For those who didn’t catch my post for Roald Dahl day (find it here) you may not know that up until Sept 13th 2018 I had never read The Witches! Of course I had to rectify that, especially since I proudly own the Roald Dahl collection of children’s fiction. So to celebrate the greatest children’s author of all time I finally sat down to devour it last month.
Page Count 224/ Publication year 1983
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 . . . ?
For years I’ve been hearing others tell of their fear after reading and/or watching Dahl’s The Witches. I’m honestly amazed I didn’t read it as a child, I loved to be scared even then. So I entered into this determined to try and visualise it through the eyes of a young whippersnapper.
Of course The Witches is a truly magical tale, I expected no less of Dahl but it had been such a long time since I’d read his work and much longer still since I experienced any of his books as new to me.
One of my favourite things about Dahl is the way he tackles fear, monsters and even death in such a matter of fact manner and with blunt honesty, much like young children tend to do. He writes of these things without glamour but gives enough gentle assurance so as not to traumatise any young minds.
Whilst I can see why so many people found this book scary in their youth I think Roald Dahl balances scary and silly perfectly, leaving a lasting impression of entertainment rather than fear. His description of a witch walks the line between nightmarish and hilarious,
‘REAL WITCHES dress in ordinary clothes and look very much like ordinary women and they work in ordinary jobs.’
‘REAL WITCHES are bald as a boiled egg’
I also love that Dahl uses heroic children as main characters in his tales. There are often brave kids with good morals for young readers to look up to and a safety blanket in the form of a caring, no-nonsense adult figure (often a family member) features in most stories.
Reading The Witches took me right back to my childhood and was still just as fun. How, how, how did I ever forget about the little rhymes Roald Dahl weaves into his stories? This is how I shall leave you..
“Down vith children! Do them in!
Boil their bones and fry their skin!
Bish them, sqvish them, bash them, mash them!
Brrreak them, shake them, slash them, smash them!
Offer chocs vith magic powder!
Say “Eat up!” then say it louder..”