In the third part of The Light Fantastic, Eskarina learns magic from Granny Weatherwax. Sort of. If you’re intrigued, then it’s time for Mark to read The Light Fantastic.
Like the previous section, I’m amazed at how serious and silly Pratchett has written this story. I mean, we go from the super disturbing sequence where Granny burns the staff, thereby burning Eskarina as well, to the scene where Eskarina insists that Granny give her goats human names. And it works! It works because it builds up the relationship between these two. They’re both new characters to us, and it’s important to me to see how they’re going to get alone with one another. I don’t imagine that they’ll be together for this entire novel, though. I suspect Billet’s warning that Esk will have to go to Unseen University will end up being true, so that would mean that Granny only has a limited amount of time with Eskarina. How is she spending that time?
She teaches Esk (and us!) about the differences between the two types of magic, and I don’t think it was until this section that I truly understood this. I got the sense before that wizards weren’t ones for subtlety, but I think this is so much deeper than that. Even before we get to the actual training scenes, Granny explains the difference to Eskarina’s father:
“Well, you can drink lots of cider and you just feel better and that’s it, isn’t it?”
The smith nodded again.
“But applejack, you drink that in little mugs and you don’t drink a lot and you don’t drink it often, because it goes right to your head?”
The smith nodded again and, aware that he wasn’t making a major contribution to the dialogue, added, “That’s right.”
“That’s the difference,” said Granny.
So, it’s also more about power. We do know that Granny has magic that isn’t a sleight of hand or an illusion of knowledge of power. She can ride in the mind of any animal, and I think there are hints of other things she can do? I wasn’t totally sure, but I’m assuming that “Shifting” and “Sending” are other spells. Anyway, the magic Granny does as a witch is respectful. It’s about taking things in small doses that you can control. It’s done in moderation! Granny doesn’t seem to rely much on what magic she does have; instead, she feeds into the stereotypes and tropes of being a which to inflate herself with power, which is INCREDIBLE to me.
And really, that was such a delight to read. Granny more or less compels Eskarina to do a ton of errands for her while teaching her, and that’s HILARIOUS. But I didn’t think she did this to be cruel or anything like that. I think she’s trying to prepare Esk for the inevitable by teaching her how to rely on everything that isn’t magic. There really is a power in what others don’t know, and if Esk is going to head to Unseen University and have to cope with the other wizards, then I see this as Granny giving Esk tools she’ll later be able to use.
At the same time, I understood Eskarina’s disappointment. Granny’s witch hat is nothing more than a hat, at least in a metaphysical sense. Given that Esk has been struggling with the unsettling thoughts she’s had about magic recently, I imagine it wasn’t very rewarding to find out that Granny’s magic was mostly a smokescreen, an intentional one at that. I don’t think Eskarina will learn to appreciate this for a while, honestly, and I don’t blame her. There’s an obvious metaphor here in the idea that children view adults as possessing magical powers. But then we learn the truth as we grow up, and it’s heartbreaking, you know?
Still, Granny does eventually show Eskarina some “real” magic when she finally gives in to teaching her about Borrowing. Y’ALL, I LOVED THIS SECTION SO MUCH. I love that we get to experience Eskarina’s exploration, as well as Granny’s realization that Esk has a lot of untapped power within her. SO MUCH SO THAT ESK JUST LEAVES WHILE WITHIN THE EAGLE. She clearly goes beyond Borrowing, since she leaves her body behind, unconscious. But she saw the way to do it, and she took it. I admit that I was impressed, too! Unfortunately for me, I don’t get to just barge to the next section. YOU BETTER BELIEVE I WANT TO READ MORE. I’m a sucker for coming-of-age stories, so this is hitting the mark for me ALREADY.
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