There are two sides in every story; let us hope it is so for most of the stories I happened to pick up was told in one perspective; mostly by the protagonist’s perspective. It was so convenient to know their fears, to sympathized with their struggles, to be with them in their every quest; we follow their dreams and aspirations. We pursue their task as if it is our own happiness to overcome them. We know them very much that we fell in love with them. We hate their enemies that we wanted to take part in their battle and we wanted to kill their enemies ourselves and we soak in their glories as if it is our
But would you feel the same if you’ve heard or knew their enemies’s side of the story? It was painful not to be heard or hadn’t given the chance to explain. Too much had written about them but it told only of their evil doing. Their grim doings had gone down to generations and that their name is synonymous to evil. But there’s one author who had given us glimpses on the life of villains; Gregory Maguire gave voice to the untold stories of Elphaba Thropp- the Wicked Witch of the West. Yes, you’ve heard of her but her heartaches were unheard of. The more you know about her the more compelling she become. The one part that I really felt sorry for her was when her sister, the Wicked Witch of the East was flattened to death by the house which brought Dorothy from Kansas to the Land of Oz. No one ever sympathized with her or even gave a cup of coffee and comforted her in her bereavement. Well, she’s a witch after all. Who cares? No one.
How she came to be a witch? And wicked at that. Well, Maguire told us of where she came from. She was born from an immoral mother and a religious father – a preacher. She was born green as sin that reminded me more of Gamora. Many believed it was a cursed from heaven. Now, you got a picture of how she grew up- alone, an outcast. But she got a nanny to take care of her in the absence of her father who was always out looking for a prospect convert; and her mother who got to make a living. Eventually, she got a stepsister fathered by the glassblower whom her mother got an illicit affair. Well, less is really wrong with an immoral.
Then she went to school with her stepsister- the Wicked Witch of the East. Together, they learned great deal about the world and the people and its wickedness.
Elphaba Thropp- Wicked Witch of the West fell in love with Fiyero- another weirdo fellow with blue markings on his back reserved for the royals. They had an affair despite Fiyero being a family man and not long he was taken from her. Fiyero was shot dead for a reason she knew something that had to do with a treason against the Emperor- the Wizard of Oz. And everyone knew she was the one who is ever against the Wizard of Oz. She ran away neither to the forest where she stayed for most of her school years nor to their house but to the House of nuns. In there, she gave birth to Liir whom she never claim to be hers.
What I admire in her the most is her being resolute despite all the misfortunes.She heard her father and mother fell ill and her sister flattened to death by the house which brought Dorothy to the Land of Oz. She reminded me of Poison Ivy who despite all her effort for nature, she received nothing in return until a lab accident struck which gave her superpower; she is to retaliate against those who abuse nature and she proved to be the most staunch of all climate change advocates. Just like the Wicked Witch, her being a villain is justifiable though Elphaba has a lot of work to do to justify her wickedness, she is a witch after all.
She knew all these has something to do with her being against the Emperor and that she was under attack. So she seek refuge and headed to the palace of his dead lover Fiyero and there she lived with Fiyero’s wife and children. She took the liberty of staying in one room alone and there she master the Grimoire- the magic book and attempted to make the monkey fly and talk. The Wizard of Oz knew she was exceptional. Her appetite for justice, her campaigns for the good of Animals, her talent for magic and her display of cunning wit will someday dethrone him and he know by now that she is brewing something in her cauldron. So the Wizard sent armies to curb the planned coup on his Empire. The whole family was abducted and that leave Elphaba gone abscond flying away with her broomstick. She knew too much about politics and that made her a target. She then headed to the Emerald City to face the Wizard. She traveled the Thousand Year Grassland and the Kumbricia Pass where she met the cursed Elephant Queen who told her mishaps that has something to do with the Wizard. And Elphaba was the only hope for Fiyero’s family and Liir. Then she passed the Yellow Brick Road where she grudgingly saw Dorothy with the red glass slippers owned by her stepsister which her glassblower father made for her. It was like you flattened my sister to death and you’re wearing her precious shoes as a prize. This very well reminded me of Maleficent, when she lost her wings; she gathered her strength and confronted the King who got to wear his crown as prize upon slaying her wings. Suffice it to say, evil has its roots; we oftentimes denied we caused such monstrosity.
Then she came to the Emerald City and face the Wizard. She confronted him raging but the Wizard was of silhouette of a whirling fire. You know this part as it was told many times over of how the Witch was defeated. Well, there came Dorothy and she happened to splashed water on Elphaba and she shrieked to death. A simple fact that a witch never take a bath and it only take a little Dorothy to know that.
I felt pity for Elphaba after knowing her side of the story. She was after all a good human being, only she was pushed to the edge that left her no choice but to reach for the hand that pushed her and fight back. Indeed, desperate time calls for desperate measures and thus she became wicked for a reason.
There are other Maguire novels with the same genre that you can look for like the Confessions of the Ugly Stepsisters- you know the Cinderella story very well but try it from the perspective of the Stepsisters. Then there’s the Son of a Witch- from Liir’s perspective as he venture into the world of Oz in the Wicked Years. A Lion Among Men is the third of Wicked series recounting the life of a Cowardly Lion.
It is a breeze knowing that there are books which gives fresh life to the classics which often left us hanging with unanswered questions. These books breathe anew and justified villain’s side of the story. That’s why it’s a delight for me to read books which give equal space to explore each character like that of John Milton’s poem Paradise Lost which has Satan’s, God’s, Men’s, Angels’s and Demon’s perspective. Jack of the Halloween Land in Timburton’s Nightmare Before Christmas is another good example of equal characterization as it recounted how he sees Christmas Land. Perhaps a stranger has the clearest eyes to see a place familiar to you.
There are several movie remakes too that gives us the chance to explore why such character behave in a way we couldn’t imagine, and because we are judgmental, we jump to our default understanding of evil. Just because they are evil, that’s why. So lazy of us. Good to know we have these prequels, Origins, spin offs to deeply understand them and to keep ourselves guarded. Please know that I am not justifying here all their evil deeds; I just wanted to study how they came to be evil. I mean, there are patterns most of them share in common; for instance the Jedi Anakin Skywalker was trained to be a knight and bring balance to the force but his childhood is marred by ungodly experiences like death and oppression. He contained within himself what master Yoda taught could bring self destruction. His hate turned to fear, fear turned to anger; and all these fueled his desire for revenge. He was seduced by the dark side and became Lord Darth Vader.
Tragedy has the power to change people; as was the case with Bruce Wayne; but he took a different path; a good path that is to save someone in danger, but there’s a desire for revenge in his actions that can be traced back to his childhood facing death in his parents. It’s interesting how they drew powerful energy from something negative like tragedy. It’s never healthy for what I’ve known is that it only yield dark energy but it fuel them anyway to do whatever end they wanted. It is safe to say that they didn’t succumbed totally to the dark side and still got total control and had gain our sympathy. It is also safe to say that our villains has the power to be heroes. It only lies in their motivation as to why they do what they do. I mean, look at Wolverine and all other lab rat mishaps, Spiderman, Captain America, Deadpool, Bane. Basically they all came from a point of tragedy but they diverge in different directions. They were driven by different motivations. This is their defining moment. To be or not to be. From this point we see villains that was once a hero had they chose to. They took wide range of perspectives explaining their motivations that made them interesting. Some took noble causes and become recluse and had our sympathy. They reminded me of Constantine, it takes one to be Great like Constantine to understand and be both good and evil. Let’s not forget that there are villains for no reason, no matter how they rationalize their actions you will see through and through they are pure evil…..absolute evil…The Joker, Thanos …and that there’s no further explanation.
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