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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Witches - Roald Dahl

The Witches by Roald Dahl is an old favorite that I decided to read again.

In elementary school I read quite a few of Roald Dahl's books on my own, such as James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, The Twits, and The Fantastic Mr. Fox. His disturbing sense of humor tickled me in the right places.

I had already read several of his books, when one of my elementary school teachers decided to read The Witches to the class. She announced to us it was her favorite book before beginning. We soon discovered why when we started piecing things together. I was living in England at the time, which is also where this novel takes place. As the teacher described the many features of witches that the grandmother of the story describes to her grandson, we found an uncanny resemblance to our teacher's balding head, sharp nails, and blue spit. (No, really, she had blue spit. We were practicing needle point on plastic canvas and when she licked the yarn to get it through the needle it was tinted blue.)

Many of Dahl's books have been challenged for a number of reasons and The Witches is no exception. The Witches has been challenged for "sexism" because of one character stating "All witches are women"; of course, this challenge is a bit strange, when the same character follows-up by stating "All ghouls are men". It's also been challenged for having occult references: witches, spells, and transformation.  Additionally, it's been challenged for violence against adults, which is one thing found in nearly all of Dahl's books.

Despite the objections of many adults, I still find myself very attached to this story. The transformation the main character undergoes after getting caught by the witches used to terrify me and even now I have a vivid image from how I remember it in childhood. Dahl's imaginative vision of what the unnamed hero, a young boy, is able to achieve in mouse form has stuck with me over the years. While he can never change back, his positive outlook and determination to save other children from witches before they can be harmed is something I admire.

Recommended books by this author:
James and the Giant Peach
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
The Fantastic Mr. Fox

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