Which witch is which?
The Tiny Ghost Newsletter, edition #18, October 27, 2022
Trick or treat ghastly ghouls!
Halloween is less than a week away! What are you dressing up as for spooky day this year? Are you staying in for a horror movie marathon or going out on the town in your abominable attire?
GASP! Do you feel it? Something wicked this way comes, and what’s more wicked than a witch? But are witches really something to be feared, or are they a badass source of ethereal empowerment? Well, take a walk with us through history as we examine famous witches in literature.
The first widely known witches to be written about stem from mythology and folklore. In Greek mythology, the sorceress Circe gained a bad rep after turning Odysseus’s men into animals. It would be centuries until Madeline Miller redeemed the witch in her popular retelling.
The reputation of magical women, known for their evil ways, seemed to stick in British legends and literature, such as Morgan le Fay of the Arthurian legends, who was seen as a wicked temptress, and the Wayward (or Weird if you don’t mind getting hexed) Sisters of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, depicted as harbingers of chaos. In Germany, we all know how dirty the Brothers Grimm did witches in their collection of fairytales. Their witches committed countless acts of kidnapping, poisoning, cannibalism, and just plain old bad behavior.
The most iconic evil witch is the Wicked Witch of the West from L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1900. From Baum’s book and the 1939 film adaptation came the now familiar trope of witches with green skin, pointy hats, and flying broomsticks. Although, Baum’s novel also portrays witchcraft in a more whimsical light with his character, Glinda. And both characters have been reimagined more recently in the 2003 Broadway hit Wicked. It’s these more recent portrayals that have added some nuance to the witchy discourse and led many a witch to ask themself, “are you a good witch or a bad witch?”
In George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, a less black-and-white depiction of a witch takes the form of the priestess Melissandre. Melissandre is a complex character who commits both acts of heroism and villainy. Like most characters in this universe, her actions can be justified and condemned, which was not often seen for female characters who committed wrongdoings. Spoiler warning for those who haven’t read this series or watched Game of Thrones: I personally will never forgive her for killing one of the few gay characters in the show, Renley. He was too pretty to be killed off, yet another victim of the bury your gays trope.
TV shows like Bewitched, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and Charmed painted witches as somewhat ordinary people with magical powers, helping to reshape our image of witchcraft and foster the narrative of the good witch, finally dispelling the lie that a woman with power equates with evil.
Witches and the dark arts are commonplace in books for all ages, from The School for Good and Evil to Payback’s a Witch, to the point that it’s almost a little strange if witches don’t exist in a magical fantasy world. Thankfully witches and women with extraordinary powers are more prevalent in media and on our shelves. We can’t thank these authors enough for helping to shift the narrative around witches because it’s brought us some of our favorite books and witchy characters.
Now I’m going to give a totally not subjective list of the best witches in recent years:
Bonnie Bennet (she carried The Vampire Diaries on her back)
Wyatt Croft (from The Witch King)
Yadriel (Cemetary Boys)
Last but certainly not least, Dane Craven (Wicked Little Things)
I know, I know. That was a very shameless self-promo, but how could I not? Wicked Little Things is our upcoming witchy book, launching on November 15 and available for preorder now! We really can’t wait for you to get to know Dane and his spooky yet magical world full of mean girls and murder. Oh, and did I mention there’s a talking raccoon?