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"The Witches" by Roald Dahl


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#1 Harmony1215

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Posted 03 February 2009 - 02:34 PM

Hi all,
First of all, i have no idea where to post this, i thought about putting it in the "book" section but it's talking abuot religion so this is where i'm going to put it right now. Moderators please change if needed.

my mother told me about this book a few weeks ago. apparently my little brother who is 10 yrs old, his class is reading this book. Well actually the teacher is reading it to the class a little bit at a time.

Now my mom is a Jehovah's Witness and when she found out that this book was being read in class she wanted to know what the book was about. When she realized that it was putting real witches in bad content she contacted me, since i'm a witch.

I went onto Amazon.com and did a little research. here is what the book description says:
Amazon.com Review
This Roald Dahl classic tells the scary, funny and imaginative tale of a seven-year-old boy who has a run-in with some real-life witches! "In fairy tales witches always wear silly black hats and black cloaks and they ride on broomsticks. But this is not a fairy tale. This is about REAL WITCHES. REAL WITCHES dress in ordinary clothes and look very much like ordinary women. They live in ordinary houses and they work in ordinary jobs. That is why they are so hard to catch." Witches, as our hero learns, hate children. With the help of a friend and his somewhat-magical grandmother, our hero tries to expose the witches before they dispose of him. Ages 7-12. --

(I tried to put a link to amazon.com but it didn't work, go to their site to find the reviews and more info about this book)

now granted, this book is for young kids, it's suposed to be a fun kid book that's just that, a fun read. this author has a lot of other books out there that are great! (James the Giant Peach, Matilda to name a few that were fun reads for kids, and they were learning good "life lessons" from these books)
but like one reviewer said in the amazon site, replace the word "witch" to jew, christian or muslim and there would be an outcry from the masses.

in a way this book is spreading hatred and prejudice to young kids. what are we telling the younger generation? this is teaching kids to hate certain religions and beliefs!

one reviewer said this and i agree with them:
This book is a horrid misrepresentation of Paganism and women in general. It is clear that the author is writing from a point of view of ignorance and hate. It promotes stereotypes and the hatred that results from his uneducated opinion. No matter what your views on Paganism might be, this book also celebrates misogyny. Children are prompted to be suspicious and distrustful of their female teachers and even their mothers. This is a loathesome way for the author to sell his uninformed opinions to the public - through children.




what do you all think? is this just a kids book or is it more? should we as a pagan community be warning parents out there about this book?

Edited by Harmony1215, 03 February 2009 - 02:34 PM.


#2 greg_dragonlvr

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Posted 07 February 2009 - 12:56 AM

I'm afraid that Mr. Dahl is just playing up to the stereotype of a modern 'witch' with a nasty slant to it.
Unfortuately, the general population views witches (aside from the side-show variety) in the same catagory as the Easter Rabbit and the Great Pumpkin. They don't even acknowledge the practices of the Old Religions and Wicca as even being Faith or a true spiritual practice. Most of them don't even hold that anything but their own church is the real 'Church'.

So, unless we start putting swasticas on the Pope's pictures, or little horns on the Luthern Synad Council photos, no one will pay any attention to what us bunch of crazies are protesting.

Just one more insult we have to put up with.

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#3 Seeker

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Posted 07 February 2009 - 12:24 PM

I really don't think that Roald Dahl was even considering the practice of Wicca when he wrote the book. He was using the stereotype the same way he would use an ogre or a monster in the closet. To the majority of the worlds population, the term Witch is the feminine version of a person with special powers and the ability to create good or harm in a magical way. Most people I think, realize there are many uses for the word but it is unfortunate that a beautiful religion shares a name with something so negative.
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#4 angelinayorke

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Posted 01 March 2009 - 11:48 PM

While it is a bit ridiculous, you also have to look at the publishing date. It was originally published in 1985. While it wasn't the stone age, Wicca/Paganism weren't nearly as mainstream or even known as they are today.
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#5 tooladdict195

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 04:40 PM

I'm afraid that Mr. Dahl is just playing up to the stereotype of a modern 'witch' with a nasty slant to it.
Unfortuately, the general population views witches (aside from the side-show variety) in the same catagory as the Easter Rabbit and the Great Pumpkin. They don't even acknowledge the practices of the Old Religions and Wicca as even being Faith or a true spiritual practice. Most of them don't even hold that anything but their own church is the real 'Church'.

So, unless we start putting swasticas on the Pope's pictures, or little horns on the Luthern Synad Council photos, no one will pay any attention to what us bunch of crazies are protesting.

