Study Guide

The Witches

The Witches Summary

The Witches isn't easy to summarize because a lot of what happens is rich, detailed description, as opposed to events. Of course, there are some events thrown in there, too, and here they are:

In the introduction, our narrator tells us that witches are real. More importantly, they hate children. Actually, hate isn't a strong enough word, it's more like despise, detest, loathe – to the point of trying to kill children. Unfortunately for the rest of the world, it's hard to tell a witch from a non-witch, because they're really good at disguising themselves. But fear not, Shmoop readers, our narrator is going to give us a few helpful hints on how to recognize these deadly creatures.

Through a dialogue between our narrator and his rather portly grandmother, we learn all about witches: what they look like, how to spot them, what they do to children, the whole shebang. Sure enough, before he can say grobblesquirt, our narrator has a run-in with a witch at his house. He gets away unharmed, but something tells us it's not the last time he'll meet a witch. (By something, we mean the narrator: he tells us himself.)

After a brief Grandmamma-is-sick-and-actually-quite-old scare, our narrator and his grandma decide to take a vacation, and they head for a stay at a giant, beachfront hotel – not too shabby. They also bring along the white mice that Grandmamma bought for her grandson. While training his mice for the circus (naturally), our narrator accidentally finds himself right smack in the middle of the annual meeting of witches. Their leader, The Grand High Witch, and the rest of the witches, take off their disguises and are frighteningly ugly. Our narrator hears these ladies (if we dare call them that) talking about their plan to turn all the children in England into mice using a magical witch formula. He even watches another young boy, Bruno, get transformed into a mouse, right before his very eyes.

Unfortunately, our narrator has the same fate as little Bruno. The witches smell him out and, in the blink of an eye, turn him right into a mouse. Because he's awesome, he's totally unfazed by the whole thing. He goes straight to his grandmother and, being the best grandma ever, she loves him even though he's a mouse. Together, they decide they will get revenge on the mean, old witches.

And do they ever: our narrator sneaks into the room of The Grand High Witch and steals some of the Mouse-Maker formula. After an exciting adventure in the hotel kitchen, he manages to pour the formula into the witches' soup. Back in the dining room, all the witches turn into mice and proceed to be stepped on, kicked, and squashed to death with frying pans. Victory!

Back at home, our narrator really has no complaints about his new life as a mouse. Together with Grandmamma, he decides that defeating the witches of England isn't enough. They need to do something about the rest of the world's witches. They hatch a plan to track down every last witch and turn each one into a mouse. The two adventurers head out on their way, ready for the challenge ahead of them.

  • Chapter 1

    A Note about Witches

    • This book opens with a discussion about its own genre. Way to be super literary, Roald Dahl. So, fairy tales, as we know them, tend to be about witches with hats and broomsticks. But this story isn't like that, because, well, it's real. More particularly it's about "REAL WITCHES" (all capital letters).
    • It turns out that real witches (we're going to keep that lowercase even though Roald Dahl doesn't, because we're pretty sure it would get a little annoying otherwise...) look and act pretty normal, which makes it hard to pick one out of a crowd.
    • Other important information about real witches:
      1. They hate children and are always trying to figure out how to off them.
      2. They enjoy getting rid of children, at least once a week.
      3. They are sneaky and never get caught.
      4. They have all sorts of magic powers.
      5. There are way too many of them in every country. (Yes, even Luxembourg, smarty pants.)
      6. Witches are always women. No offense to women, it's just a fact.
      7. All witches seem like normal, run-of-the-mill ladies, which makes them super-dangerous, like a tiger that looks like a puppy.
    • We are now provided with an illustration of two women. Which of the two is the witch? There's no way of knowing... (Cue the scary music.)
    • Basically, anyone could be a witch: your neighbor, a passerby, your teacher... maybe even Shmoop? Nothing is impossible, says our narrator.
    • While there's no way of knowing for sure who's a witch, there are a few signs to help us out. Our narrator, kindly, plans to let us in on the secrets. (You might want to take notes.)
    • P.S. Our narrator doesn't have a name, so don't hold your breath.
  • Chapter 2

