I've just re-read Loius Sachar's Holes as a consequence of watching the movie the weekend before last. Having enjoyed both the book and the movie, I've been pondering the role of the two "wicked women" in the story: Kissing Kate Barlow, the schoolteacher-turned-outlaw; and the descendant of her "enemy", Ms Walker, who is the Warden of Camp Green Lake. It occurs to me that there aren't very many ordinary wicked women in children's literature. Of course, there are the wicked witches or wicked fairies of the Fairy Tales, but I can think of very few ordinary women who are wicked - there's Bellatrix Lestrange and Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter books, but most women are domestic. Would the Warden of Camp Green Lake be more or less scary if she was a man instead ? You probably would not get the issue of rattlesnake-venom based nail polish, if the Warden was a man; for me one of the most unnerving scenes in the book and the film is when the Warden strikes "Mr. Sir", poisoning him with the rattlesnake venom nail polish.
I get the feeling that Kate Barlow, even as an outlaw, wasn't really wicked so much as desperate, although she killed quite a few men when robbing them of their worldly goods. She fell in love with Sam the onion seller, and because he was black, he was killed for kissing a white woman. I get the impression that Kate was half-crazy with love and grief when she turned outlaw, and that she turned outlaw largely because the Sheriff of Green Lake wouldn't help her when the townspeople set fire to the school.
The Warden, Ms Walker, is the descendant of Charles "Trout" Walker, the man who wanted to marry Kate Barlow and was turned down. The Walkers apparently handed their grudge against Kate Barlow on to their descendants, much as Stanley's family curse was handed on to the descendants of Elya Yelnats, the "no-good-dirt-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather", the man who forgot to carry Madame Zeroni up the mountain. It could be argued that Ms Walker is not really wicked either, just resentful and frustrated, but I'm not convinced. Someone who takes pleasure in wearing nail polish laced with rattlesnake venom, and who destroys Zero's files after he runs away from the Camp, so that no one will know he was there, is definitely in the "wicked women" category.
So how many other Wicked Women, who aren't Witches or Fairies, are there in children's literature ? I'd be interested to know.