Chapter 12 – The Search for the Wicked Witch
The soldier with the green beard led them through the streets of the Emerald City until they reached the room where the Guardian of the Gates lived. This officer unlocked their glasses and put them back in his box, and then he politely opened the gate for our friends.
“Which road leads to the Wicked Witch of the West?” asked Dorothy.
“There is no road,” answered the Guardian of the Gates. “No one ever wishes to go that way.”
“Then, how are we going to find her?” inquired the girl.
“That will be easy,” replied the man, “because when she learns that you are in the country of the Winkies, she will find you, and make you all her slaves.”
“Oh, maybe not,” said the scarecrow, “because we plan to destroy her.”
“Oh, that is different,” said the Guardian of the Gates. “No one has ever destroyed her before, so I naturally thought she would make you her slaves. But take care. She is wicked and fierce. She might not let you destroy her. Keep to the west, where the sun sets, and you will find her.”
They thanked him and said goodbye. They turned toward the west, walking through fields of soft grass that was dotted with daises and buttercups. Dorothy still wore the pretty silk dress, but now, to her surprise, she found that it was no longer green. It was pure white. The ribbon around Toto’s neck had also lost its green color and was as white as Dorothy’s dress.
The Emerald City was soon left far behind. As they advanced, the ground became rougher with more hills. There were no farms or houses in this country of the west.
In the afternoon, the sun was hot in their faces because there were no trees to offer them shade. Before it became night, Dorothy, Toto and the lion were tired, and they lied down on the grass and fell asleep. The tin man and the scarecrow kept watch.
Now the Wicked Witch of the West had only one eye, yet it was as powerful as a telescope, and she could see everywhere. So, as she sat in the door of her castle, she happened to look around and she saw Dorothy lying asleep with her friends. They were a long distance away, but the Wicked Witch was angry to see them in her country. So she blew a silver whistle that hung around her neck.
At once, from all directions, came a pack of great wolves. They had long legs and fierce eyes and sharp teeth.
“Go to those people,” said the witch, “and tear them to pieces.”
“Aren’t you going to make them your slaves?” asked the leader of the wolves.
“No,” she answered, “one is of tin, one is of straw, one is a girl and the other is a lion. None of them can do hard work, so you may tear them into small pieces.”
“Very well,” said the wolf, and he dashed away at full speed, followed by the others.
It was lucky the scarecrow and the tin man were wide awake and heard the wolves coming.
“This is my fight,” said the tin man, “so get behind me and I will meet them as they come.”
He seized his ax, which he had made very sharp, and as the leader of the wolves came, the tin man swung his arm and chopped the wolf’s head off of its body, so that it immediately died. As soon as he could raise his ax, another wolf came up, and he also fell under the sharp ax. There were forty wolves, and forty times a wolf was killed. At last, they all lay dead in a pile in front of the tin man.
Then he put down his ax and sat beside the scarecrow, who said, “It was a good fight, friend.”
They waited until Dorothy woke up the next morning. The little girl was quite frightened when she saw the great pile of shaggy wolves, but the tin man told her what happened. She thanked him for saving them and sat down to breakfast. After that, they started on their journey again.
Now this same morning, the Wicked Witch came to the door of her castle and looked out with her one eye. She saw all her wolves lying dead, and the strangers still traveling through her country. This made her angrier than before and she blew her silver whistle twice.
Straightaway, a great flock of wild crows came flying toward her, enough to darken the sky. And the Wicked Witch said to the King Crow, “Fly at once to the strangers, peck out their eyes and tear them to pieces.”
The wild crows flew in one great flock toward Dorothy and her companions. When the little girl saw them coming, she was afraid.
But the scarecrow said, “This is my battle, so lie down beside me and you will not be harmed.”
So they all lay on the ground except the scarecrow. He stood up and stretched out his arms. And when the crows saw him, they were frightened, because crows are scared of scarecrows. But the king crow said:
“It is only a stuffed man. I will peck his eyes out.”
The king crow flew at the scarecrow, who caught it by the head and twisted its neck until it died. And then another crow flew at him, and the scarecrow twisted its neck, also. There were forty crows, and forty times the scarecrow twisted a neck, until at last, all the crows were lying dead beside him. Then he told his friends to stand up, and they continued on their journey.
When the Wicked Witch looked out again and saw all her crows lying in a pile, she raged, and blew her silver whistle three times. There was a great buzzing in the air, and a swarm of black bees came flying toward her.
“Go to the strangers and sting them to death!” commanded the witch. The bees turned and flew rapidly until they came to Dorothy and her friends. But the tin man had seen them coming and the scarecrow had decided what to do.
“Take out my straw and scatter it over the little girl, the dog and the lion,” he said to the tin man, “and the bees can not sting them.” The tin man did this, and Dorothy lay close beside the lion and held Toto in her arms. The straw covered them completely.
The bees came and found no one to sting except the tin man. So they flew at him and broke off all their stingers against the tin. It didn’t hurt the tin man at all. And as bees can not live with their stingers are broken, that was the end of the black bees. They lay scattered thickly around the tin man, like piles of coal.
