Helen’s Roald Dahl challenge book 11 – The Witches

About the book
 “This is not a fairy-tale. This is about REAL WITCHES. Real witches don’t ride around on broomsticks. They don’t even wear black cloaks and hats. They are vile, cunning, detestable creatures who disguise themselves as nice, ordinary ladies. So how can you tell when you’re face to face with one? Well, if you don’t know yet you’d better find out quickly-because there’s nothing a witch loathes quite as much as children and she’ll wield all kinds of terrifying powers to get rid of them. Ronald Dahl has done it again! Winner of the 1983 Whitbread Award, the judges’ decision was unanimous: “funny, wise, deliciously disgusting, a real book for children. From the first paragraph to the last, we felt we were in the hands of a master” -Goodreads
About the Authorroald-dahl-640x360

Roald Dahl was a British novelist, short story writer and screenwriter of Norwegian descent, who rose to prominence in the 1940’s with works for both children and adults, and became one of the world’s bestselling authors. read more at Goodreads.com
See his legacy here
My review
*spoilers* *spoilers**spoilers*
In fairy-tales, witches always wear silly black hats and black coats, and they ride on broomsticks. But this is not a fairy-tale. This is about REAL WITCHES.
‘A REAL witch is easily the most dangerous of all living creatures on earth!.’
This was and is my favourite Roald Dahl book from being a child. I only had three books of his growing up and I still adore it today. I have seen the film many times. As for the book and not reading it for so long I had to try distance myself from the film.  I loved re-reading this book.
Roald Dahl begins the story with a description on how to spot a witch, what signs to look out for:
Spotting a witch : She might even be your lovely school-teacher who is reading these words to you at this very moment. Look carefully at that teacher. Perhaps she is smiling at the absurdity of such a suggestion. Don’t let that put you off. It could be part of cleverness.  I am not, of course, telling you for one second that your teacher actually is a witch. All I am saying is that she might be one. It is most unlikely. But–here comes the big “but”–not impossible.”
We then meet the hero of the story. A small boy who lives with his Norwegian Grandmother.  His name is never given in the book, but in the film he becomes Luke. He is often known as ‘my darling’ by his Grandmother who he goes to live with after his parents are killed.
To begin with their home is in England and plan to go to Norway until the boy’s Grandmother is taken ill. They are told if they wish to travel they can only go to the English coast for a holiday. This is where all the excitement begins. After his grandmother comes to stay in England after his parents are killed the boy is told stories about witches to take their mind off their troubles. Of course at first he doesn’t believe her, until one day he is in his treehouse in the garden and encounters one. Later in the story his Grandmother becomes ill and they’re advised to go on a trip to the coast. Off they go taking the boys pet mice and arrive at a hotel. One day he goes off to explore and finds an empty room, which he thinks he can use to train his mice, it is soon to hold a meeting for the Prevention of Cruelty to children and he thinks nothing off it. He finds somewhere to hide and gets practicing. Unfortunately the group enter a little while later and he is trapped. He soon discovers that the meeting is a cover for a meeting of witches and then the adventures begin.
What I loved about this book, apart from the story, of the boy, the heroics of good against evil, and again mentioned in other reviews of Roald Dahl books was his use of language and fast pace. It’s an exciting journey, where you get swept along and then spend days after wondering if witches are real and whether they do walk about in disguise. I liked his little life lessons,  how Dahl tries to get across that people aren’t always perfect, that we come in all shapes and forms, and how he points out that as long as we do good, good things will happen.
Again Quentin Blake creates some amazing illustrations for the book. My favourite is this of the grand High Witch, when they are in the first meeting, they’ve all took their wigs and shoes off and the Grand High Witch has taken off her ‘face’ to reveal a hideous creature underneath, and a witch chooses to question her about the grand plan and after much quarrel…. ZAAPPP!!! “A vitch who dares to say i ‘m wrong vill not be with us very long!” and the witch is reduced to ashes
Finally, I must mention something about the film, I’ve grown up with it and it’s still one of my favourites. I believe it to be very close to the book with its storytelling, although they have changed the ending slightly as they do with all films but that doesn’t spoil it. In fact it has so much from the book it always makes you want to re-read it, the adventure, the love and friendship between the boy (Luke) and his grandmother and of course the witches, perfectly portrayed.
The film
Location of hotel was the headland hotel in Newquay which I recognised on holiday one year. Here’s a piece off their website about th440px-The_Headland_Hotel_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1096186e film:91qkOSSJ4gL._SL1500_

The Witches The most famous film made on location in 1987 at the hotel is “The Witches” by Roald Dahl.

Anjelica Huston starred as the Grand High Witch and at that time her boyfriend was Jack Nicolson.  Enormous bouquets of roses would be delivered for her, and the girls on the switchboard would become very excited when he telephoned to speak to her, as there were no mobiles then.

Rowan Atkinson played the hotel manager, and he is very like Mr Bean in real life – rather eccentric. On one occasion he ran a bath and went to bed without turning the taps off. The flood reached the ground floor from his second floor bedroom and all the equipment (photocopier, electric typewriters etc) in the film’s production office in the first floor bedroom was written off. When the porter first knocked on Mr Atkinson’s door he was told to “go away, I am asleep”. The ballroom scene was filmed in the studios, the special effects of the witch combusting were deemed a bit dangerous. The mice were about the size of Spaniel dogs; they had to be large to fit in all the electronic equipment to make them work, this was before the days of computer animation. Rooms 223, 227 and 205 were used for some of the bedroom scenes. The pram pushed towards the cliff edge was the Armstrongs’ family pram which had been used for Veryan, Morwenna and George. Thousands of guests from all around the world have visited the hotel having seen the film and many wide eyed children look around for the mice.

For more information click here – The Headland Hotel

Thank you for reading



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