A dank fog creeps between trees that reach with skeletal claws towards a darkening sky. Brittle leaves clatter together in a chill wind that moans over chimney-tops and hammers at windows well-shuttered against the night.
Are those bats that flit across the moon and cast shadows over unlit thresholds? Or something worse? Hold each other tightly and keep your doors barred, children, for something wicked this way comes.* In no particular order I present some of the scariest literary witches.
*Author’s note: I am well aware that not all witches have warts or fly on broomsticks, and (to quote Xander Harris) “witches they were persecuted. Wicca good and love the earth and women power and I’ll be over here.” In the spirit of Hallowe’en I am choosing to ignore this fact.
1. Bellatrix Lestrange, Harry Potter Series
Voldemort’s right hand woman and a die-hard Death Eater, Bellatrix is deeply evil. Sent to Azkaban for torturing Neville Longbottom’s parents until they went permanently insane, Bellatrix is also responsible for the curse that kills Sirius Black, her cousin and Harry’s godfather. Dumbledore describes her as “…dear Bellatrix, who likes to play with her food before eating it.” Yikes.
2. The Witch of the Waste, Howl’s Moving Castle
After seducing Howl by appearing to him as a pretty young woman, the Witch puts a curse on him so that the moment he falls in love he will have to return to her side. Later, she curses young Sophie so that she turns into an ancient crone who cannot speak of the spell to anyone. I wouldn’t want to get on this curse-happy Witch’s bad side!
3. The Weird Sisters, Macbeth
In Shakespeare’s famous play about the downfall of a Scottish thane, these three witches act as agents of chaos and destruction. Chanting creepily upon the moor, they foretell Macbeth’s rise to power, inciting him to corruption, regicide, and ultimately war. “Fair is foul and foul is fair: Hover through the fog and filthy air!” Ugh, no thanks!
4. Medea, Medea
In Euripides’ play, Medea is a barbarian witch from Colchis who, when her husband Jason abandons her to marry a princess, decides to take dire action. She sends a poisoned gown and coronet to the princess, which kills both her and her father, the king. And because killing Jason’s bride-to-be wasn’t hurtful enough, she then murders her own children to exact revenge on her faithless husband.
5. The Wicked Witch of the West, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Desperate to obtain Dorothy’s ill-gotten silver shoes, L. Frank Baum’s Wicked Witch of the West goes to great lengths to destroy Dorothy and her companions. She sends packs of wolves, swarms of bees, murderous crows and finally winged monkeys to enslave Dorothy. Although famous for her green skin in the movie adaptations, Baum’s witch had only one eye, which was powerful as a telescope.
6. Jadis/White Witch, Chronicles of Narnia
In The Magician’s Nephew Polly and Digory awaken Jadis, a powerful sorceress who spoke a Deplorable Word that destroyed all life on Charn except her own. Later, she becomes the White Witch and plunges Narnia into an everlasting winter where Christmas never comes. She turns Edmund against his siblings, transforms any dissenters into stone, and ultimately murders Aslan in a hideous sacrifice on the Stone Table.
Moral of the story: never eat Turkish Delight when offered by women you don’t know; no, never eat Turkish Delight.
Do you have a favorite literary witch? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below! Also, check out Monster Mash Part I: Ghosts!