[[quoteright:309:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/ibbotsonwhichwitch_1698.jpg]]

''Which Witch?'' is a 1979 children's fantasy novel by Creator/EvaIbbotson.

Arriman Canker, otherwise known as Arriman the Awful, Loather of Light and Wizard of the North, is getting worried. He's starting to get up there in years, and has no black wizard to pass his legacy on to. A no-nonsense fortune teller insists that one with even more potential than Arriman is on the way, but there's no sign of him ever making an appearance. Thus, though he's not too keen on the idea, Arriman decides to marry a black witch so that he can produce an heir the old-fashioned way.

Of the witches in the area, the pickings are slim. His options are Mabel Wrack (the daughter of a mermaid-turned-human), twins Nancy and Nora Shouter, the uncouth Ethel Feedbag, the ever-befuddled Mother Bloodwart, sinister Madame Olympia, and sweet Belladonna. To choose, Arriman proposes a contest for them: they must all perform acts of black magic for him, and whoever does the most evil thing will be his wife.

Meanwhile, for Belladonna, it's LoveAtFirstSight when she sees Arriman. She's determined to win at all costs, but there's a minor setback: she's not a dark witch at all. In fact, she's a white witch, who can only perform good magic. But luck seems on her side when she meets an orphan boy named Terrence Mugg, whose pet worm, Rover, appears to be Belladonna's familiar, capable of giving her dark magic. With Terrence and Rover on her side, Belladonna is certain to win. But will she come out on top, when one of the group resorts to underhanded methods to win?
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!!Trope examples:

