|“||Perhaps the most godly thing is to be poor, after all, to give up trappings and influence.||”|
Sheltergod "Shell" Thropp is the younger brother of the witches Elphaba and Nessarose, who later becomes the Emperor Apostle of Oz after the deposition of the Scarecrow. He is an antagonist in Gregory Maguire's Wicked Years.
In the Novels
Shell has his debut appearance at end of the novel.
Shell was born to Melena Thropp and Frexspar the Godly in the Quadling Country. She died in childbirth and thus, he never knew her. He is named in honor of the family friend, Turtle Heart. He was raised by both Nanny and Frexspar, and was known for being a smart-mouth and a trouble maker in his youth.
He deals in espionage in the Emerald City when his sister Nessarose has Munchkinland secede from Oz. Since only girls inherit the title of Eminent Thropp unless there are no girls born in their generation of the family, Shell was never in line for the position. Despite Elphaba's claim that Shell could "stand in" for Nessarose should she be unable to fulfill her duties, he never assumes the title even after Nessa has died and Elphaba has refused to take her place. He helped to care for his father in his Frex’s twilight years, and is described as being "stubborn as sin stains." In this respect, Frex claims that he resembles Elphaba.
Shell is never shown until the end of the story, and even then only briefly; He is seen comforting Frexspar, his father. It is implied that he most likely would have been Melena's favorite child simply because he was born a boy.
Shell, still working in espionage (it having advanced him through ranks in the military), is seen when Liir wants to enter Southstairs, a high security prison in the Emerald City. He claims to undertake in 'missions of mercy' in Southstairs, which involves comforting female prisoners by injecting them with poppy flower extract and having sex with them as payment in order to get information out of them. He helps Liir reach Chyde the Under-mayor, then leaves. Later, when Liir and Trism are at a bar before the former prepares to leave for Quadling Country, they encounter Shell outside the bar. He tells Liir that Nor was last seen in Shiz.
Claiming rights of ascendancy through the skillful manipulation of the palace's power brokers, and an "unfortunate accident involving a beaker of lighter fluid", Shell replaces the Scarecrow as Throne Minister of Oz.
When Liir reaches Kiamo Ko, Nanny tells him more about Shell. She says that he was always a troublemaker in his youth, like "tomorrow's stitches in yesterday's britches", and that he was a brilliant liar.
Later on, it is revealed that Shell, claiming to have experienced "the Awakening", where he heard the voice of the Unnamed God telling him to lead, crowns himself the "Emperor Apostle of Oz"; having done this through a force of formidable piety and a sacred election. It is implied that beneath his proud façade he actually feels inferior to the success of his sisters which compelled him to becoming the ruler of Oz in the first place.
The public think of him as being sincere in his faith, however Liir thinks he's a charlatan, making his rise the product of a secret, complex and slowly evolving plan. In his political campaigns, Shell refers himself as an extremely righteous and pious man, but his military tactics are merciless; going as far as using dragons to terrorize the citizens of Oz into submission to his authority.
Though not physically appearing in the novel, it is revealed that Shell, as Emperor, has the right to re-annex Munchkinland back into Loyal Oz. He also claims to be the rightful Eminent Thropp, due to the death of his older sister Nessarose. However, the role of Eminent Thropp would actually fall to his other sister Elphaba's granddaughter, Rain; his great-niece, of whose existence he is unaware.
Shell is also fervently searching for the Grimmerie, with hopes of using its power to aid him in his conquests. It is rumored that he has a single page in his possession, the page which Elphaba gave to the Wizard back in the first novel.
In retaliation for a sortie of Munchkinlander guerrillas into Loyal Oz, Emperor Shell authorizes the imminent invasion of Munchkinland for the purpose of taking possession of Restwater, Oz's biggest lake.
Shell continues to look for the Grimmerie and has built up and trained more dragons for war. His search for the Grimmerie is shared by Munchkinland's new Eminence, La Mombey. He later declares himself Divine - the Unnamed God in the flesh, as he was born out of an unholy, deformed family whole and perfect, and resorts to calling himself in the third person, "His Sacredness".
Rain and Dorothy have an audience with Shell, however, he ignores Rain completely, only focusing on Dorothy. Shell is then threatened by Dorothy to hear Rain's issues; It is implied he has gone insane, although he retains enough clarity to declare Rain his heir, she being the last female descendant of his family. Shell's audience with Rain and Dorothy is cut short, however, as they are interrupted by the sudden attack of Mombey and her army of dragons.
Upon the discovery of Tip actually being Ozma Tipperatius, Shell willingly abdicates the throne and hands the power to Brrr as Throne Minister until the princess comes of age to rule. Shell later disappears from public eye and travels off to the Great Kells of the Vinkus where he will spend the rest of his life as a hermit, as he believes that the most godly thing one can do is be poor and away from all trappings and influence.
As a young man, Shell is described as being handsome with a keen, guarded expression.
As Emperor, aged around 50, Shell didn’t wear the glorious robes of office, but instead gave off the intintal impression of poverty; he wore a humble sort of sackcloth loin rag, a skirt, and a beggar’s shawl about his shoulders. However, his eyes were still keen and his form was sleek. It is noted that he shares the same long nose as Elphaba had.
In the Musical
- Out of Oz reveals Shell's full name to be "Sheltergod", chosen by his father Frex, in part as an homage to the memory of Turtle Heart (hence, "Shell").