What’s the Difference Between Mary and the Witch’s Flower and The Little Broomstick?

Adaptations are a tricky business. Bob and Charlie can have a deeply profound conversation on the deliciousness of cranberries in a book, but that same conversation doesn’t hold the same engagement told in movie format due to a shot of Bob’s lips flapping and then a shot of Charlie’s lips flapping not being enrapturing visuals. But the interesting thing about an adaptation is how it essentially creates a split universe from the source material. Bob and Charlie’s conversation might be replaced with them playing laser tag and losing the match because they won’t shut their gums about our biological tendencies to group ourselves together and declare all other tribes inferior on the basis of just because.

The adaptation multiverse grew ever the slightly larger when Mary and the Witch’s Flower came out, based on the children’s novel The Little Broomstick. Just like any adaptation, it has its fair share of similarities and differences.

Originally, this was going to be a bonus section in my post on setups and Mary and the Witch’s Flower, but I decided to make it its own entity in the event that someone somewhere just so happens to type into their Google searchbar “differences between Mary and the Witch’s Flower and the Little Broomstick.” It’s all part of my diabolical plan to steer visitors to my site.

  • In the film, Mary’s red hair is a prominent detail of her character, as she expresses her disdain for its color but comes around to liking it when she finds out that red-haired witches are the most powerful type. In the book, however, Mary’s hair color is never specified, and instead, it’s implied that witches with the name Mary Smith are the most powerful, and Smith just so happens to be Mary’s last name.
  • A number of characters featured or mentioned in the book are absent from the movie. While Mary’s Great-Aunt Charlotte and her gardener Zebedee are present in the film, Ms. Marjoribanks makes it to the film as Ms. Banks, but her Scottish housekeeper Mrs. McLeod and pet Pekingese don’t. Mary also has older twin siblings who are mentioned but never make an appearance.
  • A number of characters featured or mentioned in the book are absent from the movie. While Mary’s Great-Aunt Charlotte and her gardener Zebedee are present in the film, Ms. Marjoribanks makes it to the film as Ms. Banks, but her Scottish housekeeper Mrs. McLeod and pet Pekingese don’t. Mary also has older twin siblings who are mentioned but never make an appearance.
  • A character who does appear more in the film is the cat Gib. The pair lead Mary to discover the fly-by-night, but Gib is only first mentioned in the book by Zebedee when he’s talking to Mary about the fly-by-night and doesn’t make his debut until Mary rescues him from Madam Mumblechook. Also, in the book, the two cats are brothers, not mates.
  • Speaking of Madam Mumblechook, the film has her living in a fancy cottage in the middle of the college campus, but in the book, she has no such thing, just an office inside the school halls. The book of spells that Mary finds in her cottage in the film is found instead in a secret chamber behind one of the classrooms in the book.
  • You might remember Mr. Flanagan from the film as that curious-looking lil’ fellow whose defining character trait is yelling at Mary about how poorly she treats her broomstick, even when the college is literally falling apart around them. He’s only in two scenes in the book, however: when Mary first arrives at the school and when departing after her tour.
  • Endor College, while founded on a geological pillar above the clouds, isn’t in such a fantastical location in the book, most likely residing on normal English terrain.
  • Mary’s reason for returning to the school is the same in both the book and the film, but the victim is different in each. In the book, the headmistress swipes Tib after turning him invisible, while in the film, she kidnaps Peter.
  • Peter is only mentioned by name at the beginning of the book, and Mary meets him after escaping the college with Tib and Gib. He’s a troublesome but smart boy who helps Mary escape the headmistress and Doctor Dee when they give chase.
  • In both the film and the book, Mary’s broomstick takes her to the wrong house after her escape. The house in the film is the more conspicuous of the two, as it’s the untouched-for-decades home of her great-aunt, who in the film stole the fly-by-night from the college and escaped with it, losing her ability to cast magic in the process. In the book, however, the house is Doctor Dee’s, and the reason the broomstick brought her to his house is because she grabbed the wrong one in her haste while escaping the college.
  • Mary’s Great-Aunt Charlotte in the book is just that: her great-aunt. There’s no mention or hint of her having practiced magic at any point in her life or having been a student at the college. The fly-by-night Madam Mumblechook wants so desperately to get her hands on in the film are just wildflowers in the book, and so she might not even know they exist.
  • While Mary’s great-aunt has a bit of a scuttle with the college in the film, there is a plot twist in the book where Mary isn’t the first person Tib recruited to rescuing Gib. Before Mary, Tib coerced Ms. Marjoribanks into helping him, but after she failed, she remained weary of the cat and often eyed Mary with suspicion due to her relation to the feline.
  • The movie’s climax has Mary still on college grounds, attempting to rescue Peter after Mumblechook fuses him with the fly-by-night to evolve him into a higher being, but the book has a chase sequence of Mary and Peter fleeing Mumblechook and Dr. Dee, the former pair are riding low to the ground due to Mary’s broomstick being unable to handle the weight of them both.
  • One thing the film carries over from the book’s climax is the herd of freed animals helping Mary. The animals in the book act as a shield, surrounding Mary and Peter to protect them from Mumblechook swooping from above, but in the movie, one of the animals, a monkey, disguises himself as Mary, fooling Dr. Dee and allowing Mary to sneak over to where Mumblechook is. In addition, the film has a wider variety of animals, while the book mentions only deer and birds.
  • Mary uses the cancel magic spell in the spellbook she stole from Madam Mumblechook to cancel the magic in her broomstick, causing her to plummet to the ground. Doing this also saps her broomstick of its magic, and the book ends with Mary starting school and gradually forgetting about her magical adventure.

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