From vampires to witches

Vampires in today's fiction are charismatic and sophisticated creatures appearing pale and gaunt with ruby lips and of course, red eyes. In contrast, the earliest vampires of folklore were bloated with ruddy or dark complexions. They wore shrouds and often visited loved ones to cause mischief or death. While belief in vampires has been around since prehistoric times, it is Bram Stoker's 1897 Dracula that is recognized as the quintessential vampire novel, and the foundation of modern vampire fiction. Then there is Twilight saturating every possible medium on the planet. This level of frenzied mania can often result in a rebuff, just as Abba's immense global popularity in the seventies led to an anti-Abba period which took three decades to abate. There is already a strongly-held view that the vampire phase in fiction has but a couple of years before twilight turns to night.

At the 2009 Singapore Writers' Festival, John Ajvide Lindqvist, author of the brilliant vampire novel, Let the Right One In, was asked repeatedly what he thought would supersede vampires. Naturally, he proposed zombies since they feature in his latest novel, Handling the Undead. With a similar stake in my own work, I would like to suggest that witches, witchcraft, and spells are making a comeback, particularly in middle-grade fiction, and there is some evidence to support this.

Keith McGowan's debut, The Witch's Guide to Cooking with Children is a modern version of the Grimm Brothers' tale of Hansel and Gretel, which pits mismatched siblings against an ageless witch who has written a book titled, How to Cook and Eat Children.

In Scream Street 2: Blood of the Witch, Luke, Resus and Cleo must save Scream Street from the swarm of vampire rodents while searching for the second of the founding fathers' relics—a vial of witch's blood. One might even suggest Scream Street 2: Blood of the Witch is a transitional novel leading the movement from vampires to witches, since it includes both.

The Witches by Roald Dahl was first published in 1983, but it's back in a big way. In a household in Norway, an orphaned boy is told by his grandmother how to recognise witches, so that he might avoid them. She tells him stories about five children who fell victim to the evil powers of the witches, described as "demons in human form". The witches hate children and spend all their time plotting how to get rid of them.

Fed up with the annual onslaught of polluting holidaymakers, and noisy children in particular, the witch in The Glass Table casts a spell that condemns the twelve children swimming in Lake Como at that time, to live as spirits in the river Kai. Like the witches in Roald Dahl's The Witches, the witch in The Glass Table is an ordinary woman living an ordinary existence in an old shack at Lake Como. She is devoid of the stereo-typical traits of past, famed witches like the witch in Hansel and Gretel who is ogre-like in appearance. It's a modernization of the concept of a witch in the same way John Ajvide Lindqvist modernized vampires in Let the Right One In—he/she/it being a child living an impoverished existence, with no fangs, red eyes or glorification.

Regards Leigh

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2016 by Leigh K Cunningham

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