Sunday, October 16, 2011

Witches That Have Cast A Spell On Readers

Witches. Around this time of year, they are everywhere. Chances are you may even find a flattened out witch against your neighbor's tree. In this day and age, no one is afraid of a little ol' witch. There have been many stories that have given readers a glimpse of what witches look like, laugh like and even how to make one disappear ... for good. Classic stories of witches are read throughout the year, not just in October. However, the Fall, with it's festive Halloween celebration, provides a wonderful excuse to list favorite literary witches. Every avid reader either remember these witches well or at least have heard about them from others.

The stereotypical witch is ugly, mean and vengeful. However, there are some witches that have broken the mold and taught readers that there is good and bad in every walk of life. Including witches. Some are just poor, loveable and misunderstood. Of course, all witches have the ability to do "magic" or some may call it wicked "witchcraft". Like it or not, the authors who have introduced us to these characters have brilliantly forged the way for the witches to cast their spells on an unsuspecting audience. Yet, no one truly complains about the spells. Quite frankly, they are rather enjoyable and worth every minute that readers are cast under their spells.

Without further fuss and musing, here is a quick list of ten fictional witches that everyone should know or at least has heard about in their literary "trails" of life.

Greek mythology has many unusual characters. Medea is no exception. In Euripides play she is the mother who does the unthinkable. She murders her own sons. There has often been debates on whether she qualifies as a "witch". To settle this debate consider two important fact. One she is often called a sorceress. Secondly, she worships the witch God Hecate. Lastly, she murdered her brother with no regrets. If that doesn't make her a witch, then the rest of this list should be pretty tame.

The Queen in Snow and the Seven Dwarves is the classic example of a witch in disguise. Every child is familiar with the story of how poor Snow White had a stepmother who was truly a witch. No need for the magic mirror to tell the truth about this evil Queen/witch. All one has to remember is the fact that a poor guardsman, on the Queen's orders, had to take Snow White out to the forest, kill her and bring back her heart in a jewlery box as proof that she was gone. When the Queen found out that she was not the Fairest of them all because Snow White still lives, all is not well in the Kingdom. (Care to guess at what might have happened to the guardsman? It's probably not a good ending for him) In an old lady disguise, complete with poisoned apple, the Queen/Witch tricks Snow White into falling into her evil trap. All ends well for Snow White when a handsome prince comes along to plant a kiss of true love on her lips. However, the evil Queen/Witch will forever go down in history as the model for every creep witch to follow. Be vain. Be vengeful. Be vicious.

In Hansel and Gretel, the old witch lives alone in the forest in a gingerbread edible home. Children wandering around alone in the forest should pack a lunch instead of chewing off part of a home. Every reader knows that this can only lead to trouble. This awful witch not only lures innocent children into her home "sweet" home, she also likes to fatten them us so she can eat them. Perhaps this is where the legend of withes hating children began.

Shakespere also used witches to tell a story. Who can forget the Three witches in Macbeth. They were also known as the Three Weird Sisters, and to be honest, they fit the description. They were the prophetesses who correctly predicted the rise and fall of Lord Macbeth. Of course, some have often commented that Lady Macbeth had all the qualities of a Queen Witch without the title. Others say she was just being a loyal wife and standing by her man. Nonetheless, the Three Witches were considered evil and in Shakepeare's time, they were considered a harbinger of bad news.

The Wizard of Oz introduced readers to witches from all corners of the world. On the one hand, The witch from the North uses her magic for good. She is beautiful, helpful and is similar to a Fairy Godmother. Everyone in Oz loves and trusts the Witch of the North. However, the Wicked Witch of the West, is the exact opposite of her peer from the North and behaves like the witches of legend. She flew around on a broom but never once did a black cat appear at her side. Then again, who needs black cats when flying monkeys are so much more entertaining.

In C.S. Lewis' the Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe, the witch is definitly the antagonist of the story. To say she is cold, is an understatement To place Narnia in a one hundred year winter to gain and keep power is just one of her many calculating moves. Lewis' use of the witch demonstrates the capacity of evil to wield its power in any form possible. The White Witch claims to be human and uses the creatures as her minions. She has all of Narnia under her control and knows that human entering into her world will disrupt her her control. Thus any human who appear in Narnia are to be brought to her. Lucy and her siblings get caught up in her trap but eventually find a way, with Asian's help, to free Narnia of her control.

Not all witches are bad, some are helpful and lovable. Their magic is used for good and only called upon when it is necessary. One such witch is Strega Nona, Tomie DePaola's Italian grandmother who is also a witch. Strega Nona dos not wear a pointed hat, black dress and fly around on a broom. Instead she wears traditional Italian peasant dress, a babushka and has a magic pot that produces enough spaghetti to feed an entire neighborhood and hen some. This witch makes every reader wish their Nona was as "homey" as Strega Nona.

Broom-Hilda is not from traditional literature. As a librarian, it is important to remember that reading cartoons is a positive activity. With that being said, she is worth a mention because she plays a part in popular culture. She looks like a typical witch, for being 1500 years old but in a very humorous way she is depicted as a man-crazy, cigar smoking and beer guzzling, who has many friends to accompany her in her adventures. She could be invited into any home and not one person would be afraid of this crazy old witch. She might even be fun to have around for a Super Bowl Sunday party.

Last but not least. Harry Potter has a whole gaggle of witches that appear in and out of his life. Harry's own mother is a witch who was killed when he was very young. However, the one who gets mentioned here is Hermonine Granger. The smartest student at Hogworths and loyal friend to Harry. She always wants to obey the rule, like most good students, but finds that sometimes fighting "fire" with fire is the only option. Rowlings has taken the good witch, bad witch storyline to another level.

Of course, there are many other witches in literature. Is there one that has been left out here? More than likely, but in defense of this posting, these were the first witches that come to mind.
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