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Good Witch Versus Bad Witch

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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 weird 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 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 and contrast Dark Is Not Evil (the good witch may or may not look like a Wicked Witch to drive a point across), The Dark Side, Bad Powers, Good People, and Fantastic Racism.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • 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 it seemed- 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 Negima! Magister Negi Magi 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.

    Comic Books 
  • Castle Waiting has Melora (good fairy godmother) versus Mald (evil witch who traffics with demons) in its opening section, which retells Sleeping Beauty.
  • Hillbilly treats witches as usually Villain by Default, with the exception of a single good witch, Alma Rose. However, in the backstory there was once a powerful and heroic sorceress called the Stone Turner, and her equally-heroic descendant, James Stoneturner, has inherited her magic. The difference between their "good" magic and the "evil" magic of the witches has yet to be delved into in any detail.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • 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.
  • Scooby-Doo! and the Witch's Ghost centers its climax around the ghost of evil witch Sarah Ravencroft terrorising the town, and the only one that can defeat her being Hex Girls band member Thorn - who is a benevolent Wiccan healer.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The latter half of The Craft focuses on the conflict between Nancy Downs (the bad witch) and Sarah Bailey (the good witch). The main conflict is that Sarah is natural witch with most of her spells happening pretty quickly, but becomes conscious about throwing things out of balance. Nancy pursues power at all costs, regardless of the consequences. She becomes addicted to power and it is left to Sarah to face her fears of going the same way in order to stop her rampage.
  • Hocus Pocus 2 has the Sanderson sisters, the evil witches from the first film, accidentally resurrected by two teenagers who are studying witchcraft. Becca, the leader of the friend group, turns out to be a witch whose powers activate on her 16th birthday so her, Izzy and Cassie form a benevolent coven to battle the Sandersons.
  • Sleepy Hollow (1999) leaves it in doubt that golden-haired Ingenue Katrina Van Tassel, who is seen practising magic, might be the one summoning the Headless Horseman. She isn't, and the true Wicked Witch is her stepmother, while Katrina helps Ichabod defeat her.
  • Fin Raziel (good witch) and Queen Bavmorda (bad witch) in Willow.
  • The Wizard of Oz is as close as it comes to a Trope Namer: one of the first things Glinda asks Dorothy is if she's "a good witch, or a bad witch". The difference, it seems, is that the good witches get names, while all the bad witches get is a cardinal direction (the wicked witches of East and West, respectively. Good witches seem to also get cardinal directions, as Glinda introduces herself as witch of the North). Alongside the three witches, there's also a Wizard, although the twist is that the wizard has been faking it the whole time.
  • 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.
  • Most witches in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters are evil. However, as the heroes find out, not only do good witches exist, but their mother was one as well and passed her power on to Gretel. In addition, Hansel's Love Interest turns out to be a good witch who faces off against the head evil witch but ends up dying.
  • Star Wars has a Wizards from Outer Space variant in the form of the heroic Jedi and villainous Sith.
  • '50s Dark Fantasy B-Movie The Undead inverts the Beauty Equals Goodness angle, with the good witch Meg Maud as an ugly old lady who tricked the devil into giving her magic without taking her soul, while the Hot Witch Livia is one of the main villains.