Then Dorothy and the lion got up, and the girl helped the tin man put the straw back into the scarecrow again until he was as good as ever. So they started their journey once more.
The Wicked Witch was so angry when she saw her black bees in little piles like coal. She stamped her foot and tore her hair and gnashes her teeth. Then she called a dozen of her slaves, who were the Winkies, and gave them sharp spears. She told them to go to the strangers and destroy them.
The Winkies were not brave people, but they had to do as they were told. So they marched away until they came near Dorothy. Then the lion gave a great roar and sprang towards them. The poor Winkies were so frightened that they ran back as fast as they could.
When they returned to the castle, the Wicked Witch beat them with a strap, and sent them back to their work. After, she sat down to think about what she should do next. She couldn’t understand how all her plans had failed. She was a powerful witch, and a wicked on, and she soon made up her mind on how to act.
In her cupboard, there was a Golden Cap, studded with diamonds and rubies. This Golden Cap had a magic charm. Whoever owned it could call the Winged Monkeys three times. They would obey any order that they were given. But no person could command these creatures more than three times. Twice already, the Wicked Witch had used the charm of the Golden Cap. Once was when she had made the Winkies her slaves and made herself the ruler of their country. The Winged Monkeys had helped her to do this. The second time was when she had fought against the Great Oz, and driven him out of the land of the west. The Winged Monkeys had helped her. She could only use the Golden Cap once more. She did not want to use it unless her other powers were exhausted. But now, her fierce wolves and her wild crows and her stinging bees were gone, and her slaves had been scared away by the cowardly lion. She realized that there was only one way left to destroy Dorothy and her friends.
So the Wicked Witch took the Golden Cap from her cupboard and placed it on her head. Then she stood on her left foot and said slowly:
“Ep-pe, pep-pe, kak-ke!”
Next, she stood on her right foot and said:
“Hil-lo, hol-lo, hel-lo!”
After this, she stood on both feet and cried in a loud voice:
“Ziz-zy, zuz-zy, zik!”
Now the magic began to work. The sky was darkened and there was a low rumbling in the air. There was a rushing of many wings, chattering and laughing, and the sun came out of the dark sky to show the Wicked Witch surrounded by a crowd of monkeys, each with a pair of immense and powerful wings on his shoulders.
One, much bigger than the others, seemed to be their leader. He flew close to the witch and said, “You have called us for the third and last time. What is your command?”
“Go to the strangers who are within my land and destroy them all except the lion,” said the Wicked Witch. “Bring that beast to me, because I want to harness him like a horse and make him work.”
“We will obey your commands,” said the leader. Then, with a great deal of noise, the Winged Monkeys flew away to the place where Dorothy and her friends were walking.
Some of the Monkeys seized the tin man and carried him through the air until they were over a country that was thickly covered with sharp rocks. Here, they dropped the poor tin man, who fell a great distance to the rocks and he lay so battered and dented that he could not move or groan.
Other monkeys caught the scarecrow, and they pulled all the straw out of his body and head with their long fingers. They bundled up his hat, clothes and boots and threw it into the top branches of a tall tree.
The remaining monkeys wrapped the lion in a thick rope. They wrapped the rope around his body, head and legs, until he was unable to bite or scratch or struggle. They lifted him up and flew away with him to the witch’s castle. They placed him in a small yard with a high iron fence around it, so that he could not escape.
But they didn’t harm Dorothy at all. She stood, with Toto in her arms, watching the sad fate of her friends and thinking that it would soon be her turn. The leader of the Winged Monkeys flew up to her. His long, hairy arms stretched out and his ugly face was grinning. But he saw the mark of the Good Witch’s kiss on her forehead and stopped short. He motioned the others not to touched her.
“We don’t dare harm this little girl,” he said to them, “because she is protected by the Power of Good, and that is greater than the Power of Evil. We can only carry her to the castle of the Wicked Witch and leave her there.”
So carefully and gently, they lifted Dorothy in their arms and carried her through the air until they came to the castle. They set her down on the front doorstep. Then the leader said to the witch:
“We have obeyed you as fas as we could. The tin man and the scarecrow are destroyed. The lion is tied up in your yard. We don’t dare harm the little girl or the dog she carries. Your power over the Winged Monkeys is now ended, and you will never see us again.”
Then, all the Winged Monkeys, with a lot of laughing and chattering and noise, flew into the air. They were soon out of sight.
The Wicked Witch was both surprised and worried when she saw the mark on Dorothy’s forehead. She knew well that neither the Winged Monkeys nor she, herself, dare hurt the girl in any way. She looked down at Dorothy’s feet, and seeing the Silver Shoes, began to tremble with fear because she knew what powerful magic they had. At first, the witch was tempted to run away from Dorothy, but she looked into the child’s eyes and saw her simple soul. She saw that the little girl did not know the power of the Silver Shoes.
So the Wicked Witch laughed to herself and thought, “I can still make her my slave, because she does not know how to use her power.” Then she said to Dorothy, harshly:
“Come with me, and listen to everything I tell you. If you do not, I will end you, just like I ended the tin man and the scarecrow.”