    My Grandmother

    • Our narrator tells us that he's actually had some personal experience with witches, all before the age of eight.
    • One of these encounters ended badly, and the only reason he's around to tell the frightening tale is because of his grandma. Thanks, grams.
    • Now we get a little back-story on our narrator and his family: his grandma is Norwegian (Grandma means "awesome" in Norway. Not really, but it might as well.). He was born in England, where his father worked, but he loved spending time in Norway with his grandma because they had a pretty special thing going on.
    • Sadly, his parents died in a car accident. He was in the car, too, but survived with just a cut. He doesn't like to talk about it.
    • Narrator and grandma decided they'd stay in Norway, because grandma loved that place more than anything in the world.
    • As grandmas do, our narrator's loved to tell stories. His favorites were the tales about witches, because, according to grams, they were all true, flat out true. Unfortunately, that meant that – since witches were still around – history could repeat itself.
    • The narrator was a little skeptical. He's didn't quite believe in witches.
    • Now that we have the history, the story begins:
    • Our narrator is about seven years old. As he sits on the floor next to his grandmother's armchair, she tells him to listen carefully to her warnings about witches. All he can do after that is just pray for the best. Hmmm, that's not very reassuring.
    • He's still a little skeptical. (So are we.)
    • Grandmamma tells him that she knows five children who vanished because of witches. She smokes a cigar, and starts to tell the story of each child. We'll list them in a row, but keep in mind that our curious little narrator asks about a zillion questions along the way. Grandma is patient with him – although at one point she offers him a puff of her cigar, so maybe she's trying to drug him so he'll keep quiet.
      1. Ranghild Hansen. A tall woman with gloves lured her away, and she was never seen again.
      2. Solveg Christiansen. A lady gave her an apple and, the next day, she appeared in a painting in her family's house. That's right, she was in the painting – she'd move from place to place, and age over time, and eventually she disappeared altogether.
      3. Birgit Svenson (oh, Norwegian names). She turned into a chicken and laid eggs. (At this point, the narrator calls Grandmamma out on having said that all these children had vanished – turning into a chicken is not vanishing. Grandma blames her mistake on old age.)
      4. Harald (Roald Dahl's father's name, BTW). He turned into a stone. Now he's used as an umbrella holder, end of story.
      5. Leif. One day, he was swimming. When he came up for air, he was no longer a boy, but a porpoise. He played with his family for a while – he still had the voice of Leif, that's how they knew it was him – but then he swam away and was never seen again.
    • In Norway, Grandmamma says, these happenings are almost expected. They're commonplace.
    • This scares our narrator, who worries that he might get stolen from his bedroom at night, but his grandma reassures him that that's not how witches operate. Sweet dreams, dear narrator...
  • Chapter 3

    How to Recognise a Witch

    • As the title says (just with funny British spelling), this chapter is about how to recognize a witch. It's in dialogue form: Grandmamma doles out the information and the narrator helps her along with a lot of "why"s, "how"s, and "what"s.
    • Grandmamma tells her grandson that you can't always recognize a witch, but that they do have some distinctive features to keep an eye out for:
      1. They always wear gloves because they have claws instead of finger nails. So far, so creepy.
      2. They always wear a wig because they're bald. (Grandmamma's advice here: Don't tug on the hair of every lady you see, or you'll cause some trouble.) This wig gives them wig-rash, which makes their heads really itchy.
      3. Witches have big, pink nostrils, which give them a great sense of smell – all the better for smelling children (big bad wolf, anyone?). To witches, children smell like dog poop. Yep. And the cleaner they are, the more they stink. Our narrator smartly concludes that he "will never have a bath again" (3.41). Good call.
      4. Their eyes change colors and have fire and ice dancing around inside them. Spooky. This is when Grandma starts getting super-serious. She reminds her grandson that witches are not actually human – they are "demons in human shape" (3.60).
      5. Witches don't have toes, just square feet. Unfortunately for them, they still have to wear normal lady-shoes, which are usually pretty pointy, so they might limp a little.
      6. They have blue saliva. This is just plain cool, except it means they can never spit.
    • After all this, the narrator is sold. Witches must be real.
    • Upon questioning, we learn that Grandmamma herself once encountered a witch (the narrator thinks that may be how she lost her thumb). She refuses to talk about it though, and suddenly becomes very still and quiet, and the narrator has to put himself to bed.
  • Chapter 4

