The Witches by Roald Dahl

The Witches

Discover the enchanting world of Roald Dahl’s beloved children’s book, The Witches. Published in 1983, this captivating novel follows the adventures of a young English boy and his courageous Norwegian grandmother as they confront a secret society of child-hating witches. Led by the formidable Grand High Witch, these sinister figures plan to transform all the children in England into mice. Despite receiving mixed reviews and facing accusations of misogyny, The Witches has cemented its status as one of the greatest children’s novels of all time.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Witches, written by Roald Dahl, is a cherished children’s book filled with enchantment.
  • The story revolves around a young English boy and his grandmother as they encounter a society of child-hating witches.
  • Roald Dahl drew inspiration from his own childhood experiences and the character of the grandmother was based on his mother.
  • The novel explores themes of child-hate and exposes treachery and irrational evils in the adult world.
  • The Witches has been adapted into various forms of media, including audio readings, stage plays, radio dramas, operas, and films.

Synopsis of The Witches

Follow the thrilling adventure of a young English boy and his Norwegian grandmother as they confront a hidden society of child-hating witches led by the powerful Grand High Witch. In Roald Dahl’s beloved children’s novel, The Witches, readers are introduced to a world where these nefarious witches disguise themselves as ordinary women, plotting to rid the world of children by turning them into mice.

As the young boy and his grandmother navigate the treacherous landscape of the witching world, they must outsmart the Grand High Witch and her coven to protect the children of England. Facing danger at every turn, they rely on their quick wit and cleverness to try and expose the dark secrets of the witches.

Throughout this captivating story, Dahl masterfully weaves together elements of suspense, humor, and fantasy, keeping readers on the edge of their seats. The bond between the young boy and his grandmother is heartwarming, as they support and rely on each other throughout their thrilling journey.

Key Characters in The Witches Description
Grand High Witch The powerful leader of the child-hating witches, who seeks to rid the world of children.
Young Boy The brave protagonist who discovers the existence of the witches and must find a way to stop their wicked plans.
Grandmother The wise and protective Norwegian grandmother who guides and supports the young boy in his battle against the witches.

Roald Dahl’s The Witches captures the imaginations of readers with its vivid storytelling and fantastical elements. It explores themes of bravery, family bonds, and the triumph of good over evil, all wrapped up in a thrilling and entertaining package. Despite facing criticism and controversy, the book remains a beloved classic in children’s literature and continues to enchant new generations of readers.

Roald Dahl’s Inspiration and Background

Learn about the personal experiences that shaped Roald Dahl’s writing and the underlying themes of child-hate and adult treachery in The Witches.

Roald Dahl drew inspiration for his novel “The Witches” from his own childhood experiences, particularly his encounters with stern and intimidating adults. Born in Wales in 1916, Dahl was raised by his Norwegian grandmother, who often told him stories about Norwegian folklore and witches. These tales, coupled with Dahl’s vivid imagination, sparked the creation of the child-hating societies of witches in his book.

Dahl’s mother also served as a significant influence on his writing. She was instrumental in sparking his love for storytelling and literature, often reading to him and his siblings. However, her untimely death when Dahl was just three years old had a profound impact on him. The loss of his mother, coupled with his experiences at boarding schools where he encountered strict and oppressive teachers, contributed to his portrayal of child-hate and the exposure of treachery in the adult world in “The Witches.”

“The Witches” delves into the dark and sinister world of these child-hating witches, reflecting Dahl’s belief that children possess an inherent sense of goodness and vulnerability. Through his storytelling, Dahl highlights the irrational evils that exist in the adult world and sheds light on the importance of protecting children from harm.

Key Points: Roald Dahl’s Inspiration and Background
1. Based on Dahl’s own childhood experiences, including encounters with stern adults and boarding school life.
2. Influenced by his Norwegian grandmother’s stories and the loss of his mother at a young age.
3. Explores themes of child-hate and exposes the treachery and irrational evils in the adult world.

Despite the dark themes present in “The Witches,” Dahl’s writing style remains witty and delightful. His use of humor and language captivates readers, balancing the scary elements with an enchanting narrative that continues to engage and entertain generations of young readers.

Criticism and Controversy

Delve into the controversy surrounding The Witches, as critics debated its portrayal of women and the mixed reception it garnered. While the book has been widely celebrated for its dark humor and imaginative storytelling, it has also faced its fair share of criticism.

One of the main points of contention revolves around allegations of misogyny in the portrayal of women in the novel. Some critics argue that the depiction of the witches as exclusively female perpetuates negative stereotypes and reinforces gender bias. However, others argue that Dahl’s intention was not to vilify all women but to create a fantastical world where the malevolent witches posed a threat to children.

