If there’s one thing the literary work of J.K. Rowling taught us, it’s that witches are everywhere, from the Wicked West to Eastwick. Sure, some of them are nice, I guess, but the majority of them are real nasty things who probably want to kill little children or turn into dragons or something. The wicked ones give the other ones a bad name, and like a vampire slayer or mummy strangler, there are witch hunters out there to stop them. There have even been some real life ones, but since they ended up just hanging or burning perfectly innocent people, they’re viewed now as horrible a-holes. Not everybody can be a hero. Anyway, in honor of Jeff Bridges and Ben Barnes taking up the cause in Seventh Son, which chronicles the latest in a long line of pre-destined hunters of witches, we present a list of seven famous, infamous, or just effective witch hunters in pop culture, in NO PARTICULAR ORDER.
Hansel & Gretel
They may not have been ass-kickers in the original terrifying fairy tale, but in the film Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, the brother and sister pair become leather-clad action heroes after a particularly diabolical witch, with red hair of course, because that’s the hair color of all witches, everybody knows that… (this is a joke based on perception.) While Gretel gets kidnapped (eye roll) and Hansel ends up being the solo bolo for a good chunk of the movie, you wouldn’t have one without the other and their ability to kill pointy-hatted hags is undisputed.
Back in the days when nobody checked credentials, and there weren’t many credentials to check, in the mid-1600s in England, a man named Matthew Hopkins traveled the countryside finding witches to torture and burn in the midst of the very violent and bloody English Civil War. He claimed he was under contract by parliament and said his title was Witchfinder General. He was very effective; he was apparently responsible for the deaths of around 300 women arrested and prosecuted for witchcraft, over 60 percent of the total number of executed “witches” during the period. The trouble, of course, is that Hopkins was never given any official powers and mostly wandered around waiting to get bribed and when a town or family couldn’t pay, he had several of their citizens killed for being witches. So, he was an awful person. A really great movie about him was made starring Vincent Price. It’ll make you very angry.
Probably the least assuming witch hunter on the list is probably also the most famous. Dorothy didn’t mean to kill the Wicked Witch of the East when her house landed in Oz, but dead the old meanie was, and joyful the Munchkins were at the thought. That is, of course, until her sister, the Wicked Witch of the West caught wind of it (almost immediately…did they have some kind of psychic connection?) and wanted to get the pretty and her little dog too. Though green-face gives our heroine and her new friends a lot of flack, and flying monkeys, Dorothy ultimately does vanquish her, too, with some errant water. She kills two witches! And the guard has my favorite line reading in cinema history.
Every Disney Prince For Like Ever
It certainly took awhile for Disney movies to let the princesses fight their own battles, especially when witches are concerned. While there weren’t actually THAT many witches in Disney films, from the very first animated feature in 1937 until Tangled in 2010, if there was a witch needed fighting, it was a prince that did it. Or dwarfs. The presumptuously named Prince Charming takes a back seat to the 7 miners in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, but it’s Prince Philip who does the Maleficent-murdering in Sleeping Beauty and it’s Prince Eric who does the Ursula-skewering in The Little Mermaid. Man, Disney princesses sure were damselly for a long time, weren’t they?
This is another example of a young woman who doesn’t necessarily WANT to kill witches, but she certainly isn’t fine with being part of a coven, or being killed by them herself. I mean, that’s just not above board, man. In Dario Argento’s masterpiece of technicolor gore, and plots that make no sense, Suspiria, Suzy Bannion moves to Germany to join a prestigious ballet academy, but the more she learns about the teachers, and the more of her friends who die grisly deaths, the more she says “hey, wait a minute.” The school is run by Helena Markos, an ancient and powerful witch, who apparently is just as vulnerable to neck-stabbing as anyone.
For this one, we’re going all the way back to Greek mythology. While a Gorgon is not technically a witch, I guess, a horrible haggish creature with snakes for hair and the ability to turn people to stone if they look at her is a pretty witchy thing to do. It takes a great hero to slay this beast, and one that’s a son of Zeus. Of course, they were all sons of Zeus back then; that dude got AROUND. Perseus was a very legendary hero because he not only cut off Medusa’s head, but he also saved the beautiful Andromeda from a sea monster called Cetus. He was the first hero in Greek Myth, actually. Man, he was pretty awesome.
The Boy and his Grandmother
To bring it all home, we have the case of a young man who didn’t think he’d have anything to do with witches, nor did he think he’d ever not be a human little boy, but boy was he wrong. The protagonist of Roald Dahl’s book The Witches stumbles across a huge gathering of England’s witches, led by The Grand High Witch, who is awful and evil and horrible and gross. The boy gets turned into a mouse, and it’s up he and his grandma to foil the witches’ plans, by tricking them all into eating mouse-maker stuff, turning everyone into a little squeaker who get stomped on by the cooking staff. Yeah, that’ll teach ’em to mess with children and the elderly!
And there we have it, seven of the most effective witch hunters in all of the world. We do not recommend attacking witches yourself, but if you see Seventh Son you can see how the professionals do it.
For a list of 7 reluctant heroes of cinema check out the latest episode of the Dan Cave: