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Elphaba, The Wicked Witch of the West or Hero of Oz?

The Broadway musical, Wicked, is the untold story that explains how Elphaba became the “Wicked Witch of the West.” The story unfolds the history of the relationship, between witches of Oz, Elphaba and Galinda, as an unlikely friendship. Wicked is a vivid reimaging of The Wizard of Oz and takes place before Dorothy was ever in the picture. Wicked tells of the struggles between the two witches thorough opposing viewpoints and personalities, reactions to the Wizard’s corrupt government, and rivalry over the same lover. Ultimately, as a flipped-perspective tale about friendship, love, and trust; Wicked effortlessly reveals that there are two sides to every story. The story of Elphaba reveals that there is no objective moral truth, or in other words, there is no true right or wrong.

Myths are the common stories at the root of our universal existence. Whether we think about it or not, we all have similar life experiences. We all share the life journey of growth, development, and transformation. A myth is also known as the “story beneath the story.” Wicked is the story beneath the story of The Wizard of Oz. Wicked is a hero mythical story, also known as the hero’s journey. The hero’s journey is evident in Wicked as Elphaba is portrayed to be the mythic heroic figure of the story. A myth is what brings depth to any hero story. All hero journey’s are told in the form of a three-act structure. The steps of this structure are described as the departure, initiation, and return, all of which work together to tell and unfold a hero’s story. Elphaba’s hero journey is essentially a transformation telling the story of how she became “wicked.” We see her character change and resurrect into a new type of “wicked” life, as she rebels against the wizard in order to fight his injustice and undo past mistakes. At the end of the story, she eventually returns, in a different way than what is expected of most hero stories. Since the people of Oz believe she is dead by the end of the story, she does not return back to society. Instead, she returns by coming back from the dead, in secret, in order to be with her lover, Fiyero.

A myth includes certain characters that can be thought of as the “original pattern” or “character type” that will be found throughout the hero’s journey, known as archetypes. Elphaba’s archetype depicts a protagonist and hero who guides us through the story. Glinda is the shadow figure, a figure who helps the hero on the journey. She could also be considered as the shapeshifter archetype because she is a character that Elphaba is not sure that she can fully trust, at times. The Wizard is the trickster because he tries to take advantage of Elphaba and lies to the people of Oz, ultimately giving her the reputation as the “wicked witch.” Fiyero, Elphaba’s lover and sidekick, provides the healing myth of love which helps Elphaba get through some of her trials.

The archetypal and mythic patterns portrayed throughout the story of Wicked explain the musical’s success because these certain patterns emphasize universal themes that are popular in today’s society, such as independence and acceptance. People love this musical because they can relate to Elphaba, as they come to understand her story and realize that no one is perfect. Wicked is a well told story that links myth and archetype in such a way that evokes certain emotions, in which, many people can relate to. The musical taps into a high epic fantasy and works with archetypes to show the struggles of human life. In the story, Elphaba is a broken figure who has experienced many trials due to her differences. Many people seem to respond to the idea of a story with a fractured vision of one’s life within a realm of magic. The concept of this idea is what has made Elphaba’s story so successful and intriguing.

(By: Gabriella Davis)

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