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|Written by||Rachel Cosgrove|
|Publisher||The International Wizard of Oz Club|
The Wicked Witch of Oz is an modern-day Oz book, written by Rachel Cosgrove Payes and illustrated by Eric Shanower. Although it is not one of the "Famous Forty," it was written by a Royal Historian of Oz.
The title character is Singra, the Wicked Witch of the South. In her decrepit cottage in the Quadling Country, near "the mountain where the Hammerheads live," Singra's Hundred-Year Alarm Clock awakens her after a century of sleep. Her Magical Musical Snuffbox informs the witch of all the events she has missed in the last hundred years. Shocked that the destruction of her "cousins" the Witches of the East and West, Singra sets out to brew a spell of revenge against Dorothy Gale, the main agent of these unwelcome changes.
Glinda has gone to visit Queen Zixi in Ix; the Scarecrow has been deputed to read the Great Book of Records, in case of any untoward developments. Singra, come to steal magical ingredients, finds him there, and leaves him tied up in Glinda's workroom. In the Emerald City, she tricks the girl she thinks is Dorothy into drinking her potion. Singra, however, has blundered: she has mistaken Trot for Dorothy, and turned the little girl into a piece of green cheese. Dorothy sets out to rescue Trot, while Singra continues to seek her vengeance.
Dorothy is aided by Percy, the giant white rat that Cosgrove Payes introduced in her first Oz book, The Hidden Valley of Oz (1951). In their efforts, they encounter a rubber band (that is to say, a band of musicians made of rubber), and a living neon man called Leon — Leon the Neon. The trio of Dorothy, Percy, and Leon confront a giant beehive, and Dorothy and Percy take flight on hummingbird wings. Singra attains her revenge when she enchants Dorothy into a statue — but her friends, Ozma, the Wizard, Jellia Jamb and the rest, manage to unravel Singra's scheme.
Dorothy and Trot are restored to life. The defeated Singra is made to drink from the Forbidden Fountain, and is purged of her malicious intent along with her memory. Good triumphs in the end.
Cosgrove Payes began this novel soon after finishing The Hidden Valley of Oz (1951), and worked on it through 1952. The original intent of publisher Reilly & Lee was to release the book in 1954 — but the publisher cancelled the project, due to slow overall sales of recent Oz offerings. The book remained unpublished for four decades, until The International Wizard of Oz Club brought out the first edition in 1993.
There is justification in the works of L. Frank Baum for a creation of a Wicked Witch of the South among the good and evil witches of Oz. In his fourth book, Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, Ozma explains that in the past there were evil witches in all four quadrants: "a good witch had conquered Mombi in the North and Glinda the Good had conquered the evil Witch of the South" (Chapter 15, "Old Friends are Reunited").
Cosgrove Payes makes her Singra this Wicked Witch of the South. When Singra awakens she refers to "That hateful Glinda and her sleepy spells!" A later reference confirms that Glinda defeated Singra and put her "into a deep sleep."
In the eleventh chapter of her book, Cosgrove Payes has her character Leon the Neon tell how he came to be. He was once, he states, an ordinary Quadling man, who showed his "special red hens" at a fair and won first prize — which turned out to be a home electrical kit. While trying to wire his home, the Quadling farmer got into a terrible tangle of wires; there was shock and he was transformed into neon.
The episode contains allusions to the biography of L. Frank Baum. Baum raised and showed prize chickens. Baum's second son Robert Stanton Baum was, as a boy, an enthusiast about electricity, and wired the family home with his circuits and devices. (See: The Master Key.) The picture that Shanower drew for this section of text features a man who looks like Baum, mustache and all.