book review, Dorothy, Elphaba, Fiyero, Glinda, Gregory Maguire, Into the Vinkus, Liir, Munchkinland, Nanny, Nessarose, Sequel, Son of the Witch, Soul, The Murder and its Afterlife, Vinkus, Wicked, Wicked Witch of the West
And so, I now give you the final review of Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. The last two sections of the books are “Into the Vinkus” (and you’ll remember that Fiyero was the Vinkus Prince) and “The Murder and Its Afterlife.” These sections are Elphaba’s evolution in the Witch of the West. She starts to lose her identity as Elphaba, being called Sister, Auntie Witch, and even just Witch as the book draws to a close.
There are also a host of new characters and some new ones are re-introduced. The new characters include Fiyero’s wife, Sarima, and her five younger sisters (simply named Two, Three, Four, Five and Six), Fiyero’s three children, a host of animals and Liir, a young boy who travels with Elphaba. I find Liir the most interesting because his mother is never confirmed, although Elphaba is somewhat certain that it’s her, but Maguire states several times that Liir is Fiyero’s son. He will become the central character in the next book, Son of the Witch. But not having a confirmed mother is interesting, because I think that families should carry through the mother’s line; you can’t really dispute who the mother of a child is, but without DNA testing, paternity is questionable. Henry the VIII’s search for a son always struck me as silly. Actually, any instance that follows the male line strikes me as silly, but I’m very into the matriarchal line and feminine power. Probably why I like this book.
“Into the Vinkus” is about Elphaba’s journey to Kiamo Ko, which is Fiyero’s fortress and her stay there. She adopts a dog, two crows and a baby monkey on her way there, as well as having Liir tag along. Liir is seven when the section opens, so many years have passed since the closing of “City of Emeralds” and Fiyero’s death. At first, Elphaba is seeking forgiveness from Sarima for Fiyero’s death, but because Fiyero’s body was not found, Sarima holds out hope that her husband might still live. It is the greatest case of denial that I’ve ever seen. Sarima holds onto this belief until her confirmed death in “The Murder and its Afterlife.”
And her children, Manek, Irij and Nor, are… well, children. Manek is actually the second son, but considered more suited to be the next Vinkus Prince. However, he dies partway through “Into the Vinkus” when an icicle falls and hits him in the head. Coincidently, this happens after he traps Liir in the fish well; Sarima passes the incident off as ‘boys will be boys,’ but Elphaba doesn’t accept this explanation. Even though she isn’t certain of her connection to Liir, she still watches over him. Irij becomes a great deal like Elphaba’s father, studying religion and the soul and the spiritual, instead of being part of the actual world. And Nor is the girl and somewhat dismissed in Wicked. Her biggest role is that she brings out the power in Elphaba’s room, getting it to fly and inspiring Elphaba.
Nanny also returns in “Into the Vinkus,” having finally tracked down Elphaba after her disappearance nearly a decade earlier. She brings news about Frex, Shell and Nessarose. Nessarose can now stand on her own, thanks to her shoes, shoes that Frex made and sent to her and that Glinda enchanted. You know, the red shoes that Dorothy eventually gets. She also has Munckinland cede from the rest of Oz. The younger brother, Shell, is out and about, spying on the Wizard’s activities and Frex is simply growing older. Elphaba returns to Munckinland near the end of “Into the Vinkus” and visits her family; during the visit, Nessarose proposes that the sisters join together to fight against the Wizard. During this visit, the Wizard’s forces invade Kiamo Ko and take the Vinkus family, which enrages Elphaba.
Elphaba beings to question whether, after all this time, all her actions, as well as Nessarose’s actions, are their own, or are they pawns of Madame Morrible (who is still living) and the Wizard. This line of questioning continues in “The Murders and its Afterlife,” but this time she goes after Glinda, who dismisses the notion. But Glinda has become the Witch of the North by now and is heavily involved in the politics of Oz, even if she doesn’t see it. She and her husband attend certain functions, support certain charities and are part of certain social circles; of the friends from Shiz, she still represents the upper class. On the other side, Boq and Milla are the working class. Boq still resides in Munckinland and works to feed his family, which grows every year. He doesn’t care much for the politics of Oz and Munchkinland, which infuriates Elphaba.
In “The Murder and its Afterlife,” you meet the Wizard. He has a personal audience with Elphaba after Nessarose’s death (that house that fell on her). He wants to be certain that Elphaba won’t claim the title of Eminent Thropp, even though it is her birthright. He also wants something that Elphaba found at Kiamo Ko, a spell book that Elphaba can barely read. He tells her that the book is not of this world (Oz) and that it doesn’t belong to her. Elphaba tries to bargain for the release of Sarima and the family, but the Wizard confirms that most of them are dead. Irij couldn’t be allowed to live as the next Vinkus Prince and the sisters were all killed. Only Nor remains, being broken in by Madame Morrible, who has lost her touch as she ages. Elphaba (now referred to as the Witch) begins to lose it.
She goes after Madame Morrible, but the Madame passes away five minutes before Elphaba arrives. So the Witch bashes her head in and claims the she murdered the Madame anyway. After a few adventures to try and spread the word that she is the one who killed Morrible, the Witch returns to Kiamo Ko; she stops sleeping and for a while believes that the Scarecrow travelling with Dorothy is Fiyero. She desperately tries to use the spell book, and in the years between “Into the Vinkus” and “The Murder” she has created her flying monkeys by meshing wings onto the monkeys, although no female ever gives birth to a monkey with wings. When she sends her familiars to escort Dorothy and her friends, she watches her familiars get murdered, because the Wizard has declared her “The Wicked Witch of the West.”
There are a few other characters that make an appearance. The Dwarf and the Time Clock return and show Elphaba a three act play in which the third act isn’t written. The Dwarf explains that he and Yackle are both immortal and sometimes work together, but not always. He confirms that Frex is not Elphaba’s father, but a foreigner from another world is, the Wizard, making Elphaba of both worlds and of neither world. This is why she can sometimes read the spell book.
These two sections give me the most trouble, even when I slow down and read each section carefully and multiple times. I’m beginning to understand more of the underlying issues, such as Elphaba’s need for forgiveness and her search for a soul, then her crazed behavior at the end. I use the reader’s guide at the end of the book to help my brain focus and I also rely on my knowledge of the musical. Both help. I understand the Wizard’s methods; he is a foreigner who declared himself the ruler and he establishes himself with fear. He has used Hitler’s methods to control the population of Oz to something he understands and that doesn’t include Animals and Quadlings. His interactions with Elphaba show that he doesn’t deal well with threats to his power and he has a breakdown when he realizes that she was his daughter, but that is just one sentence on the last page. Elphaba is labeled a Witch because people fear her and don’t understand her. I’m pulling a line from Beauty and the Beast: “We don’t like what we don’t understand. In fact, it scares us.” The people of Oz didn’t understand Elphaba; the Wizard didn’t understand Oz. The Wizard tried to tighten his grip and eventually managed to gain control with the help of the education system and Madame Morrible (He praises the Madame for her efforts in breaking in young girls and it makes me question our education system a bit). Elphaba loses her control on herself. Her life was meant to be a tragedy from the beginning, which sucks.
But it isn’t just Elphaba’s fate that we have to worry about now, it’s Oz’s. Oz has gone through a major upheaval since the Wizard’s arrival nearly forty years ago, after generations of rule under the Ozma. And now, it’s going to change again. The Animals have been forced underground, the Quadlings have been persecuted and the Munckinlanders will become part of Oz again. But something has got to change.
What will the Son of the Witch do?