Discworld Wiki

"Black Aliss" Demurrage was incredibly powerful Discworld witch from the Forest of Skund, an intensely magical bit of the Ramtops neighbouring Lancre. She became famous across the continent for showy magic and some nasty fits of pique. She was a master of the use of stories; Nanny Ogg said she could run as many as three at once. So she is both the envy of Witches for her skill and a cautionary example of what happens when you don't keep that power under control. Unfortunately, she was unable to distinguish reality from her stories and started going mad — hence one version of the origin of her name as she moved to the Dark side. Aliss's image and personna became the standard for generations of Witches and the public perception. Her silhouette can still be seen flying across the moon on shop windows and schoolroom walls every autumn. She became "Black Aliss" long before her anti-social excesses; the nickname came from her fingernails and teeth (living in a gingerbread house when you've got a sweet tooth a problem for dental hygene). She may have been the most powerful of all the witches: she once sent an entire castle to sleep, unchanged, for a hundred years (Sleeping Beauty). She is the witch of Cinderella fame who turns a pumpkin into a carriage, the witch behind the poison apple of Snow White and ultimately the witch who lives in the gingerbread house who meets her end when two Überwaldean children who she is fattening up for dinner push her into her own oven (Hansel and Gretel). Nowadays, powerful Witches covet the glory that was "Black Aliss", but they dread letting slip a cackle, and most feel their job is to guard against magic, not wield it. Aliss trained Nanna Plumb, who trained Goody Heggety, who trained Nanny Gripes, who trained Granny Weatherwax. Esme is as powerful as Aliss was, if not more so, and is concerned constantly with keeping herself in check lest she ends up like Aliss.

Black Aliss does not actually appear as a figure in any of the Discworld novels being long dead. However, she is mentioned extensively in Wyrd Sisters and her presence as the prototypical bad example is also felt in Witches Abroad, Lords and Ladies, and Maskerade.

Recently, a character by name of Black Alice has been introduced in DC comics, with magic-based abilities; it is not known whether the name is an intentional reference or not.


Black Aliss has her origins in the figure Black Annis (also known as Black Agnes or Black Anna), who is a bogeyman figure in English folklore. She is depicted as a blue-faced hag or witch with iron claws and a taste for human flesh (especially children). She haunts the countryside of Leicestershire, living in a cave which she dug with her iron claws in the side of a sandstone cliff in the Dane Hills. Her cave which is known as Black Annis' Bower Clos has a great oak tree at the entrance. She ventures out at night looking for unsuspecting children and lambs to eat, then tans their skins by hanging them on a tree before wearing them around her waist. She also reaches inside houses to snatch people which leads to Leister cottages have small windows through which she can only squeeze one arm. She was also known to hide in the branches of her oak tree waiting to leap upon unsuspecting prey. The legend of Black Annis like all tales of bogeymen was used by parents to ensure that their children behaved.