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375 pages, Mass Market Paperback
First published May 1, 2003
"Yes! I'm me! I am careful and logical and I look up things I don't understand! When I hear people use the wrong words, I get edgy! I am good with cheese. I read books fast! I think! And I always have a piece of string! That's the kind of person I am!This book is written to be accessible to kids and adults alike - since Pratchett does not stoop to the condescending and patronizing attitude that can easily plague the story written for ...ahem... younger members of society. No, you see, Pratchett seems to believe that intelligent young characters, as well as intelligent young readers, obviously, are perfectly capable of following stories with several layers of complexity in them.
"Zoology, eh? That's a big word, isn't it?"This book is also quite accessible to those who are just starting their journey into the superficially magical but actually very firmly grounded in reality and not afraid to deal with uncomfortable issues and uncomfortable questions world that Pratchett created. And please don't be fooled that the action takes place on a flat planet traveling through space on the back of four elephants standing on a back of a giant space turtle - the issues he writes about are quite applicable to the lives of people on a giant blue-green ball hurtling through space while circling along the hot yellow Sun.
"No, actually it isn't," said Tiffany. "Patronizing is a big word. Zoology is really quite short."
“Another world is colliding with this one,” said the toad. “There. Happy now? That’s what Miss Tick thinks. But it’s happening faster than she expected. All the monsters are coming back.”In this book, Pratchett creates equally memorable settings that are polar opposites of each other. On one side, we have The Chalk - a land of green hills that are suited for shepherding and populated by sturdy rural folk that do not take kindly to things like witchcrafting.
“There’s no one to stop them.”
There was silence for a moment.
“There’s me,” said Tiffany.
“Ordinary fortune-tellers tell you what you want to happen; witches tell you what’s going to happen whether you want it to or not. Strangely enough, witches tend to be more accurate but less popular.”In fact, they'd prefer to burn witches for little less than the suspicion of being one. You see, most people there, unlike Tiffany, do not stop to *think* about what they're doing and *why* they're doing it. But Tiffany is not the one to go along with the crowd thinking without stopping to think for herself and question her motives and reasons.
“This is a dream, after all, Tiffany told herself. It doesn’t have to make sense, or be nice. It’s a dream, not a daydream. People who say things like “May all your dreams come true” should try living in one for five minutes.”But nothing in this fantastical and yet horrifying world is ever prepared for Tiffany with her logical mind and common sense and fierce desire to protect anything that is *hers*.
"Yes! I'm *me*! I am careful and logical and I look up things I don't understand! When I hear people use the wrong words, I get edgy! I am good with cheese. I read books fast! I think! And I always have a piece of string! That's the kind of person I am!"
"And all the stories had, somewhere, the witch. The wicked old witch.Yes, this is my favorite thing about Tiffany - she wants to be a witch because she wants to know things. Just think about it - how awesome is it? Isn't it the opposite of what popular culture tries to teach young girls - to be pretty princesses just waiting for the Prince Charming???
And Tiffany had thought, Where’s the evidence?
The stories never said why she was wicked. It was enough to be an old woman, enough to be all alone, enough to look strange because you had no teeth. It was enough to be called a witch.
If it came to that, the book never gave you the evidence of anything. It talked about “a handsome prince” ... was he really, or was it just because he was a prince that people called him handsome? As for “a girl who was as beautiful as the day was long” ... well, which day? In midwinter it hardly ever got light! The stories didn’t want you to think, they just wanted you to believe what you were told...
Anyway, she preferred the witches to the smug handsome princes and especially to the stupid smirking princesses, who didn’t have the sense of a beetle...
She couldn’t be the prince, and she’d never be a princess, and she didn’t want to be a woodcutter, so she’d be the witch and know things."
“The thing about witchcraft,” said Mistress Weatherwax, “is that it’s not like school at all. First you get the test, and then afterward you spend years findin’ out how you passed it. It’s a bit like life in that respect.”Tiffany has a highly logical and practical mind. She stops to think about things. She is reasonable and level-headed. She is fiercely protective of the things she loves. Oh, and did I mention that she is wickedly smart (“She’d read the dictionary all the way through. No one told her you weren’t supposed to”) and has a strong sense of justice and fairness? After all, her worldview was influenced by her legendary shepherdess grandmother, perhaps a bit a a witch herself (who, I think, could be a soul sister of Granny Weatherwax), and Tiffany has internalized her grandmother's philosophy quite well:
“Them as can do has to do for them as can't. And someone has to speak up for them as has no voices."