Another aspect that sparked debate was the mixed reception the book received upon its publication. While many readers and critics praised Dahl’s inventive storytelling and engaging characters, there were those who found the content too dark and frightening for young readers. The book’s portrayal of child-hate and the transformation of children into mice prompted concerns about its suitability for its intended audience.

Positive Reviews Negative Reviews
  • “An enchanting and thrilling tale that captivates readers from start to finish.” – The Guardian
  • “Roald Dahl’s wicked imagination shines through in this gripping and unputdownable book.” – The New York Times
  • “A brilliantly written and delightfully scary adventure that will keep children on the edge of their seats.” – The Telegraph
  • “Dahl’s portrayal of women in the book is deeply problematic and reinforces harmful stereotypes.” – The Independent
  • “This book is too frightening and disturbing for young readers. It may give them nightmares!” – Parenting Magazine
  • “The Witches sends the wrong message to children, with its dark themes and perilous situations.” – Children’s Book Review

Despite the criticism, it is important to note that The Witches has also garnered a significant following and has been recognized as a classic in children’s literature. Its enduring popularity can be attributed to Dahl’s masterful storytelling, his ability to blend humor with suspense, and the book’s timeless themes of courage, resilience, and the triumph of good over evil.

Ranking as a Children’s Classic

Discover why The Witches has earned its place among the most beloved and cherished children’s novels throughout the years. Roald Dahl’s captivating tale of child-hating witches and the courageous young boy who must thwart their evil plans has become a timeless classic in children’s literature.

Critics may have had mixed reviews upon its publication, but The Witches has consistently ranked as one of the best children’s novels of all time. Its enduring popularity can be attributed to Dahl’s masterful storytelling and his unique ability to blend humor, suspense, and imagination to captivate readers of all ages.

The book’s lasting appeal lies in its exploration of universal themes, such as the power of friendship and the triumph of good over evil. Dahl’s witty and delightful language engages young readers, while his portrayal of the treacherous adult world resonates with older audiences. Through the character of the wise and protective grandmother, readers are reminded of the unwavering love and support found in family bonds.

Table: Ranking The Witches as a Children’s Classic

List Name Year Rank
Time Magazine’s 100 Best Young-Adult Books of All Time 2015 #6
The Guardian’s 100 Best Books for Children 2009 #7
School Library Journal’s Top 100 Children’s Novels 2012 #10

The Witches’ status as a children’s classic is further solidified by its numerous adaptations. From audio readings to stage plays, radio dramas to operas, and finally, films, the story has transcended the pages of the book to captivate audiences across different mediums. Each adaptation has brought its own unique interpretation, ensuring that the magic of The Witches continues to enchant new generations.

Adaptations of The Witches

From captivating audio readings to mesmerizing stage plays and thrilling film adaptations, explore the diverse world of The Witches in different forms of media. Roald Dahl’s beloved children’s novel has garnered immense popularity and has been adapted into various creative formats that bring the story to life in unique ways.

Audio Readings:

The Witches has been transformed into engaging audio readings, allowing listeners to immerse themselves in the captivating narrative. Narrators bring the characters to life, drawing listeners into the thrilling adventures of the young boy and his grandmother as they encounter the child-hating witches.

Stage Plays and Radio Dramas:

The magic of The Witches has also graced the stage, with awe-inspiring stage plays that recreate the enchanting world of the novel. These theatrical productions have delighted audiences of all ages, capturing the essence of Dahl’s storytelling and the imaginative elements of the story. The narrative has also been adapted into compelling radio dramas, providing a unique auditory experience for listeners.

Opera and Films:

The Witches has transcended into the world of opera, with composers transforming the story into a captivating musical experience. These operatic adaptations feature stunning visuals and powerful performances, transporting audiences into a world of wonder and magic.

The novel has also been adapted into thrilling film versions that have enthralled audiences worldwide. These films bring the story to life through cinematic magic, showcasing the adventures of the young boy and his encounters with the wicked witches. With captivating performances and stunning visuals, these film adaptations have captured the hearts of both young and old, ensuring that the beloved story continues to inspire and entertain generations to come.

Adaptation Format
Audio Readings Audiobook
Stage Plays and Radio Dramas Theater and Radio
Opera Musical
Films Movies

The Witches Movie

Dive into the enchanting world of The Witches movie, starring Anne Hathaway and Octavia Spencer, as they bring Roald Dahl’s beloved tale to life with their captivating performances. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, this fantasy film is a modern adaptation of Dahl’s timeless children’s novel.

The story follows a young orphaned boy (played by Jahzir Kadeem Bruno) who goes to live with his loving grandmother (Octavia Spencer) in a small town. As they embark on a seaside vacation, they unknowingly encounter a gathering of witches led by the sinister Grand High Witch (Anne Hathaway). The boy and his grandmother must outsmart the witches and save themselves from a horrifying fate.

