This five-letter word represents a label, a common trope in fiction. However, even in the world of fantasy, one can’t help but feel the underlying accusation that is heard every time the word is uttered. Given its historical context, it isn’t too far off from words like “thief” or “blasphemer,” an evildoer hidden amidst the commoner, deserving of swift retribution. And by extension, the practice of witchcraft itself has been deemed a deplorable act, portrayed as meddling with the nature of our world. So, how did this seemingly real-life threat to society become a mainstay in the world of fantasy?
True to the stereotype, the first portrayal of a witch—Morgan La Fey from the 1150 poem, Vita Merlini—depicted a scorned woman acting as a bitter adversary to the kingdom. It wasn’t until 1611 that Shakespeare’s Macbeth that the mainstream depiction of witches as grotesque old crones was put forward as a fear within the common man.
Fiction became fact soon after, when, in the Salem Witch trials, handfuls of men and women were accused of witches masquerading as common folk and were subsequently hung. Of course, reason eventually rose above, quelling any act of irrational persecution. With these colonial-era fears at ease, witches continued on to live on in the pages of high fantasy.
Having now lost their heinous image, witches no longer serve the role of a story’s primary antagonist. These days, the most trouble a witch can get to is serving as the villain’s henchmen, a means to an end but not the cause behind it. And when that isn’t the case, they can be delegated to providing comic relief to an otherwise somber story.
But above all, in the world of fiction today, witchcraft incites feelings of mystique and fascination. No longer are they disfigured, hunchback old women mixing horsetail and newt eyes into a cauldron or aligning the heavens with their incantations. They’re ordinary folk who have an innate gift for the arcane arts. They are not left to cater to the whims of mad kings or live in exile, hoping to exact revenge on the royal family. Kids no longer have to shudder at the sight of a witch in a children’s story; they can look up with admiration to the likes of Luna Lovegood or Wanda Maximoff.
If there’s one rule to witches, it’s that they are about magic, not power. They are neither evil nor good, neither villain nor hero, but merely facilitators to those who seek them out. And if one is willing to pay the price, they have a wealth of knowledge and skills up on offer.
The Prince and The Witch explores the themes of witches among the land, practicing arcane arts in the far reaches of society. The author, Lauren Thompson, explores what it means to have a kingdom torn apart at the hands of witchcraft. But are the fears grounded in fact, or is there more to it than meets the eye? Grab your very own copy today and find out!