In the sixth part of Wyrd Sisters, Granny finds out she’s got visitors; Tomjon surprises his parents; King Verence plots; and Magrat has a strange interaction. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of child abuse.
Yes yes yes.
I love seeing how all these pieces are coming together and giving me an idea of what might be happening here. I have to say “might” because I’m actually not going to pretend that I’m prepared. I’M NOT. But things are converging in fascinating ways, and I’m eager to see how they’ll eventually collide.
First things first, though: THE FOREST IS ALIVE. Literally! In more ways than one! The big reveal in the last section is made both creepier and funnier here, and I was immediately struck by how much this all reminded me of Rincewind. As Granny had to acknowledge that the forest – both as a sentient entity and as the collective of living creatures who inhabit it – are not going to leave her alone, she also has to cope with her own conscience. Initially, it’s very easy for her to refuse to get involved. It doesn’t matter that the animals of the forest turn her yard into a metterforical Noah’s Ark. She’s not going to budge for any reason:
“He is the new lord. This is his kingdom. I can’t go meddling. It’s not right to go meddling, on account of I can’t interfere with people ruling. It has to sort itself out, good or bad. Fundamental rule of magic, is that. You can’t go around ruling people with spells, because you’d have to use more and more spells all the time.”
I confess that after reading this part, I thought that Granny was making a good point! Shitty things happen sometimes, and you have to accept that you can’t change them. Except as the animals remained where they were, judging her silently with their judging eyes, even I had to accept that Granny’s defense of her inaction wasn’t all that strong. Like I said, it reminded me of Rincewind’s frequent refusal to get involved. Granted, I don’t think there are many similarities between the two characters. I mean, it’s not like Granny shies away from confrontation quite like Rincewind does. But Pratchett is a fan of slowly tearing away reluctance like this, and I love how he does that with Granny. She keeps telling herself that she can’t go around meddling, but I don’t think the forest is going to accept that from her.
OKAY WHAT. WHAT??? This is easily the most shocking development in this section, and I can offer up no explanation for it. We find out that while Tomjon has been unable to speak, he can… perform? I don’t know how to categorize this! He is learning things, as Mrs. Vitoller points out:
“He knows what things are. He does what he is told. I just wish you’d speak,” she said softly, patting the boy on the cheek.
So he understands language to some extent. So he’s a little shy or a slow learner. That’s in the realm of possibility! What’s not is Tomjon perfectly reciting a monologue from on of the troupe’s plays. No, not just perfectly reciting it, but performing it with perfect diction and delivery. It’s a flawless imitation of Vitoller, and Tomjon later perfectly imitates Willikins, too. Actually, that’s not quite correct, is it? Tomjon sounds better than Willikins, which… HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE? What does this mean? Well, it clearly means he’s destined for a life on the stage. BRING IT ON.
I LOVE ALL THE WORLDBUILDING HERE. I LOVE IT SO MUCH. Of course a castle would be littered with ghosts, and of course the kitchen would be practically overflowing with the ghosts of the animals killed to feed decades of humans. I love that Verence largely just wants to avoid them all, which makes sense given his characterization. Like Granny, he’s a reluctant force in the story. He doesn’t want to be a ghost and he’s not trying to adapt to the life. Hell, he won’t even walk through walls, which I’d figure would be one of the best aspects of being a ghost. (A man has his dignity, though.) Instead, he channels all of his energy (literally so) into fulfilling two goals: get out of the castle and find his son, and getting revenge on Duke Felmet.
Oh, it’s a great set-up for his story, and IT ONLY GETS BETTER. Because GREEBO. Nanny Ogg’s precious cat (who I imagine as Colonel Meow, RIP) shows up at the castle to “pay his respects” to Lady Felmet’s cat (WE ALL KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS), and King Verence’s months of planning comes to fruition. IT’S SO GREAT:
This was what he had been working on all these months. When he was alive he had always taken a lot of care of his body, and since being dead he had taken care to preserve its shape. It was too easy to let yourself go and become all fuzzy around the edges; there were ghosts in the castle who were mere pale blobs. But Verence had wielded iron self-control and exercised – well, had thought hard about exercise – and fairly bulged with spectral muscles. Months of pumping ectoplasm had left him in better shape than he had ever been apart from being dead.
Verence has learned how to interact with the physical world. Does that mean he’s graduated to a poltergeist??? THIS IS SO COOL, Y’ALL. Well, I imagine that he might regret capturing Greebo in a room because this is Greebo we’re talking about, y’all. Greebo does not fuck around.
I felt bad for the Fool prior to this, but it was sort of a general sympathy. But in this chapter, we learn just how miserable he is and how long he’s been miserable for:
He hadn’t asked to be a Fool, but it wouldn’t have mattered if he had, because he couldn’t recall anyone in his family ever listening to anything he said after Dad ran away.
The Fool got a life with his Grandad, a vicious and physically violent man who was prone to beating his grandson to guarantee that he’d be the perfect Fool. It’s sad and scary and explains why this Fool has reservations about revealing his lack of interest in being the court’s jokester. He’s got a history of being harmed whenever he expressed a desire to be different. So now he’s stuck being the perfect accompaniment to the king, all while unable to pursue his own desires:
And then he’d been sent to Ankh, and there, in the bare, severe rooms, he’d found there were books other than the great heavy brass-bound Monster Fun Book. There was a whole circular world out there, full of weird places and people doing interesting things….
Okay, well now I just want the Fool to get to live his own life! But before he can reminisce further on a life he doesn’t have, Magrat coincidently wanders into view. Of course, since the Fool has very specific views on witches (ones he passed along to Duke Felmet), he’s frightened of Magrat, which is ironic because she just wants to make a friend. Ugh, Magrat is so precious, y’all. SHE IS SO PRECIOUS. Please tell me there’s fanart based on this description of her:
It’s not much use being a witch unless you look like one. In her case this meant lots of silver jewelry with octograms, bats, spiders, dragons and other symbols of everyday mysticism; Magrat would have painted her fingernails black, except that she didn’t think she would be able to face Granny’s withering scorn.
She would adore Halloween, wouldn’t she? IT’S THE BEST HOLIDAY. Oh my god, y’all, Magrat is the best.
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