    The Grand High Witch

    • In the beginning of this chapter, we get some bad news from the will of the narrator's father: he and his wife wanted their son to stay with his Grandmamma, of course, but in England. Neither of them wants to go, but they respect the wishes of his dead parents and plan to head back to England, the Land of Strange Spelling.
    • The night before they leave, Grandmamma reveals a little more information about witches: There are more witches in Norway than in England, but the English ones are the meanest. In fact, English witches like to create powders that can transform a child into a creature hated by adults, so that the adults will then kill their own children. (Grandmamma wasn't kidding about them being the meanest.)
    • Also, witches are different in each country (in some places, they even make adults eat their own children). Each year, all the witches from each country get together for a secret meeting and listen to a lecture from The Grand High Witch Of All The World, ruler of all the witches. She's powerful, of course, and she's also rich because she creates her own money. (By the way, this is illegal.)
    • Now Grandmamma admits that she's a retired witchophile, which means that she used to spend her time trying to track down The Grand High Witch.
    • And with that, the narrator and his grandma move to England.
    • One day, the narrator is working on the tree house that he and his friend Timmy have been building. Along comes a woman (with gloves!) who offers him a snake. Hmmm.
    • She tries to lure him down, but he refuses and instead climbs high up into the tree until his Grandmamma comes out and assures him that the woman is gone. He has officially seen his first witch.
    • He tells his Grandmamma all about it, and it frightens her, too. After that whole scenario, the narrator becomes really paranoid about witches, and for good reason – it turns out this wouldn't be his only encounter with a witch. Dun dun dun!
  • Chapter 5

    Summer Holidays

    • The narrator and Grandmamma decide to spend the summer in Norway. To whet their appetites, Grandmamma tells some stories about her childhood summers there: fishing, eating shrimp heads (yummm), and spending time with her brother.
    • Then Grandmamma falls ill – she has a doctor on call and their housekeeper, Mrs Spring, stays with them, but the narrator has to wait ten whole days before he can see his grandma again.
    • Even once she is back on her feet, the doctor orders that she not travel to Norway – major bummer.
    • Instead, they decide to go to the Hotel Magnificent on the south coast of England (which, by the way, is kind of like the Florida of England).
    • To cheer him up, Grandmamma gives our narrator two white mice, which he names William and Mary, and he takes them along for the ride.
    • Once they're at the hotel, our narrator tries to teach his pet mice a few tricks. Apparently this is not okay according to fancy hotel rules. The maid sees one and screams, and needless to say, our narrator finds himself in some trouble.
    • The manager of the hotel, Mr Stringer, is a little peeved. Don't worry, though – clever ol' Grandmamma gets them out of this pickle. She claims to have seen rats in the hotel and threatens to call the health inspectors. So Mr Stringer agrees to let the narrator keep his mice, as long as they stay in their cage. Done and done.
    • Actually, not so much. This arrangement clearly won't do for our ambitious narrator. He needs to find a secret spot where he can take his mice out for more circus training.
    • After wandering through a maze of rooms – viola! – he finds The Ballroom. It's full of chairs and a platform, but completely empty of people. There's a sign on the door for a meeting of The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (which, by the way, is a real charity), but he figures the meeting is over. If not, who better to run into than a society of child-helpers?
    • Just in case, our narrator hides behind a screen toward the back of the room. This is where he begins his mice's tight-rope training. Naturally. (There's a how-to in here if you're interested in training your own circus mice.)
    • In the middle of all this, happy as a clam, he starts to hear voices. Uh-oh. Mr Stringer begins to usher in a huge group of women, all with pretty clothes and hats.
  • Chapter 6

    The Meeting

    • In walks this group of women, all chatting, filling up the seats farthest from the platform. Our narrator doesn't mind, he'll just keep on doing his thing, hidden behind the screen.
    • Being a seven-year-old, though, he is curious, so he checks out the scene. One of the ladies is scratching her head. The narrator's a little embarrassed for her. (Maybe he should be embarrassed – he doesn't catch on too quickly, does he?)
    • Then he realizes they're all scratching their heads. Ah, they must have head lice. Gross. (He's still a little slow on the uptake...)
    • Then one of the women pushes her fingers underneath the hair on her head – she is wearing a wig… and gloves... and so are the rest of them. (Light bulb!) Now it's a real uh-oh.
    • Needless to say, our narrator freaks out.
    • He can't leave, because the doors are chained shut. He needs to stay still so they don't notice him, but he's so scared that he faints. When he comes to, it's silent around him, but he still hasn't been spotted. Phew! So far so good.
  • Chapter 7

