|First appearance||Wicked (1995)|
|Last appearance||Wicked (musical) (2003)|
|Created by||Gregory Maguire|
|Nickname(s)||Nessie (in the novel)
Nessa (in the musical)
|Occupation||Ruler of Munchkinland|
Eminence of the East
Wicked Witch of the East
|Family||Melena Thropp (mother)
Nessarose Thropp is the name of the woman who becomes the Wicked Witch of the East in Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire, as well as in the Broadway adaptation, Wicked. She is the beautiful but physically handicapped younger sister of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West.
In both Maguire's novel and the musical version, the character is portrayed in a much less negative light than L. Frank Baum's original Wicked Witch of the East. Nessarose possesses sympathetic and admirable qualities, but these are ultimately overshadowed by her increasingly uncompromising and self-righteous nature. She earns her infamous title upon becoming the Ruler of Munchkinland, on account of her harsh measures and for the use of sorcery to control her subjects.
She meets her demise when Dorothy's house lands on top of her, leaving only her enchanted shoes intact.
In the novel
In Gregory Maguire's novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, Nessarose is an exceedingly pious and religious character. She was born without arms, but is a beautiful and dainty girl nevertheless, and her sister Elphaba is often expected to put Nessarose's needs before her own. Raised in the Quadling Country, Nessarose is constantly aided by her Nanny because, without arms, she lacks proper balance.
Having extreme pious and religious convictions (linking absolutely everything she sees to religion and morality), Nessarose is often close-minded and vain, in keeping with Maguire's cynicism throughout the novel towards religion in general. In fact, the extent of her Unionist religious dedication causes even her father, the intensely jealous Frexspar, to worry that she may be "too devout". Unlike in the musical version, however, Nessarose is not infatuated with Boq, the Munchkin boy, or anyone for that matter, and lives a solitary life.
When Nanny is called to replace Ama Clutch as Elphaba and Glinda's chaperone at Shiz University, Nessarose joins her, and thus begins her college education a year earlier than she had originally planned. Along with Elphaba and Glinda, Nessarose is chosen by Madame Morrible to be an Adept ; a trained sorceress, with political authority over a particular area, in Nessarose's case, the South (Quadling Country). Like the other two girls, she rejects the position, but, again like her fellows, she eventually finds herself ruling a province of Oz, albeit a different one than Madame Morrible had suggested. When Elphaba drops out of university without a word to her, Nessarose is both devastated and furious, and harbors resentment toward her sister for a long time. Glinda mentions that she helped Nessarose through the aftermath of Elphaba's departure, and that the two became quite close.
With Elphaba missing and presumed dead, Nessarose inherits her great-grandfather's title of "Eminent Thropp", and as the Eminence of the East, she opposes the Wizard's despotic regime, and makes Munchkinland an independent country from the rest of the Land of Oz. During her reign in Munchkinland, despite her religious convictions, Nessarose allows certain ancient practices to take place – including ritualistic sacrifices, rumoured to even include those of animals and humans. In addition, despite originally having been opposed to magic on religious grounds, her reign as Eminence finds her practicing sorcery (though she still claims to be a devout Unionist, referring to her spells as "miracles in the honor of the Unnamed God").
Not all of her subjects are too afraid of her to ask for boons, however. In one instance, a woman asks her to prevent her maid from marrying a local woodsman, offering her two cows and a sheep as payment. Nessarose casts a spell on the woodsman's axe so that it will attack him and remove his limbs. She says that she knows from personal experience that an individual who doesn't possess limbs is much less desirable to the opposite sex. Her justification for performing such cruel actions is that she is so "righteous" as to do whatever she deems fit, although Maguire seems to suggest that her condition and her circumstances have left her embittered and hardened. It is implied that the unfortunate woodsman in question becomes the Tin Woodman, as the incident perfectly mirrors L. Frank Baum's original account of the Tin Woodman becoming as he is due to the Wicked Witch of the East's enchantments.
Nessarose is the original owner of the magical Silver Shoes, given to her as a loving gift by her father, and later enchanted by Glinda (in the musical adaptation, the bewitched shoes are Elphaba's doing). Upon being enchanted, the shoes turn into the more famous Ruby Slippers. These shoes allow Nessarose to walk and stand without assistance, and leave her overly confident and more proud, which only fuels her tyrannical reign over the Munchkins. It is Elphaba's quest to retrieve Nessarose's shoes from Dorothy that causes her demise, as she becomes obsessed with obtaining the objects that have always existed as a symbol of neglect and rejection from her father (who always favoured Nessarose), as well as a sign of fear and later reverence from the citizens of Oz.
