Mark Reads ‘Wyrd Sisters’: Part 5

In the fifth part of Wyrd Sisters, something wakes up, and it is very angry. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Wyrd Sisters.

I LOVE THIS SECTION SO MUCH. Pratchett’s writing is just so solid and evocative here, and this is perhaps his most ridiculous premise yet. AND I’M SO INTO IT.

I think that this part simply made me miss the winter. I spent nearly seven years in Boise, Idaho, so all of my early Christmas memories are full of snow. I was spoiled enough to have white winters, though that doesn’t mean I’m well aware of all the reasons why living in California is fantastic. (There is snow!!! You just have to drive to it.) I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I enjoy the cold. I love bundling up, I love all the food and flavors and spices associated with that time of year, and oh my god, do I love snow. I love snowballs and snow forts and that crunchy sound of boots crushing piles of snow beneath my feet and the way that it renders an environment calm and quiet and stunning.

(I would also suggest reading my Snowpocalypse story, because it explains my affinity for snow.)

And Terry does a beautiful thing here because there’s such a respect for the world he’s building. He slows down and takes the time to construct this scene, to provide us with the context of Hogswatchnight, the coldness of the Ramptops, the thaumaturgical chaos of the land, and then he purposely contradicts it all. There’s no chaos; there’s nothing. And yes, it’s a witty bit of wordplay, but it’s also eerie as hell. Granny Weatherwax senses a sudden nothing, and it freaks her out, though all she does is quietly search her own home with her mind.

And gods, it’s such a cool sequence. I love that she sends her mind further outwards and inwards, aware that there is a mind of sorts haunting her at the edge of her consciousness. Nothing seems to escape Granny, so it bothered me that she had such a hard time determining what it was.

Nothing there. Nothing there. The feeling was all around her, and there was nothing to cause it. She’d gone down about as far as she could, to the smallest creature in the kingdom and there was nothing there.

You know, it was only upon revisiting this chapter for this review that I realized that Pratchett had already told us what was going on – sort of. He revealed that King Verence was waiting for his “chance,” and then it arrives. Granted, his part is so tiny in this section that it was easy for me to miss it. Still? I could not have guessed what caused Granny to sense something or for the earth to begin shaking, even if I had remembered that detail. I was too distracted by how bizarre this was! Why was the castle shaking? Why was the forest listening? I know it’s a common motif for Pratchett to write about the sensation of inanimate objects feeling like they’re alive, but this felt so different than that.

Unfortunately, the Fool helps the duke and duchess realize the opportunity they’ve been dealt. Despite that the Fool tries to tell Duke Felmet that the witches are most likely not behind what’s happening (and he’s correct, obviously), he does blurt out a possible solution to their problems with the witches.

The duke shrugged. “How should I fight magic?” he said.

“With words,” said the Fool, without thinking, and was instantly sorry. They were both staring at him.

Y’all, I think this might actually work. As we’ll see when Granny goes to Nanny Ogg’s house, witches have a specific reputation to those around them. It’s a mixture of adoration and fear, and what the Fool suggests is to tear that down. He thinks that if they spread rumors about witches – believable rumors, ones that will stick and pass along – they might be able to siphon power from them. Given Granny’s commitment to headology, I think this is a huge deal. Again, it might actually work.

Of course, the witches have an enormous problem of their own and one smaller one. The smaller one is endlessly hilarious because NANNY OGG IS THE BEST WITCH EVER, I ADORE HER SO MUCH. She has no interest in appearing like a traditional witch at all: not Magrat’s idea of a witch, not Granny’s idea of a witch. She’s like a free agent, borrowing techniques and aesthetics from anywhere she wants, eager to host parties and socialize with everyone in Lancre town, and she’s an utter delight to be around. This is clearly not something that Granny and Magrat are used to by any means. Like, can we talk about this???

Nanny Ogg was sitting in a chair by the fire with a quart mug in one hand, and was conducting the reprise with a cigar. She grinned when she saw Granny’s face.

“What ho, my old boiler,” she screeched above the din. “See you turned up, then. Have a drink. Have two. Wotcher, Magrat. Pull up a chair and call the cat a bastard.”

HOW COULD YOU HATE SUCH A PERFECT HUMAN BEING.

I also loved the demon-summoning sequence. You know, the idea of headology felt a lot more complicated than it does here, and the example of it that Pratchett provides during this scene is a lot easier to understand than it was when I was first introduced to it. I think it’s also a lot funnier, since Magrat is so frustrated by the idea of using your mind to, more or less, trick others. This has to be the least frightening demon summoning, right??? As soon as he arrives with his ridiculous name, WartHurtle-JewelPickles can’t even try to be intimidating because Granny has no time for it. She cares not about procedure or tradition. She just wants information. Hell, she even tires of the ridiculous game of logic that’s inherent in the demon’s questioning:

“What the hell’s going on?” she said carefully. “And no mucking about trying to wriggle out of it, otherwise I’ll boil you.”

The demon appeared to hesitate. This was obviously a new approach.

I LOVE IT. These might be the most punk rock witches of all time. And what they finally get out of WartHurtle-JewelPickles is… well, it’s not very funny. It’s kind of disturbing..

There is nothing new in the kingdom,” said the demon, “but the land has woken up.”

“What do you mean?” said Granny.

It’s unhappy. It wants a king that cares for it.”

With so much magic present in the Ramtops, it’s not like the idea is all that surprising. Still! WHAT THE HELL, Y’ALL? The land is PISSED that Duke Felmet is trying to be king. But King Verence is dead. How can there be any resolution short of bringing Verence back to life? Maybe they just need to convince Duke Felmet that he needs to respect the land more. I DON’T KNOW.

The video contains use of the words “mad,” “madness,” “bonkers.”

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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