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Author Topic: Witches in children's literature?  (Read 4076 times)

lys810

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Witches in children's literature?
« on: January 08, 2015, 08:52:26 pm »
How do you deal with the archetype of the 'wicked witch' in kids' storybooks?
I'm talking as young as picture books- things like the 'wicked witch' in Rapunzel and the like. I want to read those stories to my daughter, but the word witch in them makes me uncomfortable to read to her. Does anyone change the words? What do you change it to?

:confused:

carillion

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Re: Witches in children's literature?
« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2015, 10:02:50 pm »
Quote from: lys810;169093
How do you deal with the archetype of the 'wicked witch' in kids' storybooks?
I'm talking as young as picture books- things like the 'wicked witch' in Rapunzel and the like. I want to read those stories to my daughter, but the word witch in them makes me uncomfortable to read to her. Does anyone change the words? What do you change it to?

:confused:


I see no need to change it. Children understand how the 'same thing' can have different characteristics from a very early age. For every nasty witch, there's a Glinda. For every terrifying dragon, there are friendly ones (in children's literature, anyway). Depending on the age of the child, one can also use it as a talking point about how people were perceived in history (and still are in many places).

Indeed, children's literature is one of the few places that witches ( who historically have pretty much always been seen as terrible and terrifying) are shown in some books as either good or at least benign. Don't worry about it.

Faemon

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Re: Witches in children's literature?
« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2015, 02:56:26 pm »
Quote from: lys810;169093
I want to read those stories to my daughter, but the word witch in them makes me uncomfortable to read to her.

Write and publish ones that would be comfortable to read.

Although I'm a little surprised that there aren't a deluge of friendly witches in kidlit already, between Glinda "You Were Miseducated" the Good, Hermione Granger and Elsa of Arandelle? Frau Holle/Holda, if you want to go way back.

I even vaguely recall this one picture book from my own youth (which wasn't that long ago, like...early 90s) that had a witch who wanted to be good, and it was Halloween and the senior wicked witches suggested something like petting the cats from tail to neck so that the fur stood on end and the cat would be uncomfortable, and in the end the good witch girl isn't invited to this coven event, and she cries quietly but the spiders weave a beautiful silk cape around her and her tears decorate what turns out to be the most beautiful cape at the dance or something.

She doesn't stop being a witch, it even comes off as an inconceivable option because witch is what she is; she's just not going to pet the cats wrong or scare people or do anything bad, even if it costs her an invitation to a coven event.

Grr, why can't I remember the title of this book?
« Last Edit: January 09, 2015, 02:57:04 pm by Faemon »
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Redfaery

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Re: Witches in children's literature?
« Reply #3 on: January 09, 2015, 03:42:50 pm »
Quote from: lys810;169093
How do you deal with the archetype of the 'wicked witch' in kids' storybooks?
I'm talking as young as picture books- things like the 'wicked witch' in Rapunzel and the like. I want to read those stories to my daughter, but the word witch in them makes me uncomfortable to read to her. Does anyone change the words? What do you change it to?

:confused:


Do some digging. You'll find counter-examples as well. I've come across fairytales that indeed had witches (or mysterious old women who were obviously meant to be taken as such) who aided the protagonists. I should point out that most of these stories were far more obscure, and the witch-like characters were not meant to be seen as either sweet Glindas or evil hags. They were rather "wise women" who were not ordinary and not to be trifled with.

The one motif that recurs in a number of stories is a strange woman who asks the hero for help - usually food - or sometimes she simply wants to make conversation. In many of these stories, the hero's arrogant elder brothers are rude to her, and she either predicts their failure or curses them outright. Only the compassionate younger brother spares his food and/or his time, and is invariably given some sort of reward as a result - either a blessing/prediction of success, important information such as a spell, or a magic object to overcome the supernatural obstacles he will face.

In many modern tellings, of stories like "The 12 Dancing Princesses" it is heavily implied that the strange woman is just a "fairy godmother" like in Cinderella, when in fact calling her a witch or cunning woman seems more in tune with the story's origins.
KARMA: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Valentine

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Re: Witches in children's literature?
« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2015, 05:15:58 pm »
Quote from: Redfaery;169128
Do some digging. You'll find counter-examples as well. I've come across fairytales that indeed had witches (or mysterious old women who were obviously meant to be taken as such) who aided the protagonists. I should point out that most of these stories were far more obscure, and the witch-like characters were not meant to be seen as either sweet Glindas or evil hags. They were rather "wise women" who were not ordinary and not to be trifled with.

