Published in 1983
Roald Dahl's The Witches tells the story of a brave young boy and his Norwegian grandmother as they battle England's witches.
Witches absolutely detest children. To a witch, a child smells like dogs' droppings. And now the Grand High Witch is planning to get rid of every child in England - can anybody stop them?
The Witches tells the story of a brave young boy and his Norwegian grandmother as they battle against England's child-hating witches. It continues to feature in lists dedicated to the scariest children's books more than 30 years after it was first published. Especially around Halloween.
When he was a child himself, Roald Dahl used to spend every summer holiday with his family in Norway, where he was inspired by bedtime stories of witches and magic. He wrote about these holidays in Boy: Tales of Childhood. It is also said that the grandmother in The Witches was partially inspired by Roald's own mother. Roald dedicated the book to his wife, Liccy.
A film version of the story, starring Angelica Huston as the witches' leader The Grand High Witch, was released in 1990. The main difference between the film and the original story is the ending - in the book, there is no spell cast to change the boy's state back to what it was before the witches found him. The film also gives its central character the name Luke, whereas in the book we don't find out the name of either the boy who narrates the story or his grandmother.
In 1983, the year it was published, The Witches won three awards: The New York Times Outstanding Books Award, The Federation of Children's Book Groups Award and The Whitbread Award.
Things happened to me that will probably make you scream when you read about them. That can't be helped. The truth must be told.
'An absolutely clean child gives off the most ghastly stench to a witch,' my grandmother said. 'The dirtier you are, the less you smell.'
It doesn't matter who you are or what you look like, so long as somebody loves you.
From Roald Dahl's The Witches
Nobody has ever seen the devil... but we know he exists
Roald Dahl's The Witches
1990 Warner Bros. film trailer