"And in the cottage in the clearing there lived a wicked witch."
This quote, or one very much like it, can be found in hundreds of places. A lot of those places are Fairy Tales. When confronting a fairy tale witch you can, via the magic of Beauty Equals Goodness often tell the good from the bad. The Wicked Witch check list is as follows (have more than about four of these and you have yourself a bad one):
Which is odd really, seeing as - apart from the last four items - these may just as well describe someone's granny in a pre-industrial society. Even the "potions" could be harmless, if someone just interpreted preparing folk remedies the wrong way (this sadly contributed to the large number of women burnt as witches over the centuries). 21 could also work, depending on how you define "cursing".
Good witches tend to be young and pretty, or at least have aged gracefully. If your subject is nice to look at, but evil, you may well have a Vain Sorceress instead.
Perhaps because most bards were male back then, wizards get better press, seeming to get more "good" and sage-like with age. But then again, there was a time when "witch" literally meant "person who received magical power from the devil", which would make a non-evil witch an oxymoronnote This connotation would explain why good female mages in modern-based stories are called witches, while those in medieval/historical fiction are not. If a non-evil female magic user appeared in folklore, she'd be referred to with a term like "sorceress" or "fairy godmother" instead.
She's an "earthy" version of the Evil Sorcerer (but obviously not Closer to Earth), and might also come in Hollywood Voodoo flavor. It's likely that every witch in existence will be this trope in a setting where Magic is Evil. There might also be some overlap with the Wicked Stepmother and the Evil Matriarch; however, royalty tends to be beautiful.
In settings tending more towards Magic Realism than typical fantasy worlds, their magical powers will be downplayed, but their prophecies will have a bad habit of coming horribly true, especially if they get insulted or snubbed.
Usually uses Black Magic. Compare Cute Witch, Hot Witch, Widow Witch, and Vain Sorceress. See also Witch Species.
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Anime and Manga
Yubaba from Spirited Away, but not her sister, who just looks like one
Slightly applies to Yubaba's sister, as despite her kind nature she's not above using violence to get what she wants. This is exemplified by her sending paper familiars after Haku and cutting him up badly with them for stealing something from her.
Sailor Moon had Beryl, Zoisite, Emerald, Nehellenia, Badiane, Kaguya... just to name a few.
The Witches 5...
Most of those are undeniably wicked, but they're also Hot Witches.
Revolutionary Girl Utena intentionally subverts the Wicked Witch archetype with Anthy, who is a witch who acts like a princess. She is victimized by her brother, a prince who acts like a witch, and she eventually falls in love with Utena, a princess who acts like a prince.
The Witches from Puella Magi Madoka Magica are very, very far from the classic image of the "Witch", being much closer to Eldritch Abominations or the youma of classic mahou shoujo shows than anything else. Also, apart from witches that grew from former familiars after their parent witch was killed, every single witch used to be a Magical Girl.
Totenkinder is actually a bit of a subversion because she's not actually evil, just self-servingly neutral, and only looks the way she does by choice.
Another partial monkeywrench is the Prarie Witch, a forties-era villain created by James Robinson in Starman. She's leggy and sexy and doesn't actually practice magic, but she's got the green skin, hat, and flying broom.
Mordred from DC's old anthology horror series, The Witching Hour, fits the bill. To a lesser extent so does her daughter, Mildred, but not her granddaughter, Cynthia, who is more of a Hot Witch. These three were later adapted into aspects of the Furies in The Sandman by Neil Gaiman.
Hilda Spellman from Sabrina the Teenage Witch certainly counts as one with her pointy hat, long nose, warts, crooked teeth, flying broomstick and propensity to put hexes and curses on anyone she sees fit to. Her sister, Zelda, however, is far more the fairy godmother type, and their niece, Sabrina, is the quintessential Cute Witch.
The above was true in stories before the late 1990s; with the success of the sitcom, Archie averted this by adapting some of the sitcom's elements into the comics. Thus, they gave Hilda and Zelda makeovers that made them look and act more like typical modern women.
Most of the stories that Little Lulu tells to Alvin feature an evil witch named Witch Hazel (No, not that Witch Hazel), and her niece (also a witch) named Little Itch.
In "Brother and Sister" the Wicked Stepmother not only drives off the title characters with her cruelty, but, being a witch, tries to enchant them into animal forms (and succeeds with Brother). She also murders Sister after her marriage and replace her with her own daughter.
