The North - One of the first characters to appear in the series, the Good Witch of the North greets Dorothy on her first arrival to Oz, sends her to the Emerald City to consult the Wizard of Oz, and gives her a kiss on the forehead that protects her from harm. A good woman providing protection to a young hero is a pretty common motif in fairy tales, but it's not entirely clear why she doesn't just kiss everyone she meets, if it's so effective at protecting people. Maybe there are some limitations we don't know about. Anyway, she has a magic slate that can answer questions, and the ability to transport places automagically (without even the need of a giant pink bubble). She's described in Wizard as having a wrinkled face and nearly white hair, and being about the same height as Dorothy, "who was a well-grown child for her age." We don't know what her age is, but it's probably no more than ten, so we're most likely looking at a height of not much over four feet for the Good Witch. She isn't given a name in the book, but she's called Locasta in the stage play of Wizard, and Ruth Plumly Thompson names her Tattypoo in Giant Horse. This book describes her mysterious past, and how she came to defeat Mombi for leadership of the Gillikins. It also provides her with several new magical items, including a thinking cap that enhances a person's thoughts, and a jumping rope that enables its user to jump across obstacles. As she settles back into her old life at the end of the book (I don't want to give TOO much away to those of you who might want to read it, if such people exist), her post is vacated, and Ozma appoints Joe King and Queen Hyacinth of UpTown as rulers of the Gillikins. Later fan-written books give us two replacements as GWN, namely Glinda's sister Belinda (introduced in Greg Hunter's Enchanted Gnome) and the witch Maggie (from Melody Grandy's Seven Blue Mountains trilogy). Another recent book, Dave Hardenbrook's Unknown Witches, posits that Tattypoo was not the REAL GWN, but rather the result of a form-switch with Locasta, a separate individual.
The South - In the MGM movie, Dorothy meets only one Good Witch, who refers to herself as "Glinda, the Witch of the North." In the book, however, there are TWO Good Witches. After the Wizard leaves Oz in his balloon without Dorothy, the Soldier with Green Whiskers advises her to seek advice from Glinda, Good Witch of the South. She's rarely called a witch in later books, however, but a Good Sorceress instead. Physically speaking, Glinda has blue eyes and red hair, which John R. Neill often draws gathered in a snood. She's described as very beautiful, and would be highly unlikely to wear anything like the frilly gown and cheap-looking crown worn by the movie's Glinda. In terms of personality, she's quite loving and eager to spread happiness, but also rather stern, obstinate, and serious. The normally carefree Patchwork Girl is somewhat afraid of her, which says something about her strength of character. She is likely to be the most powerful magic-worker in Oz, and her most prized possession is the Great Book of Records, which records pretty much anything that's occurring in the world (or at least the most important ones, with some more trivial matters appearing from time to time), albeit often in a cryptic manner. She travels not in a bubble, but in an aerial chariot drawn by either swans or storks, depending on the book. The Good Sorceress lives in a palace on the edge of the desert that surrounds Oz, and maintains both a retinue of one hundred handmaidens from throughout Oz, chosen for their grace and beauty, and an army of female soldiers. Really, Glinda is presented as so powerful and knowledgeable that her appearance in a story often results in a quick wrap-up, meaning that there have to be excuses made for why she doesn't interfere in every situation. One reason is that she appears to be much more of an isolationist than Ozma, as when she advises the young Queen not to intervene in the upcoming war between the Skeezers and Flatheads. Having been instrumental in restoring Ozma to the throne, Glinda has a major amount of power behind the throne of Oz, in addition to her magical and military might, and rule over the Quadlings. I'd recommend not getting on her bad side.
The West - Eric Shanower's excellent graphic novel, The Blue Witch of Oz, has Dorothy asking Glinda why Oz has had four main Wicked Witches, but only two good ones. As it turns out, Dorothy has actually already met the Good Witch of the West, but she didn't identify herself by that title, and her actions upon their first meeting weren't particularly good. Her name is Gloma, and she ruled the southern part of the Winkie Country, managing to hold on to it even when the Wicked Witch of the West conquered the rest of the quadrant. When she heard that a girl named Dorothy had destroyed two witches, however, she thought she might be next on the eradication list, and went with her most loyal subjects to hide out in the Black Forest (not the same as the one in Germany; everything is completely black in this one). When Dorothy stumbles upon the the forest during the events of Wishing Horse, Gloma's initial reaction is to try to destroy her with black magic, but she fails due to the GWN's still-effective protective kiss. After this, she tries talking to Dorothy instead (she really should have thought of that first), and realizes she has nothing to fear from the Kansan girl, after which they become fast friends. Although she practices black magic and apparently has a tendency to act without really thinking things through, she's generally good, and I like to think she eventually returned to the public stage. In fact, I have an idea for an Oz novel with her as a primary character. Her magical tools include a powder of darkness and a staff that can transport someone to any country.
The East - In the course of Blue Witch, Glinda does some research, and finds out that there was indeed a Good Witch of the East, but she had long since disappeared. Her name was Abatha, and after her husband, the sorcerer Dash, vanished while attempting interstellar travel, she started practicing his magic. Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Glass Cat go to find and rescue Abatha, and she is restored to her post as GWE.
Now that I've finished with the major witches of Oz, I plan to cover some of the more minor ones in my next post. Get ready for Blinkie's associates, Coo-ee-oh, Rora Flathead, Wunchie, Little Blue Schoola, and several more.