Published: Tammy 15 April 1972 to 1 July 1972
Artist: Jesus Redondo
Writer: Terence Magee (first episode), remaining episodes uncertain
Translations/reprints: None known
It is Halloween season, the time of year to profile spooky serials and Halloween issues. There is nothing like a nice witchy serial for the occasion, so for Halloween we bring you the very first Tammy witch serial. “The Witch of Widcombe Wold” was touched on earlier this year with a Tammy issue entry, and it was the inspiration for an entry on the serial itself.
Lynn Halifax and her family move to a country cottage in Widcombe Wold, which has been in the family since Norman times. For Lynn, the cottage is love at first sight although it has no modern conveniences. Inside, Lynn finds an injured rabbit, but is surprised when the injury just vanishes when she goes near it, and it hops off.
When Lynn goes to fetch water from the well, she is startled to see the reflection of a witch in the water. The witch says she is an ancestress, Moll Halifax, known as the Witch of Widcombe Wold. Moll was banished in 1313 for practising witchcraft. She has returned for revenge on the village, and says Lynn has powers too (which is how the rabbit got healed), which would help her with her revenge. Lynn refuses to help Moll harm the villagers.
But Lynn soon discovers the witch’s offer could be tempting. The villagers are a clannish lot who don’t welcome strangers, and they are hostile to Lynn. Some tough bully kids even throw dirt at her, which is the start of an argument that gets so ugly the villagers turn against the Halifaxes, and even more so when a surprise lightning bolt sets a cottage on fire. The superstitious villagers say it’s a sign the Halifaxes are not welcome. After this, Lynn wonders if the witch is right and she does have some sort of power, a power to make things happen by wishing them to.
Then Moll appears to Lynn in her bedroom mirror, saying she, not Lynn, caused the lightning strike and urges her to join forces now they both have reason to hate the villagers. Lynn still refuses to do so and wishes the mirror to break so she won’t see Moll – and it does.
But the witch isn’t giving up that easily. At every turn she puts the pressure on Lynn to join forces with her. At first, the witch does this by “helping” with a spell to strike back whenever the unfriendly children strike, such as when they plant a teacher’s purse on Lynn on her first day at the village school. Lynn tries to counter with her own magic. But it ends up with them blaming Lynn and becoming even more hostile towards her.
However, Lynn has now discovered her own powers, which can work against the witch, and she also begins to make some headway in making friends in the village. So now the witch changes tactics. Every time Lynn tries to make a friend or help someone, the witch pulls nasty tricks to mess it up in the hopes that the locals’ hostility will induce Lynn to team up with her. But as Lynn is discovering how to use her own powers to counteract the witch, by the final panel things have blown up in the witch’s face one way or other, usually as a comic comeuppance. And this is the formula each episode now follows every week.
Still, although the final panel always ends with the witch looking stupid, Lynn still isn’t making much progress in making friends. And she has no real chance of acceptance in the village with that witch around waiting to mess up every chance she gets.
Things come to a head at the annual ceremony that commemorates the banishing of Moll Halifax. As part of the celebration, a queen is elected to lead a dance around the ducking stool while wearing a golden crown. The witch hides the crown and Lynn is blamed. The villagers turn nasty, saying Lynn’s caused nothing but trouble since she arrived. Even Rosie, the only friend Lynn has made, turns on her. Lynn’s parents, who have had enough of the villagers’ unfriendly attitude, decide it’s time to pack up and leave.
But Lynn isn’t beaten. Using her own powers and a hockey stick as a dowsing rod, she finds the crown. Seeing this, the villagers are thrilled and elect her as the queen of the ceremonial dance. Furious that her own descendant is going to lead the dance in honour of her banishment, Moll strikes back with a spell: “I command thee to a distant age.” Using the crown as a reflector, Lynn causes the spell to bounce back at the witch, and she is destroyed.
Lynn being chosen to lead the ceremony changes her parents’ minds about moving. They are dancing right behind her, happy to belong to Widecombe Wold at last.
We have seen several cases on this forum where a story was written for one title but appeared in another, and this is another one. Terence Magee has informed us the serial was intended for June but appeared in Tammy. Not being originally intended for Tammy may be why it is a bit different to the misery-laden, ill-used heroine fare abundant in Tammy at the time.
If Magee’s recall of this story is correct, the first episode was written by him but the writing passed to other hands (something that also happened with another Magee story, “Hettie High and Mighty!” (Lindy/Jinty). This may be why the story takes a different turn from how it was initially set up. The early episodes have a strong buildup to a creepy and worrying situation that might lead to witch persecution for Lynn à la “Wenna the Witch” (Jinty) or “Witch!” (Bunty) as well as fighting the witch. Things sure look ugly for Lynn after her first day at the village school ends with the angry kids turning up on her doorstep. She could definitely go the way of her persecuted counterparts in serials like “Wenna the Witch”. The initial setup is strong for it, and it could really put the pressure on Lynn to join the witch. This would have made it a very dark, intense serial if it had indeed gone in that direction, especially if Lynn had succumbed to the pressure and become Moll’s ally.
Then the story goes in a different direction. It becomes more of a black comedy, with Lynn always getting the last laugh on the witch each week whenever she makes trouble while battling for acceptance in the village. But it is never a full comedy with those unfriendly villagers just not accepting her. We’ve no doubt the witch will be finished in the end, but will Lynn ever be accepted in the village?
It is odd that the villagers don’t make the connection that Lynn is descended from Moll Halifax and harass her as a witch for it. Perhaps it’s just as well, but other protagonists in girls’ serials have been less fortunate, such as the aforementioned “Witch!” and “Wenna the Witch”. In such serials, the superstitious village idiots turn on the protagonist with witch-hunting hysteria and persecution the moment they suspect she is descended from the village witch. And the villagers’ reaction to the lightning strike in the first episode shows they are superstitious fools also, who could turn on Lynn in the same way.
In serials like “Wenna the Witch”, there is some hint the protagonist may have powers of her own and is a genuine descendant of the witch the superstitious village idiots believe she’s descended from. As the persecution goes on, the protagonist gets worn down and begins to believe it herself. This is usually kept on an ambiguous level, with neither the reader nor the persecuted protagonist not really knowing what to think. But here, there is no question that Lynn is descended from the witch, she does have powers, and the nature of her powers is plain to see. Lynn is using her powers for good despite the villagers’ hostility or pressure from Moll. We know Lynn won’t ever give in to those pressures and use her powers to help Moll, though we can’t help wondering what it would be like if she does.
The witch, initially set up as frightening, ominous and sinister, becomes more of a nuisance with a goofiness attached. Rather than the revenge she was after, things become more of a battle of wills and powers between her and Lynn, and Lynn always getting the last laugh – literally. This keeps the story more lightweight than what it might otherwise have been, but the villagers’ unfriendliness always gives the a grim undercurrent until the very end, when Lynn and her parents are at last accepted.