Sacrea witches by Roald Dahl (1916-1990) has terrified decades of young readers since its release in 1983. It combines the fear of abandonment (the parents have just died in an accident) and the terror caused by witches in bulldozer operation . And its end escapes the blush: if something has happened, we do not return to the situation before. The novel was part of the personal mythology of Pénélope Bagieu. A boon for the designer of Cheeky than revisiting this cruel tale by the author of Charlie and the chocolate factory. She hasn’t changed a perfect story or so little; she especially sought to modernize the characters, the language, the decorations. And to breathe a rhythm, with its lively line, by varying the scenes which swarm with details or those which focus on exchanges between characters. The beginning is akin to a mise en abyme: we find ourselves as projected in an action film. We don’t pick it up anymore.
Would we like such a granny?
Become an orphan, the little boy finds himself alone with his grandmother. It’s an old lady who is a little eccentric, whom Pénélope Bagieu has endowed with a face with nice jowls, flashy bracelets, a mauve mop and an outrageous lipstick. She smokes a cigar and constantly coughs to the point that her grandson berates her. But his smoking is also the pretext to go green in a luxury hotel on the doctor’s advice. She is a tender and loving granny who goes out of her way. Important detail: unlike many adults, she can recognize a witch.
Why a little girl?
Penelope Bagieu has added a character who becomes the friend of the young hero, a little girl with green eyes. Her parents, psychotherapists, went to take a yoga class when their daughter was caught in the magic web. Drawn into the adventure because of her greed (chocolate, and yes, which is normally prohibited for her), she will courageously accompany the little boy in his fight against the program of destruction of children and even take the initiative when he s is to steal a harmful bottle from the chief witch. Dragging a girl also appears to be a way of feminizing the plot and not leaving the main protagonist alone in a dramatic situation.
Are these witches sacred?
Of course, today’s witches have nothing to do with the sinister silhouette in the pointed hat fitted with a broom. Their characteristics are described by the granny in a nice passage which seems to be learned from a lesson of things. “Well, like I told you, these are creatures that have to constantly dress up in order to pass for normal women.” The evil assembly assembled in a banal conference hall goes unnoticed, except for the boy hiding in a corner. The author must have enjoyed chewing on these ugly creatures in chic ladies, in particular the tall witch, impressive in a kind of fatal beauty, terrifying when she recovers her true nature. Pénélope Bagieu has created a model there which marks a date in its dynamic and subtle transposition.
Roald Dahl Penelope Bagieu
Sacred witches Gallimard Jeunesse, 304 pp., € 23.90 (ebook: € 16.99).