Where have all the witches gone? The disappearing witch and children's literature

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Abstract

Witches have had some presence in children’s literature since the nineteenth century, when their provenance was primarily retellings of certain Grimms’ fairy tales (Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, Jorinde and Joringel), George Dasent’s Popular Tales from the Norse (1859), and various folktales in which sundry female characters with supernatural origins or magic-working abilities, such as minor goddesses or ill-disposed fairies, are bundled together within the category of the witch. Such representations are reshaped in L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900), which Marion Gibson considers a turning-point in the history of American witchcraft because it includes both ‘good’ and ‘wicked witches. 1 In England, they peak with C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950), 2 which encapsulates how the constant in an otherwise semantically fuzzy area is a female disposition to evil. Vagueness in children’s literature as to what characterises a witch has thus been endemic from the outset and, apart from a brief period during which the literature directly addressed the question, persists up to the present time.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge history of witchcraft
EditorsJohannes Dillinger
Place of PublicationLondon ; New York
PublisherRoutledge, Taylor and Francis Group
Chapter28
Pages382-391
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781003010296
ISBN (Print)9781138782204
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Publication series

NameThe Routledge Histories
PublisherRoutledge

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