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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 in the fiery 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!||„|
|~ The Grand High Witch's villainous breakdown while pointing her spoon at Helga as her witches turn into mice.|
|“||YOU STUPID RAT!!! LOOK WHAT YOU'VE DONE!!||„|
|~ The Grand High Witch's villainous breakdown in her wrath towards Hero Boy, Bruno and Mary as she is turned into a rat.|
The Grand High Witch, more commonly known as Evangeline Ernst, 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. She is Hero Boy and the grandmother's arch-nemesis.
She was portrayed by Anjelica Huston in the 1990 film, who also played Baroness Rodmilla de Ghent in Ever After, Emily Grierson in the television adaptation of A Rose For Emily, Miss Battle-Axe in the film adaptation of Horrid Henry, The Supreme Leader in Captain Eo, Gothel in Barbie as Rapunzel, Miss Harridan in the 2003 film Daddy Day Care, and Queen Usurna from Tales of Arcadia. In the 2020 film, she was portrayed by Anne Hathaway, who also played Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises.
The Witches (Novel)
The Grand High Witch is described as the most evil woman in the world, and it is shown to be anything but hyperbole when she makes her physical appearance. As the leader of all the witches in the world, only she is permitted to know the identities of witches besides those in her native country (implied to be Norway). Her headquarters, a gigantic castle, is located in Norway and is where she issues her orders from. It also houses a machine that can print any kind of existing currency, which funds her witchy schemes, and a number of attendant witches, one of whom acts as her deputy and, in the event of the current Grand High Witch suffering an unfortunate or unexpected end, steps in to take over as the next Grand High Witch. She is known to the public as a kind and wealthy baroness who donates heavily to charity. She is a prime target of those in the know about witches, known as witchophiles, but none of them have ever even come close to finding her.
She first appears once the witches have gathered for their meeting in the hotel ballroom, where she unmasks her hideous face (though keeps on her wig, gloves and shoes unlike the others) and expresses her displeasure with her English subordinates for failing to meet her standards of child-killing, ordering them to wipe out every single child in the country within the year. When one of them expresses disbelief at this, the Grand High Witch proceeds to incinerate her as a warning to the others of the price of disobedience and failure. With that done, the Grand High Witch unveils her latest plan to wipe out all the children in England; by having all her subordinates purchase sweet shops and contaminate the whole stock with a magic potion that, once ingested, will turn the child who consumed it into a mouse within 24 hours, to be promptly killed by their confused teachers and parents. This she demonstrates on a greedy boy named Bruno Jenkins, though he escapes before he can be mouse-trapped. Just as the meeting wraps up, one of her subordinate witches, Mildred, detects the protagonist and the Grand High Witch pours a full bottle of the potion down his throat, turning him into a mouse on the spot.
With Bruno in tow, the protagonist escapes back to his grandmother's hotel room and gives her the full story. They then hatch a plan to acquire a bottle of the formula and slip it into the witches' food at dinner, taking out every witch in England in one swoop and the Grand High Witch into the bargain. Despite a very close shave when the Grand High Witch returns to her room, they manage it and slip the formula into the soup being served for the witch party. Having gotten an overdose, the Grand High Witch and all her English fellows turn into mice within minutes and are all promptly slaughtered by the hotel staff and guests.
The Witches (1990)
As one of the most influential and powerful sorceresses on Earth, she leads a secret society of like-minded witches in their never-ending quest to kill and torture children.
In the past, the Grand High Witch faced off against Helga Eveshim (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 that 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 into 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.
The Witches (2020)
The Grand High Witch first appears when the grandmother is telling her grandson (Hero Boy) about Witches. She tells him about her friend Alice, who was transformed into a chicken by the Grand High Witch. The grandmother also mentions how to spot a witch; mentioning the fact that they wear gloves to hide their three-fingered hands; and the fact that they have no toes; she also mentions that Witches wear wigs to hide their baldness. Later in the movie, The Grand High Witch arrives with all the Witches in America at a fancy hotel (where Hero Boy and the grandmother are staying). When Hero Boy is playing with his pet mouse, Daisy, in the ballroom, The Grand High Witch enters with the other Witches (they are preparing to have their yearly annual meeting). Hero Boy and Daisy hide while the meeting starts and they witness The Grand High Witch and the others come into their true forms. The Grand High Witch mocks the Witches due to their inability to eliminate all the children.
As she prepares to give out her orders, Beatrice asks if The Grand High Witch has a plan and states that it would be almost impossible to wipe out all the children. The Grand High Witch responds to this by firing a spell at Beatrice, causing her to turn into ash. Later in the meeting, The Grand High Witch introduces her new Formula 86 to the Witches, a potion which turns children into mice. She demonstrates the effects of the potion on a young boy named Bruno. She told Bruno to meet her in the conference room and she would give him chocolate. When Bruno arrives, he transforms into a mouse (he had consumed the potion the day before when she gave him chocolate). The Witches are delighted at seeing this and applaud The Grand High Witch. However, she silences them as she locates Hero Boy, who is still hidden. She then transforms him into a mouse. Hero Boy, Bruno and Daisy try to escape through a vent. The Grand High Witch tries to grab them by putting her hands into the vent but they get cut and the mice escape.