    Frizzled Like a Fritter

    • All the women are staring at the platform, where there stands a very short, pretty lady... with gloves, of course. She's pretty, that is, until she peels her face off. No joke. Then – without her mask – she's pretty much the most revolting thing on the planet. That's The Grand High Witch (the GHW, from here on out).
    • On the GHW's orders, the other women take off their gloves, shoes, and wigs. It's not a pretty sight underneath their disguises.
    • The narrator quickly realizes that they might be able to smell him out, but luckily he hasn't bathed in a while. If only we were all so lucky.
    • Finally, the GHW begins to speak. She has a funny accent where she uses "v"s for "w"s and rolls her "r"s a lot. Sometimes she rhymes. If you're not reading along in your book, Shmoop thinks you should go check out some of her dialogue to see how Roald Dahl transcribes it – it's really funky.
    • She screams and yells (lots of exclamation points ensue) about disgusting children, and even kills one of the other witches (with her eyes – and pretty violently) when that witch suggests that they can't possibly wipe out all the children in England in one year. Talking back in Witch School gets you more than a visit to the principal's office, apparently.
  • Chapter 8

    Formula 86 Delayed Action Mouse-Maker

    • This chapter is one to be read. By you. Seriously. Go do it.
    • It's pretty much a back and forth between the GHW and the other witches, who basically just praise and confirm and ooh and ahh at everything she says. It is kind of like Sesame Street meets Fascism. If that doesn't make you want to check it out, what will?
    • In case you don't get around to it, though, the GHW gives the witches their plan, and here it is: all the witches will buy the best sweet shops in their towns (with the money the GHW makes herself). Then they will each have a Great Gala Opening and give out free sweets to all the children.
    • Here's the catch. Each of those sweets will have a magic formula inside – FORMULA 86 DELAYED ACTION MOUSE-MAKER.
    • In case you're not familiar with FORMULA 86 DELAYED ACTION MOUSE-MAKER, here's what happens to children who ingest it: they turn into mice. (Not right away, though – hence, delayed action). Naturally, once they're transformed and there are mice running around everywhere, people will set-up mouse traps and all the mice (a.k.a. children) will die.
    • As if this isn't creepy and violent enough, the GHW finishes with a really spooky and ominous song (again, just check it out).
  • Chapter 9

    The Recipe

    • Our narrator starts this chapter with a reminder that he was in the room watching the witch conference (a.k.a. evil scheming session) go down. (Shmoop got pretty wrapped up in it all, so it is great to have that reminder.)
    • The narrator is freaking out because he's worried that the witches will sniff him out, but luckily they're a little busy.
    • In all the commotion, the narrator had lost track of William and Mary (his pet mice) and, suddenly, the other witches start to shriek in delight. They see William and Mary and think the GHW has already turned two children into mice.
    • The GHW tells them otherwise, but assures them that she'll find the boy who owns the mice – she's sure it's a boy – and eat him for dinner. Ick – and uh-oh.
    • Now the GHW must share the recipe for FORMULA 86 DELAYED ACTION MOUSE-MAKER with the other witches so that they can execute their evil plan.
    • With screams of "O Brainy One!" (9.20) and "She's a wonder!" (9.25) and "Your Grandness" (9.37) scattered throughout from the witches, the GHW reveals the recipe.
    • Some of the key ingredients are as follows: one boiled wrong-end of a telescope; the tails of 45 brown mice, fried; the mice themselves, simmered in frog juice; a gruntle's egg; a crabcruncher's claw; a blabbersnitch's beak; a grobblesquirt's snout; and a catspringer's tongue. Simple enough, right? (In case you want to replicate this at home, but have forgotten what the beak of a blabbersnitch looks like, don't worry, there are illustrations in the book to assist you.)
    • But wait. Where does the delayed-action come in? Well, the Brainy One came up with the idea to put an alarm clock in the concoction, set to the time that the child will become a mouse. Brilliant.
    • One final warning from the GHW: don't give more than one drop of formula to each child, or the child might change into a mouse immediately, and that would be a bit hard to deal with.
  • Chapter 10

