“Cry Witch!” was written in 1951, squarely in Leiber’s Jungian period. Its central figure, the eponymous witch, is an anima shadow to the narrator’s ‘friend’. She goes nameless in the tale and it is the mystery of her nature and the questions that surround her that propel the story forward.
“My friend did not know her name or where she lived. He did not ask her. With regard to that he was conscious of an unspoken agreement between them. But she always turned up when he wanted her and she was very artful in her choice of the moment to slip away.”
Leiber starts with the ground he covered in “The Girl With the Hungry Eyes”, where the anima is a psychic vampire that feeds off of the attention and desires of men but goes off in a different direction. In Cry Witch! the anima is all surface, only reflecting the desires and fantasies that men and the ‘friend’ project upon her. She is never allowed to be herself or is perhaps incapable of being anything at all without male attention. In Jungian terms, she is perpetually Eve.
“He walked past their houses late at night, hoping they would be looking out of a darkened window, warm white ghosts in their cotton gowns.”
The friend’s own emotional growth is stunted. He wants to keep the mystery women to himself and possess her. He steals her away from the other village men and takes her to live in a cabin in the hills to be his wife. She goes willingly and even seems to develop a tenderness towards him and they share many fulfilling days. But is it real or is it his own fantasy of a life with a wife that he projects upon her?
As well as exploring old ground in a new way, “Cry Witch!” also seems to predict Conjure Wife which was written a few years later and perhaps gives us a glimpse of the early development of what may have become the young Polish mistress of Our Lady of Darkness.