Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thankfulness VIII

One needs to be thankful for so much in this life.

All the good, pleasant things... all the beloved, heart-moving, wondrous things.

But that's just so easy, you know?

We don't necessarily learn or gain from the happy, easy stuff. We gain so much from our trials, and learn much about ourselves, the tougher side of life, and very often that which troubled us becomes something we grow to depend upon, seek for guidance, enjoy, and sometimes even love.

And we ought to be just as thankful for those things.

Now... as I wrote in the 'monsters' post, when I was little I was terrified of, and therefore magnetically attracted to, monsters and scary things.

They presented a series of trials from which I'd learn to fight fears and find understanding in the world, which is a valuable thing. Certainly they have long since become my loves.

And there was one 'monster', the earliest monster in my memory to really terrify and disturb my safe little world, who had as much to do with sending me down the Hallowe'en lifepath as any other person, place or thing, and was my first 'boogey man' figure.

Or in this case, boogey woman.

S&P patrons, I gratefully give you

The Wicked Witch of the West!
The Wicked Witch of the West... Margaret Hamilton's Gold Standard for witches in any media since 1939.
She was perfectly evil, perfectly hideous and totally terrifying to little me and every other kid I knew, and to millions of kids over generations.

She should have gotten an award. Just so original, unique, and so perfectly wicked!

This next image represents, to my mind, the ultimate cruelty of the Witch's dark heart. Think of being a kid, crying for home and loved ones to come get you and make everything right again... and then having this hideous woman screeching your words back at you in sarcastic, ridiculing venom.

Children are hurt most by grown ups when grown ups are sarcastic and disdainful of their feelings, especially their fears ("Why are you scared? 'Waaah-waaah'! Stop being a baby!"). Here, the Witch is being more wicked than Ms. Gulch was when taking Toto, more wicked than she was herself in burning the Scarecrow or doing anything else in the story.

Mocking a kid... eeeviiiil!

Of course, she gets her comeuppance by the hands of that very kid (unintended but just as deadly):

In the days before VCRs, every telecast of The Wizard of Oz was an event, and we would look forward to it for weeks, but there was this underlying dread of having to go through the whole 'Witch thing' all over again!

But I am very grateful that I had to go through it; the Wicked Witch 'ordeal' taught me to face fears, to be kind instead of cruel, and to never, ever get on the bad side of Kansas snake oil salesmen-turned-wizards.

As witches are a symbol of Hallowe'en, and she is the ultimate symbol of wicked witchery, she became a Hallowe'en icon for me. Any picture of Hamilton's masterpiece immediately makes me think of falling leaves and candy apples.

Years later, (on October 30, 1995!) the world was reintroduced to the Wicked Witch in Gregory Maguire's novel Wicked: The Life & Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, and we found she had a past, a family, a love, heartache, a cause for bitterness and a rational reason for wanting those stupid slippers.

We also discovered she had a name.

Wicked's frontispiece art by Douglas Smith.

Using the consonant sounds from L. Frank Baum's initials (LFB), Maguire came up with Elphaba. He also added a dark, difficult and decidedly not-for-children life story for her. She became an anti-hero, a forlorn lover, a champion for creatures who had no voice of their own (or were being forced into silence)... she was flawed, odd, tired, wired, needing, bleeding, mean and very, very green.

I fell in love, of course.

In 2003, Maguire's Elphaba found a singing voice and landed on Broadway.

Wicked : The Musical has been a record-breaking show ever since; it's being performed all over the world. The original cast soundtrack album featured Idina Menzel as Elphaba --

-- and I fell in love all over. Just the voice, the songs (Stephen Schwartz), the interesting take on the story... I was more grateful for the presence of this sad, mad green thing in my life than ever!

I drew pictures.

Elphie as a student at Shiz University. Pencil, ink. (2004)

There are a few other pictures but you get the idea.

I wrote a 120k+word, rambling romance about her days at Shiz with a heretofore unknown student who looked, acted and thought suspiciously like the proprietor of a certain Hallowe'en pub...

I wrote a song too, but until I get my copyright forms back from The Man, I'm leaving that off the jukebox.

My point is, the Wicked Witch inspires me. As Elphaba, she has become one of my Muses.

And not just mine. Looky what I found the other day:

Whistler's Witch? Love it.

And the best thing is that I have two witches I love far more!

V and Kiara, Hallowe'en 2008. Kiara's feet look like they belong to V, so it looks like V's got tiny little feet.

Kiara, Hallowe'en 2008
More on each of these two witches later.

I love when a scare becomes a lesson and a blessing.

I am grateful for the inspiration and thankful for the lessons, Elphaba. You have gone from a terrifying villain to... a beloved, heart-moving, wondrous thing.

"I'm mellltiiiiiing! Whataworld, whataworld..."

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