Lawyers tend to be readers. Words are the tools of our trade. I am not sure what it means, if anything, but I recently realized that my three favourite stories of all time (at the time I watched or read them) all had witches as significant characters. I have had a few Wizard of Oz references in my column. It is my favourite – the movie, not the book (sorry book, did not finish you, silver shoes and no technicolour). Good witches and bad witches in this one, north, south, east and west. The two bad ones were taken out by a house and a bucket of dirty water, respectively. Symbolic of the dangers of housework perhaps!
These stories with witches seem to always face censorship issues. About a century ago, the bannings of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz book were not so much about the witches but about Dorothy, a female teenager depicted in a strong leadership role. Apparently religious and educational leaders did not approve.
Witch story #2. I recall reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when I was young, a book about another fanciful world explored by youth. I think I found it in my mother’s brother’s bookcase at my grandmother’s home (my grandmother is like me, and hoarded, I mean preserved, items from the past). I think in a previous life I was a museum curator. I recall when my daughters were young, trying to remember the name of the book. Like all good books, they made it into a movie, and my second childhood was born, attending the movie with my daughters. The book reading and the movie were decades apart, but I liked the book more.
For that book, the bannings were more along the lines of opposing violence, mysticism and gore… and a rather god-like lion.
Just when you would think witch stories and fantastical worlds were exhausted, the Harry Potter series came out. First one in the list written by a female. By the end of the series, we were those that stayed up all night in a long line at West Edmonton Mall to get the book at its midnight release before anyone could provide any spoilers.
The series started in the late 90s but still made the list of the most banned books of the 1990s and then topped the list into the 2000s. The censorship reasons are too numerous to recount. Here I love the books and the movies equally, my visual imagination matched by the current technology used in making these amazing movies. On my first trip to London, I had to make sure I visited a palace, I was the Queen’s Counsel after all, but more importantly we had to attend at the Harry Potter theme park. The fantastical evolution never ends. Nor does the censorship.
Recently, the author of the Harry Potter series (J.K. Rowling, a name that would not give away that she was a female, she actually has no middle name) is having firsthand experience with respect to censorship, including by those that love her books, and more severe than that faced by her books. This has resulted in a new podcast The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling. She notes that “a sense of righteousness is not incompatible with doing terrible things”. People differ on who is the subject of the “witch trial”. You be the judge.
Donna Purcell, K.C., (aka Lady Justice) is a Central Alberta lawyer and Chief Innovation Officer with Donna Purcell QC Law. If you have legal questions, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.