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Wicked Witch of the West

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"I'm Melting, Melting! Oh what a World, what a world, who would've thought that an innocent little girl like you could destroy my beautiful wickedness. Oh, look out, I'm going...I'm goooooing..."
―The Wicked Witch of the West (1939)
Wicked Witch of the West
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Wicked Witch of the West 1900

Species Witch
Occupation Ruler of Winkie Country
Affiliation L. Frank Baum, Pastoria, Land of Oz, Golden Cap, Winkies, Winged Monkeys, Gayelette, Wicked Witch of the East, Wizard, Cyclone, Dorothy Gale, Toto, Cowardly Lion, Silver Shoes, Ruby Slippers, Wicked

"Ill get you my pretty, and your little dog too!"
―The Wicked Witch of the West (1939)
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The Wicked Witch of the West by charles santore.

The Wicked Witch of the West is a fictional character and the most significant antagonist in L. Frank Baum's first Oz book titled The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, published in 1900. In Baum's subsequent Oz books, it is the infamous Nome King who is the principal villain throughout the stories which serve as sequels; the Wicked Witch of the West is rarely even referred to again after her death in the first book by being liquefied by the stories child protagonist and heroine named Dorothy Gale of Kansas.

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The Wicked Witch's most popular depiction was in the classic 1939 Hollywood musical movie based on Baum's book, where she was portrayed by late actress Margaret Hamilton. Hamilton's characterization introduced green skin and this has been continued in later literary and dramatic representations, including Gregory Maguire's revisionist Oz novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West aka "Elphaba" (1995) and its musical stage adaptation Wicked (2003). In the 2013 film by Disney Oz the Great and Powerful, the pre- Wiicked Witch of the West named Theodora, turns green from a green posion apple. In the Spring 2014 story arc of the television series Once Upon a Time, the Witch named "Zelena" is green due to her jealousy over a newly arrived Dorothy, "Green with Envy". However, in the original book by Baum it never states that the Witch has any type of peculiar skin condition such as being green. It does state though that the Wicked Witch is so evil, cold-blooded and old that the blood in her body dried up long, long ago.

Wicked In the West

"Which road leads to the Wicked Witch of the West?" asked Dorothy. "There is no road," answered the Guardian of the Gates. "No one ever wishes to go that way." "How, then, are we to find her?" inquired the girl. "That will be easy," replied the man, "for when she knows you are walking upon her territory, in the country of the Winkies she will find you, and make you all her slaves." "Perhaps not," said the Scarecrow, "for we mean to destroy her." "Oh, well that is different," said the Guardian of the Gates. "No one has ever destroyed her before, so I naturally thought she would make slaves of you, as she has of the rest. Those who dare to travel in her country are rarley ever seen or heard of again. But take care; for she is wicked and cruel, and may not allow you to destroy her if she can help it. She has many terrifying powers so beware. Keep to the West, where the sun sets, and you cannot fail to find her, good luck, you shall all need it!"
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)
Castle of the wicked witch by ginovanta-d4b9ro8

A faithful illustration of the Wicked Witch of West's yellow Winkie castle as described in Baum's book from 1900.

The Wicked Witch of the West is the malevolent ruler of the western quadrant in the magical Land of Oz known as the Winkie Country. Surprisingly, in Baum's original book of 1900, it is said the Wicked Witch lives in a yellow castle described as beautiful, consisting of long hallways carpeted with yellow velvet rugs, rich yellow draperies of fine fabrics are placed at the castle windows and attractive yellow antiques and decor decorated nearly every single room. It is a luxurious setting instead of being the sinister fortress oif darkness shown in the 1939 movie.

"Dorothy quickly obeyed the old cruel woman and followed her past the great halls, which were all carpeted in yellow velvet. Finally, Dorothy was lead through many of the beautiful yellow rooms in the Wicked Witch's home until they came to the kitchen, where the Witch bade her clean the pots and kettles and sweep the floor and keep the fire fed with wood. Dorothy went to work meekly, with her mind made up to work as hard as she could; for she was glad the Wicked Witch had decided not to kill her or her dog. "
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)

In all versions, she is seriously aquaphobic, being highly allergic to H2O. In the original version of the story, the Wicked Witch of the West was not related to the Wicked Witch of the East, but leagued together with her, as well as the Wicked Witch of the South and the old Witch Mombi to conquer the Land of Oz and divide it among themselves, as recounted in L. Frank Baum's Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz. She shows no interest in the death of the Eastern Witch, and all she cares about is obtaining the Silver Shoes which will increase her power. W. W. Denslow's illustrations for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz depict her as a paunched old hag with three pigtails and an eye-patch. L. Frank Baum himself specified that she only had one eye, but that it "was as powerful as a telescope", enabling the witch to see what was happening in her kingdom from her castle windows. Other illustrators, such as Paul Granger, placed her eye in the center of her forehead, as a cyclops. Usually, she is shown wearing an eye patch, however some illustrations incorrectly show her with two eyes.

