Meet the Many Wonderful Wizards of Oz — the Glindas and Witches, Too

Oz the Great and Powerful asks us to believe the Wizard's new origin story, doing battle with two evil witches and a good one. But where have these characters been already? We looked at five Oz mythologies to bring their diverging stories together.

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This Friday Disney is hoping you'll shirk over some money to take another journey to the Land of Oz with James Franco and three movie-star witches and go see Oz the Great and Powerful. The new film owes a lot to the 1939 Judy Garland-starring film—just not too much to it—but it is most certainly not the first attempt to move the story beyond Dorothy's realization that "there's no place like home." L. Frank Baum, the man who invented Oz, wrote 14 Oz books, bringing in myriad sidekicks, villains and lore. Some of that lore was used when Disney tried to cash in on Oz in the 1985 film Return to Oz, a surprisingly dark tale that begins with Dorothy undergoing shock treatments at the behest of her worried Aunt Em. Beyond Baum's tales, Oz has been featured in a number of silent and animated films.

The new movie asks us to believe that the Wizard himself had a rich adventure before he even got to Oz, doing battle with two evil witches—one the famed green lady—and the help of one good witch, Glinda. But where have these characters been already? After watching this latest iteration, we looked at five Oz mythologies to bring you their stories, as conflicting as they may be. Spoilers of various sorts ahead.

The Wizard: From an Omaha Ventriloquist to a Kansas Playboy

Oz the Great and PowerfulIn the new film, Oz—a.k.a. Oscar Diggs—is something of a charlatan, almost a "Music Man" type, and he has a habit of seducing women with a music box he says is a family heirloom. He hails from Kansas, working as a magician in a traveling carnival. He is swept to the Land of Oz in a hot-air balloon by a tornado. How does he get into the balloon? He escapes there after being chased by a jealous body builder, of course. In the Land of Oz he is hailed as prophetic, and ultimately defeats two evil witches by joining with Glinda and learning lessons about family and teamwork. 
The Actor: A smirking James Franco.
The Line: "I don't want to be a good man, I want to be a great one."

The Wizard of Oz (1939 movie): In the most famous version of Oz, the Wizard is a bit of a bumbling fool, but one with a good heart. He's from Kansas, just like Dorothy. He came to Oz when his carnival balloon failed to return to earth one day. His balloon, however, says "State Fair Omaha."
The Actor: Frank Morgan, who also plays various other roles in the film.
The Line: "No dear, I'm a very good man. Just a very bad wizard."

The Wiz (1978 movie): The Wiz is actually Herman Smith from Atlantic City, a failed politician who went up in a balloon to hand out fliers when he runs for dog catcher.
The Actor: Richard Pryor
The Line: "My motto was: Vote for Smith, your best bet to catch that pet."

Wicked (musical and book): In Gregory Maguire's reinvention of Oz, the Wizard is really the bad guy, and part of a political scheme to oppress Oz's Animals. In the book you learn that he took control of the palace, sending the ruling Ozma Regent to jail. Maguire also implies that the father of the Wicked Witch of the West, having drugged her mother with a "Miracle Elixir."
The Actor: Joel Grey in the musical. 
The Line (from the Book): "The thing is, my green girlie, it is not for a girl, or a student, or a citizen to assess what is wrong. This is the job of leaders, and why we exist."
The Line (from the Musical): See below.

L. Frank Baum's Original: In L. Frank Baum's original tales the Wizard is described as a "humbug." He's not from Kansas, but rather Omaha, Nebraska, and began as a ventriloquist, but eventually became a balloonist. Baum does give him a bit of a sinister side as he collaborates with the evil Mombi to hide the true heir to the throne of Oz, Ozma. 
The Line: "But I found myself in the midst of a strange people, who, seeing me come from the clouds, thought I was a great Wizard. Of course I let them think so, because they were afraid of me, and promised to do anything I wished them to."

The Wicked Witch of the West: From One Eye and a Gold Hat to Swooning Mila Kunis

Oz the Great and Powerful: Before turning all green the Wicked Witch is Evanora, a naive witch who is quick to fall in love, and fall in love she does with the lothario Oz. When she learns he's been playing her, she succumbs to the wiles of her evil sister Theodora, takes a bite of an apple and turns all green and vengeful. 
The Actor: Mila Kunis
The Line: "Aren't you the great man we've been waiting for?"

The Wizard of OzThe cause of her wickedness, and her greenness, is not entirely explained, but she's scary and vengeful. 
The Actor: Margaret Hamilton
The Line: Oh, you know it. Just watch below.

The WizGoes by the pretty obvious name of Evillene. Doesn't like bad news.
The Actor: Mabel King in the movie.
The Line: "Would you like sauerkraut or mustard, my dear, on your hot dog?"

WickedShe's actually the hero of this story. Essentially, the Wicked Witch of the West—real name Elphaba Thropp—isn't wicked so much as a maligned activist. She was born green under mysterious circumstances. She's the daughter of Melena of Munchkinland and Frex, a minister. That said, it's likely that Frex isn't her real father.
The Actor: Idina Menzel in the musical. 
The Line (from the Book): "Well, ask yourself, Miss Galinda. Does evil exist?" 
The Line (from the Musical): "It's time to try defying gravity."

L. Frank Baum's Original: The Wicked Witch of the West is one-eyed and has a Golden Cap that allows her to control the Winged Monkeys. She wants the Silver Shoes because she's losing her power, and the shoes will help her regain some of that power. 
The Line: "Well, in a few minutes I shall be all melted, and you will have the castle to yourself. I have been wicked in my day, but I never thought a little girl like you would ever be able to melt me and end my wicked deeds. Look out—here I go!"

Glinda: From the Mighty Witch of the South to a Revolutionary in a Bubble

Oz the Great and Powerful: Glinda is the daughter of the former ruler of Oz, disposed by Theodora, the soon to be Wicked Witch of the East. She has a wand, which is the source of her power.
The Actor: Michelle Williams.
The Line: According to the Los Angeles Times, "The actress even ad-libbed a Che Guevara line, the one about oppressors being able to kill only a man and not a movement."


The Wizard of OzGlinda, the Witch of the North, is Dorothy's ambassador to Oz, asking her if she's a "good witch or a bad witch." Basically a fairy godmother, she wakes the gang up from the poppy field and tells Dorothy how to get home. 
The Actor: Billie Burke
The Line: "Are you a good witch or a bad witch?"

The Wiz: The Witch of the South, who shows up at the end to tell Dorothy about believing in herself. In the movie she also holds the snowstorm that transports Dorothy to Oz in the palm of her hand. The Witch of the North, who greets Dorothy in Oz, is Addaperle.
The Actor: Lena Horne
The Line: "Home is a place we all must find, child. It's not just a place where you eat or sleep. Home is knowing. Knowing your mind, knowing your heart, knowing your courage. If we know ourselves, we're always home, anywhere."  

WickedElphaba's antagonist and then friend, whose real name is Galinda, before changing it to Glinda. Galinda/Glinda is Elphaba's roommate at Shiz University. She is prissy and stuck up, but they become friends. 
The Actor: Kristin Chenoweth, in the musical.
The Line (from the Book): "'I don’t read very well. So I don’t think I think very well either.' Galinda smiled. 'I dress to kill, though.'"
The Line (from the Musical): "Let's face it, who isn't less fortunate than I?"

L. Frank Baum's Original: Glinda is the Witch of the South, who rules over the Quadlings. She is described as a "mighty Sorceress." 
The Line: "All you have to do is to knock the heels together three times and command the shoes to carry you wherever you wish to go."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.