In "Esben and the Witch", when Esben and his brothers stay at the witch's, she tries to murder them in their sleep. Fortunately, Esben shifted around the nightcaps so she murdered her own daughters instead; then, when they go to the king, he proceeds to rob her of her treasures one by one.
In "The Witch", the Wicked Stepmother intentionally sends her children to a Wicked Witch, who tries to set them Impossible Tasks; through the advice of their grandmother and kindness to the objects about her house, they escape.
"The Witch In The Stone Boat" kidnapped a princess, taking her form and place, and sending her to her brother as a bride, but the princess's son knew she was not his mother, and the true princess came back three times, and the third time, the prince managed to free her.
In "Puddocky", when the girl steals parsley from the witch, the witch has her come work for her, and eat all the parsley she likes, but when young men start to quarrel because of her beauty, she turns the girl into a toad.
In "Jorinde and Joringel", a witch who disguises herself as an owl and or a cat turns Jorinde into a nightingale, and Joringel has to go save her.
In "The Daughter of Buk Ettemsuch", a witch breaks into the heroine's house and eats her older sisters (though the incident was the sisters' fault for leaving the door open).
"By the kindness of your heart have you been deceived, O king," said he. "Your son has married a girl who has lost a hand. Do you know why she had lost it? She was a witch, and has wedded three husbands, and each husband she has put to death with her arts. Then the people of the town cut off her hand, and turned her into the forest. And what I say is true, for her town is my town also."
In Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Queen Grimhilde transforms herself into a very impressive Hag of a witch, including all the classic physical features, in order to pull one over on Snow White. Interestingly she was originally a Vain Sorceress who put on the whole 'hook-nosed woman' look as a disguise.
In fact, she's so effective as a Witch that she is resurrected to grand effect in the Disney comic books.
Ursula from The Little Mermaid (also a member of a fairy race, but is considered a wicked witch to merfolk)
Mother Gothel from Tangledmight count - we're not entirely sure she's a witch.
Hydia and her two daughters Reeka and Draggle from My Little Pony The Movie, although Reeka and Draggle are rather incompetent at it.
The town in ParaNorman once executed a supposed witch in its past, and is now filled with cheesy attractions and shops depicting her as this, which Salma finds historically inaccurate. And she's right. The witch was really just a little girl that could speak to ghosts.
Films — Live-Action
Voodoo fortuneteller Elzora from Eve's Bayou. The movie taking place in relatively recent times, she's aware of the imagery and seems to enjoy playing it up as part of her fortuneteller act, and gets cheap laughs from scaring children.
The Big Bad of Suspiria Helena Markos, the Witch of Sighs. She's very old, has wrinkled skin, cackles, and eats people.
Karen Brewer from The Baby-Sitters Club believes that the next door neighbor Mrs. Porter is one, and that her real name is Morbidda Destiny. The sitters would waver on whether or not they really believed this (and one of the Little Sister books revealed that even Mrs. Porter's granddaughter could not be sure whether it was true). Kristy eventually reasoned that Mrs. Porter could not be a real witch because when the Brewers' cat left a dead mouse on her doorstep she brought it over to demand that they dispose of it, rather than keeping to use in her potions.
The Trope Codifier was E. T. A. Hoffmann's story The Golden Pot, which was quite popular in an English translation during the early 19th century. The very wicked witch in this tale is a wrinkly old woman with the missing teeth that make her pointed nose almost meet her pointed chin, wearing a tall black hat, has a spooky black cat that she talks to, lives in a small cottage full of taxidermied animals and such, and cooks up a potion in a cauldron as a "love" charm for the young woman who comes to see her.
Countless reviews and analyses of The Film of the Book have said that, pound-for-pound, The Wicked Witch of the West is overall the hands-down most evil character to have ever been portrayed in film. It's also the Trope Codifier for witches being green-skinned.
The sequel The Marvelous Land of Oz introduced Mombi, the mildly wicked witch who brought Jack Pumpkinhead to life with her Powder of Life. Later in the series, in the Thompson novels, Mombi becomes a full-fledged Wicked Witch, the former Wicked Witch of the North.
Gregory Maguire's novel Wicked is a revisionist look at the characters and the land of Oz. The story centers on a green girl named Elphaba who grows up to be the Wicked Witch of the West. Over the course of the book, Elphaba gradually acquires the stereotypical attributes of this trope (except the ugliness- while never pretty per se, she's repeatedly described as having strong features that could easily tip into the stereotype, including a hooked nose, but they come together strikingly on her).