    Bruno Jenkins Disappears

    • The chapter begins with the GHW explaining to the other witches that she will now demonstrate how her formula works.
    • The day before, she had given the Mouse-Maker (in the form of chocolate) to a greedy boy in the hotel, and set the alarm clock to go off today at 3:30pm, five minutes from now. Then she told the boy to meet her in The Ballroom at 3:25pm, where she would give him even more chocolate.
    • After some bustling of shoes, wigs, and gloves, in marches the boy: Bruno Jenkins.
    • Our narrator recognizes him. He's seen him around the hotel, always eating and bragging about his rich dad. The two boys even had a little run-in as Bruno was trying to kill ants with a magnifying glass and the narrator heroically stopped him. Basically, the narrator isn't too concerned about Bruno being turned into a mouse.
    • The GHW begins to count down. Bruno becomes more and more confused, and suddenly, he begins to transform, piece by piece... and just like that, he's a tiny mouse!
    • Cue the applause from the witches. Bruno, in mouse form, runs off.
  • Chapter 11

    The Ancient Ones

    • As mean as the GHW is, she has one last as-nice-as-mean-can-get announcement: the witches who are too old to catch their own blabbersnitches and crabcrunchers (we all know how physically demanding that can be, right?) will be provided with some of the formula, so they don't have to make their own.
    • She shows these Ancient Ones what she will give them: a tiny, blue bottle that contains five-hundred doses of the Mouse-Maker. She tells them that they should come up to her room, number 454, at six o'clock to get their bottles. She also gives them the schedule for the rest of the night: tea with the manager immediately and then dinner at eight o'clock in the Dining Room.
    • By the way, says the GHW, too bad for any adults who accidentally get dosed with the mouse maker – they'll be mice, too. Hey, it happens.
    • The meeting is about to end, when one of the witches screams and announces that she smells dog poop. There's a child lurking nearby, she just knows it. Suddenly, all the witches are sniffing, and the GHW demands that the child must be found and "exterrrminated immediately!" (11.33).
  • Chapter 12

    Metamorphosis

    • Almost immediately, our narrator is spotted. He's in deep doo-doo (and he smells like it).
    • After some chaos, some cries for help, and some yelling from the GHW, the witches catch him. Just like that, they have him, carry him to the platform, and force him to open his mouth.
    • Before he knows it, the GHW has poured an entire bottle of the Mouse-Maker down his throat. This can't be good.
    • Through a series of evocative similes – ones that really make you picture the images at hand – the narrator describes the feeling of transforming, instantly, into a mouse.
    • Just to recap: he was a boy, and now he's a mouse.
    • Hey, no problem! He actually likes the feeling of being small and quick, and it certainly helps him run away and hide from the witches.
    • The GHW decides not to bother with "the little stinkpot" (12.21) – that is, our mouse-narrator – and the witches head off to their tea.
  • Chapter 13

    Bruno

    • Life as a mouse isn't half bad, it turns out. To our narrator's surprise, he can still talk (in his own human voice). Plus, mice don't have to worry about a lot of the things little boys do (like school and people not liking them).
    • Most importantly, he's pretty sure his Grandmamma will love him, no matter who, or what, he is.
    • He starts to look for Bruno, the other boy who was turned into a mouse. The narrator finds him nibbling away on some food – surprise, surprise.
    • Bruno, not the sharpest tool in the shed, doesn't even realize he's a mouse, and our narrator has to be the one to break the news. Once he does, he's also able to convince Bruno that it's not a bad life – at the very least, he can definitely keep eating.
    • Our narrator asks Bruno how he thinks his parents will react. Bruno knows his mom hates mice, and his dad certainly won't be happy either.
    • Our favorite narrator-mouse decides it will be best to check in with his Grandmamma to ask her advice. He and Bruno plan to run like crazy through the hotel in order to get to her.
  • Chapter 14

