July 9, 2005
What I Learned from Witches
I love Dahl, but I’ve heardly read any of his books. Roll call:
- His two-part autobiography.
- “Witches.” (More on that in a sec.)
- A big book of his short stories. (Which are really grim!)
No “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” no B.F.G., no giant peaches.
So I wouldn’t be a proper Dahl fan at all, except for the fact that “Witches” was no mere grade-school read: It was an essential part of my moral education!
“Witches” is the story, recall, in which a boy on holiday with his family runs afoul of a clan of you-guessed-it at a seaside resort. The evil enchantresses catch him spying on them and transform him into a mouse.
Of course, they think this is the end of the story. And indeed, for our hero’s parents, it just about is. His mom faints; his dad is appalled: “My son, ruined!”
Luckily his grandmother is along for the trip, too. And she is different. She is all steadiness and good sense. Her son’s son, transmogrified? Well — he’ll need a smaller cup to drink from, then. And a mouse-sized bed. And so on.
They team up, use the grandson’s new mousely powers in clever ways, and foil the witches’ cruel plot (whatever it was).
The story ends rather gloriously, with our mouse-boy inhabiting a complicated network of Habitrail tubes in his grandma’s house.
I’m actually not sure exactly what the lesson is, but it still seems very salient: Steady, steady. Your son is a mouse. Buy him a tiny toothbrush.