With the help of the grandmother, Hero Boy, Bruno and Daisy (who is actually once an orphaned young human girl named Mary turned into a mouse by a witch four months prior to the events of the film) steal some of the Formula and put it in the soup that the Witches are eating for dinner at the hotel. At dinner, The Grand High Witch almost eats her soup but stops and walks over to the grandmother, who she suspects is 'up to something'. As she begins speaking to the grandmother, one of the Witches lets out a shriek as she transforms into a mouse after consuming the soup. The Grand High Witch watches in horror as her underlings turn into mice. However, because she didn't consume the soup, The Grand High Witch does not transform into a mouse, which leads to a showdown in her hotel room. The Grand High Witch extends her arms to grab the grandmother. However, Bruno shoves a mouse-trap onto The Grand High Witch's foot, slicing her only toe. As The Grand High Witch screams in agony, Hero Boy catapults into the air and shoves the Formula into her open mouth. The mice watch in pleasure as The Grand High Witch transforms into an ugly rat. Although, the mice get terrified as The Grand High Witch tries to kill them. The grandmother traps her in an ice bucket and leaves the room with the mice. Later, The Grand High Witch's cat, Hades tries to knock over the ice bucket (with the intent to eat her and payback for her mistreatment of locking him up in a cage in anger). The Grand High Witch pleads with her cat, who attacks her. The Grand High Witch is then killed and eaten by her cat.
After The Grand High Witch's death and the defeat of the Witches in America, Hero Boy, Bruno, Mary and the grandmother teach kids about how to avoid Witches as well as fighting them. It is unknown what happened to her cat, but it can be presumed that the hotel staff found it and gave it to animal shelters. It is also unknown who the next Grand High Witch was, or if there wasn't one and the Witches were left without a leader.
|“||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 (and two movies) for children and is scarier than many villains appearing in stories for adults, both psychologically and physically. Bluntly put, she is a sadistic child-murderer and a genocidal psychopath. Furthermore, the Grand High Witch is easily considered, alongside Agatha Trunchbull, as one of Roald Dahl's darkest villains. She is the unquestioned leader of a demonic race of humanoid beings who are referred to as witches. Presumably, as the devil is mentioned in the novel and movie, she was created by the Dark Lord himself to prey upon children and defile God's earth by massacring his creations.
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, as shown when she vaporizes a witch into pure steam because she doubted her plan could actually work. Luke's grandmother even suggests that the Grand High Witch possibly deliberately kills a witch yearly, just to keep the others on their toes (well, metaphorically speaking, as one of the characteristics of witches is their lack of toes).
Although the Grand High Witch 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. The Grand High Witch is also a complete sadist, as shown when she keeps some frogs on her hotel suite (regardless the frogs were either normal or people whom she transformed in the past), letting them be on her room one last night before throwing them off the window to be devoured by seagulls the next morning.
She relishes children's anguish and death as much as one relishes cream and strawberries. In the movie, she even derives orgasmic levels of gratification from slaughtering children and laughs at her victims as they squeal and beg for mercy.
Despite all these negative traits, the Grand High Witch seems to have some kind of mercy when one witch gives a stupid suggestion, choosing to not incinerate her despite that all other witches believed she would do it as she did with the previous witch as all she did was just rebuking her. However, it's likely that the Grand High Witch didn't kill her just because either the witch could still be useful for her plans, she didn't consider her worth of killing, or her incineration energy takes a time to recharge. Even so, the Grand High Witch appears to be generous at some degree with the eldest British witches, whom she decides to give the ingredients of her formula in gratitude of all her years of servitude after realizing they are too old to obtain them, but once again, it's possible that she only supplies the ingredients to them as long they are still useful to her plans.
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 her or to keep the others focused 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. In 2020 version, Grand High Witch additionally has the ability to widen her mouth showing her fang shaped teeth, has enhanced strength, can levitate, move objects with her mind and extend her arms to grab something far away.
- 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 1990 movie she is the last (unless you count Susan Irvine, who did not transform at all).
- Unlike the other witches, who at least show a little concern for adults, the Grand High Witch has absolutely no care for the collateral damage her schemes could cause them. 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 does not take off her gloves, wig or shoes which implies she has more to hide, while she does do so in the 1990 film.
- In the book, it is revealed that the Grand High Witch is Norwegian, and she is also a famous baroness in Norway.
- While not confirmed, the 1990 film heavily hints that the Grand High Witch was the witch Helga met when she was little, and likely the one responsible for which she lost one of her thumbs, given that the Grand High Witch refers to her as an "old adversary". In the book, Helga never tells Luke why she lost her thumb or how her only encounter with a witch on her childhood consisted, with the excuse it could give him nightmares, leading Luke to speculate on what the witch could have did with his grandmother's thumb.
- In a Google Hangout, Lucy Dahl revealed that the Grand High Witch was in part based on her stepmother. Lucy stated it was not 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."
- The Grand High Witch has countless subordinates, including Nicola Cuttle, the Woman in Black, and Lois Leffour.
- Although the film was a success, Roald Dahl hated the 1990 film due to the changed ending, as he had wanted to keep the original ending with Luke remaining as a mouse and him and his grandmother vowing to spend the rest of their lives stopping other witches in other countries. While the movie featured Luke turning back into a human, with Dahl calling the adaptation "utterly appalling", he still loved Anjelica Huston's performance.
- In the 2020 film, Luke remains a mouse, pertaining to the late Dahl's wishes.