A Smashing Good Time – the Wicked Witch of the West
Few villains are as iconic as Margaret Hamilton’s Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz (MGM, 1939). Is it the green skin, the archetypal witch’s nose, or the wide-brimmed black hat that makes her so memorable? Maybe her screeching voice is what sticks in your memory. The Wicked Witch of the West has had multiple incarnations in the 100+ years since L. Frank Baum first published his novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Many additional authors have written about this witch. We will explore the four primary versions of the Wicked Witch of the West. These versions are:
- The Wicked Witch of the West, from The Wizard of Oz (film, MGM, 1939).
- Elphaba, from Gregory Maguire’s Wicked: The Life and Times of The Wicked Witch of the West.
Note: This is the original version of the character made famous in the Broadway musical, Wicked.
- The Wicked Witch of the West, from L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
- Ondri-baba, from Tarl Telford’s Hidden History of Oz books.
What makes each of these versions different? Who is the Wicked Witch of the West, anyway? (more…)
Four Witches in Oz
There are four witches in Oz – one in each corner, or rather, one in each Cardinal Direction. L. Frank Baum laid out the powers that ruled the corners of Oz. In his first book, he detailed this witchy phenomenon:
“There were only four witches in all the Land of Oz, and two of them, those who live in the North and the South, are good witches. I know this is true, for I am one of them myself, and cannot be mistaken. Those who dwelt in the East and the West were, indeed, wicked witches; but now that you have killed one of them, there is but one Wicked Witch in all the Land of Oz–the one who lives in the West.”
— The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, chapter 2, “The Council with the Munchkins”
So, four Witches? Is this a Star Wars dark lord of Sith-type limitation on the number of Witches? Let’s explore this witch-rule across three different versions of Oz – canonical Oz, by L. Frank Baum; Disney Oz, coming to theaters soon; and The Hidden History of Oz, available now.
You may have seen what Disney is doing with their Oz prequel, Oz, the Great and Powerful. If not, here’s a quick peek at one of the TV spots.
Which Witch is which?
Official character bio for each witch:
Glinda – Glinda is a good witch who rules over a peaceful kingdom of simple, kind folk. Beautiful Glinda is not only a compassionate and benevolent witch, but also a fierce protector of her people. Though Glinda sees through Oz’s facade early on, she knows genuine goodness lies within and helps Oz achieve his true destiny.
Evanora – A witch to be feared, Evanora is Theodora’s over-protective sister. With her penetrating gaze, she exudes a powerful presence and has positioned herself as the royal advisor and protector of Emerald City.
Theodora – Theodora is a beautiful, naive witch who is protected by her powerful sister Evanora. Theodora only wants peace to come to the Land of Oz and truly believes that a prophesied wizard will arrive someday to restore order.
Then there is a silhouette of a witch in the fire. Who could this be? We’ll have to wait until March 8, 2013, when the film is released, to find out.
The Good Witch of the North was not named in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Nor whas she named in any of Baum’s Oz books. However, Baum gave her the name of Locasta in the 1902 musical extravaganza, The Wizard of Oz.
Ruth Plumly Thompson, Baum’s handpicked successor in writing Oz books, revamped the character and gave her the name of Tattypoo.
The Good Witch of the North is often confused with Glinda. Why? Because the 1939 MGM movie, The Wizard of Oz, combined the two good witches into one and called her Glinda. Thanks for that.
The Wicked Witch of the East is not named in Baum’s books.
The Wicked Witch of the West is not named in Baum’s books. However, in the 1910 silent film, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, this witch is named Momba in the intertitles (or title cards).
The Good Witch of the South is Glinda the Good. She is the most powerful of the Witches. According to the Soldier with Green Whiskers, Glinda:
“knows how to keep young in spite of the many years she has lived.”
— The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, chapter 18, “Away to the South”
So she was the most beautiful of the four witches. Later books in Baum’s Oz series refer to Glinda as a Sorceress, rather than a Witch.
Hidden History Witches
This information is taken from The Hidden History of Oz, Book One: The Witch Queens.
