Study Guide

The Witches Hate

By Roald Dahl


A REAL WITCH hates children with a red-hot sizzling hatred that is more sizzling and red-hot than any hatred you could possibly imagine. (1.6)

Well that's put in no uncertain terms. Roald Dahl sets it out for us right from the beginning that witches hate children. This is a fact about witches, and it's as clear as clear can be.

A REAL WITCH gets the same pleasure from squelching a child as <em>you</em> get from eating a plateful of strawberries and thick cream. (1.9)

This is such a lovely example of Roald Dahl turning something incredibly violent and traumatic into a playful, lighthearted image. He's comparing the violent death of a child to eating a super-sweet and delicious dessert. In some ways, it makes it all the more unsettling. At the same time, though, the image we're left with isn't the squelching, but the strawberries and cream. Yum.

"[T]heir favourite ruse is to mix up a powder that will turn a child into some creature or other that all grown-ups hate." (4.17)

Not only do witches have a huge amount of hate inside them, they can inspire hate in others. They know what makes adults cringe, and they feed off that to carry out their evil plans.

"Miserrrable vitches!" she yelled. "Useless lazy vitches! Feeble frrribling vitches! You are a heap of idle good-for-nothing vurms!" (7.31)

Hatred within a group can sometimes be the worst kind. People tend to hate those outside their group (whether social, familial, religious, ethnic, or anything else) because they don't understand the other. But the Grand High Witch certainly knows what it's like to be a witch, and yet she still hates the rest of 'em. This isn't ignorance, this is just mean.

"Vye have you not rrrubbed them all out, these filthy smelly children?" (7.33)

Shmoop wonders what the Grand High Witch is doing to help eliminate all these children? She seems to hate them more than any of the other witches, but we never hear about the number of kids that she's rubbing out herself. What do you think her story is? She can talk the talk, but can she walk the walk?

"Children smell!" she screamed. "They stink up the vurld! Vee do not vont these children around here!" (7.37)

Can children's smell really be deserving of death? That's kind of extreme, no?

"Children are foul and filthy!" thundered The Grand High Witch.

"They are! They are!" chorused the English witches. "They are foul and filthy!"

"Children are dirty and stinky!" screamed The Grand High Witch.

"Dirty and stinky!" cried the audience, getting more and more worked up. (8.3-6)

Everything the Grand High Witch says is echoed by the rest of the witches. This very clearly shows the power of a charismatic leader to inspire hatred. The Grand High Witch comes from a long line of hateful leaders who created a following – can you think of any examples?


Here, the witches take it beyond just killing children. It is not enough to kill a child, they must rejoice in his or her death, too, and "shout hooray!" Recently, the world's most wanted man, Osama Bin Laden, was killed. Many people rejoiced in his death – saying that he killed thousands of people, so he deserved it – and others argued that it's never appropriate to celebrate death. What do you think?

I didn't care for him. (10.13)

Shmoop loves this line. Among all the explicitly stated hatred going on in the book, our narrator is so polite and understated when expressing his feelings about Bruno Jenkins. He just doesn't care for him. Period.

"A mouse! A mouse! Catch it quick! […] Kill it! Stamp on it!" (18.34)

In the kitchen, the cooks catch sight of our narrator-mouse and try to kill him. How is this any different than the witches trying to kill a child? Why do you think we're less sensitive to the death of a mouse than the death of a child?

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