* AlliterativeFamily: Nancy and Nora.
* AllOfTheOtherReindeer: Belladonna is hated by pretty much every other witch in the coven, because she's a good witch. The only one who's at all kind to her is Mother Bloodwart, and even she isn't too comfortable talking about Belladonna's... differences.
* {{Autocannibalism}}: The finale of Madame Olympia's musical performance piece, giant plague rats attack and eat each other and the last one standing eats itself.
* BadIsGoodAndGoodIsBad: Belladonna is a good witch, who is ashamed of her magic, and wants to be more evil. She is overjoyed when she manages to turn the blossoms that spontaneously grew in her tent into bloodstained thumbscrews. When someone suggests that she cheat in the dark-magic-competition for the dark wizard Arriman's hand, he reasons that "cheating is evil, and he wants evil, so that's fine".
* BottomlessPit: A non-video-game example, created for one of the challenges.
* BeAsUnhelpfulAsPossible: Esmeralda the gypsy assures Arriman that a new dark wizard ''is'' coming, but can't tell him when or where this successor will come and is very rude about the whole thing.
* BeautyEqualsGoodness: Played with. Belladonna, the only white witch, is beautiful while most of the dark witches are hideous. But Madame Olympia, the nastiest of the dark witches, is beautiful too and Arriman, who is the darkest wizard of England, is very handsome, and Belladonna ''aspires'' to be evil.
* BerserkButton: Neither of the twins take it well when Ethel suggests that their chicken laid an ordinary egg. Also, later in the book, Arriman nearly throws a fit when he learns that [[spoiler:Belladonna intended to perform necromancy for him, which was the one thing he couldn't manage and wasn't happy about it.]]
* BetaCouple: [[spoiler:The resurrected Sir Simon]] is paired off with one of the witches who didn't win the hand of the dark wizard. They fall in love remarkably fast, due to the machinations of the dark wizard's servants, who think they'd be a good match.
* TheBluebeard: Parodied with Sir Simon Montpelier, whose murdering of his seven wives ends up being PlayedForLaughs. [[spoiler:When he comes back to life, he does absolutely nothing but talk about how he killed the wives, until everyone is desperate to be rid of him.]]
* BlackWidow: Madame Olympia, who went through quite a few husbands.
* CuteWitch: Belladonna.
* DarkIsNotEvil: Arriman the Awful, Loather of Light and Wizard of the North, is really a nice guy despite the whole black-magic thing.
* EverythingsSquishierWithCephalopods: Mabel's familiar, Doris, is an octopus
* EvilIsPetty: The dark witches tend to do nasty things to people just because they ''can'', or because they hate the sight of happiness. In her EstablishingCharacterMoment, Mabel magics a beach full of stinging jellyfish, just out of annoyance at the sight of children happily swimming there. A more malicious example happens at the end, where [[spoiler:Madame Olympia steals Rover to ensure her victory, then intends to burn the poor thing just because she's angry she lost. She also makes it clear that she intends to show up later to poison Belladonna, for beating her in the contest.]]
** We find out that Matron hates Terrence and goes out of her way to be horrible to him (up to and including [[spoiler:trying to kill his pet worm]]) is because [[spoiler:when he was a baby, he once bit her finger.]]
* EvilSorcerer: Parodied. Arriman is a very dark, very evil sorcerer, but his evil acts are more of a PokeThePoodle. It's a children's book, so he obviously can't be ''too'' evil. Played a bit straighter with one of the witches, who is more powerful than Arriman himself, and wears a necklace made out of the teeth of her deceased husbands. (Of one, they never found a body, but a bald werewolf with milky blue eyes appeared after he went missing ...)
* ExactWords: A lot of the magic in the story runs on this, which means a lot of fuss for Arriman (who has to acquire materials, like corpses, princesses) and accounts for a great deal of LoopholeAbuse.
** All the witches in the contest technically accomplish their feats, itís just that the first two witches have bad luck and the next two get hampered by their own issues. [[spoiler: Mabel summons a kraken that turns out to be a baby, Ethel imprisons someone in a tree but he turns out to enjoy it, Nancy creates a bottomless pit but pushes her sister into it and is disqualified, Mother Bloodwort turns a set of princesses into birds but turns into a coffee table and is disqualified. Only Madame Olympia and Belladonna actually succeed to pull off their feats accurately and successfully.]]
** When Lester suggests that Belladonna cheat in the competition, he reasons that "cheating is evil, and he wants evil ".
** The Wizard Watcher is created to watch for the arrival of a new wizard. [[spoiler: Once Terrence appears, its job is done, but Belladonna gives it a new duty: to watch over the new wizard.]]
* {{Familiar}}: Every witch save Belladonna has one. Unusually, none of the witches has a cat familiar -- instead we see an octopus, a pig, two chickens, a box of flies, a sheep, an aardvark, and a worm, [[spoiler:though it turns out that last one ''isn't'']].
* FirstGrayHair: Arriman's first gray hair kicks off the plot, acting as a reminder that he won't be around forever and needs to get serious about getting an heir.
* {{Foreshadowing}}: Belladonna states that she feels blacker when Terence is around. [[spoiler: Terence is later revealed to be the new Wizard.]]
* FriendToAllLivingThings: Belladonna, who is beloved by pretty much every animal she comes across.
* GentleGiant: Lester the ogre.
* HenpeckedHusband: Ethel Feedbag summons a put-on husband and his obnoxious family to imprison in trees. [[spoiler: He begs to stay in his tree as itís pretty much rescuing him from his family, so it works against her.]]
* HypnotizeThePrincess: The seven princesses that Mother Bloodwart tries to turn into black swans have all been hypnotized into compliance by Arriman. Though the German one is still aware enough of her surroundings that she can complain when the transformations don't go the way they're supposed to.
* KrakenAndLeviathan: Mabel sets about summoning the Kraken, and sure enough the Kraken puts in an appearance. [[spoiler:It's only a baby, though, about the size of a handbag, and needs a babysitter.]]
* LoopholeAbuse: Because most of the witches Arriman encounters are hideous and inept, he goes out of his way to invoke this so he wonít marry any of the first five witches in the competition. It only fails with the last two, who are sufficiently beautiful and manage to suitably impress him with their power.
* LoveAtFirstSight: Belladonna falls for Arriman the instant she lays eyes on him (as do most of the other witches). [[spoiler:It works the other way too, with Arriman falling in love with Belladonna the instant he looks at her and wanting to marry her "tomorrow at the latest".]] Also seen with the genie judge and one of the princesses turned into a black swan ([[ItMakesSenseInContext really a penguin]]).
* MagicFeather: Terrence thinks his pet worm is magical; it turns out that [[spoiler: it's a normal worm, the magic came from Terrence all along]].
* MakeupIsEvil: Madame Olympia owns a beauty parlor. She enchants her products so that they really do make the customers look incredibly beautiful at first, but then they wear off and leave the people uglier than before, forcing them to keep coming back again and again.
* MamaBear: The thing that pushes Belladonna to do the first remotely black thing in her life is watching Matron (who [[KickTheDog had tried to squish Rover, earlier]]) yell at Terrence and try to drag him away. It angers Belladonna so much that she halts Matron by turning her partially into a tree.
* MinionWithAnFInEvil: Before becoming Arriman's assistant, Mr. Leadbetter thought he was a demon of some kind, because he had a small devil-like tail. Since he figured this was the case, he tried to rob banks for some time. It didn't work out.
* MisterMuffykins: Sir Simon claims that he murdered one of his seven wives because she had a 'little dog that yapped.'
* MyGodWhatHaveIDone: Nancy, [[spoiler: after throwing her sister into the bottomless pit she created.]]
* MyMasterRightOrWrong: Arriman's servants agree to most of his ideas, even if they don't think much of them. Subverted near the end though, [[spoiler:when they conspire to rig his tournament so that Belladonna will win, because they think she's the best and most deserving candidate.]]
* NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast: Arriman is named for Ahriman, a GodOfEvil in Persian mythology. This is explicitly stated, although he did change the spelling.
* NiceGuy: Terrence. [[spoiler:Surprising, considering that he's destined to be come an evil darker wizard than Arriman...]]
* PairTheSpares: Rather amusingly done between [[spoiler:[[TheBluebeard Sir Simon]] and [[BlackWidow Madame Olympia]]. To keep them both from causing problems in Arriman and Belladonna's marriage, their wedding drinks are spiked with love potion so they fall for each other. There's some debate as to which one would kill off the other.]]
* PetTheDog: Though Mother Bloodwart is at least nominally an evil witch, she's generally kind to Belladonna -- even if she finds her white magic uncomfortable.
* SickeninglySweethearts: [[spoiler:When Arriman finally meets Belladonna, his new bride, they instantly start calling each other pet names and wanting to be wed the next day at the latest.]] Arriman's assistant is not amused.
* SingleMindedTwins: Nancy and Nora are identical, have exactly the same animals as familiars, and constantly bicker about the same subject matter.
* SophisticatedAsHell: The Wizard Watcher tends to talk like this.
-->'''Middle Head:''' He cometh not from the north.
-->'''Left Head:''' He cometh not from the west, neither.
-->'''Right Head:''' Nor from the east doesn't he cometh. And our feet are ''freezing''.
** This is followed up by them relaying those messages to Arriman, along with "We think you've been taken for a ride."
* TallDarkAndSnarky: Arriman the Awful. Not quite as snarky as other examples, but he has his moments.
* {{Transflormation}}:
** Ethel Feedbag's feat for the competition is to imprison three {{Muggles}} in three trees.
** [[spoiler:Terrence]] inflicts this on Matron at the climax.
* WorkingClassPeopleAreMorons: Ethel Feedbag.