The Witch of Blackbird Pond
by Elizabeth George Speare
Hannah Tupper is the elderly Quaker widow who lives alone in the Meadows of Wethersfield, Connecticut. Shunned by Puritan society, she is known by the people of the town as the witch of Blackbird Pond. Kit befriends the kind woman, who accepts Kit when no one else seems to. The ever-sweet Hannah is a fan of fluffy kittens, blueberry cake, and her late husband Thomas. She is also connected to Nat Eaton, whom she has known since he was a child, and Prudence Cruff, whose education she assists.
Hannah the Quaker
As Kit tells us, Hannah has been cast out of Puritan society because of her religion. She bears a brand on her forehead, and Hannah mentions that she has been put in the stocks because of her faith. Aunt Rachel explains the Puritans’ uniformed attitude toward the Quakers:
“But no one in Wethersfield has anything to do with Hannah Tupper.”
“Why on earth not?”
“She is a Quaker.”
“Why is that so dreadful?”
Rachel hesitated. “I can’t tell you exactly. The Quakers are queer stubborn people. They don’t believe in the Sacraments.”
“What difference does that make? She is as kind and good as – as you are, Aunt Rachel. I could swear to it.” (10.12-17)
Aunt Rachel cannot say exactly why the kind Hannah Tupper is to be disliked, except that she is a Quaker and therefore different. Difference, it is safe to say, is not tolerated in Wethersfield.
Hannah the Witch
Because the townspeople don’t attempt to understand Hannah’s differences, she becomes a boogeyman for the town. Though a faithful Quaker (a type of Christianity), Hannah is branded a witch by the Puritans. Even Kit initially sees her this way:
Kit looked back at the gray figure bent over a kettle, stirring something with a long stick. Her spine prickled. It might be only soap, of course. She’d stirred a kettle herself just yesterday; goodness knows her arms still ached from it. But that lonely figure in the ragged flapping shawl – it was easy enough to imagine any sort of mysterious brew in that pot! She quickened her step to catch up with Judith. (8.18)
Kit’s thoughts indicate that it’s easy to imagine almost anyone as a witch – at a distance.
Hannah the Scapegoat
Hannah’s status as an outsider makes her vulnerable to unjust accusations. When a fever strikes the children of Wethersfield, the townspeople want someone to blame. Who better than the strange, elderly woman down by Blackbird Pond? And of course, she’s a Quaker. As Aunt Rachel explains:
“Quakers cause trouble wherever they go. They speak out against our faith. Of course, we don’t torment them here in Connecticut. In Boston I’ve heard they even hanged some Quakers. This Hannah Tupper and her husband was branded and driven out of Massachusetts. They were thankful enough just to be let alone here in Wethersfield.” (10.18)
Though Kit is able to save Hannah just in time, her house is still burnt to the ground by the angry mob. The violence of the townspeople suggests the dangers of intolerance.
Hannah and Home
Hannah’s home serves as a place of peace and refuge for Kit:
“Homesick?” asked Nat casually, his eyes on the blue strip of water.
“Not here,” she answered. “Not when I’m in the meadow, or with Hannah.” (12.26)
Though she is cast as a witch by the rest of the town, Hannah acts as a figure of love, kindness, and friendship. Kit learns that these are the true qualities of any home.Timeline