From a pile of ash shavings she withdrew a shoe, and then another. Were they silver? – or blue? – or now red? – lacquered with a candy shell brilliance of polish? It was hard to tell and it didn't matter; the effect was dazzling.
—Elphaba thoughts to self src
The Magic Slippers, also known as the Ruby Slippers or Jeweled Shoes, are a major plot point in the original story by L. Frank Baum, the Maguire novelization, and the musical. They are originally possessed by Nessarose Thropp, later known as the Wicked Witch of the East, and enchanted by Glinda the Good (in the novel) or Elphaba (in the musical) in order to give the physically disabled Nessarose the ability to stand. Later they are given to Dorothy Gale by Glinda.
In the NovelsEdit
The magic slippers are first introduced when Nessarose received a gift from her father when she attends Shiz University. The shoes are not Ruby Slippers. The shoes are not called by any specific color or gem. They are created and designed in such a unique and authentic way, that nothing has ever been done nor seen before them. The shoes are the very first of its kind. So instead they are described like this:
"From a pile of ash shavings she withdrew a shoe, and then another. Were they silver? – or blue? – or now red? – lacquered with a candy shell brilliance of polish? It was hard to tell and it didn't matter; the effect was dazzling." (184.108.40.206)
The character, Turtle Heart probably describes their symbolism best:
"To look in glass," said Turtle Heart, pointing to the roundel he had made as a toy for Elphaba, "is to see the future, in blood and rubies." (1.8.46)
The shoes are the one thing the Witch wants above all else so her power will be the greatest in Oz in the 1939 film. But Elphaba wants the shoes for slightly different reasons than her movie counterpart. While in the 1939 film, the shoes were symbols of power and protection. In Maguire's reinvisonment the shoes are symbols of what Elphaba has secretly craved all her life; love, respect, acceptance, and family. Above all else, Nessa's shoes represent Elphaba's need to be accepted and considered important, particularly to her father, Frex. The shoes aren't just related to themes of family and acceptance, though. They also, as in the 1939 film, represent beauty and authority. Interestingly, though, that becomes more of an excuse for Elphaba to justify her obsession with getting the shoes from Dorothy:
"Should she pursue Dorothy, should she snatch those shoes away – and what were her real motives? Was it to keep them out of the hands of the Wizard ... Or was it to snatch back some small shred of Frex's attention?" (5.10.1)
Ultimately, other than considered dazzling and beautiful to look at, the slippers really don't have all that much power at all really. Elphaba is the one who turns the shoes into something more than they actually are.
- (Gregory Maguire added his own twist to his version of the Magic Slippers making them appear in every color.)