The film beautifully captures the essence of Dahl’s original story, with visually stunning settings and remarkable performances by the cast. Anne Hathaway brings the Grand High Witch to life with her mesmerizing portrayal, capturing the character’s wickedness and cunning nature. Octavia Spencer shines as the caring and resourceful grandmother, offering a heartwarming portrayal of her character’s love and determination.

The Witches movie is a perfect blend of fantasy, adventure, and suspense, suitable for both children and adults. It pays homage to Roald Dahl’s captivating storytelling, and its modern retelling introduces a new generation of viewers to this beloved tale. Be prepared to be transported into a world of magic and mischief as you join the young boy and his grandmother in their battle against the witches.

Table: Cast and Characters

Character Actor
Grand High Witch Anne Hathaway
Grandma Octavia Spencer
Boy Jahzir Kadeem Bruno

Characters in The Witches

Meet the unforgettable characters who populate the pages of The Witches, from the formidable Grand High Witch to the courageous young boy and his loving grandmother.

The Grand High Witch is the primary antagonist of the story, a sinister and powerful witch who leads the child-hating societies. With her bald head, square-shaped feet, and intense desire to wipe out children, she is a truly terrifying character. Her cunning plans and sheer malevolence make her a force to be reckoned with.

On the other side of the spectrum, we have the unnamed young boy, who serves as the protagonist of the story. Despite his vulnerable nature, he exhibits remarkable courage and determination in his quest to defeat the witches. His resilience and resourcefulness make him a relatable and inspiring character for young readers.

Lastly, we have the young boy’s grandmother, a kind and loving woman who provides him with guidance and support throughout their journey. Modeled after Roald Dahl’s own mother, the grandmother serves as a source of wisdom and comfort. Her presence adds warmth and emotional depth to the story, highlighting the bond between generations.

Character Description
Grand High Witch The powerful leader of the child-hating witches
Young Boy The courageous protagonist on a mission to defeat the witches
Grandmother The wise and loving figure who supports the young boy

Themes and Messages in The Witches

Uncover the thought-provoking themes and messages that underpin The Witches, from its cautionary tale of child-hate to the delightfully witty language that captivates readers.

In this captivating children’s novel, Roald Dahl takes us on a journey that explores the dark themes of child-hate and the treachery lurking within the adult world. Through vivid storytelling, Dahl warns young readers of the dangers that surround them, painting a cautionary tale that urges them to be vigilant and brave.

Within the pages of The Witches, Dahl exposes the irrational evils that exist in society, embodied by the child-hating witches. These antagonists represent a force of malevolence that seeks to harm and destroy. By confronting such sinister characters, young readers are encouraged to confront their fears and stand up against injustice.

What sets The Witches apart is Dahl’s masterful use of language. Throughout the book, he employs a wit and charm that delights readers of all ages. The clever wordplay and humorous descriptions bring the story to life, creating a delightful reading experience that keeps young minds engaged and entertained.


  • Child-hate and its dangers
  • Irrational evils in the adult world
  • Bravery and standing up against injustice


  • Be cautious and aware of the dangers that can lurk in society
  • Confront your fears and fight against injustice
  • Find joy in the power of language and storytelling

Table: The Witches Adaptations

Adaptation Description
Audio Reading A narrated version of the book, bringing the story to life through the power of voice
Stage Play A theatrical adaptation performed live on stage, captivating audiences with the magic of the story
Radio Drama An audio adaptation with voice actors and sound effects, allowing listeners to immerse themselves in the world of the witches
Opera A musical adaptation that combines enchanting melodies with the captivating story, bringing it to life through song
Films Multiple film adaptations that visually depict the world of the witches, allowing audiences to experience the story in a whole new way

The Enduring Appeal of The Witches

Explore the lasting allure of The Witches and discover why Roald Dahl’s imaginative tale continues to enchant and engage generations of young readers.

First published in 1983, The Witches has become a beloved classic in children’s literature. Its enduring appeal can be attributed to Dahl’s masterful storytelling, captivating characters, and the timeless themes it explores. The novel takes readers on a thrilling adventure, immersing them in a world where witches roam and a young boy must outwit them to save the children of England.

One of the key factors contributing to The Witches’ popularity is its ability to strike a perfect balance between darkness and wit. Dahl’s witty narrative style, infused with humor and mischief, delights readers of all ages. Despite its scary moments, the book offers young readers a thrilling and empowering fantasy that encourages them to face their fears and use their intelligence to overcome challenges.

The Power of Imagination

A notable element of The Witches’ appeal lies in its ability to ignite the imagination of readers. Dahl’s vivid descriptions transport readers into a world where magic and danger coexist. Through its memorable characters, such as the young protagonist and his wise and protective grandmother, the story inspires children to embark on their own imaginative journeys, fostering creativity and a love for reading.

