Portrayal of witches were considerably dark for a children's book, as they were all guilty of casting harmful spells of children, which included trapping them inside a painting or polymorphing them into animals. They would usually go after a child once per week.
They are led by the evil and deceptive Grand High Witch, who the rest of the witches are terrified of. Unlike the other witches, she did not limit herself to more than one child per week. In fact, she came up with a plan that would ultimately murder all of the children in England.
All of the witches on England were killed off (with the exception of Susan Irvine) after the boy and his grandmother used their own formula against them, by contaminating it into their soup at dinner, turning them all into mice, and then being subsequently slaughtered by the confused hotel staff, believing them all to be real mice.
|“||One child a week is 52 a year. Squish them and squiggle them and make them disappear.||„|
|~ The secret motto of all Witches.|
While posing as humans perfectly well, the witches retain some predatory and animalistic features, which comes from their nature as demons. They pretend to be highly civilized, respectful, and good-natured when they are actually (bluntly put) raging psychopaths. The Witches love killing, torturing, and chaos, and yet they pretend to do this in an extremely sophisticated and intelligent manner as possible. All Witches cannot stand the smell of a child, especially a clean child, as dirty children have no smell for a witch. On a pitch black night, a Witch could smell a clean child (smelling to her of dogs droppings) from the other side of the street.
Witches are demons, and thus they have a demonic set of powers and a demonic hatred of humanity. Thus their magic may come from Satan himself. Helga suggests this at one point by saying "Nobody has seen the Devil, but we all know he exists, don't we?". All Witches originally come from Norway, and thus spread everywhere. There is a secret society of witches in every country, and they do not know each other. For instance, an English witch will know all other English witches, and so on. It is illegal for witches to communicate with foreign witches.
All of the witches have the same appearance. They are bald, have clawy fingers and toeless feet. In order to avoid any suspictions among the humans, they wear wigs, which give them a rash, gloves and elegant pumps or flat shoes. They also have purple eyes and their pupils have flames in them, blue saliva and enlarged nostrils to help them localize the child.
Despite their chaotic and boisterous nature, witches do have a hierarchy, with the Grand High Witches being at the peak. Then the chain goes to the leader of the witches from one conutry such as Nicola Cuttle, and so on down the chain to subordinates and so on. All other witches are terrified of the superiors, and it seems that the higher a witch is, the more advanced powers she has, as seen when the Grand High Witch burns an unlucky witch alive with eye lasers as the punishement when she dared to question her orders.
The Witches are very conniving and manipulative, fooling human authorities to believing they are respectable women. Also, all Witches are female. Dahl says he is not being sexist here, but it is just a fact of life, that all witches are women, and there is no such thing as a male witch, and to explain this, he says that barghests, another demonic species, are always male, just as witches are always female. However, neither are really human any way.
- Witches sometimes are referred as "Hekser" in the Norwegian language.
James and the Giant Peach
Fantastic Mr. Fox