Discworld witches are a monkeywrench, they deliberately look the part but are generally benevolent acting as doctor, judge, defence against supernatural threats and generally keeping the community in order. However, that doesn't always mean they're nice.
In fact, Granny Weatherwax is rather disappointed that she has perfect teeth and an unblemished, rosy complexion. However, she refuses to admit that she ever cackles.
We also get the occasion played straight (Black Allis, a frequently mentioned example of what happens when witches go bad) and inverted (Lilly Weatherwax, an evil fairy godmother)
The unfortunate results of using the traits of old women to "identify" witches is also deconstructed from time to time, seen in Witches Abroad and especially in the Tiffany Aching novels. Tiffany is first inspired to become a witch after witnessing the ostracism of an innocent, lonely, slightly odd old woman just because she was suspected of being a witch (by a community which wasn't familiar with the more positive examples mentioned above).
The Bonus Material in The Illustrated Wee Free Men includes a "wicked witch" called Brenda Loveknot as part of the toad's backstory, who cursed Princess Sandy of Brokenrock to be stunned by a falling hamster on her 18th birthday. However, Loveknot insists she's not evil, just fulfilling a necessary narrative role, and the "curse" was placed by arrangement with the king on the understanding that it would inevitably lead to Sandy marrying a handsome prince.
Also parodied with her colleague Archaniz, who looks and acts the part down to the poisonous garden... because she's the Chairwitch of the Deadly Nightshade Gardening Club. She also grows ordinary daisies in the garden and worries about witches getting a reputation for being too kind and helpful and thus getting swamped by people asking for assistance.
Although most witches in the Dorrie the Little Witch books are good, some are this trope, and end up the antagonists of some books.
Maelga, in The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, is the sorceress Sybel's closest neighbor; one of the only people willing to live near the mysterious and frightening Eld Mountain. She's only a little bit wicked; she and Sybel end up good friends after Sybel receives the baby, Tam, and turns to Maelga for advice. Maelga steals a cow — refusing to let Sybel do it — so they can feed Tam, and leaves a jeweled broach in its place, making many peasants hopefully leaving the barn door open after. She does dispense curses and potions to the villagers, though.
Nor uglier follow the Night-Hag, when call'd In secret, riding through the Air she comes Lur'd with the smell of infant blood, to dance With LAPLAND Witches, while the labouring Moon Eclipses at thir charms.
In John Moore's Fractured Fairy Tale, The Unhandsome Prince, Emily's mother wasn't really wicked, but she definitely had leanings in that direction, and certainly looked the part. And she did turn Prince Hal into a frog (although, to be fair, he was trying to steal something from her at the time).
In E. D. Baker's The Wide-Awake Princess, several casting fell magic. One tries to trap Gwendolyn with a spinning wheel, which leaves Annie wondering how that works, since an evil fairy cast the curse.
In Poul Anderson's Three Hearts and Three Lions, Mother Gerd claims to be merely summoning a sprite, but given that she recites the Lord's Prayer backwards, and warns Holger not to pray or cross himself, it's clearly a devil.
The fact that old spinster Do˝a Clotilde presents almost all the characteristics listed above except the obvious magic powers becomes a Running Gag in El Chavo del ocho.
Also spoofed with Willow being annoyed over witch stereotypes. There's also the Played for Laughs scene in "Once More With Feeling" when Xander says that evil witches might be responsible, only to shut up when Willow and Tara give him the hairy eyeball. And in "Family" where the Scoobies give Tara cliched presents like broomsticks and crystal balls.
Subverted and lampshaded in the Charmed episode "All Halliwell's Eve", when Prue, Piper, and Phoebe prepare for a Halloween party dressed as a nature witch, Glinda, and Elvira respectively, and Phoebe comments on Prue's costume;
Phoebe: Hook-nosed hags riding broomsticks - that's what we're celebrating. Personally I am offended by the representation of witches in popular culture
Prue: Which is why you're dressed as mistress of the dark?
Phoebe: This costume happens to be a protest statement.
Prue: I am so impressed that you can make a protest statement and show cleavage all at the same time.
The plotline for that episode involves the Halliwell sisters being sent to 17th century Salem to protect one of their ancestors. To ward off a mob, Phoebe uses her levitation powers to fly toward them while seemingly riding a broomstick. As she told her sisters, "I'm embracing the cliche."