    Hello Grandmamma

    • Our narrator and Bruno, both still in mouse form run through the hotel and up the stairs toward Grandmamma's room.
    • They get there easily enough, but right outside Grandmamma's door, our narrator sees the maid who had ratted him out before for playing with his mice (no pun intended). He and Bruno hide in a pair of shoes outside the door.
    • Unfortunately, the maid decides to put her hand in the shoes, and when our narrator bites her (oops, he couldn't help himself!), she screams bloody murder.
    • Luckily, this causes Grandmamma to open the door, and our narrator and Bruno shuffle into her room.
    • The narrator shouts to his Grandmamma to close the door, and she does, despite the fact that she's frozen with fear. She knows exactly what has happened.
    • She cries and cries, while our narrator-mouse tries to comfort her. It's okay, he says – he's kind of excited to be a mouse. As long as she'll still take care of him, he's not too worried about it. Man, he really has a good attitude about all this.
    • While Bruno munches on some food in the room, our narrator tells his grandma the whole story. If you skipped Chapters 5 through 12, this is basically a quick summary.
    • He then asks his grandma how it is that he can still talk. She assures him that the witches have only changed his appearance, not who he is at his core. He's still her grandson, as he always was, he just looks a little different. He's a "mouse-person" (14.53).
    • Then, our mouse-person has an idea. They can't let the witches get away with their plan, and he wants to stop them.
    • He remembers that the GHW said her room was number 454, and he's pretty sure he is staying in room 554. If her room is directly below his, he could climb down the balcony and into her room. Since he knows she's at a tea now, he wouldn't get caught. Then he could steal a bottle of the Mouse-Maker and they could – wait for it – turn all the witches into mice. Who's the Brilliant One, now?
    • Our narrator and his grandma are both extremely excited about the plan, and after checking to make sure that the narrator's room really is right above the GHW's, they decide they will lower our beloved mouse-person onto the balcony below in a half-finished sock that Grandmamma was knitting. Thank goodness for grandma hobbies.
  • Chapter 15

    The Mouse-Burglar

    • Their plan works, and Grandmamma successfully lowers our narrator onto the GHW's balcony. Into her room he goes.
    • Other than a nasty smell, there isn't anything unusual about the room. Oh, except for the three frogs jumping around.
    • After a few minutes of rushed thinking, our narrator-mouse concludes that the bottle he's looking for must be hidden somewhere unusual – under the mattress, perhaps?
    • Sure enough, he's right – almost. The bottles are hidden inside the mattress, so he tears away at it (good thing he's a mouse) and out a bottle comes, the FORMULA 86 DELAYED ACTION MOUSE-MAKER.
    • As he's about the leave the room with it, though, the door opens and he has to hide. He scurries behind a bedpost while the frogs, who aren't as quick or agile, just hide under the bed.
    • In walks the GHW who basically tells the frogs that she's going to kill them later. Great.
    • Not knowing what's going on below, Grandmamma begins to worry and shouts down to her grandson. Hearing this, the GHW goes to the balcony to see who's calling.
    • Luckily, Grandmamma is quick with her thoughts. She claims that she just dropped her knitting and that she had been shouting to her grandson who was in the bathroom.
    • Not so luckily, the GHW shuts the balcony door behind her, and our narrator-mouse's escape route is blocked.
    • Just then, there's a knock on the door – it's the older witches coming to get their bottles of Mouse-Maker. As the door is opened, our narrator manages to shuffle out unseen and back up to the fifth floor. Phew.
    • He calls to his grandma, who lets him in, and together they rejoice that he successfully got the Mouse-Maker potion and that he came out of it alive. Of course, they talk once again about the creepiness that is the GHW.
  • Chapter 16

    Mr and Mrs Jenkins Meet Bruno

    • Since they still have plenty of time before the witches' dinner, Grandmamma decides it would be best to try to get Bruno back to his parents. Bruno agrees, since they're the ones who feed him, after all.
    • They head down to the lobby, Bruno-mouse and narrator-mouse in Grandmamma's handbag. Bruno is eating. Narrator is peeking out.
    • Grandmamma finds Mr and Mrs Jenkins and tries to break the news to them, but it doesn't quite go over as planned. First, Mr Jenkins refuses to speak with her in private. Then, when she explains that Bruno "has suffered a rather unfortunate mishap" (16.32) and that he's currently in her handbag, and that, actually, he's a mouse, Mr and Mrs Jenkins pretty much flip out. They don't believe her.
    • So Grandmamma decides that the proof is in the pudding. She takes Bruno out of her bag and puts him onto a table. Naturally, Mrs Jenkins nearly dies from fright and Mr Jenkins yells at Grandmamma. She surrenders and leaves, taking Bruno (and our narrator) with her.
  • Chapter 17

