|“||THAT WOMAN OVER THERE! She is... the Grand High Witch! SHE did it to Bruno! And thousands of other children before him... THIS TIME... it's YOUR turn...!||„|
|~ Helga to the Grand High Witch just before the Grand High Witch becomes a mouse|
|“||Nobody has ever seen the Devil... but we all know he exists, don't we?||„|
|~ Helga to Luke regarding the existence of witches|
|“||She's foul. She's the most evil woman in all creation||„|
|~ Helga about the Grand High Witch|
Helga Eveshim is the central protagonist of the book The Witches by Roald Dahl (in which she is known as just Grandmamma), and its 1990 film adaptation. In the film, she is portrayed by the late Mai Zetterling. She is secretly a former witch hunter, whose life mission was to find and destroy the terrible Grand High Witch.
Helga is the name given to Luke Eveshim's grandmother in the novel. In the novel, she is unnamed, like Luke, just called "Grandmamma". But in the film she is called Helga.
Helga is a witchopile, a human who has made it their duty to rid the world of evil witches. She has had encounters with witches before, one instance led to her losing her thumb due to a witch. In her younger years, Helga was one of the very best of the witch hunters and has travelled all over the globe trying to track down the elusive Grand High Witch, their global leader who is the key to defeat the witches, but she never managed to get anywhere near her. She has also lost her friends to witches, one girl named Erica (in the film), who was captured by the powerful Grand High Witch herself and imprisoned in her family's painting.
In the book, Helga knows of three children who were killed by witches - one boy turned into a stone statue, one boy becomes a porpoise, and a young girl was abducted from her very garden by a witch. One girl was turned into a chicken, but she did not die, she lived on until her natural death.
Helga swears to protect Luke, who has recently lost his parents, from the witches, who she reveals were responsible for the disappearances and abductions of her friends. Helga describes all the witches' trademarks to Luke, and tells him of their traits and powers, and their unbound hatred of children. Helga says that the witches are like demons in human form. All witches are female and they have hidden true inhuman forms.
Due to his father's will, Luke and Helga have to move back to Kent in England, where they take up residence. Just before school term, Luke is on a treehouse mending it when a mysterious woman in black comes up to him on the lawn below. Luke sees the woman has gloves on, and this saves his life because he remembers what Helga told him. He knows the strange woman is a witch, and he gets scared. The sinister woman pulls out a serpent from her bag, saying its tame (it was implied to be deadly) and she tempts him with it. However, Luke wisely bolts up the tree and stays there until dark. Helga comes down anxious about Luke and he asks if the witch is gone. Shocked, Helga does not reply, but then she says the witch is gone. She is later shocked a witch is living in their neighborhood when Luke tells her the story.
Helga suddenly gets very ill (she is 86) and she faints prompting Luke to call a doctor. In the film, this happens on his birthday, which she apologizes for. However, Helga just has a mild case of pneumonia. She recovers however and the doctor warns her of her cigarette habits.
Helga is infuriated because she promised Luke she would go to Norway for holiday but the doctor says Bournemouth instead.
At the hotel
Helga and Luke reluctantly go to Bournemouth however Helga gives Luke two white mice as a present. This causes a storm with the hotel manager Mr Stringer, an arrogant man who sees everyone as a nuisance. Helga compromises with him (in a humorous way) that if she doesn't have Luke keep his mice she will complain about the hotel's health issues to the authorities. She even says the hotel's full of rats, infuriating Stringer. However, they compromise that the mice are caged, in Luke's room. Sneakily, Luke takes his mice down to the ballroom while Helga has a rest.
Unfortunately, Luke meets the entire coven of English witches who have their Annual Meeting in the hotel, and the evil Grand High Witch is there too. Luke sees the Grand High Witch kill a minion just for annoying her. Then she displays her new magic to the witches, Formula 86 Mouse-Maker, which will turn all children into mice if the liquid's put into chocolate which the Grand High Witch wants her witches to make and buy sweet shops to lure children in. Then they will eat the chocolate and formula, and go home and then at school turn into mice, being killed by the teachers. Luke hears all the meeting, and sees his rival Bruno Jenkins be turned into a mouse in a display, and at the end, he is smelled out by a witch, and the entire coven capture him, and cruelly turn him into a mouse with their formula.
Now a mouse, Luke finds Bruno, and explains the situation, then he races with Bruno to meet Helga.
Helga is reunited with her grandson. In the film, Helga awakes when the witches turn Luke into a mouse and seems to feel what is happening. Helga is despaired that the witches turned Luke into a mouse but she still protects him and Bruno. She tries to get Bruno back to his parents, but he does not talk because he is eating banana, and the furious Mr Jenkins thinks Helga's joking.
Humiliated, Helga does not give up, and devises a scheme to turn all the witches into mice with their formula which Luke will steal from the Grand High Witch's room. Luke successfully steals the bottle but meets the Grand High Witch and the old witches on the way. He meets Helga again though and gives her the bottle. Now excited, Helga debates about how to put the bottle in the witches' food, and Luke suggests do it in the kitchen. Helga is delighted but she says to watch out for what food the witches are having, to be on the safe side.
Helga gets more relaxed when she is in the dining room, knowing soon the problem will be over. The witches come in for dinner just when Luke goes to the kitchen in his mouse form. He gets the bottle in the cress soup successfully, having heard that the soup is for the witches (under their ironic guise of RSPCC party). Helga recovers Luke and is horrified to see his tail is bleeding. She bandages him and is joyful he put the formula in the soup. She tells Luke the witches are now eating the soup, and that there were just under a hundred witches in England, less than she thought.
Mr Jenkins suddenly comes over, furious, and shouts at Helga, who mischievously tricks him into getting into trouble with his son, who finally reveals his mouse form to Mr Jenkins, and with the Grand High Witch, as Helga says turned Bruno into a mouse, but the witches begin turning into mice right then. The Grand High Witch spots and tries to curse her "old adversary" Helga, but Bruno jumps on her and his dad takes him. The Grand High Witch turns into a hairless rat that pleads them for mercy, but Luke urges for Helga to not let her away. Helga captures the terrified former Grand High Witch under a glass and gets Mr Stringer to slice her up, finally finishing their long-standing conflict. Meanwhile the hotel is cleared of the other mice-witches who are also stomped out or chopped up.
Thus with England finally free of witches, Helga and Luke go home. In the book, they plan to rid the world of witches, saving humanity, and in the film the redeemed Miss Irvine, secretary of the Grand High Witch, comes up and turns Luke back to a human again.
Helga is a comedic, brave woman, who could be optimistic no matter how much suffering she had. She is very protective of her beloved grandson Luke. She believes in Luke and trusts him, never doubting his ability to face and destroy the witches. Always being cunning and involved in planning schemes which were more successful than a brute fight, she is delighted about about his creativity in coming up with witch-killing plans.