Another couple of episodes feature Wicked Witches. One that features Fairy Tale Motifs has a Wicked Witch freed from being imprisoned in a magic mirror - and she tries to kill the sisters by using fairy tale items. You guessed it - she dies by getting melted. The other Wicked Witch appears in the sixth season causing trouble for magical creatures - she is indeed seen in a black hat cackling by a cauldron.
In the Masters Of Horror episode "Dreams in the Witch-House" (based on an H.P. Lovecraft story by the same title), the witch is a decrepit old woman who forces various men to sacrifice children for her spells.
In The Worst Witch TV series Halloween Episode, Miss Hardbroom speaks against this trope. Mildred wears a Halloween mask meant to evoke the Wicked Witch stereotype and gets scolded. Mildred runs into a trio of true Wicked Witches later on but they're normal women who just look a little rough from living in the forest. Miss Hardbroom mocks the trope even more "I suppose they had long warty noses and green skin".
Sabrina the Teenage Witch played with this one. A Wicked Witch (in fact referred to as THE Wicked Witch) lives at the top of the beanstalk where she eats mortals for dinner. She's a Hot Witch now but this dialogue implies it wasn't always so...
Zelda: It's the Wicked Witch!
Sabrina: Wicked? But she's so pretty.
Hilda: Oh! She's had a lot of work done.
In "The Crucible" Harvey references the trope when Sabrina is accused of being a witch. He says she can't be one because witches are old and ugly - and melt when you throw water on them (which he does to Sabrina).
In Witch Girls Adventures, there's a condition called Hag's Syndrome that makes the setting's Hot Witches and Cute Witches look as close to the part as they can — when their powers first manifest, their skin and hair turn green and their eyes red — and, in a Shout-Out to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, water melts their skin. Actually a subversion, as a witch that has this isn't necessarily wicked — their spells are more powerful than other witches, but it's entirely possible for a good witch to have the condition.
The Witch class in Pathfindercan be this sort of witch, if they want. They are not bound to do it, but all the child-smelling, cauldron-bubbling goodness is there in their basic class features.
The "Hag" monster type in both Pathfinder and D&D is a Wicked Witch as a monster type - an evil, magic-using, Always Female man-eating monster that resembles a hideous old woman.
Played with in the Kingmaker adventure path, there they characters will meet an old woman with a long pointy nose, weedy hair, green skin, and magical power who lives alone in a swamp with her giant flaming scarecrow. She's actually a sorceress who is cranky because she's tired of people assuming she's an evil witch and mostly just wants to be left alone.
Likewise Heroes of the Feywild introduces a Witch class to 4th Edition. While they can be as good or evil as any class, they were the first true magic users, and the gods still have a vendetta against them. As such they tend to be viewed as this trope and act in secret.
The Witch in Into the Woods is a subversion of sorts: her evil deeds happened in the backstory and during the story itself she does more to help the protagonists than hinder them. They blame her nevertheless.
Mother Hare in The Golden Apple, though her magic mostly runs along the lines of crystal balls and potions, and she isn't ever called a witch (though at one point, another character mockingly tells her, "Go home and ride your broomstick!"). She's an Affably Evil old clairvoyant who avows that Good Is Dumb and creates the titular Apple of Discord.
Partially monkeywrenched in newer Castlevania games. Some of the most annoying generic enemies are witches, but they're all rather attractive and young looking. They still dress the part though, and fly around on brooms. Subverted entirely by the Belnades family, a clan of witches who have assisted the Belmont clan in destroying Dracula many times.
The closest example to a Wicked Witch in the series is Actrise from Castlevania 64, and she retains her youthful beauty. She had to slaughter her children in exchange for it...
And then played completely straight with Baba Yaga herself, in Lords of Shadow. Sure, she's helping you, but she quite clearly put Gabriel in a Death Trap music box for her own amusement, and is responsible for driving Malphas to insanity. She would have become young and presumably beautiful (the Death Trap contained a blue rose she needed for a youth potion), had Zobek not killed her offscreen (when he realized she was working for Satan).
Witches appear as enemies in Skyrim, but Hagravens fit the typical description better and pack deadly explosive fire magic. Hagravens are frequently seen leading covens of Witches, and most Witches ultimately plan to become Hagravens.
Mima from Touhou fits this trope. In fact, she's so old that she's a ghost. Her disciple Marisa is a Cute Witch, though.
Shinki also fits, even though she's closer to being a Physical God. Her daughter(?) Alice is half this and half Cute Witch, since Alice is not a human (anymore).
