In recent days, Universal Pictures has finally revealed that Oscar nominee Cynthia Erivo and Grammy winner Ariana Grande will star in the upcoming (and already troubled) adaptation of the acclaimed Broadway musical “Wicked” which, at in turn, was based on the illustrious novel. signed by Grégory Maguire.
But do you know the story of the book?
In 1995, Maguire decided to save the tale of the “Wizard of Oz”, created by L. Frank Baum in 1900, which recounted the life and adventures of young Dorothy Gale and her unexpected journey to the distant and mysterious land of ‘Oz, where she meets several thirsty creatures to make their wishes come true – and other less friendly ones as well. Anyway, we were presented with a point of view and we don’t know what was going on in this uncharted territory before the girl arrived; that’s exactly what Maguire is about in ‘Wicked – The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz’. And things couldn’t be more shocking: to all appearances, the Wicked Witch of the West is revealed as a victim whose ambitions are stifled by a totalitarian regime ruled by the Wizard; the Good Witch of the North is in fact a frivolous little patrician who cares about no one but herself. And Ozian society (the kind adopted by the people of Oz, of course) is on the verge of crumbling into social disparities and poverty.
It all sounds like a big bad joke or soap opera satire. Three years before the publication of ‘Wicked’, Geoff Ryman had already published his work, ‘Was’, but as a means of maintaining the power of fantasy and art, causing deep meditations and ramifications among his readers on these aspects. But here things are different. The main premise comes down to showing both sides of the same coin and saying that the people who behave like antagonists are actually no worse than the rest of us. I am not saying that the author treats the original work with contempt, but rather like a diamond to be cut: the characters appear, obviously, but in different and sometimes frightening arcs, imbued with pretexts that result in actions and choices. almost inhuman. And despite the dramatic and provocative tone, the story unfolds so fluidly that in a few seconds it plunges us into a new universe.
In ‘Wicked’, as already mentioned, Elfaba (the future Wicked Witch of the West) is not the antagonist, but a misunderstood creation that was, in a way, abandoned by the family because she was born. with green skin and because it could not come in contact with water, as well as prominent teeth that frightened anyone who dared to approach it. In contrast, Glinda (the future Good Witch of the North) appears as a hypocritical socialite obsessed with money and status and whose futility is exactly what Elfaba condemns. The Magician, in turn, is the big bad, because while Glinda is not a flower to smell, her intentions are not bad. But the ruler is actually a tyrannical despot who dethroned Queen Ozma to seize power and threaten to exterminate those who dared to hinder or thwart him.
Elfaba is what we can call the archetype of anarchic idealism and the courage of the rebels who want to imprint on the face of society all the evils under which it lives. Soon after entering Shiz College, named after Oz’s Mall and a place where all her values are defeated by living with such superfluous people who abuse her, she becomes involved in the fight for rights. of animals (with a capital letter A), a class that differs from the rest of the animals in the ability to speak. Therefore, his life begins to be permeated by other figures of a moralistic nature, such as Doctor Dillamond, a goat who performs anthropological experiments, Madame Morrorosa, who secretly works for the magician, and Nessa – his sister and future villain. witch of the east – who is enchanted with a life he could never have had because of his past.
After encountering the extremist aspects of social struggle, the protagonist leaves school, becomes anarchist and goes into hiding. After her lover, Fiyero, is murdered by the sorcerer’s soldiers, she joins a group of nuns to heal the weak and sick. But during a long journey that eventually brings her home, Elfaba becomes so disillusioned and paranoid that, sooner than expected, she embraces her fate as a wicked witch of the west.
Elfaba is a complete character: complex and problematic like any human being and, for this very reason, becomes iconic. Although all the characters are also like this, with her the multidimensional vision is much clearer. She’s meant to be the heroine and the one we should always be supporting. But as much as we know that she is nothing more than a victim of an intolerant, corrupt and prejudiced society, her own actions denounce the breaking of the heroic paradigms that we know. Your mind is constantly changing and being bombarded with eccentricities that take you down paths opposite to what you should. However, he knows very well how to differentiate an individualistic choice from a social choice. And obviously we cannot forget his intelligence – something remarkable not only in his way of acting, but also in his reflections on life and the world (whether in the spiritual realm, whether in the earthly).
“I never use the words humanist or humanitarian because it seems to me that being human means being capable of nature’s most heinous crimes.”
Maguire’s richness of detail to describe Oz is also remarkable. Don’t expect to find precise descriptions of places, legends and creatures like in JRR Tolkien’s books for example, because even the Ozians themselves don’t seem to really know Oz – so much so that there are many innumerable theories on the creation of the world. , on God, on the emergence of Animals, among others. The wealth of detail I am referring to is found precisely in the elements I have just mentioned. Everything is extremely worldly and ordinary; whether in discussions and questions about life (both in the natural / earthly and supernatural / divine aspects), or in people’s problems and how they react to them, or in ignorance and lack of understanding of those same people when they are unable to conceive of what is different and treat it with hostility and intolerance: all of this makes you forget most of the time that you are reading a fantastic book. And although causing the weirdness at first, this unusual approach makes you become more and more fascinated by this complicated and sometimes astonishing universe.
The book’s greatest triumph is undoubtedly in its reflections. Not just the nature of good and bad, but the range of different levels of the human psyche. No character is one-sided or linear when it comes to character, causing both them and the reader to question and doubt their thoughts and actions all the time. Like all of us, they wonder what is the wisest choice to make, even if it goes against their own principles or those of the community in which they live. Maguire tries to show through the story of Elfaba that personality concepts are not final, and that good and bad are not limited to what we have been taught. We ourselves are put to the test in every painstakingly written paragraph by the author; it’s just up to us to encompass the wisdom necessary to discern and understand all of this (I admit that on several occasions while reading I have stopped and said to myself, “damn, that makes a lot of sense.” )
“Glinda wore her sparkling pearls, and you wore her exotic look and her story, but weren’t you doing the same, trying to maximize what you had to get what you wanted?” People who pretend to be bad are usually no worse than the rest of us. – He sighed. – It’s the people who say they are good or better than the rest of us that we should be concerned about.
“Wicked” is the kind of book that leaves readers intrigued, annoyed, uncomfortable and, at times, dissatisfied, like any good work of art, making it a must read. The recommendations on its back cover are true: reserve a space for work between “Alice in Wonderland” and “The Lord of the Rings”. For a fusion of fantasy and reality that manages to do what this book did, certainly deserves a special place.
Recalling that the feature film begins filming in June 2022, in the United Kingdom, with Jon M. Chu (“Runners of the Rich”, “In a Neighborhood in New York”), attached to the realization.
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