|First appearance||The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
|Created by||L. Frank Baum
Sister St. Aelphaba
Wicked Witch of the West
|Species||Human (with extraordinary talents in Witchcraft)|
Eminent Thropp of Munchkinland (grandfather)
Melena Thropp (mother)
Wizard of Oz (biological father)
Frexspar Thropp (father)
Elphaba Thropp / / is a fictional character in Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire, as well as in the Broadway and West End adaptations, Wicked. In the original L. Frank Baum book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch of the West is unnamed and little is explained about her life. 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. In both adaptations, Elphaba is also called by several nicknames including Elphie, Fabala, Sister (Saint) Aelphaba, Auntie Witch, and Fae.
Elphaba in the books
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.
Elphaba in the musical
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.
Elphaba is born with green skin, and several theories are put forward in the book to explain the phenomenon. Melena sees the color as a punishment for her infidelity to her husband. Frexspar originally sees it because of his careless words “The devil is coming” on the day of her birth, and later as punishment for his failure to protect his parishioners from the Clock of the Time Dragon. Elphaba's deciduous teeth are all extremely sharp, and in early childhood, she possesses an urge to bite everything around her, including herself. When these teeth fall out in due course, they are replaced by an ordinary set of permanent teeth, and this is a source of great relief to her parents. Elphaba is also unusual in that she is apparently allergic to water, and avoids touching it at all times, never crying or bathing. It is said that she cleans herself by rubbing oil into her skin.
She has a power that she cannot control. This shows mainly when she is angered. An example is when she sees Chistery trapped on an island in the middle of a lake. Ignoring her allergy to water, she jumps into the lake to save the monkey. However, when Elphaba touches the water it turns to ice for her. Liir said the weather changed to suit Elphaba's needs.
Elphaba is portrayed as an aspiring revolutionary, perhaps inspired by her childhood days in Quadling Country, whose ecosystem and people were stricken by the government’s ruthless ruby mining and road building efforts in the area. She is shown as a passionate supporter of Animal rights (Animals, as opposed to animals, are capable of speech and advanced thought). Elphaba speaks out against Madame Morrible’s anti-Animal poetry and over the summer works with Doctor Dillamond, a Goat, to find the biological difference between Animals, animals, and humans. She protects a Lion cub in a life sciences class and refuses to eat meat that could have come from Animal sources. Her revolutionary goals fade after her failed assassination attempt on Madame Morrible’s life and the death of Fiyero at the hands of the Wizard's guards.
As in the book, Elphaba is born with green skin. In the musical, however, the cause of her pigmentation is due to her mother having drunk a green elixir before being seduced by Elphaba's biological father. Similar to the novel, Elphaba is disliked by her father and has indescribable powers. An example of this is when Madame Morrible insists that she take on Nessarose by herself. Elphaba becomes upset by this. Consequently, the students are immediately torn away from Nessarose, and the wheelchair spins until it is back in her hands. Like in the book, Elphaba is a strong supporter of Animals, taking a liking to Doctor Dillamond. It is shown that Elphaba is not allergic to water in the play, for when Dorothy throws the water on her, she merely falls through a trap door and remains until Fiyero comes to save her (having since been turned into a scarecrow). Unlike the book, Elphaba never turns purely wicked, but does accept that this is how the rest of Oz sees her, and eventually gives in to the title of 'The Wicked Witch of the West.'
Powers and abilities
In the book, Elphaba does not possess the same knack for magic as her musical counterpart. She has a hidden magic power, but it only emerges when she is moved to extreme anger. This happens twice in the book: Once when the cook of the caravan she is going with to get to the Vinkus threatens to cook Liir after Elphaba had complained about the cook's cruelty to Animals. Shortly thereafter, cook is found dead, his corpse severely swollen as if he had been attacked by bees. Elphaba had some bees with her on the journey, and it is strongly implied that she may have psychically influenced them to kill the cook. She denies that she had done anything to him until the Elephant, Princess Nastoya, tells her that she has a hidden power. The second time she uses this power is when Sarima's son Manek had convinced Liir to hide in the fish well and left him there. Liir nearly drowns, but they are just in time to save him. Elphaba realizes she has motherly feelings for Liir, but her anger at Manek causes her power to jump out again, this time making an icicle fall on Manek and kill him. Each time her power shows itself, it is to protect Liir, and on both occasions, it results in a death.
