In the fourth part of Equal Rites, Eskarina really is a wizard, and Hagrid wasn’t around to tell her that. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
I swear, I kept anticipating the inevitable YER A WIZARD, ESKARINA, but it never happened.
There are two distinct sections in this part of the book, and first deals with the not-at-all-funny and terrifying problem of Esk becoming the Eagle she tried to borrow. What seemed like an almost miraculous bout of vindication for Esk quickly turns to body horror as Esk’s humanity BEGINS TO DISAPPEAR. Her memories, her thoughts, her sense of self, her identity – all of it slips out of the eagle’s mind as she becomes the eagle. Despite that Granny warned her that it wasn’t possible without a lot of training and control, Esk was able to do it. But this horrific event needed to happen in order to justify what happens in the second half of this section.
Granny Weatherwax carries the bulk of the action and narration here, since Esk spends most of this part unconscious and… not existing? Something in between those two! I loved the way that Pratchett wrote her as this calming force because it tones down the absolute horror of what was happening to Eskarina. I found myself relying on her because if anyone here would be able to figure out how to solve this disaster, it was her. Initially, she sends out her colony of bees to act as a lookout for Esk’s eagle, but that doesn’t prove fateful. (THAT IS SO COOL.) When that doesn’t work, she realizes the answer was sitting in her cottage. I suspect she always theorized that the wizard staff left behind by Billet would help her, but as much as Granny is here to represent witch-ly wisdom, she also represents denial. She consistently resists accepting that Eskarina is a wizard, and so the staff is a last resort. Yes, she does ask the staff to find Esk and the eagle and to help untangle the cords of their two identities. But she does so begrudgingly. We see that throughout this! She’s not eager to turn her granddaugher over to the wizards, you know?
I mentioned in the first video that I was confused about how Granny was able to use the magic of the staff, but it took a re-read while writing this review to see the part I missed:
Granny was no stranger to the uses of power, but she knew she relied on gentle pressure subtly to steer the tide of things. She didn’t put it like that, of course – she would have said that there was always a lever if you knew how to look. The power in the staff was harsh, fierce, the raw stuff of magic distilled out of the forces that powered the universe itself.
What so satisfying about reading the next scene is related to that final sentence. I’m so happy that I’m reading this after The Light Fantastic because now I understand exactly what she’s talking about. As the sheer power hits Granny and she gets a glimpse of what lies on the other side of the doorway that’s opened up by the magic of the universe, I could visualize it. I could appreciate how absurd and horrifying it was. But it also serves to remind us of what Esk is getting into. This is going to be her life! This is the sort of magic she’s going to have to deal with.
That’s the big theme of the second half of this section. Once Esk is awake, Granny makes a vital point:
“They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but it is not one half so bad as a lot of ignorance.”
I got the sense that Eskarina, in her excitement, developed a form of entitlement to her magic, though it’s VERY small. She refused to listen to Granny earlier, and then, after turning one of her brothers into a pig, she acts as if she’s above turning him back. Of course, I can’t ignore the brilliant way in which this is a reflection of the changing dynamic between her and her brothers. They’ve been able to torment and bully her for years, and now, she’s suddenly got the power to make them leave her alone. So it’s fascinating to me to watch how she butts heads with Granny as she navigates her own power. Part of that comes from her constant need to argue with everyone (WHICH I ADORE SO DEEPLY, YOU HAVE NO IDEA).
But part of her behavior comes from the amount of power she has. When she finally demonstrates her potential – by turning the hearthstone INTO LAVA – Granny concedes. She spends time prior to this trying to logically avoid admitting that Esk is a wizard, but then she sees what Esk can do without any training whatsoever, and there’s no room for her to be in denial. So what can she do? She can teach Esk control. The magic witches use is all based in control, you know? Or at least that’s how I read it. It’s a lot more subtle, and it’s about managing what’s sensible and necessary versus what’s possible. I think that before Granny ever gets Esk to Unseen University, she’s going to spend as much time as possible urging Esk to utilize both the wisdom of the witches and what she learns there. As evidenced by her revenge against Gulta, Esk has the power to make her whims possible almost instantaneously. She’s got to learn not to do that, or she’s going to earn a lot of attention that might not exactly be pleasant.
I AM SO EXCITED FOR THIS, FOR THE RECORD.
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