 
Indeed--I'd agree that the answer is just to also tell stories with benevolent witches in them.  "Wicked" witches are out there, and it's important for kids' stories to warn them that anything, including witchcraft, can get used to harm people.  So long as it's emphasized that there are lots of sorts of witches--decoupling "wicked witch" so it's a specific sort among many sorts of witches--then it doesn't necessarily have to be any more troubling than the fairy tales with kind and wicked kings, kind and wicked herdsmen, kind and wicked knights, kind and wicked peddlers, and so on.
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Valentine

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Re: Witches in children's literature?
« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2015, 05:18:19 pm »
Quote from: lys810;169093
How do you deal with the archetype of the 'wicked witch' in kids' storybooks?
I'm talking as young as picture books- things like the 'wicked witch' in Rapunzel and the like. I want to read those stories to my daughter, but the word witch in them makes me uncomfortable to read to her. Does anyone change the words? What do you change it to?

:confused:

 
You could always just loop in a little caveat making it clear that the wickedness of this particular witch is distinctive--something like, "Now, this wasn't just any witch, not the friendly sort of witch our neighborhood has--this was a mean, cruel, selfish one."  Good storytelling's full of little asides like that, and it preserves the story without reinforcing the idea that "witch" means "wicked" in any inherent way.
"Let be be finale of seem." - Wallace Stevens, "The Emperor of Ice-Cream"
"There isn't a way things should be.  There's just what happens, and what we do."
- Terry Pratchett, "A Hat Full of Sky"

Jabberwocky

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Re: Witches in children's literature?
« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2015, 07:03:33 pm »
Quote from: Faemon;169126
Write and publish ones that would be comfortable to read.

Although I'm a little surprised that there aren't a deluge of friendly witches in kidlit already, between Glinda "You Were Miseducated" the Good, Hermione Granger and Elsa of Arandelle? Frau Holle/Holda, if you want to go way back.


 
I can think of some.  The Worst Witch, Simon & the Witch, the Maddy Kettle series, The Witches and The Grinnygog all contain friendly witches.

Once you get to young adult, you also have Pratchett's Tiffany Aching books and a lot of stuff by Wynne Jones.

All of those are going to be too old for the OP's children though.

What isn't (and I loved this as a child) is the Meg and Mog series by Helen Nicoll.  Those are well worth checking out.  I'm sure there will be other suitable "nice witch" books though, it's just that I'm way better at remembering my favourite books from when I was a bit older.
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Re: Witches in children's literature?
« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2015, 09:20:11 pm »
Quote from: lys810;169093
How do you deal with the archetype of the 'wicked witch' in kids' storybooks?
I'm talking as young as picture books- things like the 'wicked witch' in Rapunzel and the like. I want to read those stories to my daughter, but the word witch in them makes me uncomfortable to read to her. Does anyone change the words? What do you change it to?

:confused:

 

Kiki's Delivery Service!

savveir

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Re: Witches in children's literature?
« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2015, 09:53:12 pm »
Quote from: Jabberwocky;169149

What isn't (and I loved this as a child) is the Meg and Mog series by Helen Nicoll.  Those are well worth checking out.  I'm sure there will be other suitable "nice witch" books though, it's just that I'm way better at remembering my favourite books from when I was a bit older.

 
Those books are great, a witch and her cat, what's not to love honestly.
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HarpingHawke

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Re: Witches in children's literature?
« Reply #9 on: January 10, 2015, 12:47:56 am »
Quote from: Queen of Wands;169153
Kiki's Delivery Service!

 
I grew up with that movie.

Hmmm. Must've influenced something there.
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Aranel

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Witches in children's literature?
« Reply #10 on: January 10, 2015, 07:09:37 am »
Quote from: Jabberwocky;169149
I can think of some.  The Worst Witch, Simon & the Witch, the Maddy Kettle series, The Witches and The Grinnygog all contain friendly witches.

Once you get to young adult, you also have Pratchett's Tiffany Aching books and a lot of stuff by Wynne Jones.

All of those are going to be too old for the OP's children though.

What isn't (and I loved this as a child) is the Meg and Mog series by Helen Nicoll.  Those are well worth checking out.  I'm sure there will be other suitable "nice witch" books though, it's just that I'm way better at remembering my favourite books from when I was a bit older.

 
You've just reminded me of one of my favourite series from when I was a kid. I've been trying to remember the name for months and I've just remembered!
Pongwiffy! A very smelly witch but also possibly the happiest person ever and she has a hamster as a familiar (he was the only one to respond to the advert). She has to move out of her home because goblins move in next door. I don't remember any of the witches in it being evil or bad, all of them were nice but just a bit dysfunctional. And the books were hilarious. I read them so much the covers fell off.

But again probably too old for the OP's children.

I'm going to have to hunt down a copy, need to read it again.
Sharkadder! That's the name of her best friend!

Anyway, the only book for young children that I know of as having a nice witch is Room on the Broom. A witch keeps dropping things off her broom, animals find them for her and she gives them a ride on the broom but it breaks and a dragon find the witch and wants to eat her. The animals save her. My 2 year old niece loves it.

(Edited as I pressed reply too soon by accident on tapatalk)
« Last Edit: January 10, 2015, 07:13:43 am by Aranel »

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