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Better is no good either! I demand maximum results!
~ The Grand High Witch to her followers.
A stupid witch who answers back must BURN UNTIL HER BONES ARE BLACK! A foolish witch without a brain, must sizzle into fire and flame! An idiotic witch like you must roast upon the barbecue! A witch who dares to say I'm wrong, will not be with us... VERY LONG!
~ The Grand High Witch, before zapping and killing another witch who questioned her.
Y-you're doomed, old woman! You're doomed forever!
~ Eva Ernst (Grand High Witch) pointing her spoon at Helga as her witches turn into mice.
The Grand High Witch is the main antagonist of the 1983 children's book The Witches by Roald Dahl and the 1990 and 2020 dark fantasy film adaptations of the same name.
In the past, the Grand High Witch faced off against Helga Evesheim (Luke's grandmother) during the latter's quest to find out more about witches, and even considered her an "old adversary" upon their chance meeting at the hotel in England.
During each and every single meeting she ever attended, she would murder one of her own followers simply to keep the other witches focused. This was considered to be her ultimate punishment, and the other witches were terrified of her.
The Grand High Witch especially had a plan that would climax in turning all the children of England into mice, to be disposed of either by the witches themselves, or by their unsuspecting parents. She demonstrates her formula by inviting a boy called Bruno, who had been previously given a chocolate with the formula, as he slowly turns into a mouse. However, the meeting was being eavesdropped by Luke, a boy who was in the hotel with his grandmother Helga, who warned him about witches and is implied to have faced the Grand High Witch before.
One of the witches catches the scent of Luke, so the Grand High Witch tracks him down and force-feeds him her formula, turning him into a mouse as well. He manages to escape and meet with Bruno, the two going after Helga's room, where they plan to stop the witches plan.
Luke manages to steal the formula and slip it on the witches soup.
In the end, the Grand High Witch suffered a somewhat fitting demise when her own magic was used against her and she (along with all of her followers, except Susan Irvine whom she banned in the celebration) is transformed into a mouse. While the mice-transformed witches run rampant around the hotel and are killed by the staff, the Grand High Witch is killed by the hotel manager Mr. Stringer, who uses a cleaver to slice her in half.
Then that's just too bad for the grown-up!
~ The Grand High Witch showing her disregard or contempt for other beings.
The Grand High Witch is extremely disturbing for a villain appearing in a book for children, and is scarier than most villains appearing in stories for adults. Bluntly put, she is a child-murderer and a genocidal psychopath.
One of her favorite ways to dispose of children was to turn them into animals their parents hated, and have the parents kill their own children, thinking they were pests. Her contempt also expands to any witch who dares to question her, even to bring up valid points, and because of this, all other witches live in total fear and submission of her. Her meetings usually involve her killing any disobedient witch, and she possibly deliberately kills a witch yearly, just to keep the others on their toes.
Although she does not hate human adults like she does children, she still cares little for them, and she doesn't mind if she accidentally kills them, even if she does not mean or wish for it to happen. Being a witch, she is considered a separate species from humans and is motivated to hate children, as her well-developed nose makes them smell like dog feces to her.
Powers and Abilities
Being the grand high witch of all the witches in the world, she was a master of magic and witchcraft, and how to utilize it to kill children. She was very skilled at brewing potions, as shown with her personally crafted formula to transform humans into mice. She also had pyrokinesis, as she could incinerate any witch who disobeyed simply by sending beams of fire from her eyes. The Grand High Witch, along with her witch underlings, also has an enhanced sense of smell, in which she can identify the presence of children.
The Grand High Witch surrounded by her followers in the book The Witches.
The Grand High Witch after removing her mask.
The sinister Grand High Witch lurks about.
The book Grand High Witch reveals her plan to the other witches
According to Luke's Grandmother, the Grand High Witch is "the most evil woman in creation". Unlike the other witches, she wishes to kill all the children in England.
It should be noted that while in the book, the Grand High Witch is the first witch to transform into a mouse, in the movie she is the last (unless you count Susan Irvine, who didn't transform at all).
Unlike the other witches, who at least show a little concern for adults, she has no results for collateral damage in her schemes. This is shown when a witch asks what would happen if an adult consumed their formula, and the Grand High Witch replies, "Then that's just too bad for the grownup".
In the book, the Grand High Witch doesn't take off her gloves, wig or shoes which implies she has more to hide, while she does do so in the film.
In the book, it is revealed that the Grand High Witch is Norwegian, and she is also a famous baroness in Norway.
In a Google Hangout, Lucy Dahl revealed that the Grand High Witch was in part based on her stepmother. Lucy stated it wasn't her stepmother's personality, but the look and social status that was the inspiring factor.
Lucy also seriously stated she wasn't entirely convinced witches were fiction, citing a neighbor who, "If Witches are real, she's one of them."
Roald Dahl hated the film due to the changed ending (as he had wanted to keep the original ending with Luke remaining a mouse and he and his grandmother vowing to spend the rest of their lives stopping other witches in other countries), but he loved Angelica Huston's performance.