- “Better is no good either! I demand maximum results!”
- ―The Grand High Witch
The Grand High Witch is the main antagonist of Roald Dahl's 1983 book The Witches, and its 1990 film adaptation. She is the leader of all the Witches on Earth.
She seeks to eliminate all the children on Earth, because she considers them disgusting vermin.
The Grand High Witch is extremely disturbing for a villain appearing in a book for children, and is scarier than most villains appearing in stories for adults; she wears a mask to hide her hideous true face. Bluntly put, she is a child-murderer and a genocidal psychopath.
One of her favorite ways to dispose of children was to turn them into animals their parents hated, and have the parents kill their own children, thinking they are pests. She relies mostly on fear to maintain control over the other witches, killing any of them that dare to contradict her. Her meetings usually involve her killing any disobedient witch, and she possibly deliberately kills a witch yearly, to keep the others on their toes. She also cares little for human adults, and doesn't mind if she accidentally kills them. Being a witch, she is a separate species to humans, and is motivated to hate kids as her well-developed nose makes them smell like dog feces to her.
As one of the most influential and powerful sorceresses on Earth, she leads a secret society of like-minded witches in their never-ending quest to kill and torture children.
In the past, the Grand High Witch faced off against Helga Evesheim (Luke's grandmother) during the latter's quest to find out more about witches, and even considered her an "old adversary" upon their chance meeting at the hotel in England.
During each and every single meeting she ever attends, she murders one of her own followers simply to keep the other witches focused. This is considered to be her ultimate punishment, and the other witches are terrified of her.
The Grand High Witch concocts a plan to turn all the children of England into mice, to be disposed of either by the witches themselves, or by their unsuspecting parents. She demonstrates her formula by inviting a boy called Bruno, who had been previously given a chocolate with the formula, as he slowly turns into a mouse. However, the meeting is being eavesdropped by Luke, a boy who is in the hotel with his grandmother Helga, who warned him about witches and is implied to have faced the Grand High Witch before.
One of the witches catches the scent of Luke, so the Grand High Witch tracks him down and force-feeds him her formula, turning him into a mouse as well. He manages to escape and meet with Bruno, the two going after Helga's room, where they plan to stop the witches plan. Luke manages to steal the formula and slip it on the witches soup. In the end, the Grand High Witch suffers a somewhat fitting demise when her own magic was used against her and she (along with all of her followers, except Susan Irvine whom she banned in the celebration) is transformed into a mouse. While the mice-transformed witches run rampant around the hotel and are killed by the staff, the Grand High Witch is killed by the hotel manager, who uses a cleaver to slice her in half.
Luke inadvertently discovers the witches while playing with his pet mice inside the ballroom, where the witches hold their meeting. The Grand High Witch unveils her latest weapon: a formula to turn children into mice, which they will use on confectionery products in sweet shops and candy stores to be opened using money provided by the Grand High Witch. Bruno is lured into the room, having already been given chocolate laced with the formula a few hours earlier. He turns into a mouse and flees. Luke attempts to escape but is also captured and turned into a mouse, though he avoids being squashed. He finds Bruno and reunites with Helga who recovered while Luke was adventuring.
Luke devises a plan to kill the witches by sneaking into the Grand High Witch's room to steal a bottle of the formula. Luke manages to drop the bottle into a pot of cress soup destined for the witches' dinner tables. Mr. Jenkins also orders the soup, though Helga stops him from consuming it at the last minute.
As the witches enter the dining room, the Grand High Witch's former assistant Miss Irvine quits working with the witches, and gets spared from the massacre that is about to happen. The formula turns all the witches into mice, just after Bruno speaks up to tell his father that he is really a mouse. The staff and hotel guests join in killing the mice, unknowingly ridding England of its witches, as Helga returns Bruno to his parents. The Grand High Witch is spotted by Helga, who traps her under a water jug, enabling Mr. Stringer to dispatch her with a meat cleaver.