Adaptations Year
Audio Reading 1983
Stage Play 1989
Radio Drama 1992
Opera 1994
Film 1990, 2020

The Witches has also achieved widespread appeal through its various adaptations across different mediums. From audio readings and stage plays to radio dramas, operas, and films, the story has been brought to life in captivating ways. These adaptations have introduced The Witches to new audiences and further solidified its place in children’s literature.

With its enduring appeal, The Witches stands as a testament to Roald Dahl’s immense talent for capturing the imagination of young readers. By combining suspense, humor, and valuable life lessons, Dahl crafted a timeless masterpiece that continues to captivate and inspire generations of children.

Roald Dahl’s Legacy

Celebrate the extraordinary legacy of Roald Dahl, whose imaginative storytelling and timeless tales like The Witches have left an indelible mark on the world of children’s literature. Dahl’s unique ability to captivate and enchant young readers has made him one of the most beloved authors of all time.

Through his creative and whimsical stories, Dahl transported children to magical worlds, where anything was possible. His characters, like the brave young boy and the wise and protective grandmother in The Witches, became cherished companions for generations of readers.

But Dahl’s impact extends beyond his enchanting tales. He revolutionized children’s literature by infusing his stories with elements of dark humor and unexpected twists, breaking away from traditional narratives and pushing the boundaries of imagination. His books are known for their witty language, delighting readers with clever wordplay and inventive storytelling.

Today, Dahl’s legacy lives on through his lasting influence on children’s literature. His stories continue to be cherished and read by children around the world, inspiring a love for reading and igniting imaginations. Whether in the form of books, films, or stage adaptations, Dahl’s stories continue to captivate audiences of all ages, reminding us of the power and magic of storytelling.

Name Year of Publication
The Witches 1983
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 1964
Matilda 1988


In conclusion, The Witches by Roald Dahl continues to enchant readers of all ages with its magical storyline and has become a beloved classic in both literature and film adaptations. Published in 1983, this children’s novel follows the adventures of a young English boy and his Norwegian grandmother as they navigate a world where child-hating societies of witches secretly exist. Led by the powerful Grand High Witch, these witches plan to transform all the children in England into mice.

Despite receiving mixed reviews and criticism for alleged misogyny, The Witches remains highly regarded and is ranked as one of the best children’s novels of all time. The book draws inspiration from Dahl’s own childhood experiences and in particular, his relationship with his grandmother and mother, who served as the basis for the character of the grandmother in the story.

Delving into themes of child-hate and revealing the treachery and irrational evils that exist in the adult world, The Witches strikes a balance between scare and delight. Dahl’s use of witty and charming language captivates readers, enticing them into a world where magic and adventure intertwine.

Over the years, The Witches has been successfully adapted into various forms of media, including audio readings, stage plays, radio dramas, operas, and films. The most recent adaptation is the fantasy film released in 2020, starring Anne Hathaway and Octavia Spencer. This enduring appeal speaks volumes about the lasting impact and legacy of Roald Dahl as one of the foremost storytellers in children’s literature.


When was "The Witches" written?

“The Witches” was written in 1983.

Who is the author of "The Witches"?

“The Witches” was written by Roald Dahl.

What is the plot of "The Witches"?

“The Witches” follows a young English boy and his Norwegian grandmother as they encounter a world where child-hating societies of witches secretly exist. The witches, led by the powerful Grand High Witch, plan to turn all the children in England into mice.

Is "The Witches" a popular children’s novel?

Yes, “The Witches” is considered one of the best children’s novels of all time.

Has "The Witches" been adapted into other forms of media?

Yes, “The Witches” has been adapted into an audio reading, stage play, radio drama, opera, and films.

What inspired Roald Dahl to write "The Witches"?

Roald Dahl based the novel on his own childhood experiences, and the character of the grandmother was modeled after his mother.

What themes does "The Witches" explore?

“The Witches” explores themes of child-hate and exposes the treachery and irrational evils in the adult world.

What criticism has "The Witches" faced?

“The Witches” has been criticized for misogyny and received mixed reviews upon publication.

Is "The Witches" considered a children’s classic?

Yes, “The Witches” is ranked as one of the best children’s novels of all time and is considered a classic.

Who are the main characters in "The Witches"?

The main characters in “The Witches” are the young boy, his grandmother, and the Grand High Witch.

What are the themes and messages in "The Witches"?

“The Witches” explores themes of child-hate, irrational evils, and conveys messages about the dangers of such attitudes. It also uses witty and delightful language to entertain readers.

Why is "The Witches" enduringly popular?

“The Witches” continues to captivate young readers due to its engaging storytelling and timeless appeal.

What is Roald Dahl’s legacy?

Roald Dahl is celebrated for his contributions to children’s literature, and “The Witches” is one of his most influential works.

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