Just one more insult we have to put up with.



here, here.

#6 Morraeon

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Posted 02 July 2009 - 11:24 PM

I really don't think that Roald Dahl was even considering the practice of Wicca when he wrote the book. He was using the stereotype the same way he would use an ogre or a monster in the closet. To the majority of the worlds population, the term Witch is the feminine version of a person with special powers and the ability to create good or harm in a magical way. Most people I think, realize there are many uses for the word but it is unfortunate that a beautiful religion shares a name with something so negative.


Mmm, it's like how some Christian watchdog groups jump at every less than favorable representation of them in the media. Some may be intended to jab them, but I doubt that every single one is meant to be a jab. Case in point, some episodes of "Law & Order" or "Criminal Minds" where a priest or a practicing Christian steps outside the law and finds some way to justify their wrong-doing; it's generally presented as just the actions of a flawed human being, rather than an attempt to demonize Christians. Doesn't stop the Catholic League from getting their rosaries in a knot, though.

#7 Palimpsest

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 10:00 PM

How about... stop trying to 'reclaim' witch? There are many witchcraft practitioners who aren't Wiccan, and saying a practitioner of witchcraft must be Wiccan is kind of what attracts the type who's more into manipulation than spirituality... into what should be spirituality.

Keep it Wiccan, and the Witches won't be talking about you (Wiccans) anymore. Sounds simple to me, so simple in fact that otherwise I would think certain Wiccans were actively looking for something to be offended at.

#8 Vampchick21

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Posted 07 July 2009 - 10:57 AM

Palimpsest.....I'm not exactly sure what you are driving at.

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#9 Palimpsest

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Posted 08 July 2009 - 04:25 PM

Palimpsest.....I'm not exactly sure what you are driving at.


That people who are offended at this work for it being "a horrid representation of Paganish" seems to me to be actively seeking something to be offended at. Roald Dahl didn't entitle it "The Pagans" or "The Wiccans" he called it "the Witches." Still people cry, "Witch is another term for my religion!" when if you think a little more broadly, no. It isn't. And if you think a little more personally, it doesn't have to be.

There's a Somalian proverb or something that goes, "It's not what you call me, it's what I answer to." Why choose to answer to witch if you know that it's a term that's come to belong to general culture?

#10 Vampchick21

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Posted 08 July 2009 - 06:21 PM

Ok, what is 'Paganish'? You mean Paganism?

And yes, people who are Wiccan are indeed Witches. They have defined themselves as that very thing since the start of the modern Wiccan movement. Ask any Wiccan. While not all Witches are Wiccan (see: me), all Wiccans ARE Witches by their own defintion. And frankly, THEY are the ones who should define themselve, not you or I or Joe and Sally down the street.

And speaking as a Neo-Pagan and practicing Witch, and as a woman, I can indeed see, based on the description of the novel, where the offence is coming in from. Not having actually read it, I can't actually give my own opinion on it per say. I might want to point out though, that discrimination against Wiccans, Witches and Neo-Pagans IS indeed out there, and very strong in some regions.

As for 'chosing' to answer to Witch, isn't that the choice of someone like myself or someone who practices the Wiccan religion? After all, it's a matter of reclaiming the term and turning into something positive rather than a negative. And part of that is pointing out when it is being used to discriminate, misinform or otherwise negatively label a person or group. Another part of that is educating people.

Edited by Vampchick21, 08 July 2009 - 06:22 PM.

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#11 Palimpsest

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Posted 09 July 2009 - 02:24 AM

Ok, what is 'Paganish'? You mean Paganism?

Pagans. Must have been a typo I made while trying to format it in italics, unless these forums have auto-correct feature on chatspeak or something. (You can spot typos! Have a medal!)

And yes, people who are Wiccan are indeed Witches. They have defined themselves as that very thing since the start of the modern Wiccan movement. Ask any Wiccan. While not all Witches are Wiccan (see: me), all Wiccans ARE Witches by their own defintion. And frankly, THEY are the ones who should define themselve, not you or I or Joe and Sally down the street.


What's themselve? Never mind.
Anyway... you're saying non-Wiccan witches just have to suck it up and go along with how Wiccans are yanking away and re-designing the label? That doesn't strike you as selfish?

And speaking... as a woman, I can indeed see, based on the description of the novel, where the offence is coming in from.

That, I can understand.

Not having actually read it, I can't actually give my own opinion on it per say.


I take back my understanding.

I might want to point out though, that discrimination against Wiccans, Witches and Neo-Pagans IS indeed out there, and very strong in some regions.

