How does WICKED ‘The Musical’ differ from WICKED ‘The Book’?
April 8, 2020  //  By:   //  Blog  //  Comments are off

The Wizard of Oz, made famous by the 1939 film starring Judy Garland, tells the story of Dorothy, a farm girl whose house is swept up in a tornado and lands in the wonderful world of Oz where she goes on a journey down the Yellow Brick Road to meet the Wizard and ask for his help to get her home. The film is told from her perspective.

Wicked – The Life and times of the Wicked Witch of the West was published in 1995 by Gregory Maguire and tells the story from the perspective of Elphaba – the Wicked Witch of the West.

The musical version of Wicked, based on Gregory Maguire’s book, tells the story much more from the point of view of Glinda – the Good Witch of the North.

I’ve had the book in my possession for about ten years and never found time to read it, always thinking “one day”. Now, after four weeks of self isolation due to the Coronavirus, I have finally found the time to read all six hundred pages of it and I thought, if like me you’ve always wanted to know how it compares to the musical but never been bothered enough to read it, I would give you a run down of the main differences between the book and the musical.


Elphaba’s Family

We know from the musical that Elphaba’s mother isn’t averse to extra marital affairs with strangers she meets – that is how she ends up having the Wizard’s baby. But what we don’t know is that Elphaba’s father is ok with it and they even end up in a thrupple with a man called Turtle Shell who may or may not be the father to one or both of Elphaba’s siblings. Oh yeah, thats right – Elphaba has a brother called Shell who doesn’t make an appearance in the musical. Nessarose is born pink (luckily we know from the musical that pink goes good with green) and has fully functional legs (unlike the musical where she is in a wheelchair) but is born without arms and requires a Nanny with her at all times to prop her up.

The School Years

The musical is mostly set during the years Elphaba spends at Shiz University but this is only a small part of the book. Elphaba meets Galinda and ends up sharing a room with her and her ‘Ama’ (a kind of Nanny that the wealthy students have to look after them). Nessarose doesn’t start for a few years after Elphaba (although the musical shows them starting at the same time which obviously doesn’t make sense as they aren’t twins). Glinda doesn’t really hate Elphaba and the two becomes friends after Doctor Dillomond is killed (oh yeah that happens).

Fiyero and his ‘Family’

First up, Fiyero is a tribal prince, married as a child and has blue diamond tattoos all over his body – quite different from the musical. Because he is married, there is no relationship at school between him and Glinda and he is really just part of their friendship circle. It is only many years later (when he meets Elphaba by chance) that a relationship between the two starts. He still has a wife and family but Elphaba is his ‘bit on the side’ when he is working away.

Fiyero is killed when the Wizard’s guards ransack Elphaba’s house looking for her and so she makes it her life mission to travel to Kiamo Ko to find his wife and children and apologise because she feels his death was her fault. She ends up spending years living with them, along with her own child Liir, who she despises and isn’t even sure if he is hers as she spent a year asleep in some kind of convent and has no memory of being pregnant or giving birth (confusing right).

Elphaba wasn’t really a Witch at all

Elphaba didn’t study sorcery at school – Glinda did. In fact, Elphaba was never any good at magic and certainly wasn’t a Witch. People just thought she was and so she adopted the persona. She never did any spells and could only fly on her broom because the woman who gave it to her enchanted it.

Elphaba Kills Madame Morrible

Horrible Morrible (as she is known by the students at school) is killed by Elphaba late on in the book, many many years after she left school because she realises that it was her who ordered the slaughter of Doctor Dillomond (whether she actually slit his throat or not is not known). But by the time she gets around to killing her (she tries to assassinate her once but doesn’t because there are unexpected children around that she doesn’t want harmed) she is old and frail and on the verge of death anyway. So much so that Elphaba isn’t even sure if she has killed her or if she was already dead. But she wants to feel vindicated for what she has done, so makes sure word gets out that she was responsible for the murder.

Dorothy didn’t mean to kill the Wicked Witch of the West

Yes, Dorothy was instructed by the Wizard to find and kill Elphaba (as we know from the film) but in this story when Dorothy arrives, she says that despite her instructions, she has not come to kill her but to apologise for accidentally killing her sister when her house landed on her. Elphaba gets angry that this girl finds it so easy to ask for forgiveness (when she is unable to unburden herself from her life) that she sets her broom on fire and then accidentally, her dress. Dorothy, trying to help, throws a bucket of water on the witch which kills her but it wasn’t Dorothy’s intention.


I could write a book about the differences between the book and the musical but no one wants to read that. On the whole, the book isn’t amazing as a novel but I am glad I finally read it so I can watch the musical now through more informed eyes.

And for anyone out there who can’t be bothered to read it but wants to know how it is different, I hope this blog has helped!

Photo: Joan Marcus