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Good Witch Versus Bad Witch
Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?

In many of the original myths and legends, spirits and monsters are not explicitly said to be good or evil. Often, they're just mischievous or powerful with a sense of "humor", and reasonable people give them lip service but otherwise leave them alone. After centuries of modifying, demonizing and adapting the stories, sometimes certain terms became associated with certain deeds. Sometimes this is a simplification to appeal to or educate young audiences, who supposedly require clear morality in characters.

A modern story can get some cred by reverting the depiction to the ambiguous original, although it's possible to annoy an audience who isn't familiar with that (or in some cases is too familiar with that). More commonly, the moral implications of the term are so indoctrinated that a story using it may invent a new piece of jargon or qualifier to imply "goodness" and "badness". For example, white witches and fairy godmothers are considered different from "bad" witches, even though they do the same things in a general sense. Mischievous creatures lumped under "elf" who are not cute tended to get eventually lumped into evil.

Naturally a fantasy story using Not So Different may use the same "race" for the hero and the villain, in an effort to be even-handed. Sometimes you have the weaker implication that the other group exists but the story simply doesn't follow them.

Friendly Neighborhood Vampires are different, taking a monolithically evil group from folklore and making certain members of it good. See also My Species Doth Protest Too Much.

Compare Dark Is Not Evil, The Dark Side and Fantastic Racism.


Examples:

General
  • Dark Elves are evil or require specific qualifers, especially because "Elf" tends to have a more specific meaning nowadays. Ironically, the "modern" Dwarf is probably more faithful to the original Norse idea, and don't need specific moral qualifiers; drow, often conflated with dark elves in modern fantasy, were originally a goblin-like fairy of Scottish folklore.
  • Most oni (a sort of Japanese ogre) who appear in anime tend to be rather nasty creatures, even though this isn't part of the original mythos. "Good" oni tend to be just dumb brutish creatures.
  • Modern stories set in Wizarding School handily remove the need for moral qualifiers by making Wizarding academic. (You don't ban physics classes because it makes Mad Scientists, after all.)

Anime
  • In Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch, Aqua Regina sealed the entire Panthalassa race under the ocean for the ambiguous crimes of their Evil Overlord. The first main villain, Gackto (or Gakuto, or Gaito...), is the prince of the Panthalassa, escaped from the seal and seeking revenge... or that's what we're supposed to think. Actually, although he was miserable under the sea and glad to be free, his real motivation is revenge for someone else, someone who happens to be from the previously "all good" mermaid race. Around the time of this reveal, we also learn that there are good Panthalassa, too. Aqua Regina punishes those that went against her for the destruction that they caused, but she finally realizes after thousands of years that there are good and bad members of all races.
  • Anthy Himemiya from Revolutionary Girl Utena keeps struggling between her "good witch" and "bad witches" roles. In the end, she decides to go "Good witch" and frees herself of her brother and manipulator Akio/Dios, leaving Ohtori Academy to search for the disappeared Utena.
  • In Mahou Sensei Negima! Magister Magi help people as his job, still most of them seem do it because of good will. By contrast Evangeline states, that when you ask an evil mage for help, you have to pay a price.
  • Yubaba and Zeniba from Spirited Away.

Fanfic
  • In the fanfic webcomic Cheshire Crossing, Dorothy had believed that Glinda was a Good Witch. Then she figures out that Glinda had actually manipulated her into killing the Wicked Witch for her. Overlaps with Gray and Grey Morality.

Film
  • Fin Raziel (good witch) and Queen Bavmorda (bad witch) in Willow.
  • In The Adventures of Prince Achmed, the African Wizard is evil and the Witch of the Fiery Mountain is, well, at least an ally to any enemy of him.
  • In Oz: The Great and Powerful, the first witches Oz meets are Theodora and her older sister Evanora. Evanora offers Oz the throne and riches of the Emerald City if he fulfills the prophecy and kills the Wicked Witch. However, when he finds the Wicked Witch, he finds out that she's Glinda the Good, and Evanora is the wicked one. Evanora then tricks her sister into eating a cursed apple which turns her into the heartless and green Wicked Witch of the West.

