This book was so satisfying. Liir, son of Elphaba, comes into his own and after 266 pages, he begins to do incredible things to help other people, lead, unite, take the helm of his mother’s legacy. And it’s so realistic because he does it while still in a state of confusion and self-doubt, obstacles he never really overcomes (neither did Elphaba really). I love how everyone says to him “if only Elphaba was here to see this…” The Bird Congress aka Witch Nation (charged by Liir to be the eyes of Oz and share info with other species and humans to foil future despots), rides in the shape of a witch on a broom, and Liir rides in the position as the Eye of the Witch.
I loved it when he asked Nanny if she thought Elphaba will have a history and she said “She does already, ninnykins! I just saw her flying up the valley. Her cape went out behind her, a thousand bits in flight (the thousands of birds). Nearly touched the peaks to the left and the right. If that’s not a history, what is?” So, Liir GIVES her a history. I also like how sarcastic he becomes in the middle of the book, like his mother, after life kicks him around a lot, he lies in a coma, etc. At one point he says, “What condition? I’ve been in this condition my whole life. It’s the only condition I know. Bitter love, loneliness, contempt for corruption, blind hope. It’s where I live.” I also love how he becomes a man of wry humor and charm, accepting his fate of never knowing the answers. He tells Elphaba’s monkey “She always liked you better” and smiles at him. The monkey says “Considering who she was, is that a compliment or an insult?”
He poisons all the Emperor’s dragons, which in turn saves lives, achieves revenge on Cherrystone, frees the skies for the birds, unites two warring tribes who thought each other was doing the dragon-stuff. He thinks of a way to draw out the voices of the dead, which allows the She-Elephant to die properly. He still does not know if he is Elphaba’s son until the last sentence when he holds up his newborn daughter in the rain to clean her (after finding her dead, wrapped in Elphaba’s cloak, and he revives her). Her skin is green.
NOTE: How Maguire is successful in using “perception” of different witnesses and participants to alter our “perception” of the well-known Oz Story is through characters who must act without “knowing all the answers” or “having enough information.” We all face that in life. There are those who do not act because of this lack of enough info, are held back, they are cautious, and they never do anything meaningful. And then there are those who do take risks and act (you will never have all the answers or enough info) and thus make/ change history. In the traditional Oz Story, all the risks Elphaba take are mis-perceived. So, it’s fascinating how he again uses this same tool for the story of Liir, and everything he does could be perceived as bad…but it’s not. Thus, the immense satisfaction. And then you get pieces of additional info that determine he was on the right track, confirm his decisions and actions. No misperception, redirection, just the story of a regular Joe-schmoe who does amazing things. “If only Elphaba was here to see this…” I’m talking about more than a mother’s pride and personal vindication. I’m talking about a righting of the wrongs in the world that her son engineers.
And again, I wonder if the son will love the granddaughter properly, being her only caretaker. Obviously yes, because of the way he cared for her immediately, again righting wrongs his mother committed against him. What kind of person will the granddaughter be, what legacy will she leave on the world? How will she carry the burden of Elphaba, the burden of being green. Will Liir ever find Nor?
Green: fresh as spring, dewy, not rotten. The first color I learned about in literary symbolism. The green light of Daisy’s house that Jay Gatsby stares at across the water all the time. It meant HOPE, renewal, fresh new growth, a new beginning.