For the past four months I’ve been getting more and more into the joys of Broadway music. Well, reintroducing myself to the genre. And of course, this with my interest in the true stories of the antagonist of classic stories, I’d have to cross Elphaba’s path at least once. And I have.
It’s only been fed by the fact that I’ve gotten the third book in Maguire’s Wicked Years series, and getting a closer look into the “Witch”‘s true story.
And then there was Frozen.
By this time I’d fallen in love with Idina’s voice. I mean who hasn’t? For that matter, who can’t? She puts so much emotion and personality into her character that you can’t help but focus on her. Though which her – the character or the actress?
While I was watching Frozen there were so many references to Elphaba that I saw around Elsa, and my inner tumblr-girl went on a spazztastic rant.
This seems to be a universal effect, if the internet is any proof.
Idina herself said that she saw some. So who are we to argue?
Still, I’ll try to do this in a scholarly/civil/literary manner.
Let’s begin with focus on the songs. I’ll focus on Elsa’s Let it go and Elphaba’s No Good Deed.
Elsa’s song is where she decides she’ll break out of the mould set to her by her parents after accidentally freezing her sister’s head. They managed to break the spell, but all memories of her sister’s powers are taken away- not just suppressed. Gone. After her powers are revealed to Anna (good) as well as the entire realm (not so good) she breaks away and runs away and is finally free to be who she really is, without fear of harming others. She has become the Snow Queen
For Elphaba, it’s slightly different. I haven’t read Wicked but I have completed the Third Book A Lion among Men where you see bits and pieces of Elphaba’s early life, since everyone is tied to her somehow. I’ve also listened to the Wicked soundtrack so I think I have an idea. Correct me if I’m wrong though.
Elphaba’s song comes in after Fiyero is captured and killed for his affiliation with Elphaba. Like Elsa, Elphaba’s power – both her influence and the inborn potential – affects those she loves. She becomes isolated afterward. For me, No Good Deed is her breakout song. Like Elsa with Let it go, Elphaba becomes what she is later defined as – herself as the Wicked Witch – a title once given to her by her affiliation with the Wicked Witch of the East – her sister, Nessarose.
Here’s where things get different. Both characters are defined by their powers. Their powers have dangerous effects for those they love and are forced into isolation. These songs reflect that to some extent. But Elsa’s song is a statement for breaking out of a mould set on her, while Elphaba’s is about fitting the mould forced on her by her society. They both break out of their initial states into something else. Elsa’s never going back; Elphaba’s wicked through and through.
Oh! And the subject of both songs. They both showed a turning point for either character, but Elsa’s song focused on herself, while Elphaba’s focused on the people she loved – Nessarose, Doctor Dillamond and -primarily- Fiyero.
On to the theme of sisterly relationships, now.
Both girls had sisters that they loved. But, naturally I think, there was a tinge of jealousy there. Elsa loved her sister enough to wake up in the middle of the night and create a winter wonderland for Anna, just because she asked for it. She loved her enough to try to save her from falling, and when that backfired she loved her enough to stay away to prevent any more accidents and harm to Anna. Elphaba loved her sister enough to take care of Nessa when she came to Shiz. She was beautiful despite having no arms and had trouble walking. She was more easily accepted at Shiz than her older sister, who was good, but was an activist against all that Oz was beginning to represent and accept. Oh, and Elphaba was green.
But, yeah, the elder was jealous of the younger in both cases – Anna lived in isolation like Elsa, but she was still free to have contact with others in the castle, while Elsa had to remain aloof and be the perfect girl. Elsa was even more isolated than her younger sister. Anna could remain carefree and dreaming, while Elsa had to live with the reality of her powers and harm that they could cause.
Elphaba had to live with the mark of her father’s neglect and to see her father’s favouritism of her younger sister over her. Both sisters are the result of their mother’s unfaithfulness, shown by Elphaba’s colouring and Nessa’s lack of arms. But Elphaba’s mark is more obvious proof of her mother’s actions, than Nessa’s. Frexpar could easily accept Nessa as his own than he would be able to with Elphaba.
Still in both cases, their sister’s misfortunes – Anna’s loss of her relationship of her sister, and her getting her heart frozen by the selfsame sister, and Nessa’s death – were not the things that sent both girls into the antagonistic roles assigned to them by the other characters. Their love for their sisters managed to keep the darker parts of their characters at bay.
Interestingly enough, Elsa’s love for her sister was strong enough to save Anna, while Nessa was not so lucky.
Anna loved her sister. Did Nessarose love Elphaba?
Now how about Isolation as a shared theme?
Yes, I’m alone, but alone and free – Elsa
And if I’m flying solo, at least I’m flying free – Elphaba from Defying Gravity
Both girls lived in isolation. This much is known and obvious throughout the course of the stories. They both had Fortresses of Solitude! Kiamo Ko and the Castle of the Snow Queen. If these don’t at least whisper Isolation, I dunno what would.
Elsa willingly went into isolation for fear of harming someone else. But it was too much for her, who always had Anna at her side, and then have her suddenly taken away.And then her family was destroyed with the death of her parents at sea. The one link she had to the outside world, her one link to hope despite her strong fear of her powers, was just as suddenly taken away. She may not have been as gregarious as Anna, but she was still in need of people around her.
Elphaba seems to be able to function in her isolation. Unlike Elsa, she didn’t begin in society and care of her parents. She never had to live in a mould of perfection. She was alone, because she knew she didn’t fit into the society she was living in, and she didn’t necessarily have to. Even as a student she was known as a revolutionary person. And she was fine with it. At least, the effects of her isolation wasn’t as prominent until she became a recognised figure in the politics of Ozian society.
Both girls weren’t free. They were prisoners to their isolation and to the societies they were expected to live in.
Still, I believe that Elphaba was, at least physically, more free than Elsa. Elsa’s parents separated her from her sister, giving her a room away from Anna’s, locked the door, told her to suppress a vital part of her Being, control it, rather than embrace it, and to hide it from everyone. Elsa was the Princess Locked Away In A Tower. And from the way they reacted when Elsa accidentally froze Anna’s head, that this attitude was there from the beginning. Their parents looked at the scene in fear that, to me at least, seemed as if they had lived the last six years of their elder daughter’s life in fear of her powers. They feared her, even if they never said it.
While Elphaba was alone, she thrived in it, more than Elsa did, and she was free to move and do as she wanted, as long as her actions didn’t upset the political balance of Oz. She was free to come into contact with others. She was free to leave home and study in Shiz (even if it was under supervision) while Elsa was forced to stay locked up, or have minimal contact with anyone. Elphaba still could have had her sister around her, while Elsa hid away from Anna for years. Elphaba was able to find a love interest in Fiyero, while Elsa couldn’t, and didn’t in the course of the movie. I honestly didn’t see Hans doing what he did. I thought he and Elsa would have gotten together. I didn’t expect it, but I can’t say I don’t appreciate and respect it. He’s a rant for another time.