The Witches by Roald Dahl

Published by Elena Feresin on

The right book to read for Halloween

Versione Italiana e Inglese de Le Streghe di Roald Dahl

When does one become too old to read children’s books?
I don’t have an answer, but I know for sure that there are books from my childhood that I will never tire of reading. And I’m not talking about Harry Potter which, at times, it’s all but a children’s book, but about the books, I read in elementary school that I sometimes recover with the sole purpose of cuddling myself. I am referring in particular to a book that is perfect for Halloween: The Witches by Roald Dahl.

The Witches plot

The novel starts from a simple assumption: witches exist and live among us. They don’t wear weird pointy hats or raven cloaks, on the contrary, they look like normal women, which is why they are so dangerous and skilled. Their mission is simple, to exterminate all children on the face of the earth in the most imaginative ways possible, so that the blame falls, if possible, on the parents.
The protagonists of the story are hence a child, never named, and his grandmother. The little boy, orphaned, is entrusted to the loving and unconventional care of the elderly Norwegian woman and, in a mysterious and enchanted Oslo, he learns of the existence of these evil creatures. Grandma is an expert and the witches’ stories soon become the essential element of their days until … it would be a shame to tell you what happens. The action takes place quickly, it is up to you to move forward.

The first I ever read The Witches

It would be impossible to separate “The Witches” from the first time I came into contact with this story. My elementary school teacher was a book lover and used to welcome us every morning with a few pages. Together with her, we have read and listened to numerous books that I still remember fondly, from “The Story of A Seagull and The Cat Who Taught Her To Fly” by Luis Sepúlveda to “What’s behind the stars” by Jostein Gaarder, up to the texts by Dahl including “The Witches” that has always been my favorite.

I can’t say what binds me most to this book. If the relationship between the protagonists, which reminds me of that between my grandmother and me, who, among other things, resembled the lady of the illustrations in the book, drawn by Quentin Blake. Or if my heart is filled with dreams about me visiting those Nordic countries that still fascinate me to this day. Or maybe is the fact that, with his story, Dahl had given me an opportunity to look at reality with more attentive eyes, in search of the fearsome Witches? Truth is that I bought the original English version of the book not many years ago.

Why you should read the Witches by Roald Dahl?

Why make it your Halloween read? Because on Halloween the boundary between good and bad is thinned and in “The Witches” children are taught precisely this, that the borderline between the two forces is sometimes evanescent and a dose of healthy distrust can always be useful. Maybe even some adults would do well to remember this too.

It is strange to think that this classic was published less than forty years ago, in 1983, but it is certain that the dangers that children faced back then were very different from those of today.
Dahl passed away in 1990 but I wonder how he would have reacted to the internet and social media. Who knows what he would have conceived and which monsters he would have described?
Dahl was a writer for children and, in the contrast with adults, in his books, the little ones always come out as winners, even if sometimes at a high price. If in 1983 the antagonistic and “bad” adults were represented by the Witches, who knows what would have been invented in 2020 to narrate modern adults, that, so anchored in their youth, are unable to let their children experience the beauty of childhood.

Certainly, whether you are an adult or a child, a parent, or a kid, The Witches is a pleasant pastime that mixes tension and fun, laughter, and moments of reflection.

While waiting for the night of monsters and darkness, it would be nice, at least for a moment, to find out how near the witches actually are. Would we find that they are very close to us? Maybe close enough to look at us straight in the mirror?
Or maybe from behind the keys of this computer?

Tips to recognize a witch 

  • A witch always wears gloves because instead of nails she has long, sharp, and curved claws like those of cats
  • A real witch is always bald, but she wears a wig
    Witches have larger than normal nostrils
  • Witches eyes are different. Look carefully at the pupils: normal people have them black-colored, but those of a witch change color, and by staring at them you will see fire and ice shine together.
  • The feet are fingerless
  • Saliva is blue-like ink.

You don’t seem to understand that witches are not actually women at all. They look like women. They talk like women. And they are able to act like women. But in actual fact, they are totally different animals. They are demons in human shape.

Elena Feresin

Categories: Books


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