Secret plans of The Grand High Witch

Posted by
Annie Price, the Roald Dahl Museum
Posted on
2:00pm, 21st October
Museum, The Witches
The Grand High Witch - copyright Quentin Blake

Ahead of the Museum’s Vermicious Villains half-term week we look in the archive to uncover some of the secret plans of The Grand High Witch.

The Grand High Witch has often been described as one of the most terrifying characters in Roald Dahl’s children’s books. Her unpredictable temper and murderous mind make her a real force to be reckoned with, and only the bravery and imagination of one small boy can ultimately defeat her, as we discover in The Witches.

From the character Grandmamma we learn that The Grand High Witch travels the world, having secret meetings with the witches of each country “to whip up excitement and enthusiasm, and to give orders”. Later in the story the boy witnesses one of these Annual Meetings, at which The Grand High Witch reveals her recipe to make Formula 86 Delayed Action Mouse-Maker to all the witches of England. By adding one droplet of this potion to a chocolate they can transform a child into a mouse and, in doing so, get “rrrid of every single child in the whole of Inkland!” Given that the witches of England met annually, you may well wonder what happened at meetings in previous years. Luckily the answer can be found in an early draft manuscript of The Witches, stored in the Roald Dahl Archive.

In the draft, The Grand High Witch recollects three additional secret recipes from previous years:

1) A recipe for children’s bath soap: “It was quite marvellous! The children used it in the bath and they all turned into froth and bubbles and were flushed down the drain!”

2) A recipe to make teddy-bears: “The children took them to bed and as soon as they got warmed up under the sheets, the teddy-bears turned into fierce little living bears who bit the children to pieces!”

3) A recipe to make tennis balls: “It turned the children into tennis balls and they spent the rest of their lives getting whacked with tennis rackets!”

Frightening stuff!

If you fancy learning more about some of the villains in Roald Dahl's books don't miss your chance to peek inside the archive on Sunday 1 November. Collections Manager and Archivist Rachel White will show you some of the more villainous secrets from the stories. 

Head to the Roald Dahl Museum this October half-term for a week filled with Vermicious Villains. Join in with witchy workshops, meet some marvellous authors and pick up a Marauding Monster Hunt trail.

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