Matilda Spells M-A-G-I-C

Reviewed by Berit Kjos



"Smashing!" proclaimed the movie ads for Universal Studio's recent hit. "Incredible Fun!" "Matilda will steal your heart!" "A Family Film with a Message!"

They may be right. Kids love Matilda -- both the movie and the best-selling book by Roald Dahl that inspired it. Dahl, best known for the movie adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, was a master at creating stupid parents and evil authority figures that children love to hate. As if anticipating today's spreading conviction that educators are more competent to raise children than are parents, he created Miss Honey, a compassionate young teacher who eventually replaces Matilda's negligent mom.

Matilda's message exposes today's upside-down values. Children learn that it's okay to punish mean parents and take revenge on tyrannical principals. Vandalism is good when the victim is bad. And magic -- call it witchraft if you will -- is fun, empowering, kind, and commendable.

Many are seduced by the message. "I loved Matilda because she had supermagic power," said a girl attending a Christian school.

"Oooo! Why would you want to see movies like that?" her classmate responded.

"Because I like movies about evil people."

Like Matilda's crooked father played by director Danny deVito, the monstrous Miss Trunchbull fits the bill. The thuggish principal of a private elementary school deserves supernatural revenge, doesn't she? After all, she hurls kids out the window, spins them by their pigtails, calls them "villanous...slime," and wishes them dead. She stole sweet Miss Honey's house and probably even killed her father. So why shouldn't the virtuous Matilda punish her deeds? Nothing could possibly be wrong with using spells to correct those horrible evils, could it?

Not in this politically correct tale. Vengeance feels good, and the excited crowds of children and parents cheer each occult victory and applaud Matilda's gratifying self-assertiveness. "A fully realized person," exults the New York Times. Matilda not only sheds the traditional submissive girl's role, "she navigates an obstacle course of comically abusive adults by using telekinetic powers... summoned by that ultimate female taboo: anger."1

Anger is the catalyst that unlocks her power. Since many of Matilda's fans have already met their heroine through Dahl's popular book, they know all about that mysterious force. They remember that when she squints her eyes, focuses on an object, and tells it to move, it obeys her will. It's as simple as that-at least after some practice!

The book describes the occult formula: Matilda focused her mind on a glass of water, concentrated her energy, and imagined millions of little hands pushing the glass with the mysterious force flashing out from her eyeballs. The glass wobbled and the newt inside squirmed. From her desk in the second row, the girl "pushed harder still, willing her eyes to shoot out more power."

"Tip it!" she whispered. The glass tipped, and the water with the newt "splashed out all over Miss Trunchbull's enormous bosom. The headmistress let out a yell that must have rattled every window-pane..."2

Wiccan leader Starhawk explains the process: "Magical training varies greatly, but its purpose is always the same: to open up the... consciousness that allows us to make contact with the Divine within. The beginner must develop four basic abilities: relaxation, concentration, visualization and projection."3

The first three steps work together to alter consciousness and open the unguarded mind to spiritual forces. The last step, mental projection, simply means using one's will and imagination to send or transmit spiritual energy. Contemporary gurus promote it as an essential step toward global unity. "Visualize Peace," exhorts a popular bumper sticker. And, James Redfield, author of top-selling book, The Celestine Prophecy, tells millions of followers that visualizing and projecting spiritual energy enables people to empower each other and quicken spiritual evolution toward planetary oneness.

In the book, Miss Honey sensed the gravity of Matilda's strange power. "We must tread very carefully from now on," she warned.


"Because we are playing with mysterious forces, my child, that we know nothing about. I do not think they are evil. They may be good. They may even be divine. But whether they are or not, let us handle them carefully."

The movie gives no such warning, yet Miss Honey's words illustrate the prevailing view of pagan powers: mysterious, exciting, potentially dangerous but probably safe and good. This seductive lie has drawn God's people through the ages from truth to myths and from biblical prayer to pagan rituals. That our schools, television, popular music, and the United Nations also promote pagan powers make occultism all the more irresistible.

Unlike today's global leaders who call for a broad all-inclusive spirituality that embraces all the world's religions, God tells us to shun "other gods" and their works: "Let no one be found among you who... practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, casts spells... or consults the dead...."4 Instead, "test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil."5 Then God Himself will guide, guard and strengthen all who follow Him.

To equip your children to resist the earth-centered spirituality that permeates public schools and movies, read Brave New Schools. Available through Christian bookstores or call 800-829-5646.


1. The New York Times, August 11,1996.

2. Roald Dahl, Matilda (New York: Puffin Books, 1988), 166.

3. Starhawk, The Spiral Dance (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1979), 62.

4. Deuteronomy 18:10-13

5. 1 Thessalonians 5:21-23

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