Roald Dahl = KKK. Got it.

As for 'chosing' to answer to Witch, isn't that the choice of someone like myself or someone who practices the Wiccan religion? After all, it's a matter of reclaiming the term and turning into something positive rather than a negative.


I see an effort like THIS thread to "reclaim" it as petty and silly.

And part of that is pointing out when it is being used to discriminate, misinform or otherwise negatively label a person or group. Another part of that is educating people.

The only thing I'm learning is how the Anti-Fluffbunny movement can't be strong enough if there's still so many Wiccans who delight in being persecuted. I'm sure you can give me examples of real, heartbreaking abuse and discrimination. Roald Dahl isn't one of them.
I've experienced the religion in general very badly needing to move past persecution=identity phase.

#12 Vampchick21

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Posted 09 July 2009 - 06:06 AM

Ok, you know what? until you decide to speak to me in a less insulting manner, I will not continue this conversation with you.

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#13 mellilotflower

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Posted 12 July 2009 - 06:12 AM

I'm a little bit afraid to comment here, and stir this up again, but I think I agree largely with palimpest, though perhaps not with the tone. It's easy to misunderstand a book like this as being offensive - it posits "witches" as being evil, non human old women who hate children and seek to destroy them.
And I agree that if the word "jew" were substituted - it would be anti-semetic.
The problem is that 20 years ago, when this book was written, if you asked someone what a witch was they'd think about Snow White, or maybe talk about broomsticks and tall hats.
To my mind there are currently two meanings for the word "witch" that are currently getting confused - one referring to the archetype old crone wanting to do evil to community, and one referring to someone who believes and practices in a certain way. I can imagine that there was at one time two meanings for the word "Jew" in a simmilar manner, one used to refer to dirty, money pinching, scheeming individuals, and one used to refer to individuals who practice and believe in a certain way.
The problem with "witch" is that before, and alongside, modern witches reclaiming the word a lot of authors played with the stereotype - to produce works like the Witches, The Worst Witch, Wyrd Sisters, No Room on the Broom, Harry Potter... I think this has resulted in two seperate concepts - one referring to a religion, and one referring to an archetype. Both are use legitimately, offensively and inoffensively, in literature and I think it might count as jumping to conclusions if you assumed that any portrayal as a witch in a bad light was an attack on the religion. I don't know much about child development, but I also think it's insulting to the age group that the Witches is aimed at to suppose that they don't know the difference between fact and fiction...

I'm not sure how to word this question without sounding aggressive, so please be charitable in reading it and accept my good intentions; Through the reclamation of
"witch" do you intend to get rid of all other possible uses of the word? - that is unless a character is depicting as believing certain things, and using certain practices, the term cannot be applied?

The point which I should first wish to understand is whether the pious or holy is beloved by the gods because it is holy, or holy because it is beloved of the gods.

Sonnet XCIVBut if that flower with base infection meet,The basest weed outbraves his dignity:For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds

#14 Vampchick21

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Posted 12 July 2009 - 11:58 AM

Well, for a start, I am very well aware of the use of various archtypes in literature and the range in which they can be sued, depending on the work of fiction and the story the author is trying to get across. I'm a writer myself, and I personally use a wide range of archtypes in a wide range of applications.

And I did clearly state that I have not read the book in question, therefore I cannot hold any kind of opinion regarding how the author used the archtype or what he was trying to get across. You kinda have to read a story to hold an opinion on it, right? I simply said I understood where those who have read the work and found offense were coming from.

As for reclaiming a word, take a look at other words who's original use was negative that were reclaimed by the appropriate groups, and view the wide range of use still attached to said word and that should answer your question. I won't give any examples, because we all know what words and terms those are (and they'll be filtered out anyway).

And since I and I alone am not in charge of reclaimation of anything, let alone a word, how really am I to answer such a query? If you asked it of every single Wiccan and Witch in the world right now, you won't get 100% consensus. The same with every other group on the planet.

I'm not saying its logical, but really I would at least like people to not apply a negative sterotype to me or others because it's unfair, regardless of the sterotype.

I had thought I was pretty clear in my post. I guess I wasn't.

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#15 Morraeon

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Posted 12 July 2009 - 12:52 PM

I have more than a few Wiccan friends who call themselves Witches, so I fully understand the desire to reclaim the word. What I do to differentiate the term for a practitioner of Wicca from the archetypal wicked sorceress is use Witch with a capital W for the practitioner and witch with a lowercase w for the archetype, when I'm typing. When I'm speaking, that's when it gets complicated, so I'm trying to come up with a solution.




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