When Patchouli is not a Cute Witch, she's a Wicked Witch who traffic with the Scarlet devil.
It's strongly implied that the Wicked Witch image is the reason Byakuran was imprisoned, despite her kindness.
Minecraft added witches as a second ranged hostile mob in the Pretty Scary Update (version 1.4). They attack by throwing negative status effect splash potions (slowness, poison, damage, & weakness) at the player and use positive status effect potions (healing, fire resistance, & swiftness) to heal/protect themselves.
A pivotal character in the Dragon Age series is a shapeshifter called Flemeth who first appears as a wrinkled crone living in a cottage (in a swamp) with her daughter. The Chasind call her Witch of the Wilds and tell their children she'll eat them if they don't behave ("Bah! As if I had nothing better to do!"). She's extremely powerful, near-immortal, fond of the odd Evil Laugh, and no-one seems to have a clear idea what she is or what she's after. Oh, and she'll go Maleficent on you and turn into a DRAGON if you mess with her.
Both Red and Clare are called witches in No Rest for the Wicked. There is a real witch as well, but she's as tragic as she is scary.
In Sluggy Freelance, Lady Noga is a classic Wicked Witch (while also being a Space Pirate captain). She is very reminiscent of Baba Yaga in both her appearance, Slavic accent, and her love for eating children.
In Homestuck, "witch" is one of the titles that stays with the Troll Empress, even in other universes. This is in direct contrast with Feferi, her descendant, and Jade, her great-granddaughter by adoption, both of whom are Cute Witches.
In Adventure Time the episode "The Witch's Garden" has a witch who has haggish features, green skin, and a back so bent over she is in the shape of an arch. She uses her walking stick for magic, and curses Jake for eating one of the donuts in her garden.
A Wicked Witch called Witch Hazel appeared in the Classic Disney ShortTrick or Treat where she helps Huey, Dewey, and Louie get candy from Donald Duck. She later appeared in a variety of Disney Comics.
To be more specific, in Trick or Treat, Witch Hazel styles herself as the classic Halloween Witch, and while going out for a joyride stirring up trouble and frights, she witnesses Donald's cruel trick on his nephews, which moves her "black heart" into offering her assistance to the boys. First, she attempts to speak diplomatically to Donald, but, after he yanks on her nose and douses her with a bucket of water, she finds the "quacking rogue" so offensive that she has Huey, Dewey, and Louie help her concoct a potent potion to jinx Donald with.
A different Witch Hazel appears in a number of Looney Tunes shorts, starting with Bewitched Bunny.
The winner of the costume contest in "Treehouse of Horror XVI" is a hideous witch. She is disqualified for not wearing a costume as she is a real witch. Angered, she turns everyone into their costumes.
The little-known cartoon, The New Misadventures of Ichabod Crane featured a witch named Velma Van Damme, who was apparently responsible for the headless horseman that terrorized the folks of Sleepy Hollow.
The Wicked Witch (usually going by the name "Wicked") in Cyberchase.
Hogatha from The Smurfs is a short, dumpy hag who's bald (but wears a wig), snorts when she talks (which is how she got her name, apparently), rides a vulture, and can cast evil spells. Most of her schemes either involve trying to find ways to make herself beautiful or force handsome princes to marry her (and naturally, the smurfs always get caught in the middle of these plans).
The witch from the eponymous Alfred J. Kwak episode "The Witch" is teleported from her appearance in Hansel and Gretel. She's basically a checklist of the typical portrayal: fat, ancient, monstrous appearance, tattered clothes, eats children, cackles and flies around on a broom (although she has bat wings...) She also tries to force Alfred to marry her.
Mother Mae-Eye from the Teen Titans episode of the same name was sort of a supervillain version of the witch in Hansel and Gretel. She initially appeared as a grandmotherly old woman, but her true form was a hideous old hag with warty, green skin and three eyes. She was able to brainwash the Titans into thinking she was their mother using the magical - and addictive - pies she made, all the while planning to turn them into one, and when found out, was able to grow to giant size and use them as weapons.
The Witch of Barcelona, Enriqueta Marti, who kidnapped, killed, and ate children in pre-WW1 Spain.
Leonarda Cianciulli, who killed three women, turned their body fat into soap (in one case giving it to her neighbours) and used their blood as an ingredient for cakes, which were eaten by her friends, her son, and herself. Not only was she a firm believer in divination and magic, but she admitted her victims were human sacrifices offered for the protection of her son.