    The Plan

    • Back in the room, after scolding Bruno for not piping up while he had the chance (his mouth was full, he claims), Grandmamma proclaims that it's time to come up with a plan for how to get all the witches to drink the Mouse-Maker.
    • Our clever narrator, somehow even more clever now as a mouse, suggests that he sneak into the kitchen and put the formula right into their food. He'll have to pay close attention to know which food is theirs, but he thinks he can do it.
    • They both know this is very dangerous (apparently, Grandmamma is okay with her grandson risking his life every few minutes), so they make sure that he's as prepared as possible. Our narrator practices holding the bottle and unscrewing the top – success on both counts.
    • They decide they'll head down together and that Bruno will tag along in Grandmamma's handbag.
    • Grandmamma gives her grandson a few too many warnings, which kind of freaks him out, but in the end, she praises him for his bravery.
  • Chapter 18

    In the Kitchen

    • They begin to head off to the Dining Room at 7:30pm, and, just before they go, Grandmamma reminds our narrator that he has a tail, something he hadn't thought of yet. That will come in handy, for sure.
    • In the Dining Room, there are two long tables that are still empty – they're labeled as being for the members of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, so he knows that's where the witches will be seated.
    • Grandmamma tells the waiter that her grandson is sick, and tries to stall by ordering a glass of wine first. She wants to give him as much time as he needs to sneak into the kitchen. When the waiter leaves, she puts our narrator on the ground, and off he goes.
    • He sneaks through the Dining Room, passing the witches on the way, and finally makes it to the kitchen.
    • Whoa! It's kind of crazy inside the kitchen. If you've ever seen any Food Network reality show, you know what we're talking about.
    • A waiter comes in and says that a woman had complained about her meal. So, of course, they all spit in her food. This doesn't really have anything to do with the plot, but maybe Roald Dahl doesn't like complainers? Or maybe he doesn't have a high opinion of waiters and chefs?
    • Our narrator is still listening in and he hears that the soup for the witches will all be in one big silver pot.
    • Using his tail (like a trapeze artist, he thinks), he jumps around and lands himself on a shelf right above the pot, without being caught. (He's kind of like Remy the rat in Ratatouille.)
    • He pours the formula right into that silver pot, and just after he's done it, a cook comes by and pours the soup in, and a waiter comes and takes it away.
    • WHEW! He did it. Even if he doesn't ever make it back to Grandmamma, he'll at least go down knowing that the witches will all be turned into mice.
    • He's so excited (about his success and his new trapeze skills) that he forgets he's hiding. Oops! He gets spotted by a cook.
    • The cook cuts a piece of his tail off with a knife. Ouch. But he gets away.
    • Unfortunately, he gets away to the pants of another cook who, with a few exclamations of "Jeepers creepers!" (18.35), starts squirming around.
    • In all the commotion (including the man stripping down to his underpants) our narrator escapes unnoticed, into a bag of potatoes. When the door to the kitchen swings open again, he rushes back out into the Dining Room (still injured) and finds his way back onto Grandmamma's lap.
    • She's a little worried about his tail – and wraps it up with a handkerchief – but they're both thrilled about his success.
    • Our narrator gets back into the handbag with Bruno and watches the room. He sees that the witches have just finished their soup. It's almost show time.
    • Grandmamma and her grandson have a little conversation about the witches. (Grandmamma has become a good ventriloquist – she can't move her lips while she's talking or people will think she's talking to herself.) It turns out there were 84 of them (85 before the whole smoking-of-the-back-talker thing).
    • All of the sudden, our narrator notices Mr Jenkins coming toward their table. Look out!
  • Chapter 19

    Mr Jenkins and His Son

    • Mr Jenkins is back to give Grandmamma a talking to. He can't find Bruno and he's sure that he's with her grandson. He wants to know what's up.
    • Grandmamma confirms, once again, that Bruno is now a mouse, and after a little more defiance from Mr Jenkins, Bruno finally pops his head out and speaks.
    • Mr Jenkins is shocked, and needless to say, less than thrilled about the situation, especially because Mrs Jenkins hates mice, and they have a cat at home. That's a bad combination.
    • Everyone in the room is watching Mr Jenkins scream and yell, but they can't see Bruno, so they have no idea what's going on.
    • Mr Jenkins demands to know who did this to his son. Grandmamma points to the GHW, and, despite a warning from Grandmamma that she's quite dangerous and could turn him into a cockroach, Mr Jenkins starts marching toward her.
  • Chapter 20