  • Land of Oz:
    • 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.)
    • The Downplayed Wicked Witch Mombi in The Marvelous Land of Oz is minor witch living in isolation with Tip. She develops delusions of grandeur, and winds up facing Glinda, against whom she is no match.
    • The Road to Oz upgrades Mombi to the former Wicked Witch of the North, defeated by the Good Witch of the North.
    • The Tin Woodman of Oz downplays the Witch of the East's wickedness: the tinsmith who gave the Tin Woodman and the Tin Soldier their tin bodies tells about having injured himself severely, and going to the Witch who readily heals him.
  • 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 The 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")
  • Witches Abroad: The conflict between Granny Weatherwax and her elder sister Lily. Weatherwax is a Good Witch with some of the personality of a Bad one, being a classic case of Good Is Not Nice (and certainly not soft) and Dark Is Not Evil. She was supposed to be the Bad Witch, until her "good" older sister Lily went evil and started calling herself Lilith, and is so deluded she honestly believes she is the good witch while Granny (as well as anyone with her) is evil. Granny has never forgiven her for it, and lives in fear of "turning to the bad" herself.
    Granny: I'm goin' to give you the hidin' our Mam never gave you, Lily Weatherwax. Not with magic, not with headology, not with a stick like our Dad had, aye, and used a fair bit as I recall - but with skin. And not because you was the bad one. Not because you meddled with stories. Everyone has a path they got to tread. But because, and I wants you to understand this prop'ly, after you went I had to be the good one. You had all the fun. An' there's no way I can make you pay for that, Lily, but I'm surely goin' to give it a try...
    Lily: But I ... I ... I'm the good one. I'm the good one. I can't lose. I'm the godmother. You're the wicked witch.
    Granny: Good? Good? Feeding people to stories? Twisting people's lives? That's good, is it? You mean you didn't even have fun? If I'd been as bad as you, I'd have been a whole lot worse. Better at it than you'd ever dreamed of.
  • Sweet & Bitter Magic: Tamsin is a good witch who's repentant of having used dark magic in the past, trying to stop the new dark witch using it, who's revealed as her sister Marlena. However, it turns out that the dark witch isn't innately evil, but corrupted by the dark magic, and goes back to normal after she's depowered.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The two brothers in The 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.
  • In Once Upon a Time, most antagonists are magic users, starting with the Evil Queen in season 1. However, protagonist Emma becomes able to use "light magic", and other characters like Elsa come to learn how to use their powers for good. Even the Queen and the Wicked Witch of the West undergo a Heel–Face Turn, leaving them to battle even worse witches like the Black Fairy and Mother Gothel.
  • Charmed (1998):
    • Initially the main enemies the good Charmed Ones have to face are warlocks and demons, but evil witches begin showing up as antagonists as early as Season 2 - Tuatha (implied to be the Blair Witch), Aunt Gail and her coven, the Sea Hag, the Stillman sisters etc.
    • Both Phoebe and Paige discover that their past lives were evil. Paige's is even called the Evil Enchantress, and she travels to the past to do battle with her.
    • An episode with Fairy Tale Motifs has a Wicked Witch escape from being trapped in a magic mirror, and go after the sisters with various fairy tale objects. Notable because their grandmother quickly realises it's an evil witch behind it, as opposed to Phoebe convinced it's her ex-husband. Naturally when she's hit with a vanquishing potion, she wails I'm Melting!.
    • The Big Bad of the final season is the Ultimate Power - two witch sisters Billie and Christy. However, only Christy proves to be irredeemably evil; Billie had been raised by the Charmed Ones as a student, and convinced to turn on them by her sister, who in turn was raised by the Triad.
  • The 1998 series of The Worst Witch:
    • The Halloween Episode adapts the first book's plot of Mildred stumbling across Miss Cackle's Evil Twin Agatha, and her band of wicked witches planning to take over the school by turning everyone into frogs. They return in the finale to come after the girls once again.
    • A Season 3 episode has the girls accidentally bringing the fabled heroic witch Lucy Fairweather into the present, along with the evil Harriet Hogweed, and having to guess who is who.
    • The series finale has the girls accidentally summoning 'The Uninvited' - the wicked witch from Sleeping Beauty, who puts the whole school to sleep. Miss Hardbroom does battle with her.
  • Emerald City: Being an Oz adaptation, it should be no surprise that this comes up. It doesn't take long for it to become apparent that the difference between a "good witch" and a "bad witch" is largely political; the Witch of the West gets treated as wicked for running a brothel and largely being acerbic, but has a Hidden Heart of Gold and tries to be helpful where she can. Meanwhile, Glinda, the Witch of the North, is seen as good and pure for being polite and following the rules, but is actually running a Super-Soldier program with child witches. Not to mention that the question largely revolves around the morality of Dorothy, because no one believes her when she says she's not a witch at all.
    West: So, are you a good witch or a bad witch? Don't worry, there's no wrong answer. Unfortunately, there's no right answer either.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: The Meteor Man, one of the Istari, fights the three evil Priestesses of Sauron from Rhun in the final of Season 1. The Dweller in particular is able to wield powerfull potent magic. He defeats them by making them to return to their wraith-like forms.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Within the witchcraft community, there is a divide on whether witches should curse or not. Some witches (like Wiccans) feel that cursing is wrong under any circumstance, while some witches see cursing as a form of protection (like cursing a serial killer to be shot dead by police). Many consider witches to be creatures of justice by default, meaning a curse would only work if the witch casting it really believes it is deserved, which is still prone to errors. It's a rather hot debate at times.

  • Zigzagged and deconstructed in Wicked. Neither Elphaba nor Galinda is remotely "bad" at the beginning of the story - Elphaba has been continually discriminated against for her unusual skin color, and Galinda is a bit of an Alpha Bitch, but they eventually come to respect each other and are fast friends. But when Elphaba decides to take a stand against the rights of Talking Animals being taken away, she becomes Public Enemy Number 1, and is forced to go underground to continue her work while Galinda (now Glinda) becomes the face of the government and is declared a "good" witch. Eventually, Elphaba decides that if she's going to be labeled as "evil", she may as well act it (although the only evil things she does are imprison Dorothy to get her sister's shoes back). By the end of the show, Glinda resolves to be the good witch the people think she is, and Elphaba escapes Oz once and for all.

    Video Games 

    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. Maria, despite her creepy happiness to the imminent death of the whole family (including her mother) and the fact that she helps and supports Beatrice, is still to be considered a good witch because she sincerely believes that with death all of them will achieve eternal peace and happiness in the Golden Land. 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 the real 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.

    Web Animation 
  • Dreamscape: Melissa is the good witch, and Melinda, her former master, is the bad witch. Melissa underwent a Heel–Face Turn and uses her powerful magic to destroy evil instead of causing it. Melinda was sealed away because of her dark powers, which she tried to use to bring about The End of the World as We Know It.
  • RWBY: Episode 1 has a Wizard Duel between the heroically-aligned Glynda Goodwitch and the villainous Cinder Fall.


    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.