In the ninth part of Equal Rites, Granny orchestrates a way to get Eskarina into Unseen University after a moment of embarrassment. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of sexism.
I can’t get over this. I can’t get over how blatantly sexist it is that Unseen University is organized like this. I was shocked, of course, that Granny was entering the University at the opening of this section, that she was greeted by a woman, and that it was extremely evident that the whole adage of no women being allowed in Unseen University isn’t quite true. Well, technically, didn’t Treatle say that no woman had been allowed through the front gate? Perhaps he was speaking so specifically that he wasn’t actually lying. REGARDLESS, THIS IS STILL GRATING BECAUSE WHAT THE FUCK.
Women are allowed in Unseen University, but must stay UNDERGROUND, and they’re responsible for all the cooking and cleaning and upkeep of the place and THIS IS UNREAL. I mean, this is actually a very common treatment of marginalized folk? You know, like people who despise immigration but want immigrants to do work they don’t want to do. Or racists who hate non-white people and their cultures but then constantly steal said culture from them. So, the wizards believe that women are physically incapable of magic, that they’re not built for it, that they’re too emotionally, but wait. PLEASE COME CLEAN UP AFTER US. No, this is not at all indicative of what lazy slobs we are, we’re definitely the superior gender.
OH MY GOD.
Anyway, this all does lead to us meeting Mrs. Whitlow, the witch in charge of all the women who work for Unseen University. I do think the ongoing joke about headology is pretty damn funny, especially when Mrs. Whitlow and Granny both participate in fortune-telling, knowing that it’s all bullshit. In fact, it’s so clearly nonsense that Whitlow becomes suspicious when Granny is too good at it. BLESS. But this is not my favorite part of this section. It’s this:
What Granny actually found was that the University had a mind of its own.
THIS IS TOTALLY THE BEST THING HERE. After thousands of years of absorbing all the magic from countless generations of wizards, the rocks of the University themselves gain a consciousness in a sense. Of course, all of it is a set up to yet another pun that destroyed me forever:
From stone’s point of view the universe is hardly created and mountain ranges are bouncing up and down like organ-stops while continents zip backward and forward in general high spirits, crashing into each other from the sheer joy of momentum and getting their rocks off.
I FELL VICTIM TO YET ANOTHER PRATCHETT PUN, GODDAMN IT.
But how cool is this? Granny is able to Borrow the actual University, meaning that she can witness anything that is occurring inside of it. (Apologies to all those who have read “First Encounter” because you now cannot escape comparing the two. JUST KIDDING, NOT SORRY.) It’s through this that she’s able to see what happens to Esk (though Pratchett cleverly doesn’t reveal this to us) and prepare for the fallout from it. I thought it was strange that she would tell Whitlow that she should hire a new servant soon, and clearly, she was referring to Esk. But why?
She was just in time to see Esk come running through the gates, in tears.
“The magic just wouldn’t work! I could feel it there but it just wouldn’t come out!”
Obviously, this is heartbreaking, but it makes me want to re-visit my confusion over magic, the staff, and Esk. Exactly what has agency here? Is the staff equally as sentient as Esk? What about the magic itself? Because it seems extremely weird to me that the staff/the magic would essentially help Esk get to Unseen University, only to not work at all when she most needed it. Does magic have a tragic sense of irony? Does it know what sort of plan Granny has? I’ve always gotten the sense that magic in this world is aware of subconscious thought in humans, especially since Esk has so often acted out her desires through magic, even when she’s not thinking about it. I guess I’m confused as to how magic can unconsciously scorch the earth because it’s so powerful, and then, just days later, become utterly useless in the one place where there’s a huge concentration of magic.
Regardless, Granny still enacts her plan to get Esk within the University, and there’s an element to it that’s pretty genius:
“You won’t have to bother with lessons, you can go all over the place, no one will notice you – you’ll be invisible really – and, well, you can really clean up.”
That’s actually a good point. She’ll have access to many parts of the University as a servant without actually being enrolled. So how will Eskarina learn how to use her magic? Will her location just help her? I AM INTERESTED TO SEE HOW THIS WILL PLAY OUT.
The original text contains the word “mad.”
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