The Worst Witch
The covers from the first seven books, shown in the publication order.
The Worst Witch
The Worst Witch Strikes Again
A Bad Spell for the Worst Witch
The Worst Witch All at Sea
The Worst Witch Saves the Day
The Worst Witch to the Rescue
The Worst Witch and the Wishing Star
First Prize for The Worst Witch
|Cover artist||Jill Murphy|
|Genre||Fantasy, children's books|
|Publisher||Allison & Busby (original)|
Puffin Books (current)
|No. of books||8|
The Worst Witch is a series of children's books written and illustrated by Jill Murphy. The series are primarily boarding school and fantasy stories, with eight books published. The first, The Worst Witch, was published in 1974 by Allison & Busby, and the most recent, First Prize for the Worst Witch, was published in 2018 by Puffin Books, the current publisher of the series. The books have become some of the most successful titles on the Young Puffin paperback list and have sold more than 5 million copies. Mildred Hubble, a young witch who attends Miss Cackle's Academy for Witches, is considered the worst witch.
In 1986, the first book in the series was made into a television film of the same name. A TV series based on the books aired from 1998 to 2001, and has inspired two spin-offs, Weirdsister College, aired in 2001, and The New Worst Witch, aired in 2005. In January 2017, a new series premiered in some markets as a CBBC, ZDF, and Netflix co-production and as of July 2017 it was released internationally on Netflix as a Netflix Original.
The books focus on Mildred Hubble, a young witch who attends Miss Cackle's Academy for Witches, a school of magic. Although well-intentioned, Mildred's clumsy personality leads the girl to disastrous situations, and she is thus considered the worst student in the school. The benevolent headmistress, Miss Cackle, is generally understanding, whereas Mildred's form teacher Miss Hardbroom thinks she just isn't trying hard enough. Mildred's friends include Maud Spellbody, a rotund, sensible girl who is always trying to avoid confusion, and Enid Nightshade, a practical joker who is more likely than Mildred to get them all into trouble. The three girls have a strong rivalry with Ethel Hallow, a high-born, snobbish and vindictive classmate.
Each book covers one term at the school. There are two terms each year: the Winter term, from September to January, and the Summer term, from March to July. In First Prize for the Worst Witch, the most recent book, Mildred is in the Summer term of her fourth year.
The author Jill Murphy began writing The Worst Witch at the age of 15, while still at school, and based many points of the stories on her own school experiences at Ursuline Convent in Wimbledon, England, with Singing becoming Chanting, Chemistry becoming Potions and so on. Recalling how she got the idea for the story, she said: "My two friends and I used to come home in our dark uniforms, looking very scruffy at the end of the day – my dark plaits sprouting tufts, with lost hair ribbons. My Mum used to say 'Look at you all. You look like the three witches!' and it gave me the idea for a witch's school – so that it was exactly like my school, but with a subtle touch of magic. All the characters are based on my school friends (and enemies) and teachers." Murphy concluded the first book at the age of 18, but failed to achieve a publishing deal, causing her to "put it in a drawer" and decide to "concentrate on other things instead." After working as a nanny and in a children's home, Murphy had a phone call from a small publisher interested in the book. The Worst Witch was finally published in 1974, when Murphy was 24.
The Worst Witch
The novel begins with Mildred Hubble and the upcoming traditional assembly where all of the first-years are given their own black cats that they will teach to ride on their broomsticks with them. Unlike the other girls, who receive black kittens, Mildred receives a tabby cat, which she simply calls Tabby. The kitten is unable to sit on a broomstick, so Mildred carries Tabby in her bag. Miss Hardbroom disapproves and Mildred has to stop. Afterwards, another witch called Ethel Hallow teases Mildred about it, and dares her to turn her into a frog. Mildred loses her temper and turns Ethel into a pig instead.
In the next chapter, Mildred and Maud inadvertently make an invisibility potion instead of a laughing potion in their class test.
In the following chapter, the girls are practising for a broomstick display for Halloween. Ethel lends Mildred her spare broom, on which she has secretly put a spell. During the Halloween festival, Mildred's broom starts bucking, causing all the girls to fall from their broomsticks. The Chief Magician denounces the academy, and Mildred is summoned to a meeting with Miss Cackle and Miss Hardbroom the next morning. Mildred, fearing expulsion, decides to run away with Tabby.