Dorothy followed her through many of the beautiful rooms in her castle until they came to the kitchen, where the witch told her to clean the pots and kettles and sweep the floor and keep the fire fed with wood.
Dorothy worked meekly, with her mind made up to work as hard as she could. She was glad that the Wicked Witch had decided not to kill her.
With Dorothy hard at work, the witch decided to go to the courtyard and harness the cowardly lion like a horse. It would amuse her, surely, to make him pull her chariot around. But as she opened the gate, the lion gave a loud roar and jumped at her so fiercely that the witch was afraid. She ran out and shut the gate again.
“If I can’t harness you,” said the witch to the lion, speaking through the bars of the gate, “I can starve you. You will have nothing to eat until you do as I wish.”
So after that, she took no food to the imprisoned lion. Every day she came to the gate at noon and asked, “Are you ready to be harnessed like a horse?”
And the lion would answer, “No. If you come into this yard, I will bite you.”
The reason the lion did not have to do as the witch wished was that every night, while the witch was asleep, Dorothy carried him food from the cupboard. After he had eaten, he would lie down on his bed of straw, and Dorothy would lie beside him and put her head on his soft mane. They talked about their troubles and tried to plan some way to escape, but they couldn’t find a way to get out of the castle. It was constantly guarded by the yellow Winkies, who were the slaves of the Wicked Witch.
The girl had to work hard during the day, and often the witch threatened to beat her with the old umbrella that she always carried in her hand. But, in truth, she did not dare to strike Dorothy, because of the mark on her forehead. The child did not know this, and she was full of fear for herself and Toto. Once, the witch struck Toto with her umbrella and in return, the brave little dog jumped at her and bit her leg. The witch did not bleed where she was bitten. She was so wicked that the blood in her body had dried up many years before.
Dorothy’s life became very sad. She understood that it would be harder than ever to get back to Kansas and Aunt Em again. Sometimes, she would cry bitterly for hours, with Toto sitting at her feet and looking into her face. He whined to show how sorry he was for his little girl. Toto didn’t care whether he was in Kansas or the Land of Oz, as long as Dorothy was with him. But he knew the little girl was unhappy, and that made him unhappy, too.
Now the Wicked Witch longed to have the Silver Shoes that Dorothy always wore. Her bees and crows and wolves were lying in piles and drying up, and she used up all the power of the Golden Cap. But if she could just get hold of the Silver Shoes, they would give her more power than ever. She watched Dorothy carefully to see if she ever took off her shoes. She wanted to steal them.
But the child was so proud of her pretty shoes that she never took them off except at night and when she took her bath. The witch was too afraid of the dark, so she didn’t dare go in Dorothy’s room at night. And she was also afraid of water, more than the dark, so she never came near when Dorothy was taking a bath. Indeed, the old witch never touched water, and she never let water touch her.
But the wicked creature was very smart, and finally, she thought of a trick that would give her what she wanted. She place a bar of iron in the middle of the kitchen floor. Then, by her magic, she made the iron invisible. When Dorothy walked across the floor, she couldn’t see the iron bar, and she stumbled over it. She fell down. She wasn’t hurt, but when she fell, one of her Silver Shoes came off. Before she could reach it, the Witch had snatched it away and put it on her own skinny foot.
The wicked woman was very pleased with the success of her trick, because as long as she had one of the shoes, she owned half the power of their magic, and Dorothy could not use it against her.
The little girl, seeing that she had lost one of her pretty shoes, got angry. She said to the witch, “Give me back my shoe!”
“I will not,” retorted the witch, “because it is my shoe now, and not yours.”
“You are a wicked creature!” cried Dorothy. “You have no right to take my shoe from me.”
“I will keep it,” said the witch, laughing at her, “and someday, I will get the other one from you, too.”
This made Dorothy so angry that she picked up the bucket of water that was nearby and threw it over the witch, wetting her from head to toe.
Instantly, the wicked woman gave a loud cry of fear, and then, as Dorothy looked at her in wonder, the witch began to shrink and fall away.
“See what you have done!” she screamed. “In a minute, I will melt away.”
“I’m very sorry, indeed,” said Dorothy, who was truly frightened to see the witch actually melting away like brown sugar.
“Didn’t you know that water would end me?” asked the witch, in a despairing voice.
“Of course not,” answered Dorothy. “How would I know that?”
“Well, in a few minutes, I will be all melted, and you will have the castle to yourself. I have been wicked in my life, 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!”
With these words, the witch fell down in a brown puddle and began to spread over the clean kitchen floor. Seeing that she had really melted away, Dorothy threw another bucket of water over the mess. Then, she mopped it out the door. She picked out the Silver Shoe, which was the only thing left of the old witch, and she cleaned it and dried it with a cloth. She put it back on her foot. Then, being free at last, she ran out to the courtyard to tell the lion that the Wicked Witch of the West had come to an end, and that they were no longer prisoners in this strange land.