TOP 5 FRIDAY: Curses

Posted by Kesia on Friday April 17th, 2015

We've all been there: just when everything seems to be going great, you get put under a curse. But fear not! For countless years, children's literature has been advising us how to get out of those sticky curse-related situations. Junior Editor Kesia talks us through her favourites ...

1. The Witch of the Waste's curse in Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne-Jones
My go-to 'medicine book' (well-thumbed from childhood bouts of flu), Howl's Moving Castle is bursting with wicked magic. Matter-of-fact Sophie is cursed by the Witch of the Waste into the body of a stick-wielding crone, and sets off in pursuit of the dastardly, handsome, but terribly disorganised Wizard Howl, despite her new-found aches and pains. Her common sense and determination are proof a handbag-toting octogenarian can be as gritty as an Eastenders villain on a sharp gravel drive. The kind of old lady I want to be when I grow up.

2. Auryn's gift in The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
Our hero, Bastian, journeys through a mysterious book to the land of Fantastica, and retrieves a magical amulet, Auryn. On its reverse, he finds an intriguing engraving: 'Do what you wish'. So he wishes, and wishes, and wishes - and each one is granted: soon, Bastian is the hero of his own fabulous adventures. A gift, right? Erm, no. Wishes are the ultimate tricksters (read The Big Wish for an excellent example). With each wish, Bastian loses a memory of his life in the real world, and slowly but surely traps himself in Fantastica for ever ...

3. The enchanted rings in The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis
Polly and Diggory are tricked by devious Uncle Andrew into a daring adventure. Four sparkling magic rings are keys to the strange and terrible portals of the Woods between the Worlds. Our heroes' first destination - the ruined, blood-sunned kingdom of Charn - haunts my nightmares still. The dead (or sleeping ...?) figures of its wicked monarchs range, enthroned, across the silent hall. And then (no thanks to blimmin' Diggory) the bell tolls, and the evilest of evil queens awakens ...

4. 'Formula 86 delay action mouse maker' from The Witches by Roald Dahl
The Grand High Witch's plot is truly diabolical - but what can you expect? England's witches, as you've doubtless heard, are utterly notorious for their ruthless pursuit of the ultimate witchy aim: the elimination of children. As our terrified child narrator hides from the witches' conference, the masterplan is revealed: sweetshops; free, delicious candy; a magical potion named 'Formula 86'. Anyone who consumes it is cursed to transform into a mouse. Eek! (Or rather, squeak!)

5. Sectumsempra from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
I did try not to mention Harry Potter (honest!) but it's impossible! Its curses are inventive and excruciating, and - particularly for those of us on Slytherin's Unofficial Dark Side - possess a certain horrible allure. The mischievous curses are effective, certainly - the ear-shriveller, for instance, or petrificus totalus - while the floaty/screamy effects of the Opal Necklace are truly chilling. But for plot significance, you can't beat the Half-Blood Prince's ghastly invention, Sectumsempra, which Harry unwittingly casts against Malfoy ... to devastating effect.

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