When walking through the forests near the academy, Mildred hears voices through the trees and comes across a group of witches, headed by one who looks like Miss Cackle. After hearing their plot to turn every teacher and student witch in the academy into frogs, Mildred turns the group into snails, packs them into cardboard boxes and takes them back to the academy. At first, Miss Cackle and Miss Hardbroom refuse to believe her, but when Mildred describes the leader, Miss Cackle realises she sounds like her identical twin sister, Agatha. They turn Agatha and the rest of the group back into humans, Mildred's interview is cancelled, and she is praised as a hero to the rest of the academy.
The Worst Witch Strikes Again
The Worst Witch Strikes Again was first published in 1980 by Allison & Busby and features a new character, Enid Nightshade.
Mildred Hubble returns to Miss Cackle's Academy for Witches for the Summer Term of her first year. Miss Cackle has trusted Mildred to look after new girl Enid Nightshade and help her settle in. Mildred starts showing Enid around the academy, only to discover that Enid has smuggled a monkey into school with her. During the assembly that follows, Miss Cackle announces her birthday celebration.
During a chanting lesson with Miss Bat after assembly, Enid deliberately sings awkwardly and out of tune, causing Mildred to burst into hysterical laughter. Mildred is sent to Miss Cackle's office. When going up to her room, Mildred checks on Enid's monkey, causing it to escape. Mildred chases it down the stairs and bumps into Miss Hardbroom, who sends her to the library to study.
After spotting the monkey on top of one of the castle towers Mildred jumps onto her broomstick. Miss Hardbroom turns the monkey into its original form, a normal regulation black cat. Enid secretly reveals to Mildred that she turned the cat into a monkey for fun.
On Sports Day, Mildred and Enid become partners. Enid places a spell on Mildred's pole, so in the pole-vaulting contest, Mildred springs high into the air and lands into Miss Hardbroom's study via the window. Moments later, Miss Cackle, Miss Hardbroom, and Miss Drill arrive and Miss Cackle angrily says that if there is any more bother from Mildred that term, she will be expelled.
Determined to avoid expulsion for the rest of the term, Mildred refuses every daring suggestion Enid makes. Enid decides to skip Miss Cackle's boring birthday celebration and hides in a store cupboard, pulling Mildred in with her. Ethel Hallow locks the door behind them.
Inside the cupboard, the two girls find an old broomstick that they use to fly out of a slit-window leading into the assembly hall. As luck has it, Maud is on stage, having been chosen to recite the first years' contribution to the recital. Maud introduces Mildred and Enid as a surprise broomstick display item. The display is a disaster, but Miss Cackle decides it is the thought that counts, and praises them highly. The three girls become friends.
A Bad Spell for the Worst Witch
Mildred Hubble returns to Miss Cackle's Academy for Witches for her second year, determined to lose her embarrassing reputation as "the worst witch in the school". After Maud Spellbody and Enid Nightshade arrive, the three bump into two first-years (one of whom reminds Mildred very strongly of someone, the other with ginger frizzy hair in bunches). The one who seems familiar bursts into tears and clings onto Mildred when she hears that many of the teachers (including Miss Hardbroom) are quite strict. Mildred also accidentally slips a made-up story about Miss Hardbroom turning a student into a frog when she was just two seconds late for a lesson. To the girl's horror, they also learn that they have Miss Hardbroom for another year.
The next morning, a fire bell rings. Mildred scrambles into her clothes but notices outside her window Miss Hardbroom standing in the playground surrounded by hazy purple smoke. Thinking she is in a state of shock, Mildred tries to douse her in freezing cold water but the bucket slips off her broomstick and lands with a clang on Miss Hardbroom's head. After witnessing the incident, Ethel Hallow confronts Mildred at lunchtime, saying that the girl she told the frog story to was her younger sister, Sybil. After prodding at Mildred, Mildred loses her temper and insults Ethel's family ("All you Hallows are weeds, weeds, weeds!").
After an unfortunate flying lesson, where Tabby makes another terrifying attempt to avoid sitting on the end of the broomstick, Miss Hardbroom sends Mildred to her room to calm down. When sitting in her bed, however, Mildred accidentally falls asleep and does not hear Ethel creeping into her room. Mildred is awoken by her bedroom door shutting, only to find that everything looks giant-sized, even Tabby. Peeking in the mirror, she finds that somebody has turned her into a frog. When jumping onto her bed, the frog-Mildred notices a tatty handful of weeds on her pillow, no doubt left by Ethel as a reference to her family's insult and why she turned her into the frog.
