We owe it to each other to tell stories - Neil Gaiman

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

The Witches

As I am sure I have mentioned before, growing up The Witches by Roald Dahl was one of my favourite books. Rivalled only by E.B. White's Charlotte's Web. I re-read this marvellous book last week, and was just reminded of why Roald Dahl is one of my favourite authors!! The adjectives that he uses are just superb, and reminiscent of an English that I have always wanted to use.

But back to The Witches...

I was still very impressionable when I first read this book, and totally believed that Dahl was telling the truth when he said that there really are witches. Re-reading this book I can see why I believed that. Much like Garcia Marquez, Eugenides and Salinger - Dahl writes what he knows. If you have read Boy then you will understand what I mean. But back to the point that I was making - Dahl writes with such conviction that you cannot help but believe what he says -I mean his description of witches is spectacular and how could you possibly doubt what he says when he writes so vividly?

About witches, Dahl says:
"In fariy-tales, witches always wear silly black hats and black cloaks, and they ride on broomsticks. But this is not a fairy-tale. This is about REAL WITCHES. The most important thing you should know about REAL WITCHES is this. Listen very carefully. Never forget what is coming next. REAL WITCHES dress in ordinary clothes and look very much like ordinary women. They live in ordinary houses and they work in ORDINARY JOBS."

In the world of witches, children are public enemy number 1 - "A REAL WITCH hates children with a red-hot sizzling hatred that is more sizzling and red-hot than any hatred you could possibly imagine."

But my favourite part of this Note about Witches, is the way that witches look and Dahl gives us a concise guide on How to Recognise a witch. "a REAL witch is certain always to be wearing gloves when you meet her... because she does not have fingernails, she has thin curvy claws, like a cat. and she wears gloves to hide them... the second thing to remember is that a REAL WITCH is always bald... A real witch always wears a wig to hide her baldness. She wears a first-class wig from ordinary hair unless you give it a pull to see if it comes off... however, these wigs do cause a rather serious problem for witches... they make the scalp itch most terribly... witches have slightly larger nose holes than ordinary people. The rim of each nose hole is pink and curvy, like the rim of a certain kind of seashell."

And then ofcourse there are the other characteristics that witches have - such as spit that is blue, and feet with no toes, and then their eyes. Eyes with pupils that constantly change colour. If ever you should come along a woman with this description - run, run as fast as you can!!!

Armed with this knowledge, our narrator finds himself in the midst of hundreds of witches at a hotel which he is holidaying at with his grandmother. And as luck would have it at the end of the meeting of the witches who are pretending that they are the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. How ironic, considering witches hate children. Our narrator is turned into a mouse by these witches, but fortunately for him, he is not any ordinary mouse, and has retained his ability to speak. And luckily for him he has a fantastic grandmother who does not shriek at the sight of a mouse.

Our narrator and his grandmother make the best of a bad situation, and decide to use the witches secret weapon - Formula 86 Delayed Action Mouse Maker - against them, and turn them all into mice. I like that there is a happy ending to this story despite our narrator remaining a mouse, but he and his grandmother set out on an adventure to rid the world of all witches - so that leaves you with some hope for the children of the world.

If I had to give this story a rating, I would give it a solid 5 stars for its entertainment value.

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