    The Triumph

    • Just as Mr Jenkins is storming toward the witches' table, there is a terrible, loud shriek. All of a sudden, the GHW is standing on the table, waving her arms in the air.
    • Soon enough, all the witches are doing the exact same thing.
    • Then, all at once, they freeze in silence. Before you know it, they are transforming – into mice, shrinking, growing fur, the whole nine yards.
    • Our narrator is confused as to how it happened so quickly, but then Grandmamma reminds him that just like him, they'd all had an overdose (one bottle of the potion was good for making about 500 mice), and so the alarm-clock timing got messed up.
    • Just like that, all the witches are mice.
    • Cooks and waiters start running around with pans and knives, trying to kill the witch-mice. All the adults are screaming scared, but the children in the room seem to get the sense that something cool is happening. They all love it.
    • In all the commotion, Grandmamma brings Bruno back to his parents (not to his mom's delight) and heads outside to grab a taxi. She's leaving all of their luggage at the hotel and leaving town as quickly as possible.
    • The taxi driver notices the mouse, who Grandmamma plainly says is her grandson, and the taxi driver warns her that mice tend to breed really fast. Eek.
    • Grandmamma tells our narrator that they're heading back to Norway, and together, they soak in their victory.
  • Chapter 21

    The Heart of a Mouse

    • Everything about his grandma's house looks a little different now that our narrator is a mouse, but Grandmamma rigs up some cool contraptions to let him open doors and turn on lights and all that jazz.
    • The only bad part (to Shmoop, at least) is that, as a mouse, he doesn't like sweets and chocolate anymore. That kind of stinks.
    • One night, he's talking to his grandma, wondering what might have happened to Bruno, and he thinks of a question: "How long does a mouse live?" (21.14).
    • It turns out Grandmamma had done some research into that, and mice-people live three times longer than regular mice. But that's still only about nine years.
    • You might think that's bad news, but our narrator is thrilled. He doesn't want to live longer than his grandma and they both figure she won't be around much longer than nine more years anyway.
    • Then Grandmamma tells our narrator something else quite interesting: a mouse's heart beats five hundred times a minute. (That's actually true. For comparison, a human's heart beats about seventy times a minute – quite a difference.)
    • She tells him that she can hear his heart beat when they're cuddled up together, and that it sounds like a little humming sound.
    • They sit in silence for a while, enjoying each other's company, until Grandmamma asks him if he's sure he doesn't mind being a mouse.
    • He responds: "It doesn't matter who you are or what you look like so long as somebody loves you" (21.52). Cheesy alert, but, also, awesome alert!
  • Chapter 22

    It's Off to Work We Go!

    • That same night at dinner (a nice Norwegian feast), our narrator asks his grandma what will happen now that they have destroyed The Grand High Witch.
    • When Grandmamma tells him that someone will replace her, and that all the witches won't disappear, he is not pleased. He worries that everything they did was for nothing.
    • Once again, it's Grandmamma to the rescue. Through her cunning, she had called the Chief of Police in the town where Hotel Magnificent was located and managed to get the home address of the GHW. This very same address is where the new GHW will be living with all her assistants, and guess where it is? Norway. Boo-yah!
    • Grandmamma and her grandson dance around in excitement, anticipating our narrator's journey into the castle where the new GHW will live, snooping around, and of course, giving Mouse-Maker to all the witches inside. They know the recipe, after all.
    • One little problem, though. How will they kill all the witches once they've been turned into mice? They couldn't take them on alone, and of course the witches are too smart to be lured into traps. But wait, there's a solution: cats.
    • Once the mice-witch are all kitten dessert, Grandmamma and her grandson will go through the records of the GHW and find the names and addresses of every witch everywhere in the world.
    • They will take an around-the-world trip and turn all the witches throughout the world into mice. It will keep them busy for the rest of their lives, but they're up for the challenge.
    • Most importantly, it will sure be fun.