Panicking, Mildred squeezes under the gap under her bedroom door and hops off to a potions lesson, where everyone has noticed her disappearance. Miss Hardbroom, however, discovers her and puts her in a jar. During the lesson, Mildred manages to escape from the jar and hops over to Ethel's desk, where she drinks an invisibility potion. Taking advantage of her invisibility, the frog-Mildred hops out of the academy and lands in the lily pond on the castle grounds.
There, Mildred meets another frog who also was a human once called Algernon Rowan-Webb. Algernon reveals that he was turned into a frog by a fellow magician after an argument. Algernon also reveals that the one thing he craves is some toast and crumpets with butter.
Promising to return for him, Mildred hops back up to the academy. Maud and Enid instantly recognise her and take her to Ethel, who reluctantly turns her back into a human. Miss Hardbroom comes by and Ethel tells her that she caught Maud, Enid, and Mildred sneaking around the school. Miss Hardbroom is about to give Mildred a punishment when she notices that Mildred's feet are still invisible. Mildred tells her what really happened. Miss Hardbroom tells Mildred and Ethel to report to her office the next day.
In the morning, Miss Hardbroom bans both Mildred and Ethel from attending the Halloween ceremonies – the only chance Mildred would have had to come into contact with a magician who could turn Algernon back into a human. Mildred feels she has no choice but to kidnap somebody who is going to the Halloween festival. She tricks a third-year witch, Griselda Blackwood, into looking under her bed for an imaginary beetle where Mildred ties her up and takes her cat.
Later, Ethel discovers Griselda being held captive in Mildred's room and the two fly off to the festival to turn Mildred in. Mildred gives herself away and barges up to Mr Hellibore and gives him the box that contains Algernon. Mr Hellibore, one of Algernon's fellow magicians at the time of his transformation, turns him back to his human form.
As a last request from Mildred, Mr Hellibore magics up a pot of tea along with some toast and crumpets with butter. The three head off to enjoy the supper.
The Worst Witch All at Sea
Mildred Hubble returns to Miss Cackle's Academy for Witches for the Summer Term of her second year. Instead of the usual black-and-grey-checked dresses, Miss Hardbroom persuaded Miss Cackle to change them to plain black. After crash-landing in a pile of snow and meeting up with her best friends, Maud Spellbody and Enid Nightshade, Ethel Hallow appears and tells Mildred that Miss Cackle wants to see her.
Miss Cackle suggests to Mildred that she replaces Tabby. Last term, a third-year witch, Fenella Feverfew, transferred to Miss Pentangle's Academy several mountaintops away and left behind her sleek black cat, Ebony, since they have owls at Miss Pentangle's instead of black cats. Down in the kitchens, Mildred reluctantly hands over Tabby to Miss Tapioca (to catch mice), who gives her Ebony in return. Mildred is too upset to tell either Maud or Enid about it. Miss Hardbroom also announces that Mr Rowan-Webb, the frog-magician whom Mildred saved from the lilypond the previous term, has invited all the second-years to spend a week's holiday at his castle, Gloom Castle at Grim Cove.
Unable to bear the thought of a week without Tabby, on the morning before the girls set out for Grim Cove, Mildred sneaks down into the school kitchens, lets Ebony out of his cage and instead hides Tabby inside.
When they reach Gloom Castle, they find that it is falling apart: the armchairs have springs and stuffing sticking out and there are no proper beds (apart from one, which Ethel Hallow soon claims) other than old sleeping-bags, piles of pillows, and what appear to be hospital trolleys. Mildred gets an old sleeping-bag under the window, and manages to divert attention away from Tabby.
Mildred spots a boat attached to a breakwater and decides to hide Tabby in the cabin of the boat. After a wonderful day on the beach, Mildred tries to sneak some kippers to Tabby, but Ethel catches Mildred, who pretends to be looking for some mythical treasure on Cat's Head Rock in front of the cove in the boat on the breakwater. As the two head back up the cliff stairs, they witness Miss Hardbroom flying down to the beach on her broomstick with her own black cat, Morgana. Morgana runs to the boat and feeds on the kippers that were meant for Tabby. Miss Hardbroom spots both Tabby in the cabin and Morgana eating the fish. Stepping on board to investigate, she slips on a kipper, bangs her head and falls unconscious.
Sneaking out to feed Tabby again, Mildred is confronted by Ethel, who snidely tells her that she untied the boat and let it drift out to sea. Mildred manages to get to the boat where she discovers not only Tabby, but the comatose Miss Hardbroom. Minutes after falling onto the boat, they bump into Cat's Head Rock. Mildred ties the boat onto an odd-looking chunk of rock and falls asleep.
