Monday, September 27, 2010

Banned Books Week: The Witches

Welcome to Banned Books Week on Fairy Layers! While not all of my selections are strictly fairy tale adaptations, I have made an effort to include books with fairy tales themes and tropes. All of the books selected for BBW (September 25th - October 2nd) have been banned or challenged for various reasons. I hope you enjoy!

For today's selection, I have picked a book that is both one of my favorites, and one of the few from my childhood that is still able to scare me: Roald Dahl's The Witches.

The Witches is about a little boy who goes to live with his grandmother after his parents die. In the course of the story, he has several nasty run-ins with witches (the bad kind in Dahl's mythology), ending up as a mouse.

The book is violent, frightening, chaotic -- and hilarious. Like all of Dahl's work for children, it shows an irreverence toward grown-up authority, thumbs its nose at any kind of societal expectations, and tells an imaginative story about a child in a difficult situation. (James and the Giant Peach and Matilda have also both been banned or challenged for encouraging disobedience and being disrespectful to grown-ups.)

While I wouldn't give a blanket recommendation of this book to any child, I think there are a lot of kids who would enjoy this book. It's definitely something you have to decide on a case by case basis: does this particular child still take things very literally? Maybe not time yet. Is this child starting to appreciate the supernatural/fairy tales/humor? Might be time to introduce some Dahl. Certainly I wouldn't think it's worth banning, but there is something in this book to offend just about everybody, if you don't, as Dahl himself put it, "Get a sense of humor."

A film version starring Angelica Houston as the Grand High Witch was produced in 1990. Although it gives the story a happier ending, it's as chilling as the book in many parts. (That bit with the girl trapped in the painting?--Truly creeped me out, especially in the visual movie version.) The movie is very much worth checking out if you are a Dahl fan.


  1. I just watched part of the Witches a couple months ago. You're right, the girl in the painting is SPOOOOKY STUFF!!!

  2. That part STILL scares me! But it's still one of my favorite movies.