Literature: The Witches Of Worm

The Witches of Worm is a Newberry Honor 1972 Young Adult book by Zilpha Keatley Snyder about a girl who believes herself to be coming under the sway of a witch's cat. Jessica is a gangly teenage girl being raised by her gorgeous, but over-worked, single mother. Jessica has few friends her age, and spends much of her free time reading and imagining things. One day, she discovers an abandoned newborn kitten, which she names Worm due to his lack of sight and extremely short fur. As Worm gains strength, Jessica starts to believe that Worm is talking to her, and forcing her to do bad things. Feeling less and less in control of her actions, Jessica seeks a way to free herself of these compulsions.

This book exhibits the following tropes:


  • Disappeared Dad: Jessica's dad ran out on them shortly after Jessica was born.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Mrs. Fortune's cats are afraid of Worm, and avoid Jessica after Worm arrives. Then again, Mrs. Fortune points out that they're old cats who have trouble dealing with new things like kittens.
  • Familiar: Worm is implied to be a Witch's familiar. He may or may not be Jessica's.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: It's unclear as to whether Worm was indeed a witch's familiar, or if Jessica is essentially talking herself into her belief in witches.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: Jessica attempts this to get out of trouble a few times, feigning an Ambiguous Disorder. She quickly learns that doing this gets people talking about institutions and special tutors rather than excusing one's actions.