The Witches

by Roald Dahl

Well, I always remembered this one as my third favorite Dahl book (after James and the Giant Peach (♥) and The Twits). And while I can still see why I liked it, my god! It was more grotesque and scary than remembered.

What I remembered and more of why I liked it was the first couple chapters, specifically the narrator’s grandmother telling him stories about children in Norway and what witches did to them. I think it was this book that got me interested in Norway. Well, this book and the fact that Dahl’s family was from Norway, as I recall. But this book gave me a sense of weirdness and otherness, a kind of danger, but an exciting kind that made Norway compelling to me.

The rest of the book was…not terrible. But I was surprised at how

  1. dark its descriptions and implications were
  2. its plot relied on circumstantial luck for everything to work out

The main examples of these were:

  • the narrator’s room just happened to be above the Grand Witch’s bedroom
  • the narrator just happened to escape over their feet with no one noticing
  • the narrator was able to throw the Delayed Mouse Formula in without trouble (although he did lose his tail)
  • the Grand High Witch lives in Norway

I meant to read this last November during NaNoWriMo, but I couldn’t find the book. My sister found it and I read it while on a trip to see the changing autumn leaves in New England.


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