Witch Child & Sorceress by Celia Rees. Double review. 

I first read these two books when I was about 12-13 years old. They remain among some of my favourite books from my childhood and a recent bout of nostalgia convinced me to read them again 15 years later. I’m really glad I did. 

As a 12 year old girl my fascination was with the magic the books enthralled me with. The adventure of the child Mary Newbury escaping across the country, hounded as a witch in both England and America, followed by ancestors who could turn into animals and rescued by the Native Indian people who took her in as their own. 

Pocahontas, was, and remains one of my favourite Disney movies. It is criticised for its historical inaccuracy and its romanticising of the terrible wrongs done to the indigenous people of Native America. But it is my favourite because of the beauty of life it shows. The natural way of living, the interaction with animals and plants, the culture, laws and customs. Yes it’s romanticised but we all know animals and trees do not speak and raccoons do not braid hair. 

But It is a children’s film and what I took from it most of all, is what I took from Celia Rees’ acclaimed novels Witch Child & Sorceress. Shame. 

A lot is said about the bad people of history. But what we must remember is that before Hitler’s horrific attacks against the Jewish people, the English were just as bad. To watch, or read about people, my own ancestors somewhere down the line who attacked and killed people, stole their land and possessions, built towns on their burial grounds, desecrated their sacred places, and had the affront to call them the savages, makes me ashamed to be a white British person. There is no glory in the ‘finding’ or the ‘conquering’ of America. There is shame, and nothing else. 

I feel like I’m digressing a lot here and should probably get back on track, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that sometimes books and even, yes, Disney movies can teach us much about acceptance of other cultures and people. That we can learn from them and live in harmony without forcing them to become more like us. What rights do we have to what is ‘normal’, what is ‘right’, to stipulate religion and dress, to decide what is termed as ‘savage’. 

Witch Child & Sorceress, make this point so passionately, so pointedly that I have left them in a whirl of emotion. Both books have an important story to tell and I urge you to listen to that story. In the words of Grandmother Willow, listen with your heart… 


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