Most of her power resides in the creatures she controls that do her dirty work. She has a pack of wolves, a swarm of bees, a flock of crows and an army of the Native Winkies. She possesses the enchanted Golden Cap adorned with real rubies and diamonds, which compelles the creatures called Winged Monkeys of Oz to obey her on three occasions. First, the witch commanded the creatures to help her enslave the Winkies and to seize control of the western part of the Land of Oz. Second, she made the winged monkeys drive the Wizard out of the Winkie Country, when he attempted to overthrow her.

When Dorothy Gale and her three companions were sent by the Wizard to destroy her, in exchange for their wishes to be granted, the Witch attacked them with a pack of 40 great wolves, a flock of 40 crows, a swarm of black bees, and a group of Winkie slaves. Each of these attempts were thwarted, but the protagonists are eventually subdued by the Witch's third and final permitted use of the Winged Monkeys. Nevertheless, the old witch cannot kill Dorothy because the girl is protected by the Good Witch of the North's kiss. She therefore settles for enslaving Dorothy, and tries to force the Cowardly Lion into submission by starving him, though Dorothy sneaks him food. Upon seeing the Silver Shoes on the girl's feet, the Wicked Witch decides to steal them, and thereby acquire even more power.

When she succeeds in acquiring one silver shoe by making Dorothy trip over an invisible bar, the little girl angrily throws a bucket of water onto the Wicked Witch. This causes the old witch to melt away and die.

L. Frank Baum did not explain precisely why water had this effect on her, nor did he ever imply that all evil witches could be likewise destroyed. However, the wicked witch Mombi is similarly disposed of in The Lost King of Oz and the wicked witch Singra is clearly afraid of the same fate in the early chapters of The Wicked Witch of Oz. The most likely explanation of Baum making water the Achilles Heel of these witches is the long held belief amongst major religions that water is effective for purifying the soul and combating evil.

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The Wicked Witch of the West by W. W. Denslow 1900.

The Witch did not carry a broom in the novel, but rather an umbrella, which she uses on one occasion to strike Dorothy's dog Toto. Her nature is a volatile and yet somewhat cowardly one. Despite her immense power, she avoids face-to-face contact with her enemies, and is frightened of Dorothy at first when she sees the girl wearing the Silver Shoes. She is also afraid of the dark in Baum's original story for reasons never revealed. For that reason, the Witch never tried to steal the Silver Shoes while Dorothy was sleeping. Despite her fear of water and the dark, the Wicked Witch of the West was one of the most powerful witches in all of Oz. In ensuing Oz books, her power is described as having been so great that even Glinda the Good Witch of the South feared her.

"Now the Wicked Witch had a great longing to have for her own the Silver Shoes which the girl always wore. Her bees and her crows and her wolves were lying in heaps and drying up, and she had used up all the power of the Golden Cap; but if she could only get hold of the Silver Shoes, they would give her more power than all the other things she had lost. She watched Dorothy carefully, to see if she ever took off her shoes, thinking she might steal them. But the child was so proud of her pretty shoes that she never took them off except at night and when she took her bath. The Witch was too much afraid of the dark to dare go in Dorothy's room at night to take the shoes, and her dread of water was greater than her fear of the dark, so she never came near when Dorothy was bathing. Indeed, the old Witch never touched water, nor ever let water touch her in any way. But the wicked creature was very cunning, and she finally thought of a trick that would give her what she wanted. She placed a bar of iron in the middle of the kitchen floor, and then by her magic arts made the iron invisible to human eyes. So that when Dorothy walked across the floor she stumbled over the bar, not being able to see it, and fell at full length. She was not much hurt, but in her fall one of the Silver Shoes came off; and before she could reach it, the Witch had snatched it away and put it on her own skinny foot. The wicked woman was greatly pleased with the success of her trick, for as long as she had one of the shoes she owned half the power of their charm, and Dorothy could not use it against her, even had she known how to do so. The little girl, seeing she had lost one of her pretty shoes, grew angry, and said to the Witch, "Give me back my shoe!" "I will not," retorted the Witch, "for it is now my shoe, and not yours." "You are a wicked creature!" cried Dorothy. "You have no right to take my shoe from me." "I shall keep it, just the same," said the Witch, laughing at her, "and someday I shall get the other one from you, too." This made Dorothy so very angry that she picked up the bucket of water that stood near and dashed it over the Witch, wetting her from head to foot. "
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)
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Dorothy slays the Wicked Witch!

  • After the death of the Witch, The Tin Woodman became the new monarch ruler of Oz's western quadrant and the Winkies built him a tin castle to live in.

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