As a young girl, I wanted to be a witch. They were mystical and wise. People came to them for help. Most importantly, witches had magic. They could conjure spells, brew potions, and divine the future. In short, they effected real change with power, knowledge and will. Who wants to be a princess when that’s available?
According to fairy tales, everyone.
Princess-hood is usually a desired outcome for most women in fairy tales. It usually allowed them to leave a difficult or abusive situation. Cinderella abandoned being a scullery. Snow White was saved from the creepy obsessions of her step mother. Sleeping Beauty got to leave the woods and wake her entire kingdom. In the latter two cases, they were born princesses, but it didn’t mean much until they found a prince. What if they wanted different things?
The Evil queen never needed a man’s permission to exert her will.
But we’re taught to root for the vulnerable princess (or scullery) and despise the witch. To be fair, witches who use their power to kill little girls who might be prettier than them are despicable. However, I try and look at it from their point of view. The world in which these women lived considered magic evil, especially in a woman. Her only acceptable power was perceived power, i.e. the power she could wield through her husband or other male figure. Historically speaking, the witch represented everything a patriarchal society feared—a woman with power over men and the natural world. So, if your only acceptable power is being pretty enough to convince men to follow your orders, is it any wonder a prettier, younger woman is a threat? She shouldn’t have killed the girl, but her fear was real.
I’m an adult now and I’m still fascinated with witches–their mysteries and knowledge a source of endless study. They’re my go-to paranormal/fantasy read and my preferred heroine to write about usually has some supernatural abilities (as well as other strengths). Not only does it bring a little magic to the everyday, but it always reminds me of my power. And maybe a potion or two…