The Witches Read online
Other books by Roald Dahl
BOY: TALES OF CHILDHOOD
BOY and GOING SOLO
CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY
CHARLIE AND THE GREAT GLASS ELEVATOR
THE COMPLETE ADVENTURES OF CHARLIE AND MR WILLY WONKA
DANNY THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD
GEORGE'S MARVELLOUS MEDICINE
JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH
For younger readers
THE ENORMOUS CROCODILE
FANTASTIC MR FOX
THE GIRAFFE AND THE PELLY AND ME
THE MAGIC FINGER
DIRTY BEASTS (with Quentin Blake)
THE ENORMOUS CROCODILE (with Quentin Blake)
THE GIRAFFE AND THE PELLY AND ME (with Quentin Blake)
THE MINPINS (with Patrick Benson)
REVOLTING RHYMES (with Quentin Blake)
THE BFG: PLAYS FOR CHILDREN (Adapted by David Wood)
CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY: A PLAY (Adapted by Richard George)
FANTASTIC MR FOX: A PLAY (Adapted by Sally Reid)
JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH: A PLAY (Adapted by Richard George)
THE TWITS: PLAYS FOR CHILDREN (Adapted by David Wood)
THE WITCHES: PLAYS FOR CHILDREN (Adapted by David Wood)
THE GREAT AUTOMATIC GRAMMATIZATOR AND OTHER STORIES
SKIN AND OTHER STORIES
THE VICAR OF NIBBLESWICKE
THE WONDERFUL STORY OF HENRY SUGAR AND SIX MORE
Published by the Penguin Group
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First published by Jonathan Cape Ltd 1983
First published in the USA by Farrar, Straus and Giroux 1983
Published in Puffin Books 1985
This edition published 2007
Text copyright © Roald Dahl Nominee Ltd, 1983
Illustrations copyright © Quentin Blake, 1983
All rights reserved
The moral right of the author and illustrator has been asserted
Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
A Note about Witches
How to Recognize a Witch
The Grand High Witch
Frizzled Like a Fritter
Formula 86 Delayed Action Mouse-Maker
Bruno Jenkins Disappears
The Ancient Ones
Mr and Mrs Jenkins Meet Bruno
In the Kitchen
Mr Jenkins and His Son
The Heart of a Mouse
It’s Off to Work We Go!
A Note about Witches
In fairy-tales, witches always wear silly black hats and black cloaks, and they ride on broomsticks.
But this is not a fairy-tale. This is about REAL WITCHES.
The most important thing you should know about REAL WITCHES is this. Listen very carefully. Never forget what is coming next.
REAL WITCHES dress in ordinary clothes and look very much like ordinary women. They live in ordinary houses and they work in ORDINARY JOBS.
That is why they are so hard to catch.
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.
A REAL WITCH spends all her time plotting to get rid of the children in her particular territory. Her passion is to do away with them, one by one. It is all she thinks about the whole day long. Even if she is working as a cashier in a supermarket or typing letters for a businessman or driving round in a fancy car (and she could be doing any of these things), her mind will always be plotting and scheming and churning and burning and whizzing and phizzing with murderous bloodthirsty thoughts.
‘Which child,’ she says to herself all day long, ‘exactly which child shall I choose for my next squelching?’
A REAL WITCH gets the same pleasure from squelching a child as you get from eating a plateful of strawberries and thick cream.
She reckons on doing away with one child a week. Anything less than that and she becomes grumpy.
One child a week is fifty-two a year.
Squish them and squiggle them and make them disappear.
That is the motto of all witches.
Very carefully a victim is chosen. Then the witch stalks the wretched child like a hunter stalking a little bird in the forest. She treads softly. She moves quietly. She gets closer and closer. Then at last, when everything is ready … phwisst! … and she swoops! Sparks fly. Flames leap. Oil boils. Rats howl. Skin shrivels. And the child disappears.
A witch, you must understand, does not knock children on the head or stick knives into them or shoot at them with a pistol. People who do those things get caught by the police.
A witch never gets caught. Don't forget that she has magic in her fingers and devilry dancing in her blood. She can make stones jump about like frogs and she can make tongues of flame go flickering across the surface of the water.
These magic powers are very frightening.
Luckily, there are not a great number of REAL WITCHES in the world today. But there are still quite enough to make you nervous. In England, there are probably about one hundred of them altogether. Some countries have more, others have not quite so many. No country in the world is completely free from WITCHES.
A witch is always a woman.
I do not wish to speak badly about women. Most women are lovely. But the fact remains that all witches are women. There is no such thing as a male witch.
On the other hand, a ghoul is always a male. So indeed is a barghest. Both are dangerous. But neither of them is half as dangerous