When we first meet Matilda Wormwood, she’s a bright child with amazing talents. Her home life is less than ideal and her school is run by a sadistic headmistress. It is a quaint children’s book written to empower children.
However, it may actually be the origin story of an amazing mutant villain.
Who is Matilda?
Matilda Wormwood is five and a half when her parents send her to school. However, she could speak by one and a half and was able to read perfectly by age four. She is described as “clever - very clever”.
Matilda also has two parents. Their behavior is all the worst parts of Disney’s evil stepmother handbook. Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood dote on their son and pay little to no attention to Matilda. In fact, they hardly know she’s there. When they do notice her it is always for the wrong reasons and they constantly berate her for a variety of infractions, including reading and not watching television.
When she does finally go to school she’s noticed by her teacher, Ms. Honey, to have above-average intelligence in both reading comprehension and advanced mathematics. This is a child who is ready to be nurtured and loved and shown that she is special.
What stands in her way?
The problem or problems for Matilda come from two places: her parents and her schooling. Though Ms. Honey does have a positive influence, her efforts are overwhelmed by the evil machinations of Mr. And Mrs. Wormwood at home and by the dreaded Headmistress Trunchbull at school.
None of them see her as a child with potential and do everything they can to squash her attempts at hopes and dreams. Her parents know nothing about her and actively seek to silence her while The Trunchbull not only listens to the warnings from her parents but also refuses to acknowledge the advice of Ms. Honey. Three-quarters of Matilda’s world is out to stomp her into obedience and conformity. They don’t realize the madness they are brewing.
Mutant Mastermind in the Making
Did we mention Matilda’s mutant powers? The book was published in 1988. Consider that the first x-men comic was published in 1963 and Wolverine was introduced in 1974. By 1988 the world was very much aware of mutants.
That is why our brilliant little Matilda is so interesting and frightening. She shows some remarkable abilities:
Not to mention her genius intellect. These are all hallmarks of a budding mutant.
However, Matilda is also a blueprint for what happens when a young mutant goes rogue. She shows us on many different occasions that she’s been hardened by her upbringing. She is also one who glorifies and glories in revenge. When her father upsets her she ruins his hair (something he cares deeply about) and at another point superglues his hat to his head.
When it comes to the Trunchbull she goes even further, opting to use her telekinesis to write menacing messages on a chalkboard and then lifting her nemesis into the air and flinging her through the rafters and out into a field. Over the course of the book, she escalates from childish pranks to near murder through the use of her mutant powers.
Over the course of less than a year, a girl under the age of six learns she’s different, proves she’s different, finds her voice, identifies her enemies, and crushes them in acts of revenge that only a child’s mind could conjure. Due to her hatred being aimed at authority figures, only Ms. Honey acts as the saving grace for the rest of humanity.
What this means for the world
In the world of the book, is Matilda the only mutant? Is she the first? Is the world already aware of people like her? If they are then Ms. Honey may realize she’s looking after a veritable time bomb of PTSD. Matilda’s genius intellect means that she has been fully aware of her abuse for years. This type of treatment does not simply disappear. People with repressed childhood trauma often find themselves with symptoms years later.
Ms. Honey may be a temporary block to Matilda’s simmering anger. However, what happens the day her new guardian upsets her? What happens when Matilda is grounded for normal teenage infractions? Perhaps what we are witnessing in this book is a prequel to stories like Carrie, where Ms. Honey stops understanding how to truly halt what will inevitably be an increase in Matilda’s ability to use her powers against those she fears, hates, or mistrusts.
She is building to be a mutant villain whose equal has not yet shown themselves and, if she is the anomaly, may never appear to match her raw, unhinged power. Ms. Honey has placed herself in a role she cannot begin to comprehend.
It is vitally important that someone identify and record all of Matilda’s abilities early and find some way to have her confront her trauma in a safe environment. If this does not happen, the world is looking at an Omega-level, Charles Xavier-type mind with the pure anger and venom of a full-grown Magneto.