When she awakens, she finds that Maud and Enid have discovered them. Mildred tells them that there is something strange about the rock the boat is tied to. They pull at it and find that it is the mythical treasure chest. When they get back, Miss Hardbroom has revived and her injured head is bandaged. The contents of the treasure chest are used to repair Gloom Castle and Mildred is given Tabby back as a reward.
Mildred enjoys the rest of the holidays, feeling like "the luckiest girl in the world instead of the worst witch in the school".
The Worst Witch Saves the Day
Mildred Hubble is returning to Miss Cackle's Academy for Witches on the first day of her third year. After meeting up with her friends, Maud Spellbody and Enid Nightshade, Mildred sees that Maud's hair is curly (she borrowed a hairstyling brush from her aunt) and they also learn that they will have a new form-teacher this year other than Miss Hardbroom.
They see in assembly that their new form-teacher will be Miss Granite (who was hired by Miss Cackle after Miss Gribble failed to show discipline and against Miss Hardbroom's advice). Miss Granite is described as being very strange-looking and having "a huge cloud of orange curls " and also wearing "enormous purple-tinted glasses and a short cape with a collar turned up so high that you couldn't see much of her face at all". Miss Granite speaks in a very high-pitched, squeaky voice that shocks everyone including Ethel Hallow.
Mildred unravels her pigtails to try out Maud's styling brush. Maud and Enid find her with her hair loose and a chunk of her hair tangled up with the brush in a huge mess. Ethel comes in and volunteers to help. However, the "help" amounts to taking a pair of scissors and chopping off both the styling brush and the messy hair.
Ethel later offers to help Mildred again in her hair predicament. She formulates a potion that she claims will restore Mildred's hair to its rightful length. Mildred applies the potion that night and just when she is dropping off to sleep, her hair starts growing longer and longer by the minute, engulfing the whole school. Miss Hardbroom comes to investigate, states that Mildred is having "a bad hair day", manages to stop the hair growing and cuts it to its rightful length and vapourises the swathes of hair that had engulfed the whole school.
In a flying lesson, Ethel steals Tabby (who has been suffering a nervous breakdown as a result of the hair incident) and hides him on the roof in front of Miss Granite's study's window.
That night, when trying to recover Tabby, Mildred is locked in a cupboard by someone who seems to be Miss Cackle but is actually Miss Cackle's identical twin Agatha Cackle, who sneaked into the school disguised as Miss Granite. Agatha is trying to turn all the teachers and pupils into snails. Mildred manages to turn herself into an ant, sneaks out of the cupboard and goes to Maud's room, where she tries unsuccessfully to wake her. Fortunately, she is able to attract Maud and Enid's attention by using ink-blots to write two notes – "HELP NOT ANT" attracting their attention to her and "FORGOT SPEL" clarifying her dilemma – and Maud and Enid turn her back into a human. Mildred tells them what is going on and, just as Agatha is about to turn Miss Cackle into a snail, Mildred turns her into a snail herself. They also bump into Miss Hardbroom, who had been away.
Miss Hardbroom suggests that Miss Cackle poses as Agatha and invites Agatha's rebellious coven in, whereupon Mildred and the others will turn them all into snails, which happens. As Mildred, Maud, and Enid go back to bed they say they want Miss Hardbroom as form-teacher. She suddenly appears in front of them and is friendly for a brief moment before strictly telling them to get back to bed with no candles on.
The Worst Witch to the Rescue
The Worst Witch to the Rescue (ISBN 978-0-14-138301-9) was published in 2007 and features Ethel Hallow's only friend, Drusilla Paddock, in a largely increased role since her brief cameo in The Worst Witch All at Sea.
Ethel Hallow is returning to Miss Cackle's Academy for Witches for the Summer Term of her third year. Miss Hardbroom had previously set them a holiday project, but Ethel is doing exactly what Miss Hardbroom told them not to do: trying to think up a project in five minutes flat on the way back to school. Ethel spots Mildred Hubble crash-landed in a tree and manages to help her steady herself. Mildred explains to Ethel her project: a spell that can make animals talk, though it can only work on animals that fit into 25 centimetres and only lasts for two weeks. When helping Mildred out of the tree, Ethel knocks Mildred's luggage out of the tree. While Mildred tries to get Tabby, who had scampered up the tree, Ethel scoops up Mildred's project folder and art bag and her 30 coloured pencils. On the way there, Mildred finds her friends Maud Spellbody and Enid Nightshade. When Mildred tells them about Ethel being nice for a change, Enid suggests she may have taken a "niceness course" during the holidays. Maud and Enid become suspicious when they catch Mildred talking to someone or something in her cat basket.