The story reveals that Nessarose may be the child of Turtle Heart, the Quadling glassblower who resided with the Thropps, and that she may have been born without arms as punishment for her mother Melena's infidelity to Frexspar. Frex confesses as much to Elphaba after Nessarose's death, adding that he and his wife Melena loved Turtle Heart equally. The implications of that statement are, however, never fully developed. It is because of the questionable parentage of Nessarose that Frex loves her more than Elphaba, as if the younger daughter had been conceived by the love that both he and his wife shared with Turtle Heart. Nessarose dies not knowing the debate over her parentage, or that her perhaps-father Turtle Heart was viciously sacrificed in a ritual similar to the ones she allowed her people to conduct. However, in A Lion Among Men, the family trees confirm that Frex is indeed Nessie's father.
Nessarose and Elphaba are almost diametrically opposite in terms of personality. Elphaba is an atheist, who does not even believe in a soul, and Nessarose ends up provoking her sister's ire by constantly praying for Elphaba's soul. Nevertheless, Nessarose pleads with Elphaba to stay with her in the East and help her rule Munchkinland, and although Elphaba spurns and abandons her younger sister, she later regrets it when Nessarose is destroyed (wondering whether she might have been able to save Nessie had she herself been there).
Nessarose's death, caused by Dorothy's falling house, led several Ozians to come up with satirical slogans and witty catch phrases that strongly remind us of "There's no place like home" (though not using the same words).
In the musical
Like many other characters in the musical adaptation of Wicked, Nessarose is portrayed very differently from the novel. In the musical, she is not chosen to be a sorceress by Madame Morrible, and was not born armless, but instead unable to walk, requiring the use of a wheelchair. As in the novel, she is very beautiful, but the adaptation presents her as a more tragic character. In an effort to shoo away a persistent love-struck Munchkin named Boq, Galinda arranges a date between him and Nessarose. Boq pretends to be genuinely interested in Nessa, hoping to impress Galinda by his kindness to a disabled girl, but Nessarose becomes inordinately attached to him. After becoming the Governor of Munchkinland, following the death of her father (the former governor), she strips the Munchkins of all their rights (though they never had any rights in the first place) and prevents them from leaving the Eastern province, all to make Boq stay with her. This earns her the title "Wicked Witch of the East".
As in the novel, Nessarose receives the Silver Shoes as a gift from her father. Nessarose at first feels bad that Elphaba never received such a gift, and although she is embarrassed by Elphaba's sudden outbursts of magic, she is thrilled and excited when her older sister is invited by the Wizard to be his right-hand. Unlike in the novel, Nessarose does not oppose the Wizard, but rather respects and fears him like everyone else in Oz. In fact, she becomes incensed with Elphaba when the green-skinned witch opposes the Wizard and goes renegade, especially because this leads to her beloved father dying "of shame." Nessarose explains that she can't hide a fugitive like Elphaba because she is an "unelected official." She is also not impressed by her older sister's attempts to rescue speaking Animals from the Wizard, pointing out that Elphaba never thought to use her magical powers to rescue Nessarose herself from her wheelchair. Feeling guilty, Elphaba enchants the Silver Shoes by means of a spell from the Grimmerie, turning them into the ruby slippers and enabling her younger sister to walk at last.
Now that she is no longer disabled, Nessarose believes that Boq will choose to stay with her of his own accord, but the Munchkin insists that he should now be free to go pursue Glinda instead, going so far as to brandish a knife in order to prevent Nessa from stopping him. Hurt and furious, Nessarose tries to cast a spell from the Grimmerie to make Boq lose his heart to her, determined that he should love her. However, unlike in the novel, Nessarose has had no instruction in sorcery whatsoever, and thus ends up mispronouncing the words in the incantation. This leads to Boq literally losing his heart. While Elphaba tries to save his life, Nessarose reflects on how being "alone and loveless" has led to her wicked actions; she fears that she may deserve no one but the "girl in the mirror" as punishment.
As in the novel, Elphaba gets tired of Nessarose and leaves her younger sister for good, despite Nessarose's frantic pleas for Elphaba to stay with her. When it turns out that Elphaba had turned Boq into a Tin Man, so that he can live without a heart, a desperate Nessarose places all the blame on her older sister, and a horrified Boq runs away, leaving Nessarose on her own. Thus, she does not even get to enjoy the gift of being able to walk, and comes to regard her whole existence as a "sorry life".
Glinda unwittingly causes her death in the musical, by suggesting to the Wizard and Madame Morrible that Elphaba can be captured by spreading a rumour that Nessarose is in danger. Madame Morrible takes this suggestion to its most extreme level by creating a cyclone that brings Dorothy's house to Oz, which falls on Nessarose and crushes her to death.
In the original Broadway production, the role was played by Michelle Federer. Other actresses to star in the role worldwide include original Broadway cast member Cristy Candler, Jenna Leigh Green, Deedee Magno Hall, Katie Rowley Jones (original London cast), Caroline Keiff, Natalie Anderson, Marcie Dodd (the only actress to date to have played both lead roles of Nessarose and Elphaba), Summer Naomi Smart and Penny McNamee (original Australian cast), among others.