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With the development of the musical Wicked, it is easy to see how Maguire’s story has pervaded the mainstream media; however, that is not to say that the musical and novel are the same. In reality, the two provide completely different stories all based around Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West.
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to see the differences in the two texts is the way in which characters have been adapted, changed, or even deleted from the plot. In the musical, various characters like Turtle Heart, Nanny (Nessa’s caregiver), Shell (Elphaba’s younger brother), and Liir (Elphaba’s son), have been deleted for the purpose of simplifying the story. Yet, not only are these characters not seen in the musical, other characters have been changed immensely. For example, in the novel, Nessarose is born without arms, thus the ruby slippers were enchanted by Glinda so that Nessa could stand alone without another’s aid. In the musical, however, Nessa, though still handicapped, has arms, but instead is unable to walk, thereby putting her in a wheelchair. Another changed character is Fiyero. In the novel, Fiyero, the Arjiki prince of the Vinkus, is covered by blue diamonds and “welcomed” by the humiliating experience of being attacked in class. But, in the musical, Fiyero, though still a Prince, appears normal, even popular as he is ushered into Shiz as a near celebrity. Even his “death” is changed as he no longer dies in the cross-fire of the political atmosphere of Oz, but instead is turned into a scarecrow. Other characters that have been changed include Boq, who turns into the tinman, while Madame Morrible is changed into a more antagonistic character, or villain of the musical. But, perhaps the most changed element of the musical is the relationship between Glinda and Elphaba.
The dynamics between Elphaba and Glinda changed greatly between the steady, realistic world of the novel and the fast-paced, lively musical. In the beginning, Elphaba and Glinda's roles are similar between the two mediums - two girls, put together by accident” (the option that it could possibly be fate, as is presented in the novel, is not really considered in the musical), and who, without a doubt, loath each other. The notions that cause their loathing, however, differ slightly. In the novel, Glinda is obsessed with social classes. Everything that she does or says in the beginnings of the novel is influenced by projecting or advancing her social class, including her hatred for Elphaba. Elphaba is a green Munchkinlander who does not dress, nor act like the upper crust of Shiz, or really shows any indication that she would want to. Glinda's avoidance of and sometimes anger towards Elphaba spawns from the fact that Elphaba could possibly hurt her chances of social advancement. In the musical, Glinda is driven by a similar, but distinct idea—popularity. Glinda does not feel the need for advancement that she does in the novel because she is already on top, but she does still jump through an awful lot of hoops to retain that popularity. Glinda rejects Elphaba immediately because she does not fit in. Her hatred of Elphaba stems directly from her appearance, but not from any notion that, if Glinda did befriend Elphaba, that her popularity would suffer.
Other changes between their relationship throughout the musical are rooted in the changes present in other characters (for example, because Fiyero is a completely different person, the friendship suffers behind a love-triangle, and Fiyero is lost to Elphaba because of societal rules instead of underhanded politics), but the final true change in Elphaba and Glinda's characters is evidenced through the ending of both stories. In the novel, Elphaba and Glinda see each other for the first time in years, while attending Nessarose's funeral. Their time spent apart has changed them both, and an argument soon sparks. Their dynamic ends suddenly with a passing in a hallway, never to see each other again. In the musical, their conflict is sparked by Fiyero, and actually happens a little earlier in the musical than it occurred in the novel. This conflict is eventually settled, however, and the two end the musical in very different places, Elphaba running away with Fiyero and Glinda maintaining her role in Oz, but with their friendship intact.
The most obvious difference between the political landscape in Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West and Wicked: The Musical is the distinct lack of political centricity in the musical. For example, while the Animal conflict is present and accounted for, it is altered in significant ways. In the novel, Doctor Dillamond is attempting to battle the infringement on Animals' rights by researching the genetic difference between humans and Animals. His important discoveries therein cost him his life. But in the musical, he is merely a voice among others expressing fear of being turned dumb - from an Animal to an animal - and ultimately his power of speech is taken away.
Another large difference in the atmosphere of the book's version of Oz and the musical's version is the musical's complete lack of religion. The novel is rife with religion and religions, such as tiktokism, the pleasure faith, unionism, and Lurlinism. The musical has none.