By Mauri Lazaro - @DarkDearieMauri
Wicked is coming to Once Upon a Time, but the Wicked Witch of the West was first created from the author L. Frank Baum’s imagination in his Oz book series for children.
Lyman Frank Baum, known as L. Frank Baum was born in Chittenango, New York in 1856, and died on May 6, 1919 after suffering from a stroke and falling into a coma. During his lifetime he wrote a total of fifty-five novels, plus four “lost” novels, eighty-three short stories, over two hundred poems, an unknown number of scripts, and many other miscellaneous writings. Out of all of his writings he is best known for writing the original fourteen Oz books.
Above: Author L. Frank Baum
After Baum’s death, publishers Reilly and Lee, who had published most of Baum’s Oz novels, printed an additional twenty-six Oz books: nineteen by Ruth Plumly Thomson, three by John R. Neil, two by Jack Snow, and one each by Rachel Cosgrove Payes and her daughter Eloise Jarvis. Of all the books written after his death, only the Oz books written by Sherwood Smith, The Emerald Wand of Oz (2005) and Trouble Under Oz (2006) are officially recognized as canon by The Baum Trust.
The Wicked Witch of the West is the principal villain in Baum’s first Oz book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and is rarely referred to again in the rest of the book series after her character’s death. In the book she is described as an old hag with three pigtails and an eye patch. L Frank Baum specified that her one eye was like a telescope, allowing her to see what was happening in her kingdom from her castle. The witch carried an umbrella instead of a broom which she used to hit Toto from time to time. Most of her powers reside in the creatures she controlled. She has a pack of wolves, a swarm of bees, a flock of crows, and an army of Winkies. Winkies are the residents of Winkie Country of which the witch lives. Her weaknesses include water and being afraid of the dark. In spite of these weaknesses, she is one of the most powerful witches in all of Oz. Even Glinda is known to be cautious of her.
Above: An Illustration of L. Frank Baum's original vision of Wicked Witch of The West
It was in the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz that the Wicked Witch of the West, played by Margaret Hamilton, acquired the iconic green skin and long black dress with a pointed hat and broom that we associate with her today. Her powers consisted of casting fireballs and conjuring a field of poppies to cast a sleeping curse on Dorothy and her friends before they reached the Emerald City. The Wicked Witch meets her demise when she sets the scarecrow on fire and Dorothy throws a pail of water on him inadvertently getting the water on the witch too, causing her to melt. Margaret Hamilton’s concept of the character was that Wicked Witch enjoyed the things she did, but was ultimately a sad, lonely person who never got what she wanted.
Above: Margaret Hamilton in the 1939 MGM film, 'The Wizard of Oz'
Meryn LeRoy, the film’s producer, originally envisioned the Wicked Witch to be a beautiful, cruel woman much like the Evil Queen in Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs(1937). But having a sexy evil witch played against the line of the script that bad witches were ugly. In fact, it was the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs that spurred Louis B. Mayer, owner of MGM Studios, to come up with a film that would rival the Disney movie. August 25th of this year will mark The Wizard of Oz’s 75th Anniversary. Walt Disney himself had wanted to make an Oz movie after Snow White, but MGM owned the rights to the book. Disney Studios would later go on to make Return to Oz (1985), The Muppet Wizard of Oz (2005), and Oz the Great and Powerful (2013).
If you want to read more about the 1939 movie, I suggest reading
The Wizard of Oz: The official 75th Anniversary Companion by William Stillman and Jay Scarfone
The Making of the Wizard of Oz by Aljean Harmetz. The book features an introduction by the Wicked witch herself, Margaret Hamilton.
Above: Idina Menzel in the Broadway Musical, 'Wicked'
Another notable Oz book series is Gregory Maguire’s Wicked Years Series. He creates an alternate Oz universe for his story that features the Wicked Witch of the West, naming her Elphaba after L. Frank Baum’s initials L-F-B. Unlike the original Oz books, this series is not intended for children. The first in the series is Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch, and it is also the book that inspired the musical Wicked. After her mother has an affair with a stranger, Elphaba is born with green skin and is also allergic to water. As a child she acts feral and is misunderstood, making her an outcast among society and she grows up to be the Wicked Witch of the West.
On Once Upon a Time the Wicked Witch will be played by Lost alumni, Rebecca Mader. Observing the publicity photos, the wicked witch is no longer ugly, but sexy and green. Too bad Captain Kirk isn’t on this show; he likes green women. I don’t know what the Wicked Witch has in store for our favorite Storybrooke residents, but I’m sure it’s going to be wicked!
Above: Rebecca Mader on 'Once Upon A Time'
L. Frank Baum’s Oz books:
1) The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)
2) The Marvelous Land of Oz (1904)
3) Ozma of Oz (1907)
4) Dorothy and Wizard of Oz (1908)
5) The Road to Oz (1909)
6) The Emerald City of Oz (1910)
7) The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1913)
8) Tik-Tock of Oz (1914)
9) The Scarecrow of Oz (1915)
10) Rinkitink in Oz (1916)
11) The Lost Princess of Oz (1917)
12) The Tin Woodman of Oz (1918)
13) The Magic of Oz (1919)
14) Glinda of Oz (1920)
Gregory Maguire’s Wicked Years series:
1) Wicked: the Life and times of the Wicked witch (1995)
2) Son of a Witch (2005)
3) A Lion Among Men (2008)
4) Out of Oz (2011)
Explore the Arthurian legend surrounding Lancelot, take a trip into the woods to discover the mythology behind Red Riding Hood or learn more about a modern day hero called Snow White. Origins provides unique insights and perspectives from talented writers into the characters we know and love, going far beyond the boundaries of Storybrooke.