WARNING CONTAINS SPOILERS!
Believe it or not, it's been almost 113 years since L. Frank Baum's novel - The Wizard of Oz - was first published. Seriously! That's the kind of longevity that most authors could barely dream of. I could still walk into my local bookstore and pick up a copy of this children's classic today, and today's generation would still love it. How amazing is that?
What's even more amazing than the ongoing popularity of the original classic is the amount of things that have been born from it.
Of course, there was the 1939 Judy Garland film.
And then there is 'Wicked' - the Wizard of Oz prequel written by Gregory Maguire, and it's hit musical.
And now, of course, is the Disney Blockbuster turned book; 'Oz - The Great and Powerful'.
And those are to just name a few. So, if we just take a look at the books, how similar are they? Is there a need for three versions of the same story? And can these newcomers even come close to the original story?
Of course, 'The Wizard of Oz' is the tale of Dorothy Gale, a young girl who is whisked away on a tornado to the land of Oz; a place filled with munchkins, scarecrows seeking hearts, tin men seeking brains and cowardly lions. A place that is home to the Wicked Witch of the West, Glinda the Good Witch and the Wonderful Wizard of Oz - the man they all seek to answer their prayers.
'Wicked' is a book that predates all of that. It starts with the Wicked Witch of the West (who's real name is Elphaba) being born and it provides us with an explanation as to why she's green and why she's terrified of water. It offers a debate on whether Elphaba was born evil, or whether her evilness was created as a result of the things that happened to her in her life. The books skips forwards to her university years and her original meeting of Glinda (or Galinda as she is known originally) and it describes how they were once friends. But then events occur that send Elphaba into a life of solitude, and for a while she leaves her life, her friends and her sister Nessa (the Wicked Witch of the East) behind. When a storm arrives in Oz - it brings with it a young girl named Dorothy, who's house falls upon Nessa and kills her. Elphaba attends Nessa's funeral - hoping to reclaim Nessa's ruby slippers. When Glinda advises Elphaba that she has given the ruby slippers to Dorothy - Elphaba is furious. And, well, we know how that ends!
'Oz - The Great and Powerful' also predates the original book, but instead of telling the story from the viewpoint of the Wicked Witch of the West -it focuses on the tale of the Wizard of Oz himself. A man named Oscar arrives in Oz after his hot air balloon is caught in a storm. he is found by a witch - Theodora - who thinks that he is the wizard that has been prophesied to overthrow the Wicked Witch. Theodora takes Oscar to the Emerald City and they fall in love along the way.
Once in the Emerald City, Oscar meets Evanora (the real Wicked Witch) who misleads Oscar and send him to kill Glinda the Good Witch. Cue a lot of misrepresentation, flying monkeys, witches turning green, poppy fields and Oscar using a hologram of himself and a curtain to portay the mighty Wizard of Oz... and you've got yourself a book!
But are three books necessary? Do they fill in the blanks around L. Frank Baum's creation? I'm gonna say yes! I loved the books. I loved the stories. I love that fact that you get to see the world of Oz through different eyes. I like that you get to see that there is more to a Wicked Witch than meets the eye, and that the Wizard came to Oz in the same way that Dorothy did - he just chose not to leave. I just wish that they hadn't tampered with L. Frank Baum's original too much, and that they would all stick to the same names!
Whilst 'Wicked' calls the Wicked Witches Nessa and Elphaba, 'Oz - The Great and Powerful' call them Evanora and Theodora. In the original they didn't even have names! Only Glinda has an element of consistency. And, of course, in the original book the ruby slippers were actually silver. And the Emerald City was only Emerald because the Wizard made everyone wear green tinted glasses. I think that these are certain things that they should have stayed true to L. Frank Baum's vision. And by creating so many deviations they have actually made certain things confusing to an avid Oz fan. I found myself trying to figure things out along the way; "who is she again?", "who would she be in the original?", "she wasn't in Wicked!". I know you shouldn't really do that - but when you're reading different variations of the same story - it's hard not to do that.
So, would I recommend you read them all? Absolutely! Should you watch the films and see the shows? Of course! Just don't expect them to represent each other, and leave any thoughts of the other versions at the door. It'll only confuse you!