Mark Reads ‘Wyrd Sisters’: Part 8

In the eighth part of Wyrd Sisters, this book constantly surprises me. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.

Trigger Warning: For discussion of torture and sexual assault.

Oh my god, shit is SO REAL. I did not expect this book to rush forward with the plot so quickly, and I’m stunned. I mean, I should have known from the opening scene of this section – where Granny gets dressed in her witch attire as if she’s in an action movie – that everything was about to get serious. Even Magrat’s scene that follows it felt similar, since she was gearing up for battle. The battle, in this case, was freeing Nanny Ogg from the castle, and the weapons… well, they’re hatpins. Cloaks. A silver brooch. A broomstick. A pointed hat. Poorly-applied makeup. Occult jewelry. And a goddamn bread knife.

I love this book so much. Y’all, the first time we check in with Nanny Ogg and Verence, THEY’RE PLAYING I SPY. IN A TORTURE ROOM. There’s no way I could be ready for this!!! And amidst it all is that humor of Pratchett’s that’s charming and biting at the same time. The game of I Spy is funny, but it’s punctuated by the sliding of the bolts on the door to the dungeon, and in that instant, we have to accept that there’s a chance that Nanny might actually be harmed. So there’s an urgency to the story that made this section a thrill to read. But it’s also beautifully side-splitting at the same time, and it’s a lot of fun to see how Pratchett’s getting better at combining these two things. (Seriously, I love watching writers grow, y’all. It’s one of the most rewarding things about doing Mark Reads.)

Granny’s attempt to get into the Lancre castle is a great example of this. She tries to pretend that she’s just peddling apples. While dressed like a witch.

Granny shrugged. The apple-seller gambit had never worked more than once in the entire history of witchcraft, as far as she knew, but it was traditional.

There are so many layers to this joke, y’all. It’s a commentary on Granny’s headology and her commitment to traditions; it also invokes a common trope in fantasy stories, particularly Snow White; and it’s funny as hell because SHE’S SO BOLD ABOUT IT. It’s not like she speaks with a sweet-laden voice. She speaks with “a voice more appropriate for the opening of hostilities in a middle-range war”! Bless her heart.

And yet, as soon as she gets by Champett Poldy, she’s faced with a non-Ramtopper guard, a man she doesn’t know and who she can’t intimidate. Because Granny isn’t interested in magic as a means to solve her problems or conflicts, I suddenly started to worry that she might get captured as well. Of course, Pratchett was purposely distracting me, and I didn’t even notice that Granny had reached up to her hat. Does that mean this is both a literal and figurative sleight of hand? Ouch, my brain hurts.

The same tone is part of Nanny Ogg’s “torture” scenes. I braced myself every time the duchess picked up another tool, but then found myself giggling at King Verence, who was secretly sabotaging everyone there. Of course, the subject matter isn’t all that funny; Verence secretly tells Nanny Ogg what actually happened the night he was murdered, and she brilliantly uses that to put the duke and duchess on edge. Suddenly, the truth is out in the open. (Well, as “out in the open” as the truth can be within a dungeon.) Duke Felmet, tormented by his own guilt, begins to quickly unravel, and the duchess is more eager than ever to torture Nanny Ogg.

Which is OF COURSE the precise moment Pratchett cuts away to Magrat, who is busy pretending to be an apple peddler herself, just minutes after Granny tried to pull the same con. This gives us one of the most spectacular displays of logic that I’ve ever read:

His mind was grinding through the problem. She was a witch. Just lately there’d been a lot of gossip about witches being bad for your health. He’d been told not to let witches pass, but no one had said anything about apple sellers. Apple sellers were not a problem. It was witches that were the problem. She’d said she was an apple seller and he wasn’t about to doubt a witch’s word.

Feeling happy with this application of logic, he stood to one side and gave an expansive wave.

“Pass, apple seller,” he said.

OH MY GOD MY BRAIN HURTS.

Can we also acknowledge that I am definitely never going to say I’m lost again?

Granny Weatherwax was not lost. She wasn’t the kind of person who ever became lost. It was just that, at the moment, while she knew exactly where SHE was, she didn’t know the position of anywhere else.

Incorporating this into my vocabulary, BRB.

I admit to getting a little nervous and uncomfortable when Magrat encountered the two guards who made it fairly clear that they were going to sexually assault Magrat, so I was quite relieved when that didn’t happen and Magrat got to punch one of them in the jaw, and then utter this beautiful line:

“You’re wondering whether I really would cut your throat,” panted Magrat. “I don’t know either. Think of the fun we could have together, finding out.”

WELL. SHIT. And the shocks just kept coming after this! It’s not that I thought Magrat was a particularly timid person. She’d already shown me that she could be forceful when she believed it was necessary. But there’s an undeniably energy to her in these scenes with her and Verence. Oh, right, the Fool’s name is VERENCE. I’d say, “What are the odds?” But… they’re pretty good, given that Verence was the king. Anyway, it’s like having this mission before her gives her a confidence that she didn’t have before. At that point, she had bluffed and fought her way through multiple guards and she hadn’t scared the Fool away either. So she does something that I think she wouldn’t have otherwise done:

She took Granny Weatherwax’s advice.

The way in which Magrat blows open the door is astounding because she accepts that Granny’s method of doing magic has to be right, or at least part of it works. While in a dire situation, she tries something she’s never attempted before, she succeeds in imagining the door as part of a collection of all trees, and she channels the power needed to break the dungeon door.

TO FIND GRANNY WEATHERWAX STANDING IN THE ROOM. Oh my god, do you realize how great it is that Granny compliments Magrat’s technique??? YES, LET THIS BE THE START OF SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL. But first, they should probably get out of the way of the rapidly expanding wave of raw magic. Okay, whoops, clearly a bit too much magic. But it was Magrat’s first time! And she still did pretty damn good! I was impressed, as was Granny, and together, the two of them go to rescue Nanny Ogg. Admittedly, I felt really strange by this point in the section because… well, there is still a lot of book left. A lot of the book left. MORE THAN HALF. And yet, here Magrat and Granny are, face-to-face with Nanny, the duchess, and the duke. I did not expect this confrontation so soon, and I did not expect it to be so disturbing.

It seems to me that Duke Felmet’s guilt has circled round to something resembling a determination, albeit one that’s terrifyingly misguided. Now, he doesn’t care that he killed the last king. He says that he is “king by right of conquest.” Conquest! Well, that’s a neat euphemism for assassination. And his certainty over his reign is reinforced by his understand of magic and witches:

“If you defeat me by magic, magic will rule,” said the duke. “And you can’t do it. And any king raised with your help would be under your power. Hag-ridden, I might say. That which magic rules, magic destroys. It would destroy you, too. You know.”

How the duke knew Granny’s aversion to meddling and the misuse of magic is beyond me, but that’s a moot point. He knows that Granny is stuck, that she’ll be reluctant to conquer him by force of magic, because it’ll set a terrible precedent for future kings. How could they ever truly rule if it was Granny’s power that made it possible? So the only possible outcome left is for Tomjon to return to Lancre some day and take the throne back. That’s the only way Duke Felmet could be defeated. Which is a really messed up situation! Are they going to have to survive through years of taxation and persecution at the hands of Felmet? They’d have to wait over a decade for Tomjon to grow up and be capable of fighting the duke.

Wow, this got SO MESSED UP, y’all.

The video contains use of the words “mad,” “madness,” “crazy,” and “insanity.”

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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