The girls find that their new form mistress is called Miss Mould, who has a "soft and kindly" voice and "short mousy hair parted in the middle and pulled into a ponytail at her neck". She is a great relief from the horrifically strict Miss Hardbroom and the extremely weird Miss Granite whom they had had the previous term. Mildred sits next to Drusilla Paddock, who swaps places with Ethel after Miss Mould tells Ethel her coils are too short. Minutes later, a maraca-like noise echoes through the classroom. Mildred finds that her coils have turned into five rattlesnakes. Miss Mould gets the whole class outside while Ethel stays inside and evaporates the rattlesnakes. Just then, Miss Hardbroom appears and Miss Mould explains what happened. Miss Hardbroom sends Mildred to her room and bans her from art lessons for the rest of the term. Mildred runs to her room where she figures out it must have been Ethel who turned her pot and coils into the snakes out of jealousy. The next day, in a lesson with Miss Hardbroom, the girls are presenting their projects to the class. Ethel goes first but her project is the same as Mildred's. Mildred shouts to Miss Hardbroom that Ethel had stolen her project. Miss Hardbroom opens Mildred's project folder but finds only many sheets of paper with smiley faces drawn on them in different colours. Miss Hardbroom "transfers" Mildred to her room.
Later, Mildred finds that the creature inside her cat basket, a tortoise called Speedy whom she had used her spell on, can still speak. She renames him Einstein, and he tells her about overhearing her conversation with Ethel inside the tree. After Mildred runs to tell Maud and Enid the good news, Mildred accidentally leaves her bedroom door open and Einstein escapes. While plodding along the corridor he is discovered by Drusilla Paddock, who takes him to Ethel's room. While Ethel and Drusilla talk, it is revealed that Ethel did indeed take Mildred's project and had also "tried out" a snake spell on Mildred's pot and coils in art. Einstein overhears everything.
When they are taking Einstein back to Mildred, Ethel eavesdrops on what Mildred is telling Maud and Enid. After discovering that Einstein can still speak and had overheard the conversation between Ethel and Mildred about the project, and that Einstein only has one more day before the spell wears off and he becomes mute forever, Ethel orders Drusilla to hide Einstein in the hollow pine tree outside the school gates. Einstein is put into a cardboard box that also contains a small green frog called Cyril, the animal whom Ethel had used in her demonstration. Cyril escapes and hops to Mildred's room. Cyril tells Mildred that Drusilla hid Einstein in the hollow pine tree outside the school gates and that he overheard several conversations about stealing projects and turning pots into snakes.
After releasing Cyril into the woods, Mildred gets on her broomstick and, during a violent thunderstorm, finds and rescues Einstein. On landing she is confronted by Miss Hardbroom, who takes Mildred and Einstein inside and, after hearing part of the incidents from Mildred, sets an interview with Mildred and Ethel the next morning. The next morning, Mildred goes to Miss Cackle's office where Einstein, resting in Miss Cackle's overflowing in-tray, awakes and tells Miss Cackle and Miss Hardbroom that he overheard the conversation between Ethel and Mildred in the tree. He also says that he heard Ethel telling Drusilla that she had tried out a snake spell on Mildred's coils and had taken Mildred's project, copied it out in her own writing, and then thrown it in the kitchen bins. Ethel sifts through the rubbish and eventually finds Mildred's tea-stained project. Miss Hardbroom makes Ethel apologise to Mildred in assembly in front of the whole year as an alternative to being expelled for cheating as well as for her actions that put herself and Mildred in great danger.
During a broomstick-flying lesson, Mildred reveals to Maud and Enid that Miss Cackle had provided Miss Mould's classroom with a proper kiln and craft room and she also got to keep Einstein as a pet. As the clock strikes midday, Mildred sprints into her room and hears Einstein speak for the last time in his raspy little voice ("I'm glad I belong to you"), before munching on his carrot and going silent forever.
The Worst Witch and the Wishing Star
Returning from the holidays in stormy weather Mildred, Maud and Enid arrive to be told by Miss Drill that there will be a talent-displaying competition between Miss Cackle's Academy, Moonridge and Pentangle's school to win a swimming pool as the award for the best talent.
