Don’t Remember What Happens in Roald Dahl’s The Witches? Welp, It’s Terrifying

Don't Remember What Happens in Roald Dahl's The Witches? Welp, It's Terrifying

On Oct. 22, The Witches will come to HBO Max with an all-star cast that includes Anne Hathaway, Octavia Spencer, and Stanley Tucci. Besides being a 1990 movie remake, The Witches is also a megapopular (and somewhat terrifying) children’s book by Roald Dahl. If you haven’t read the book and prefer to keep yourself in the dark as to what happens, just check out the trailer. However, if you’re interested in the bewitching book plot, it’s below. Keep in mind that the latest film adaptation may differ from the source material!

Meet The Boy and His Grandmother

After a young English boy’s parents die in a car accident, he temporarily moves to live with his grandmother in Norway. His grandma tells him stories, including one about witches who have claws, blue spit, large nostrils that can smell children, and more. She says that witches all act differently depending on where they’re from, but warns him they all hate children and that English witches are the most vicious. She also cautions him about the Grand High Witch who leads witches from all over the world.

Per his parent’s will, the unnamed boy and his grandmother move back to England to the house he’s now inherited so he can attend the same school. While working on his treehouse, he sees a creepy woman he realizes is a witch. She tries to tempt him, but instead of coming down the tree, he climbs further up, waiting on his grandmother to save him. Ever since this incident, The Boy becomes especially self-conscious and anxious around women, trying to figure out if they’re witches or not.

The Witches Enter

The Boy and his grandmother go to a hotel in England as a vacation and hoping his grandmother can get better from her illness there. The hotel they go to happens to be hosting the “Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.” The Boy quickly realizes he’s at that event in which the witch council is meeting, but he’s locked in and can’t escape. Terrified, he tries to hide, but overhears a lot of what the witches say.

The Grand High Witch (played by Anjelica Huston in the original film) comes to the front of the room, takes off her mask, and berates the other witches for not “exterminating” enough children. She demands the English witches engage in her new plan, which entails them buying sweet shops and giving away chocolates with a formula called the “Delayed-Action Mouse-Maker” that will turn children into mice. She hopes that those children’s parents will accidentally kill them, not realizing they’re mice, which will in turn make the witches’ jobs easier. She shows how the potion works by giving a piece of chocolate to a boy named Bruno Jenkins, who promptly turns into a mouse after eating it.

How The Boy Takes Down the Witches

Not long after, the witch smells The Boy and pours more of the potion in his mouth. After turning into a mouse but still keeping his voice, he finds Bruno and the two run to his grandmother’s room to explain what happened. He wants to get back at the witches by feeding them the potion and manages to get some of it. Bruno and The Boy head to the kitchen. The Boy pours the potion into the soup the witches are eating, and they all turn into mice within minutes. Everyone in the hotel panics at the sight and kills all the witch mice — even the Grand High Witch mouse.

After returning Bruno to his parents, The Boy and his grandmother return home and plan to devote the rest of their lives to working together to kill the rest of the world’s witches. She reminds him he likely won’t live very long as a mouse, but he’s OK with that since he doesn’t want to live without her. (Note that the 1990 film version adjusts this ending, instead having the Grand High Witch’s second-in-command visiting his house and turning him back into a human.)

Lydia Livingston

Lydia is the newest member of the Genesis Brand family and has fit into the culture seamlessly. After graduating college, three years ago, Lydia made the transition to west coast life after her early years in NYC. She's an avid tennis player, animal rights activist and aspiring vegan chef.

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