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Literature / Hex

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Original Dutch cover art
Hex is a Dutch horror novel by Thomas Olde Heuvelt which has been translated into a number of different languages, including English. In these translations the book has been slightly rewritten; while the original version of the story takes place in the Netherlands, the international version moves the action to the United States.

Black Spring is a seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a seventeenth-century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Blind and silenced, she walks the streets and enters homes at will. She stands next to children's beds for nights on end. So accustomed to her have the townsfolk become that they often forget she's there. Or what a threat she poses. Because if the stitches are ever cut open, the story goes, the whole town will die. The curse must not be allowed to spread. The elders of Black Spring have used high-tech surveillance to quarantine the town. Frustrated with being kept in lockdown, the town's teenagers decide to break the strict regulations and go viral with the haunting. But, in so doing, they send the town spiraling into a dark nightmare.


Tropes in this book:

  • Anti-Villain: Katherine. She is the most dangerous person in town, perhaps in the world, but by the end of the book we see that she only wants to protect the children and wishes to have some of her own again. Unfortunately, nobody else understands this and use her presence as an excuse to cause chaos and sacrifice their own.
  • Apocalypse How: A Class 0 is stated to have wiped out the original town that brought about the Witch's curse. Black Spring was founded on the same spot and inherited the Witch. Happens again in the end.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Steve wishes for Katherine to bring Tyler back from the dead. But after he fails her test, Tyler still comes back...but Steve knows that he wouldn’t be the same.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: There are a lot of bad people in Black Spring, but there are plenty who are in denial about it or have sympathetic backstories as well.
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  • Black Speech: Katherine whispers in an unknown language, and hearing it makes you want to kill yourself.
  • Bury Your Gays: Matt, who burns to death in the church.
  • Captured Super-Entity: Katherine, whose spirit was bound in chains with her eyes and mouth stitched shut at some point after her death.
  • Children Are Innocent: Even though what they did was wrong and disgusting, many in town can't help but see Jaydon, Justin, and Burak this way when they're sentenced to be lashed as punishment for stoning Katherine. The theme of the book can actually be boiled down to this, as Katherine tries to protect the children of the town, even when the other residents use her as an excuse to torture and execute them.
  • Cultural Translation: The setting of the story was changed from the Netherlands to the USA in the translation.
  • Eldritch Location: Black Spring is strongly implied to be one, beyond the Witch's presence.
  • Mouth Stitched Shut: The mouth and eyes of the Witch are sewn shut.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Fletcher, as well as several other animals, instinctively know that Katherine is a dark presence.
  • Eye Scream: Katherine's eyes are stitched shut. Matt glues his closed after seeing Tyler kill himself.
  • Facial Horror: Katherine van Wylder, whose eyes and face have been stitched shut.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: At the end of the book it's implied that while the curse may be making things move faster, all the hysteria, violence, and evil that comes to pass is due to everyone in the town distrusting one another and losing their minds, rather than something Katherine is doing intentionally.
  • Ignored Epiphany: There are a few points where Katherine tries to show the town that no one should have to sacrifice something they love to save something else they love. Nobody catches on, however.
  • Implicit Prison: Black Spring. Those who live there, either through moving or being born there, can't ever leave lest the curse drive them to kill themselves.
  • Kill 'Em All: Every resident of Black Spring who hasn't been killed already in the mob attacks on Christmas Eve drowns themselves in the river in the morning.
  • Liz Lemon Job: Robert Grim has to deal with tracking Katherine across town, keeping her from being discovered by outsiders, trying to keep people from moving into the city, trying to keep the town council in check, and generally keeping the piece.
  • Mundane Fantastic: Katherine to the townsfolk, who have been living with her so long that she's just another part of life. One of her earliest appearances is in the Grant house, where Jocelyn has draped a dishcloth over her head to keep her from being too distracting.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: All over the place. It's suggested that outsiders who attempt to study the Witch rationally feel compelled to try and free her. Just one reason the government's keen to keep a lid on Black Spring.
  • Pet the Dog: Katherine in the last act gets some moments. She offers to resurrect Tyler for Steve, and she takes two neglected children to be her own as she tries to leave town. Too bad both of these go horribly wrong.
  • Psychic-Assisted Suicide: Katherine's whispers can drive a person to kill themselves, and the curse makes people want to do the same if they are outside the town for too long.
  • Shaming the Mob: Grim tries this several times when things start to get out of hand. It doesn't always work.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Black Spring. The novel has a lot of fun working out how a town might hide a dark secret in the modern world of mass media and social media.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Katherine's backstory. Her son died, and she (maybe) used witchcraft to bring him back. The people of Black Spring captured them and told her to kill her son herself, or they would kill him and her daughter too (and it's pointed out later that the daughter probably wouldn't have been allowed to live either way). After she did that, she was forced to hang herself as a form of atonement. Then, after coming back as a spirit, a different generation of townsfolk sewed her eyes and mouth shut.
  • Stepford Suburbia: All the darkness of Black Spring is disguised under a kind and communal veneer, which starts to break down as things get more and more serious.
  • What You Are in the Dark: While the many townsfolk opposes the flogging of Jaydon, Justin, and Burak during the town hall discussion, when they put it to a vote it comes down heavily in favour of the punishment.
  • Wicked Witch: Katherine van Wylder. Maybe.
  • Witch Hunt: Katherine was a victim of one, and in the modern day most of the proceedings over who to blame for the various tragedies throughout town follow the same pattern.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: It’s hard not to feel sorry for the Witch once her backstory is revealed.

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