[DWJ] Monthly Read-Along - Charmed Life

Tina liril at gmx.net
Sat Nov 3 15:20:20 EDT 2012

Hi everyone,

this post got longer and longer, because reading Charmed Life (in 
English) I more or less noticed that I didn't reread it, but actually 
read it for the first time.

Whilst I knew before that the 1981 German translation ("Wir sind aufs 
Hexen ganz versessen", Cecilie Dressler Verlag - "We're mad about 
witchcraft") I read as a kid was "abriged", i.e. missing some scenes, 
only now did I find out how far these changes went. Some of them seem 
randon, some seem to aim at making the book "softer" and some -- and 
that is rather disturbing -- take away important bits of Cat's 
development, and that makes me feel I have come to new insights about 
the book because I finally read the real book as it was written by 
DWJ... (BTW, there has been a new translation around 2001)

CL (the 1981 translation) was one of my favourite childhood books, one 
of the few books available in the library that I made my parents buy as 
a present because I had to have it myself, one of the children's books I 
kept in my bookshelves (and didn't move to the attic). So when I wanted 
to reread CL before, I took my old and well-loved copy. For this reread 
however I finally got the original for the Kindle.

Actually, I had found out about (some of) the missing scenes earlier, 
when I listend to the (also abriged...) audio book (read by Tom Baker -- 
there seems to be another one), but I didn't realize the extent of the 
changes. When I listened to the audiobook (more than 10 years ago, oh 
my), I asked the list about the scenes.

In the list archives I found my post from March 2001


"What was very odd, was that Tom Baker was suddenly reading something I 
didn't remember: the scene in church, when Gwendolyn makes the stained 
glass saints move. I thought it was very funny, and that it was even 
stranger that I didn't remember it as I liked it. So I looked it up in 
my old German edition, *and it's not there!*.Also missing: the whole 
part in which Cat and Janet try to run away, are found by Millie and the 
following meeting with Mrs Sharp."


The cutting of the Stained Glass Saints Scene made some "retcon" 
necessary, because without this scene there is no reason not to take 
Janet to church on the next Sunday when Cat an Janet are left at the 
castle and get the dragon blood and enter the garden. Therefore the 
translation has to explain why she stays with Cat when the rest of the 
familiy goes to church...

By comparing the versions I found out that not only scenes, but 
sometimes just sentences were "cut"*. Prior to the Stained Glass Saints, 
the translation also left out the scene were Gwendolyn turns Julia's 
skirt into snakes. As the main motivation for Julia to take revenge on 
Gwendolyn/Janet is missing, most of the stuff Julia does to Janet later 
was also cut (turning the stew to mud, trying to strangle her with the 
curtain, turning the marmalade to worms). Also cut are: The chestnuts 
that are suddenly ripe**, the skewer that conveniently lies "by his 
(Cat's) LEFT HAND", Julia warning Cat "Don't you interfere" when the mud 
is stew again as soon as it is in front of Cat. Consequently, whilst 
Euphemia gets turned into a frog and back and the mirror floats, in the 
old translation it is much harder to notice that Cat seems to do magic 
as soon as Gwendolyn is gone. This time, I noticed, which in turn gave 
new meaning to Chrestomanci saying to Cat: "And witchcraft will out. No 
one who has it can resist using it for ever".

With these additional scenes and bits there is more preparation for Cat 
taking his powers back in the end. We also see more of Cat taking care 
of Janet, and her "clinging" to him, which may also be part of the 
reasons for him gradually changing. He even notices it himself: In the 
(also cut) scene with Mrs Sharp Cat wonders "how much he had changed 
inside -- and how he had -- enough to know all this".

In the final explanation scene, there are also some cuts. Here, the 
translation seems intend to "soften" the situation by taking out 
references that confirm how worried everybody (including Chrestomanci) 
was and is about Cat's powers, e.g. Chrestomanci looking vaguely in 
Cat's direction and Cat noting this means he is "vary wary indeed" and 
also later the sentence "Everyone, even Chrestomanci, went tense." 
However, I find with these parts included, the motivation and the 
reasoning behind Chrestomanci and the other adults not talking to Cat 
earlier make more sense.

BTW, the only person who doesn't tense is Janet, who also noticed Cat 
doing magic when he himself possibly didn't. I noticed more similarities 
between her and Cat, and a stronger bond between them. This may go some 
way to explain why Janet seems quite alright with staying (which is one 
thing I must admit I found a bit disturbing as a kid, given that she 
seems to be fond of her parents...)

So, after finally reading the "real" CL, I like it even more. It was 
wonderful to discover the real story in which, I find, some things just 
make more sense. Some (also mostly new) things I found a bit odd: The 
references that witches aren't supposed to like churches, Millie (!) 
calling Gwendolyn "ungodly child", Will Suggins claiming Sunday's a bad 
time to be at witchcraft -- I never had the impression that the magic in 
CL had any "connection" to theology. However, if you look at the quoted 
sentences more closely, the narrator doesn't confirm those notions to be 
true, so maybe those are only referenced as superstitions.

Some new things were just wonderful, and so I'll finish my monster post 
with the little dragon hypnotizing Janet (also cut):
"I fetch him animals from the abyss -- old golden creatures, things with 
wings, pearl-eyed monsters from the deep sea, and whispering plants from 
long ago."

Isn't that, quite literally, magic...?


*This sounds a bit obsessive, but I know the translation rather well, 
and I found many of the missing sentences crucial...

** I was so excited when I spotted this neat bit, which is even 
confirmed by Janet in the end when she contradicts Chrestomanci when he 
says Cat still did no magic: "There were some fabulous horse chestnuts, 
and he kept stopping Julia" (also cut, of course...)

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