Mildred, much to her disappointment, has been chosen to work lantern monitor along with Drusilla and Ethel. On that first night Maud spots a shooting star and Mildred makes a wish followed by Miss Hardbroom who does the same reluctantly. On the first lantern monitor shift Mildred is given a holdall containing safety objects in it. When she reaches the gates to finish the job Mildred spots a stray dog, who she names Star, she takes him to her bedroom as a secret pet, much to the disapproval of Tabby.
During the weeks that follow Mildred, realising that Star is well behaved and calm on a broomstick, trains him to do various tricks with her. Maud and Enid, who realise Mildred isn't spending much time with them, soon discover about Star and are amazed by the tricks Mildred has taught him. Ethel, suspicious about Mildred hiding something in her holdall, reaches into it to discover Star was hidden in it and the both of them collapse into the lanterns igniting the costumes Form Five have made for the talent competition.
Miss Hardbroom, furious, sends Ethel and Mildred along with Star on a lead to Miss Cackle's office for what they had done then Maud and Enid explain about Star's tricks on the broom. Miss Cackle accepts the replacing talent and the next day the competition took place with the schools showing their talents. When it's Mildred's turn she amazes the judges with Star's tricks and wins the competition and the swimming pool. When the pupils go back to their school Miss Cackle allows Mildred to keep Star as her broomstick companion as a special privilege. Mildred later explains to Miss Hardbroom that she wished for Star on the shooting star at the beginning of term which doesn't annoy her as she wished on the star for them to win the competition. The story concludes with the teachers celebrating their victory and at the same time Miss Hardbroom's birthday.
First Prize for the Worst Witch
The book deals with Mildred's graduation at the end of her fourth year. Its writing was delayed when Murphy underwent cancer treatment.
The stories mainly take place within the walls of Miss Cackle's Academy for Witches, a girls-only boarding magic school that is described in the books as a stone castle on top of a mountain, surrounded by pine forest.
The school year is divided into two terms: the Winter term (September–January) and the Summer term (March–July), with a month's holiday between them. Students starts at Cackle's at the age of 12, and finish at the age of 17, for a total of five school years. The students arrive at the start of the term by flying broomsticks, except for the new first years, who walk through walker's gate as they can't fly yet. Halfway through the first term, the first years are each presented with a black kitten- Mildred receives a grey-and-black tabby cat as they apparently ran out of purely black cats- which they teach to ride the broomstick. The first book postulates that the cats weren't for any practical purpose except to keep tradition going, and in Wishing Star, a group of elder witches note that there is no restriction on what animal a witch must have as her flight companion, with cats only being traditional as they are discreet and easy to care for, which leads to Mildred being permitted to fly with her dog, Star, after he shows greater broom aptitude than her cat Tabby. At the end of the first year, each pupil receives a copy of The Popular Book of Spells, a three-inch thick volume bound in black leather. This was not really to be used, as they already had paperback editions for the classroom, but like the cats, it's another piece of tradition. At the end of the fifth and final year, students sit the exams for the W.H.C. (Witches' Higher Certificate), and most pupils were awarded with the certificate.
The first book says that the school winter uniform is composed of "black gymslips, black stockings, black hob-nailed boots, grey shirts and black-and-grey ties." The first book also postulates that "the only touches of colour [on the uniforms] were the sashes round their gymslips – a different colour for each house, although the houses are not named – and the school badge, which was a black cat sitting on a yellow moon." In the summer term, originally the girls wore grey-and-black checked dresses, but this was changed from Worst Witch All At Sea onwards to a simple black dress as Ms Hardbroom felt that the original design was too frivolous.
Mildred "Millie" Hubble is the protagonist of the series. She is a good-hearted, but bungling young witch-in-training, who never seems to get anything right. She is friends with Maud Spellbody and Enid Nightshade and has a strong rivalry with Ethel Hallow. It is Miss Hardbroom, her potions teacher, who calls her "The Worst Witch".
Jill Murphy's illustrations shows that she is tall, with long brown plaits. Some illustrations shows that she frequently fails to tie her bootlaces and the colour ones that her uniform sash is red. According to the author, Mildred's appearance is based on her own appearance as a teenager. She remembers: "Mildred is based on myself when I had plaits so long that I could sit on them!"
Maud Spellbody is Mildred's best friend and the head girl in the first year. Ethel Hallow also seem to hold a rivalry against her. She is fiercely loyal to Mildred and assists her on most of her adventures, often against her better judgment. Maud is a decent and considerate person, but grows weary of Mildred's incessant clumsiness and often lectures her on how to improve herself. Ironically, Maud is not a perfect student, as she is also responsible for a laughing potion going wrong, as she along with Mildred had no idea how to make one. The Worst Witch All at Sea reveals her last name to be Spellbody, rather than "Moonshine", which is what the ITV series dubbed her.
