Title: The Witches (Film Tie In)
Author: Roald Dahl
Published: 17th November 2020 (this edition)
Synopsis: The phizzwhizzing inspiration behind a new major motion picture coming 2020, starring Anne Hathaway, Octavia Spencer, Stanley Tucci and Chris Rock.
BEWARE. Real witches dress in ordinary clothes and look like ordinary women. But they are not ordinary. They are always plotting and scheming with murderous, bloodthirsty thoughts – and they hate children. The Grand High Witch hates children most of all and plans to make every single one of YOU disappear. Only one boy and his grandmother can stop her, but if their plan fails the Grand High Witch will frizzle them like fritters, and then what . . . ?
Roald Dahl’s books have been a staple of many childhoods since they were first written back in the seventies and eighties – Roald Dahl was one that I read early and consistently. His books appeal to younger readers because of the grotesque and out there things Dahl puts into his stories – however terrifying, kids seem to enjoy being scared.
One book in particular that people seem to be consistently drawn to for many reasons is The Witches – which has recently had a new movie made, starring Octavia Spencer and shifts a few things in the setting into 1960s America. The story however, as far as I know remains intact.
There have been many editions of The Witches, and this one exaggerates and emphasises certain words and sentences, alongside Quentin Blake’s memorable illustrations. The unnamed protagonist and his irreverent and incredibly brave Norwegian grandmother are the true heroes of the novel, and I think this is what makes this novel unique – the way Dahl drew on his own childhood and familial links to Norway to create the world we know in the book. The book is frightening – who amongst us when we were children believed everything Grandmamma said, and keenly tried to spot a witch in our own communities?
Even as an adult, these stories can be scary, and the idea that witches are around is unsettling – and perhaps the idea that they are presented as looking ordinary is a metaphor for the true villains out there – the ones who are always quiet, that neighbours would never suspect of nefarious acts. The witches in Dahl’s novel perhaps stand in for these people and prove that even the most normal ordinary people can cause great harm to those around them.
The Grand High Witch is terrifying – however she presents and will forever be one of the most nightmare inducing villains in literary and cinematic history. I’ve revisited this book many times over the years, and it is still terrifyingly delicious. The very idea of a group of people hating children so much they want to rid the world of them is a fearsome concept that could only have come from someone like Roald Dahl, who wrote so many macabre stories for children and adults.
Stories like The Witches have been staples of many childhoods, and it is a recognisable Roald Dahl title, even if someone hasn’t read it. Like with all books, it may not be right for all readers, but there will always be those who enjoy it and the rest of Roald Dahl’s work.