“Son of a Witch” – by Gregory Maguire

The world seemed punitive in its beauty and reserve. Sometimes, thought Liir-his firs thought in weeks and weeks- sometimes I hate this marvelous land of ours. It’s so much like home, and then it holds out on you”

 

Many reviews prefered this book to ‘Wicked’, but I personally liked ‘Wicked’ better – it was much fresher to have the story of Oz told from a different perspective, the story of Elphaba and Nessarose and not of the Wicked Witch of the West & of the East. It was much less complicated to understand as well, I think.

 

Beauty is to the eye of the beholder, they say. And I guess for books, that beauty is to the eye and mind of the reader. For the beauty and marvel of books, literature and liberal arts in general is the myrriad of interpretations and perceptions that one encounters and feels free to roam through. ‘Son of a Witch’ is no exception. Although I do regret not having read it right after finishing ‘Wicked’, the book is still rich in stories of foreign lands and exotic characters, yet going through the usual feelings and political turmoil we, in the ‘real world’ are used to.

 

Two main themes of this book that I can figure out to be significant is the ‘sense of belonging’ (to a home, a land, a family) that Liir constantly pursues (however without him realizing it) and the power and fear ‘differences’ provide.

 

Sense of Belonging

Liir’s narrative may seem nonchalant to the fact that he does not belong to anyone nor to anywhere. Yet, he is constantly questionning about his origins, Elphaba and Fiyero, just like a child who pretends not to care about what all the others have but deep inside desires the same thing. He is indecisive about what to think of or how to deal with Candle – does he want to be with her? does he love her? but has he ever been loved to know what is love? will his attachment to her bring him something he never had?

He tries to survive alone in the world, but he quickly gets attached to the simplest relationships and once again pretends not to be hurt when reality puts him back on his path alone. Dorothy, Glinda, Trims, and perhaps even Commander Cherrystone.

And finally, his desperate search for Nor, the only person who could remotely prove and reassure him that he too, has a past. Nor is more than a person, in flesh and blood. She is his memory, his connection, his family, all of which after all define who we are. Without her, Liir may be nothing, just like any human being would be without a memory, a connection or a family to hold on to.

 

Differences

The world of Maguire is a complex one, with many lands and many people, even Animals. Unfortunately, even the world of fiction does not want to give us the hope that we can all live together, in harmony, despite our differences. The oppression of one race, the treacherous schemes to put certain people against others, the use of one race to install fear and suspicion, the use of religion for power, everything is there, just like in ‘our’ world.

Liir is the only one who seems to transcend this and perhaps the fact that he does not belong anywhere plays here to his advantage. He is the only one willing to take the leap to the Southern Stairs, he is the one with enough conscience to escape the military and the ‘order’ because he is human enough to be haunted by the image of the girl trying to escape from the fire he was ordered to cause, he joins the Conference of Birds, he kills the dragons.

The obvious presence of such differences makes the words of Candle even more meaningful.

We are one and one. In Quadling thinking, one plus one doesn’t equal a single unit of two.

One plus one equals both

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