The author's illustrations shows that she is a short, plump girl with wide glasses who always wears her hair in bunches. The colour illustrations reveal that she is blonde and her uniform sash is yellow. According to the author, Maud is based on her best friend as a teenager, a girl called Elizabeth.
Ethel Hallow is Mildred's acid-tongued rival. She does very well in class, comes from a prominent witch family, and gives the impression of being a model student. However, she is spoiled, snobbish and vindictive although able to turn on the charm and act sweet and innocent when the teachers are near, playing the role of a victim with Mildred as the bully. Up until The Worst Witch to the Rescue, she is Miss Hardbroom's favourite student; however, in the same book, she is exposed as a cheat and a liar, and thus has to watch her step lest she incur her teacher's wrath.
The book illustrations shows that she is a tall, skinny and sharp-faced young girl. Her hair is mousy brown and her uniform sash is purple.
In the first book of the series, it is revealed without explanation that Ethel and Mildred were enemies prior to the story. Ethel takes pleasure in taunting Mildred about her inability to train her cat into riding a broomstick, and Mildred responds by turning her into a pig. From then on Mildred and Ethel resent each other, and Ethel vows to get Mildred expelled. So far she has been unsuccessful. In the first five books she appears to have no friends, although her young sister, Sybil, makes an appearance in A Bad Spell for the Worst Witch. A friend of Ethel's, Drusilla, makes a brief appearance in The Worst Witch All at Sea and later plays a bigger part in The Worst Witch to the Rescue, where she hides Mildred's tortoise up a tree. Ethel is Mildred's arch-enemy.
Another of one Mildred's closest friends. She makes her debut in The Worst Witch Strikes Again after she is transferred to Miss Cackle's Academy and Mildred is assigned to look after her, to the irritation of Miss Hardbroom. At first Mildred thinks Enid will simply be a nuisance and a pain, but she turns out to be a wild practical joker. Her attempts to make Mildred like her only result in Mildred getting into trouble, for example, turning her cat into a monkey and enchanting a vaulting pole which catapults Mildred into the air and into Miss Hardbroom's study.
Enid is tall, well-built and rather muscular for a girl. She has large limbs and fair hair, usually in one long plait. In the TV series she is small and waiflike with dark hair. She takes an instant liking to Mildred and hopes to become her friend, implying that she is not a judgmental girl. Overall she is friendly and kind-hearted, but sometimes oversteps the mark in her attempt to befriend and help people, and being nice. Aside from Mildred herself, Enid is considered the second worst witch in the Academy, as she too is hopeless when it comes to broomstick riding and magic.
Miss Hardbroom is the fearsome deputy headmistress of Miss Cackle's Academy and the clear power behind the throne. She is Mildred's form mistress in first form and through various combinations of events continues to be her form mistress throughout the series. Tall, bony and sour-faced, she strikes fear into the pupils' hearts. "HB", as the girls refer to her, seems to have a particular resentment of Mildred. Miss Hardbroom frequently praises and rewards Ethel Hallow, and frequently rebukes Mildred in front of the other students. It is Miss Hardbroom who gives Mildred the title of "the worst witch in the school".
In the later books Miss Hardbroom's humanity comes through on occasion, in incidents such as her accident in The Worst Witch All at Sea, the restoring of Mildred's hair to its rightful length in The Worst Witch Saves the Day, and her admitting of her error of judgment at the end of The Worst Witch to the Rescue.
Miss Hardbroom usually has her hair tied up in a tight bun which makes her face look really long. Miss Hardbroom is very strict on all of the girls except Ethel Hallow, the teachers' pet.
Amelia Cackle (Ada Cackle in the 2017 TV series) is the kind-hearted headmistress of the Academy. Plump and pleasant, Miss Cackle is more lenient towards Mildred when she is in trouble, and rather than intimidate the girl as Miss Hardbroom does, Miss Cackle gives long, sorrowful lectures which causes Mildred to feel guilty for the trouble she is in. Her birthday is celebrated at her beloved Academy, and her students believe it to be the most boring event of the year. Despite her kind heart, Miss Cackle can be intimidating when she wants to, and has occasionally broken into fits of rage at Mildred, most notably both when Mildred humiliated the reputation of the Academy by ruining a broomstick display to honour the Wizards' Council (Ethel had cursed Mildred to ensure she would make a fool of herself), and after she incorrectly believed Mildred was cheating at the school sport's day, after Enid cast an improper spell upon Mildred to make sure she won the pole-vaulting competition. However, these moments of anger are few and short-lived.
