“For all you know, a witch might be living next door to you.”
When Luke (Jasen Fisher) discovers that the Grand High Witch (Anjelica Huston) is plotting to turn all the children of London into mice, he will stop at nothing to foil their plans. Unfortunately, he may have to do so as a mouse himself.
He’s a mouse; didn’t I just mention that?
Seriously, Luke’s problem may in fact be shared with his grandma Helga (Mai Zetterling). The episode with the witches could all really be happening, but could also point to a shared psychosis between a boy and his grandma.
Rather than go full disorder diagnosis, I think it’s important to point out that Luke’s parents die unexpectedly. Afterward, Helga must take care of Luke and mourn the loss of his parents, while Luke as a kiddo also has some grieving to do. Bear in mind further that Helga is diagnosed with “a mild case of diabetes,” which renders her physically weakened for a little while following the deaths.
A mild case of diabetes? What the fuck does that even mean?
All of this stress, intermingled with grandma’s witch stories, might contribute to a shared delusion between a grieving grandma and her grieving grandson.
Folie á Deux
Readers, I am OBSESSED with folie á deux ever since Ryan and Shane first talked about it on Buzzfeed Unsolved (you can find their episode about the Tromp family on the sources page).
A delusion is a belief that something is happening, without real external proof. Someone believing that a person on television is talking to them or believing that they are an important religious figure are delusions. Grandma and Luke believing that witches are having a convention at their hotel and planning to turn all the children into mice sounds far-fetched. The only thing suggesting this might all be real is the number of witnesses in the dining room when the witches ingest their nasty mice-changing concoction. Let’s look at the evidence why this might be a shared delusion:
When we meet Luke’s grandma, we notice that she is missing part of her finger. The implication is that a witch had something to do with the digital loss. However, this could indicate that Helga uses stories and her imagination to cope with trauma, so she invented a story about witches to deal with the loss of her finger.
- The Stories
The Witches begins with Helga telling Luke all about witches and how to spot them. Luke claims a witch tries to kidnap him and his grandma says she believes him. Once Luke’s parents die, Helga and Luke may use the turning into a mouse story as a way to collectively share and cope with their grief.
- The Aftermath
Unlike the book (spoiler alert), Luke gets changed back into a human child at the end of the film. Now, he and his grandmother have a shared story about their encounter with real witches, which rests on the shoulders of the tragedy of losing Luke’s parents.