone into believing she has been killed, even though she just went down a trapdoor.
The role was originated on Broadway and in London by Idina Menzel, who won the 2004 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical.
In the Vertigo comic book Fables, the Wicked Witch of the East, assorted Munchkins, the Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch of the West, and the Good Witch of the North: appear briefly in flashbacks from Dorothy's adventures in Oz. In addition, several allusions to the Wicked Witch of the West are made in the Witches story arc.
In the Syfy miniseries Tin Man, the character of Azkadellia (played by Kathleen Robertson) is analogous with the Wicked Witch of the West, though she is vastly different from most other versions of the character. In the miniseries, she is portrayed as a member of the Royal Family of the O.Z. (Outer Zone) who is possessed as a young girl by the spirit of the evil Witch of the Dark (Karin Konoval) who uses her body to take over the O.Z. and plunge it into a world of permanent darkness. This adaptation's version of Dorothy Gale is Azkadellia's younger sister DG. (Zooey Deschanel) Both of the sisters are powerful witches themselves, though DG has to relearn all of her magical abilities, and once DG frees Azkadellia from the witch's grip, both of them defeat her together. Although it is clear that Azkadellia is analogous with the Wicked Witch of the West, it is implied vaguely that the Witch of the Dark is the Wicked Witch that Dorothy, who makes an appearance as a spirit in a mausoleum, defeated in the original story.
Oz: The Great and Powerful
In the 2013 film Oz: The Great and Powerful, Mila Kunis was cast as Theodora the Good. Theodora is the youngest of the three witches and seems like she is good and wants peace. When she meets Oz she immediately starts to fall for him. They kiss when Oz asked her to dance.
When Theodora takes Oz to the castle they meet Evanora, who later lies to Theodora and says that Oz asked her to dance as well. This makes Theodora furious.
Evanora eventually turns her against the Wizard, corrupting her in the process, and as a result she is transformed into the Wicked Witch of the West. After her transformation, she greatly resembles the Wicked Witch as seen in the 1939 movie.