Miss Cackle has an evil twin sister named Agatha Cackle, who is bitterly jealous of her position of authority at the Academy. In the first of the series, Agatha and her coven of rebellious witches plotted to overthrow Miss Cackle and turn her, the staff, and students into frogs as they slept. Mildred caught them as they brewed their invisibility potion, by turning them into snails and taking them to the school to show Miss Cackle. Ashamed that her own sister would break the Witches' Code, she ordered Agatha to accept defeat and live the code like all decent witches. Agatha reluctantly co-operated. She tries to take over again at the end of series 1, by pretending to be Miss Cackle and dragging Mildred out of the classroom by her ear.
The "best friend" of Ethel Hallow, with whom she is often paired up. Drusilla appears only briefly in The Worst Witch All at Sea, but her role in the TV series and in the later books increases greatly. Drusilla is a horrible, vindictive bully, but lacks the acid-tongued spite of Ethel, and seems to be in great awe of her. Their "friendship" seems to be more of an alliance or a form of servitude: Ethel and Drusilla are not true friends, they have stuck beside each other because nobody else can bear to be around them. Drusilla seems to have no will of her own. Drusilla does everything Ethel orders her to, and in one book (The Worst Witch to the Rescue) she steals Mildred's beloved pet tortoise and hides it in a tree. In the TV series, she and Ethel briefly end their friendship when Drusilla sides with Mildred and her friends. They make up at the end of the episode though.
In 1986, the first book in the series was converted to a made-for-television film on ITV starring Fairuza Balk, Tim Curry, Diana Rigg, and Charlotte Rae. Though a British film, it also aired in the USA on HBO. The film followed the plot of the first book of the series, portraying the incidents of Mildred turning herself invisible and turning Ethel into a pig, Miss Cackle's evil twin sister Agatha plotting to take over the school, and the Grand Wizard viewing the Halloween Broomstick formation (sabotaged by Ethel's faulty broom she lent to Mildred). It was shot at St. Michael's College in Tenbury Wells. This holiday special later aired on the Disney Channel every year for Halloween until the late 1990s. Its opening song, "Growing Up Isn't Easy", was sung by Bonnie Langford; its music was composed by Charles Strouse and its lyrics were written by Don Black. Their other musical number was "Anything Can Happen on Halloween", sung by Tim Curry. Denis King composed its incidental music score. He also wrote the song "My Little School".
Television series (1998–2001)
The Worst Witch, a TV series based on the books, starring Georgina Sherrington and Felicity Jones as Mildred Hubble and Ethel Hallow respectively, was broadcast from 1998 to 2001. It was shot in Montreal, London and Cardiff. The series is mostly shot in studio in London, with some episodes filmed in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The exteriors of Cackle's Academy used Castell Coch, a castle located near Cardiff. The courtyard was filmed at Loseley Park, near Guildford. Inside the school (Great Hall, classrooms etc.) was filmed at Twickenham Studios.
When it was no longer realistic that Mildred would still be at school, the series relocated her to a magical university in Cambridge and was retitled Weirdsister College: The Further Adventures of the Worst Witch, and saw the return of Felicity Jones as a reinvented Ethel Hallow.
In 2004, a new series based on the 1998 series was made, entitled The New Worst Witch. It centred on the adventures of Mildred's equally bungling cousin, Henrietta "Hettie" Hubble, played by Alice Connor, also set at Cackle's Academy.
Television series (2017–present)
A new version of The Worst Witch TV series began in 2017 airing on CBBC, this one starring Bella Ramsey as Mildred Hubble (replaced by Lydia Page in the fourth season so that Ramsey could focus on personal issues), Claire Higgins as Miss Cackle, and Raquel Cassidy as Miss Hardbroom.
Stage Adaptation (2018–2019)
A musical stage production called Worst Witch Live was shown at the Royal & Derngate Theatre in Northampton from 27 November to 30 December 2018. In February 2019, the show began to tour the UK across 16 different venues. In April 2019 Kenny Wax Family Entertainment announced that Worst Witch Live would be showing at the Vaudeville Theatre in the West End from 24 July to 8 September 2019. This version is presented is a publicity play written by Mildred and acted out by the students and staff playing themselves, initially recreating Mildred's first year at school, although the second half takes on a metafictional angle as Agatha Cackle "infiltrates" the play and attempts to stage a coup of the magical government.
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