Witches feature in many of our tales – often in fairy tales, and mostly as villainesses! But are they really that bad? This month’s blog is all about looking at them from a new point of view!
This month, we were lucky enough to go to a talk at the British Library in London. It was by Rhianna Pratchett and Gabrielle Kent, who have just written a book called Tiffany Aching’s Guide to Being a Witch.
Rhianna’s dad is Sir Terry Pratchett, who wrote more than forty novels set on the fabulous ‘Discworld’. Five of them are about a young witch called Tiffany Aching, and they make wonderful reading for kids and adults alike. We recommend that you check out The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith and I Shall Wear Midnight, as they are exciting, funny and full of wisdom! There were lots of young Pratchett fans at the talk, and they asked lots of interesting questions.
In her talk, Rhianna and Gabrielle discussed witches, and why they are inspiring! They certainly inspired us to write this blog about why witches are wonderful… By the time you finish reading this you might have fallen in love with witches, just like we did!
Stories need foes for the main characters to overcome. A story where the hero doesn’t have someone to threaten or challenge them would get very boring indeed! Witches make great foes because they are slightly scary and have magical powers. That makes them more interesting than another wicked vizier or menacing dragon…
They are smart (usually)!
One of the things that makes witches good foes is that they know things, and knowing things is cool! They know the secrets of magic, and often come up with cunning plans.
But did you know that Fairy tale witches were partly inspired by real-life wise women who knew a lot about herbs, healing, and caring for plants and animals. People went to them for help when things went wrong. The problem is, when sickness or other disasters struck, people often blamed these wise women for causing them with curses – this led to horrible ‘witch-hunts’ where innocent women were punished!
They do their own thing!
In stories, nobody tells witches what to do! They live by themselves, have their own plans and schemes, and don’t do whatever a king or queen tells them. That makes witches extra-cool!
Some ‘wicked’ witches might have a point!
In stories, these characters usually live by themselves in the middle of the forest… which should be a hint that they want to be left alone. We can’t blame them for being upset if kids lost in the forest keep barging into their homes! This is especially true of the witch in the story of Hansel and Gretel. The children did eat her home before she decided to imprison them…
Witches can be good, too!
In stories, some witches use their powers for good! Think of Glinda the Good Witch from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz or La Befana, the Italian witch that delivers baked treats to kids at Christmastime. The Discworld books by Sir Terry Pratchett also feature witches as heroes! They may be grumpy or awkward or scary, but they care about their communities and do their best to help people who need it…
They are stylish!
Witches are known for their distinctive fashion sense! A pointy hat with a wide brim is practical and eye-catching, and black clothes never go out of style! Dressing like a witch (and even decorating your home in a witchy way) is becoming trendy. There is even a new name for this style: #witchcore
They like cats!
Many witches from myths and stories had magical companion animals called ‘familiars’, and they often took the form of cats. Cats are cute and cuddly and awesome, so the witches that own them are awesome too!
Which witch is your favourite, and why do you think they are amazing? Let us know!
Rhianna and Gabrielle’s talk was part of the British Library’s Fantasy: Realms of Imagination event, which is going on for the next few months. There is an exhibition of fantasy-related books and art as well as talks by fantasy authors and discussions about subjects like making up fictional worlds. You can go to events in person or watch them online if you can’t get into central London.
For tickets and details, go to: https://www.bl.uk/events/fantasy-realms-of-imagination