Another demonstration of Elphaba's innate power occurs when she rescues the infant snow monkey which she later names Chistery: Seeing the monkey stranded on an island in the middle of a lake, Elphaba feels compelled to save him, and runs toward the island despite her mortal allergy to water. As her feet make contact with the surface of the lake, a pane of ice forms beneath them, allowing her to reach the island unharmed. The others in the caravan speculate that the lake had previously been enchanted by a magician, but when Liir recalls the incident in Son of a Witch, he claims that "The world conformed itself to suit her needs", implying that Elphaba did indeed cause the ice to appear, as well as possibly categorizing this power as a form of reality warping. Of course, Liir was rather young at the time, and as he himself admits, he may simply have over-romanticized the incident in his mind. Apart from those incidents, there are others that may or may not be attributed to Elphaba's dormant powers, such as the storm that only she and her roommate Galinda notice or the horns that attack Fiyero. Any magically empowered character in the Land of Oz could well have provoked both these last events.
In the musical, Elphaba possesses the ability to perform a magical attack on anyone toward whom she feels anger. She uses this power twice: Following the song "Dear Old Shiz", Madame Morrible insists upon caring for Nessarose, something that Elphaba has always done herself. When the headmistress ignores her objections, she flies into a rage, and somehow causes everyone standing around Nessarose's wheelchair to be thrown backward. The chair then spins in place for several seconds before reversing into Elphaba's hands. She uses this power a second time when, following the firing of Doctor Dillamond, the new History teacher brings a caged lion cub into the classroom and announces that he intends to prevent the Animal from learning to talk. This enrages Elphaba, and she uses her magic to throw everyone away from the cage and subsequently immobilize them long enough to take the Lion Cub out of the room and set it free. In this instance, her power does not affect Fiyero, the first suggestion that she may have feelings for him.
Besides her specific powers, Elphaba's musical counterpart has amazing power and proficiency with magic in general, to the extent that Madame Morrible insists that she be tutored in sorcery individually. Elphaba can perform the spells of the Grimmerie (reputed to be the most powerful in all the Land of Oz) with ease, even succeeding in creating an effective result when the subject of the spell is many miles away and when she has adapted the incantation to suit the circumstance in which it is used. An example of such a success when both of the aforementioned problems have been in play is the spell she used to save Fiyero from death, although admittedly that spell has the unintended effect of transforming him into a scarecrow. She has also used the book's spells to accomplish feats that appear to be impossible for Ozian magicians, such as enabling things to fly. Toward the end of the musical, it is revealed that the Wizard is in fact Elphaba's father, and Madame Morrible attributes Elphaba's immense magical power to the fact that "she was a child of both worlds".
In both the musical and the novel, Elphaba is shown to have certain precognitive and/or clairvoyant abilities. In the book, the focal point of this power is a mirror made for her by Turtle Heart. She uses the mirror as a scrying tool in early childhood, and through it foresees several events, including the arrival of the Wizard in Oz. Her clairvoyant abilities are in evidence at two points during the musical: During the song "The Wizard and I", Elphaba sings of how she has just experienced "a vision almost like a prophecy", in which she foresees that one day, all of Oz will hold a celebration all to do with her. In a tragic twist, this actually turns out to be the celebration that takes place following her supposed death. The second reference to this ability occurs when she has a vision of Dorothy's house flying through the sky, accompanied by a feeling that Nessarose is in danger. Her seeing the house could be regarded as simply catching sight of it as it is carried by the cyclone, however the fact that Fiyero, who was with her at the time, could not see it seems to support the theory of its being a vision.
Elphaba is able to read the Grimmerie despite the fact that the book is written in 'the lost language of spells'. She first demonstrates this talent when the Wizard asks her to perform a levitation spell on one of his pet monkeys as proof of her powers; she finds exactly the right spell within seconds, reads it as easily as she would her own language, and makes it work perfectly on her first try. However, although she has an instinctive knack for knowing which spell is appropriate in certain cases, and can pronounce the words of the language, she later reveals that she does not actually understand what they mean. In the novel, Elphaba also possesses the ability to read the Grimmerie, but with nowhere near the same facility. She is able to understand fragments of the text, but admits that most of it is "misty to [her] eyes". Despite this, she gleans much magical knowledge from the book over her many years of studying it, and puts the knowledge to good use. In the novel, the Grimmerie is revealed to have been created on Earth, which is why it is illegible to the people of Oz. However, being of mixed Ozian and Earthly blood, Elphaba possesses a natural ability to at least partially understand the contents of the book.
- Wicked, p. 320
- Merritt, Byron; Interview with Gregory Maguire (2004-11-01). "An interview with wizard-like author Gregory Maguire". fwomp.com. Retrieved 2007-01-15.