Literature
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has good witches (North and South) and bad witches (East and West). In The Film of the Book, the first thing Glinda says to Dorothy is "Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?"
    • Wicked goes one better and declares none of the witches bad. Despite the fact that the Witch of the West is already established (in the Oz books, at least) as a sadistic maniac. Of course, this comes with the added effect of none of the witches being good.
    • At least a couple of Oz stories have implied others - even the Compass Rose method above is worthless, as there was a Wicked Witch of the South in one, and another mentions two enchantresses who, though not officially given 'Good Witch' status, fill that slot for the East and West. (One appears to be isolationist, and the other's caught in some kind of time loop.)
  • Granny Weatherwax from Discworld is a Good Witch with some of the personality of a Bad one. Witches Abroad reveals that she was supposed to be the Bad Witch, until her "good" older sister Lili went evil and started calling herself Lilith. Granny has never forgiven her for it, and lives in fear of "turning to the bad" herself.
    • Lilith is an interesting example, as she's so deluded she honestly believes she is the good witch, and Granny (as well as anyone with her) is evil. In fact, Lilith is a prime example of Light Is Not Good, while Granny is a major case of Good Is Not Nice, so the story here really does blur the lines between "good witch" and "bad witch".
  • In the Dragaera series, while practicing magic is not in itself good or bad, there is a group known as the Left Hand of the Jhereg who are primarily female and fit evil witch stereotypes. They're no more evil than the protagonist, though, really. The Left Hand deals in illegal and unlicensed magic, while the Organization deals in the more traditional mafia businesses (assassinations, loansharking, drugs, etc).
  • Brian Lumley's take on the works of H.P. Lovecraft gives Cthulhu a twin brother who is good. This is universally disregarded.
  • In Lord of the Rings, Gandalf is a good wizard and Saruman is an evil wizard. Along with Sauron and the Saruman they are not even mortal but more powerful creatures that are split between the benign ("advise and assist") and the evil ("destroy and conquer")
  • Order of the Phoenix vs Death Eaters in Harry Potter.

Live-Action TV
  • The two brothers in Vampire Diaries are a clear example. Stefan is a Friendly Neighborhood Vampire while his brother Damon is going around killing people.
  • In Smallville, most surviving Kryptonians that Clark Kent meets are evil or just plain arrogant, and don't understand why Clark is trying to stop them from hurting people or taking over the world, as they feel that they have the right to do whatever they feel like.
    • Also, the Wicked Witch, Isobel, mistakes Clark for a good sorcerer, as she is unaware of Kryptonians and other beings that have superpowers without magic.
  • Turned upside-down and inside-out with True Blood. Since the release of "New Blood", originally designed to be an easily-mass-produced synthetic blood for medical transfusion, the vampires of the world stop living in secret and much, MUCH publicity effort is made to separate the "myth" of the "bloodthirsty maniac" vampire with the "reality" of the "cultured, fully nuanced people who now can sate their unique metabolism with the fake stuff." There's even implicit invocation of this trope in the description of their subculture. It's utter nonsense: while there are several "good" vampires, most of the ones trying to act saintly are just trying to fend off the vamp-hating masses and are at the core every bit as bad they're made out to be.
    • And that's not even getting into the vampire-blood-addicted werewolves that fight with the "clean" werewolves, the crystal-meth-producing werepanthers, the fairies (who are much closer to the classical idea of The Fair Folk than a "fairy godmother", having in fact INVENTED the later idea themselves), witches, voodoo priests, etc...
  • George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence, tries to invoke this trope in the BBC/Starz series The White Queen when he hires a sorcerer to protect him and his wife from the curses laid on them by his sister-in-law, Queen Elizabeth (the consort of Edward IV, not her more famous great-granddaughter). Unfortunately for him, the sorcerer he hires is just a charlatan, while Elizabeth's magic is all too real.note  Additionally, George is really one of the villains, or at least antagonists, of the series, and is generally probably the least sympathetic character, whereas Elizabeth is the title character and protagonist, so our sympathies naturally lie with her.

Video Games
  • This appears to be the plot for upcoming game The Witch And The Hundred Knights, with the swamp witch (evil) and the forest witch (good).
  • In The Sims 2, good witches wear white and gold robes, neutral ones wear gray ones with green trim, and bad witches wear black and purple ones. There is a sliding scale of good and evil; practicing or studying evil spells can turn a good witch bad, and vice versa
  • Hyrule Warriors has the White Witch Lana, who stands on the heroes' side, opposing the Black Witch Cia, who is the game's Big Bad. Turns out Lana is the embodiment of all the positive traits of the now-demonically possessed Cia.
  • In a later level of The Matrix Path Of Neo you save a witch with a red, purple and black dress. A few levels later after helping you, she faces off with the Witch Queen who would have deleted/killed her and tries to kill you as well.

Visual Novels
  • All witches in Umineko: When They Cry tend to zigzag between good and bad. Beatrice begins as cruel in EPs 1-4 but turns out to be good in EP5. Lambadelta zigzags several times and chooses either side depending on which will entertain her most. Bernkastel begins as a quiet Mysterious Watcher who initially seems to be there to help Battler and Ange but turns out to be the cruelest character in the series. EVA-Beatrice begins as evil but changes somewhat with the reveal that Human!Eva really did care about Ange. And finally Ange, who is a good witch except in EP8 when she refuse to accept the truth that Battler shows her and joins the bad guys.

Western Animation
  • The Centurions episode "Return of Cassandra" combines this trope with The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry and Twin Switch. Hot Witch Cassandra Cross is impersonated by her Evil Twin sister Lilith, who helps the series' Big Bad Doc Terror capture Skyvault, the team's space station headquarters. Cassandra's boyfriend, Ace McCloud, escapes to Earth and rescues Cassandra; together, they go back to Skyvault to help their teammates deal with Lilith as well as Terror's forces.

Good Victims, Bad VictimsMorality TropesGotta Have It Gonna Steal It
Flying BroomstickWizards and WitchesLinear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards
Dressing as the EnemyImageSource/Live-Action FilmsKilled Off for Real

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