The Witches

The Witches by Roald Dahl was not one of my favorite Dahl books; perhaps it was the physical overlap between the story’s evil witches and breast cancer and diabetes patients – the hero is told by his grandmother that witches (all evil; all female) wear wigs to hide their bald heads and cram their toeless feet into pointy pumps.  Away from prying eyes the witches remove their wigs exposing their itchy scalps red with abrasion from the wigs.  Also contributing to the vague creepiness (in an unpleasant fashion) were the overtones of child predation – do we really want more stories of seemingly avuncular schoolteachers and candy shop owners luring kids into capture and death?

Death and disfigurement are accepted as prosaic occurrences – as they should be so long as you substitute ‘transformation by witchcraft’ with ‘damaged by natural causes such as fire’; ‘physically damaged by sadists’ does never be accepted as the norm.  The cigar smoking, witch hunting, Norse grandma and the end state of the young hero were quirky but acceptable.  I particularly liked the scene in the restaurant kitchen: the cooks all spit on a steak being sent out to a diner who’d sent back the first steak served to her.  Okay, so it was a wince-worthy moment but at least in a subsequent scene the diner raves about the ‘special sauce’.

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