In the third part of Wyrd Sisters, the duke and duchess try to use the law to track down the missing child, but they quickly learn that witches are not to be messed with. Because buns. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
If this book turns into a war between the witches and the Lancre royalty, I’m going to be very pleased. I say that because this first glimpse of the conflict to come is just so much fun. Well, it’s also slightly disturbing at times, SO LET US DISCUSS THIS.
Oh, now I get it. A traveling theater troupe. What’s a better place to hide a child? Truthfully, these three witches could not have kept little Tom John with them. Oh, I’m sure they would have made a fantastic trio of mothers! But the circumstances made this a lot more complicated than just learning how to raise a child. They accurately knew that it was only a matter of time before the new folks in power came after them.
And while I will address that plot, I wanted to point out one incredible thing that Granny Weatherwax does here. Vitoller and his wife don’t take long to agree to take the child, though they do openly admit that it won’t be an easy thing to do. Regardless, they take on a child they’ve never met out of the kindness of their hearts. Granny then does this:
At last she produced a small leather bag, which she tipped out onto the table. There was a lot of silver, and even a few tiny gold coins.
“This should take care of –” she groped – “nappies and suchlike. Clothes and things. Whatever.”
“A hundred times over, I should think,” said Vitoller weakly. “Why didn’t you mention this before?”
“If I’d had to buy you, you wouldn’t be worth the price.”
OH MY GOD, WHAT AN INCREDIBLE LINE. I love that she recognizes that the cost of raising a child is a fair thing to consider, despite that she doesn’t actually understand what that entails. She also encourages Vitoller and his wife not to pry too deeply into the child’s origins. And with that, the witches resolve their problem! Just kidding NOT EVEN CLOSE. I’ll talk about Lancre in the next section, so let’s just focus on the brilliance of what these three witches offer to Tom John after they’ve given him away. I think I slightly misread the characterization of Magrat in comparison to Granny Weatherwax. I don’t think she’s solely supposed to represent “modern” witchery, though that aspect is still here in the book. But it was a lot clearer to me that Magrat resembles characters like Twoflower, Mort, and Nijel, in that she bases her understanding of a culture or a role on what she learned before she was actually a part of it. Old Goodie Whemper – maysherestinpeace – was Magrat’s mentor of sorts, and most of Magrat’s ideas of how to be a witch came from that. Magrat’s the one to suggest that they all give Tom John a parting gift, as is traditional, but Granny (because of her commitment to headology) is not all that interested in the more stereotypical aspects of Magrat’s witchery.
“That’s how it used to be done in the old days.”
“Oh, you mean gingerbread cottages and all that,” said Granny dismissively. “Spinning wheels and pumpkins and pricking your finger on rose thorns and similar. I could never be having with all that.”
It’s becoming apparent to me that this will be an ongoing dynamic to be explored between these two. But where does Nanny Ogg stand in all of this? Well, that’s not fair, because she’s not actually standing through most of this section.
“Where’s Nanny?” she said.
“She’s lying out on the lawn,” said Granny. “She felt a bit poorly.”
HAVEN’T WE ALL BEEN THERE, NANNY. True story: one of the first times I got drunk I made out with a doorknob. You’re welcome.
So, will Pratchett show us if the the three gifts will come to have an affect on Tom John’s life? He’s super young, so I’m not expected a point-of-view section from a toddler (BUT HOW COOL WOULD THAT BE), and I don’t see how this book could cover a long period of time. But I found the three witches’ gifts to be very sweet and touching. Magrat gave him the gift of easy friendship; Nanny gifted him with a good memory; and Granny…. oh, Granny Weatherwax, you’re too much.
“Let him be whoever he thinks he is,” she said. “That’s all anybody could hope for in this world.”
Bless you, because I agree.
Taxes and Witches
I suspect that this is not going to be as brutal as Mastiff and its examination of taxation, and I am perfectly fine with that. I love the idea that the duke and duchess sit in Lancre, ordering their soldiers and knights to go get the witches, and they accomplish absolutely nothing because they so grossly underestimate the witches and overestimate their own power. I honestly thought that when the sergeant showed up to arrest Granny, we’d get some huge confrontation. I should have expected what actually happened because this is Pratchett we’re talking about.
“She did what?” said the duke.
The sergeant stared fixedly at an area a few inches to the right of the duke’s chair.
“She give me a cup of tea, sir,” he said.
“And what about your men?”
“She give them one too, sir.”
AND IT ONLY GETS BETTER.
“Admit it – she offered you hedonistic and licentious pleasures known only to those who dabble in the carnal arts, didn’t she?”
The sergeant stood to attention and stared straight ahead.
“No, sir,” he said, in the manner of one speaking the truth come what may. “She offered me a bun.”
“Yes, sir. It had currants in it.”
Perhaps saying that the duke and duchess underestimated the witches is not the right term, though. They simply do not understand them. They have a stereotypical view of witches that relies on them being utterly and completely evil, and clearly, handing out buns with currants and biscuits and throat-healing tea is not at all what the duke expected. It’s why he turns to the Fool, who has lived here his whole life, in order to find out what exactly the witches are.
Amidst this, we’ve also got the duke dealing with the guilt he’s feeling for killing King Verence. It’s not particularly funny, but I don’t think it should be. I don’t feel sorry for Duke Felmet, but I’m interested in seeing this explored. Is he going to pursue the witches ruthlessly because of his wife or to alleviate his guilt? It’d be a hell of a way to distract him from it. But what if that causes him to question what he’s doing? It’s all speculation since I’m barely starting this book, but Pratchett mentions it enough that I think we’ll see further development of his character along these lines. And what’s Verence up to? MORE GHOSTS.
The video contains use of the word “mad.”
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