"All witches are selfish, the Queen had said. But Tiffany’s Third Thoughts said: Then turn selfishness into a weapon! Make all things yours! Make other lives and dreams and hopes yours! Protect them! Save them! Bring them into the sheepfold! Walk the gale for them! Keep away the wolf! My dreams! My brother! My family! My land! My world! How dare you try to take these things, because they are mine!"At the end of her adventure, Tiffany does something that not that many heroines of books aimed at younger people do - she genuinely grows up, gains some maturity that is amazing and yet sad at the same time - sad because it's always a part of the emotions I feel when realizing that someone is slowly losing their childhood innocence bit by bit, changing from a child to someone with *responsibility* (and your age, really, has little bearing on whether you are an adult, after all). She no longer is just a little girl - she is a girl armed with knowledge and power (with which, of course, apparently comes great responsibility) - and she takes it on with the same quiet resignation and determination as she does anything else.
“I’ll never be like this again, she thought, as she saw the terror in the Queen’s face. I’ll never again feel as tall as the sky and as old as the hills and as strong as the sea. I’ve been given something for a while, and the price of it is that I have to give it back.---------------
And the reward is giving it back, too. No human could live like this. You could spend a day looking at a flower to see how wonderful it is, and that wouldn’t get the milking done. No wonder we dream our way through our lives. To be awake, and see it all as it really is…no one could stand that for long.”
“The secret is not to dream," she whispered. "The secret is to wake up. Waking up is harder. I have woken up and I am real. I know where I come from and I know where I'm going. You cannot fool me any more. Or touch me. Or anything that is mine.”
"She’d never really liked the book. It seemed to her that it tried to tell her what to do and what to think. Don’t stray from the path, don’t open that door, but hate the wicked witch because she is wicked. Oh, and believe that shoe size is a good way of choosing a wife.
A lot of the stories were highly suspicious, in her opinion. There was the one that ended when the two good children pushed the wicked witch into her own oven. Tiffany had worried about that after all that trouble with Mrs Snapperly. Stories like this stopped people thinking properly, she was sure. She’d read that one and thought, Excuse me? No one has an oven big enough to get a whole person in, and what made the children think they could just walk around eating people’s houses in any case? And why does some boy too stupid to know a cow is worth a lot more than five beans have the right to murder a giant and steal all his gold? Not to mention commit an act of ecological vandalism? And some girl who can’t tell the difference between a wolf and her grandmother must either have been as dense as teak or come from an extremely ugly family. The stories weren’t real. But Mrs Snapperly had died because of stories."
Some things start before other things.. . . is a keeper, despite that it doesn't grow further. The first chapter has countless memorable bits. A sampling:
Another and larger part of Tiffany's brain was thinking of the word susurrus. It was a word that not many people have thought about, ever. [...] Susurrus . . . according to her grandmother's dictionary, it meant "a low soft sound, as of whispering or muttering." Tiffany liked the taste of the word.I think is the most self-insert moment of the entire Discworld body, as I think I recall it was Pratchett's favorite word also. More:
She'd read the dictionary all the way through. No one told her you weren't supposed to.Tiffany is an excellent children's book character: not perfect, not fanciful, not wistfully motivated, determined, a free thinker. I'm excited to revisit her growth over the next few books.
"Crivens! Gang awa' oot o' here, ye daft wee hinny! 'Ware the green heid!"
Then, to her dark delight, there was a susurrus.
Ack! Crivens! What a bonnie wee hag, our wee hag is!Thanks, Rob. I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Terry Pratchett is the finest gonnagle this side of the chalk, ye ken? For a bigjob, as that. He’s got the knowing of the plot-weaving, and the unner-standin’ of the free dimensional characters. An tha’s a fine thing too, ‘cos them character dimensions d’nae be coming cheap! He knows his ups from his downs, his coos from his ships, and his hags from his quins, good an proper. An he give us all some licker, in silver thimbles too, like a real, right polite nob.
We Nac Mac Feegle ain’t known for our way with words – unless them words be fighting, stealing and drinking – but there are two ver’rae important words the kelda made me promise to remember if anyone ever asked about this book tha’ bigjob Terry has writ about our very own hag of the hills. It’s a kind of geas, ye ken? Ver’rae important. Those words be: REED IT.
Now, if ye dirty, great scunners are done – I’ll be getting back to the shindig.