In the twelfth part of Equal Rites, Granny and Cutangle try to save Simon and Eskarina. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
I DID NOT EXPECT THIS, AND IT IS LOVELY.
This entire sequence is a surprise because it pits two unlikely characters together, forces them to work with one another, and then we see as the grow to understand each other better. Cutangle and Granny have a lot of reasons to be irritated here. Their magic fight was responsible for the chaos set before them; Granny is purposely breaking tradition and lore just by being there; and she is annoyed that the tradition and lore was there in the first place. And yet, as soon as they realize what’s happening, they put aside their witty one-liners and cutting remarks, since they know that they can’t stop the Things without working together. It’s a bad situation. REALLY, REALLY BAD:
“They’ve gone Wandering,” said Granny at last.
“I know,” said Cutangle.
“Your wizards won’t be able to get them back.”
“I know that, too.”
“They might get something back, though.”
“I wish you hadn’t said that.”
That idea in itself is a horrifying thing to ponder, so Pratchett doesn’t linger on it much, and neither do the characters. Instead, as Granny and Cutangle smoke a cigarette, Granny decides to tell Cutangle everything about how Eskarina grew up with magic. It’s the first sign here that Granny was willing to put aside her own (beautiful) condescension and just talk. It’s because of this that Granny theorizes that it’s still possible to go find the staff that Esk threw in the river.
Of course, all the hallmarks of both characters’ behavior is all over this. Granny operates without any nonsense in any cell in her body, and Cutangle is reluctant, jumpy, and fairly quick to want to give up. The whole dynamic here feels like Granny dragging Cutangle into one crisis after another while he fights her, kicking and screaming. But it’s through this that he begins to grow a sense of respect for her. And I think that includes a respect for how she approaches her own ignorance. Given what I wrote about knowledge and wizard ignorance in the last review, I thought it was meaningful that the entire boat joke was based on ignorance, too. When Granny doesn’t know something, she doesn’t make a spectacle out of it. She admits that she isn’t knowledgeable and then reasons that she better learn quickly. She’s not terrified about being ignorant; it doesn’t discourage her; it doesn’t stop her. When he tries to “reason” with her that the odds of them finding a staff in the ocean is absolutely ridiculous, she doesn’t agree with him and turn around:
“Can’t you think of anything else at all helpful that we could be doing?” she demanded.
Cutangle bailed for a few moments.
“No,” he said.
“Have you ever heard of anyone coming Back?”
“Then it’s worth a try, isn’t it?”
I love this idea. It’s worth a try. That’s Granny’s philosophy, and I’d even suggest that this is witch philosophy in some sense, too. It’s Granny’s “try” that gets them to the ice, which gets them to the staff, and that’s important. OBVIOUSLY. But I was way more floored by what happens between these two before the staff: THEY FIND OUT THAT THEY’RE BOTH FROM THE RAMTOPS AND PROBABLY KNEW ONE ANOTHER. Oh my god, and then they bond, both about the Ramtops and then about feeling left out. Holy shit, I was struck by so many emotions here because I know what it feels like to never belong at home. And I know it’s something I’ll never experience again. I made the choice to leave home at 16, and I know that I irreparably damaged that connection to that place. As Granny put it, I couldn’t cross the same river twice. It’ll never be the same again.
I think that this theme – that change is inevitable – played into the following scene so perfectly. Right when Granny and Cutangle are arguing about Granny’s correspondence to the University, she spots the staff. Because Granny is terrifying and commanding, it’s kind of perfect that she shames the staff into obeying her. She does so by telling it that change is inevitable:
“So you were thrown away,” snapped Granny. “So what? She’s hardly more than a child, and children throw us all away sooner or later. Is this royal service? Have you no shame, lying around sulking when you could be of some use at last?”
HAHAHA BURY ME HERE IN THIS PARAGRAPH, oh my god. But it works. Granny’s philosophy is all over this. There’s no harm in trying, and she compels the staff to keep trying. She then compels Cutangle to ride on a broomstick for the first time, which is adorable. Because he attempts to flirt with her… sort of? Mistakenly? Or he doesn’t really think about where he’s put his hands. Actually, I hope I’m not misreading this and he was being unintentionally crude. Still, I can’t deny how funny it is to think of them slowly floating along at a few miles per hour while their legs still touch the ground.
The original text contains use of the word “madness.”
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