"Out of Oz:" Was Glinda Dying or Did Elphaba Come for Her?

First, please permit me to state that this is merely a confused, personal pondering session to see if I cannot figure out the fate of Glinda in Gregory Maguire's "Out of Oz." I realize that the author left it to the imagination, in some ways. That, of course, means that whatever I think happened is what happened, as there is no explanation. I should go on to say that those who have not read the book and plan on doing so should consider this entire piece a SPOILER and therefore click away. Now, I publish this not because I suffer under the delusion that anyone cares what I eked out of Glinda's last moments in "Out of Oz," but to allow whoever reads this to tell me if I missed something, their opinion or even to encourage me not to obsess over cliff-hanger endings.

I suppose I should begin my pondering with the moment in question. Gregory Maguire has Glinda in Southstairs, imprisoned for treasonous acts. There are hints that she will not be staying there long and that the sentence will only be long enough to satisfy political obligations. She is last mentioned in "Out of Oz" as resting in her prison cell when the knob on the cell door is turned. It is stated that Glinda knows who is at the door. She says aloud, "You wicked thing. You've taken your own sweet time, of course." Her use of the word "wicked" is very leading.

Now, in my mind, there are four possibilities to explain this, given later and earlier events in the series. One possibility that I have eliminated is Rain, as she was nowhere near Southstairs. Another possibility is that the Cowardly Lion has come to remove her. That seems unlikely, as he would probably send someone else. Another is that Glinda has simply lost her mind. Yet another is that Glinda is dying and imagining/seeing her best friend as she dies. The last, my favorite and what I believe is more than implied is that Elphaba has either risen from the dead or never died to begin with.

In "Wicked," Elphaba is believed to have died by the hands of Dorothy Gale. However, no one witnessed Elphaba's death. Gale saw her disappear and ran away. Nanny ran up after Dorothy ran away, somehow took control of the Elphaba situation and refused to speak a word of what she saw. Just a few pages before Glinda has this mysterious visitor in Southstairs, Nanny says that she has seen Elphaba in Kiamo Ko. Of course, Nanny is ancient and somewhat senile. There are various other mentions that Elphaba will come back, has come back or did not die at all throughout all of the novels. There may have even been a prophecy of her return, but, as always, Maguire was infuriatingly ambiguous.

Therefore, I choose to assume it was Elphaba. I also love Gregory Maguire for being a bit of a tease that drops who knows how many hints without ever coming out and saying it. Still, I would love him all the more if he just came out and said it.

Shelly Barclay


  1. When I first read the book I initially took it as Glinda was dying and saw Elphaba come for her because I thought it was just my wishful thinking imagining Elphaba really came back from the dead and was literally rescuing Glinda. However, now that I've read it again and had plenty of time to examine the clues, I don't see anything that directly contradicts the theory that Elphaba really did come back, and actually I think that all those hints in this book and in the earlier three novels actually makes the theory that she is alive more credible and more likely than I originally thought. So for me, I still am not sure but I would like to imagine that she really did come back!

  2. On reading it, I thought the door was opened by Elphaba to lead her to the afterlife. I could be wrong but I like that idea

  3. Stevie MannarinoMay 8, 2014 at 1:31 PM

    Very early in Out of Oz, Glinda has a thought or dream of Elphaba coming through her bedroom door from the afterlife to save her. I'm wanting to believe Elphaba Thropp is just returned, but I guess we'll never fully know. Maguire's ambiguity drives me crazy and I love him for it

  4. I just finished Out of Oz last night, and I'm still in novel grief :( I assumed it was Elphaba coming back. I also thought that maybe (maybe) she had been living as the Serpent that initially changes Rain from green to pink. The Serpent tells Rain that she could change her gender, and implies that he himself did that, plus he's green, plus he was looking out for her. Maybe a little far fetched :)