Gayelette is the eternal sorceress who rules from the Ruby Palace in the lands of the North. She is a sorceress who exists in a different time than normal people – she does not ever age. She is more than one hundred years old. Her constant research keeps her too busy to pay attention to either matters of state or family.
Gayelette researches the power of dreams, probing into the mystery, “Why does nobody in Oz dream?”
Kalinya rules over the Munchkins in the East as their unquestioned leader. She is cruel and easily irritated. Her magic is telekinetic, and her greatest threat is to throw a person into the sky. She is clever and constantly schemes to gain more power, especially against her chief rival, Gayelette.
It is Kalinya who later becomes known as the Wicked Witch of the East.
Ondri-baba is the homely and cruel younger sister of Kalinya. She is short and stocky, and fond of wearing ornate neckpieces. Her magic is invisibility. She has a magic eye that can see long distances; it can see what normal waking eyes cannot see. She controls the majority of the magic hourglasses sold by Smith & Tinker, and so controls the Sandy Armies.
It is Ondri-baba who eventually conquers the Winkies in the West and becomes the Wicked Witch of the West.
Sonadia is only mentioned in the book. She met her untimely death under very mysterious circumstances. Through conversations with Kalinya and Glinda, we learn that Sonadia had powers over weather, and she taught some of these spells to Gayelette.
Mombi is a strategist and political opportunist. Though her powers of transformation and disguise are well-known to the leaders of the various lands in Oz, Mombi seeks out the true positions of power – those behind the throne. She is careful in her use of power, though sometimes she gets caught up in Kalinya’s schemes.
Note: Mombi is not mentioned in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, though she is the primary antagonist in Baum’s second book, The Marvelous Land of Oz.
Locasta is a young Munchkin maiden, taken as an apprentice by Kalinya, Witch of the East. She is quiet and non-confrontational, doing what she is told. She fears her master and the cruel punishments that she earns for her supposed ineptitude. Her most powerful magic is the ownership of an oracular hat.
Though sent to capture Glinda, she learns a valuable lesson from the young sorceress and finds the courage to stand on her own merit. With Glinda building her forces in the South, Locasta becomes what Glinda cannot be – the Witch of the North.
Glinda is the daughter of the Ruby Sorceress, Gayelette, and Quelala, rulers of the North. She was born a princess, but she imagines for herself adventure and romance, just like in her large collection of books. She has fiery red hair, and a temper to match.
When her parents disappear, Glinda finds herself thrown into adventure, with the Wicked Witches chasing after her. With a name and a fame belonging to her mother, Glinda fights back against the witches to earn for herself the title of Glinda the Good, and secure a new home for herself in the South.
History of the Witches in Oz
According to Baum’s later Oz books, the witches had been ruling for decades, and the three witches – East, West, and Mombi in the North – conspired to conquer the entire Land of Oz and divide it up among themselves.
Hidden History version
According to stories in Book One, there have been two Witch Wars. Both of these wars tore the Land of Oz apart as the Witches combined their powers and created vast armies to fight against the kings and queens of the land.
In the Second Witch War, the Witches obtained an alliance and power from the Queen of Dreams, a mysterious ruler from across the sea. The Witches unwisely used this power and poisoned and destroyed the sea. The sea became a toxic desert that surrounds the Land of Oz.
Book One details the beginning of the Third Witch War, as the Wicked Witches again combine their power to overthrow the rulers of the land. While this book begins the Third Witch Wars, they do not end until later books, with the arrival of a young “sorceress” (Dorothy) to the Land of Oz.
How will it end?
The Witch Wars end when all the Witches are dead. We know that Dorothy interacts with all of the main witches in the original story, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. She destroys two of them, and receives magical protection and favors from the other two. However, the journey from four cardinal witches to two witches is a fascinating one explored in the Hidden History of Oz novels.
If you haven’t picked up your copy yet, you can find it on Amazon (in paperback and Kindle versions) or on Smashwords.
Edit: Update on the ending of the Third Witch Wars. It happens in later books, not Book Four. – Tarl