Mark Reads ‘Wyrd Sisters’: Part 18

In the eighteenth and final part of Wyrd Sisters, Tomjon, the Fool, the Witches, and the duchess all discover their destiny. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld

I’m pleased that all my glowing reviews of this book proved fruitful in the end, because this really has been my favorite Discworld book so far.

The Coronation… sort of.

I thought some of this was a bit jarring, but in hindsight, I actually like how much this feels like it jumps around. This way, Pratchett is able to surprise us while giving us closure for all these characters, and it makes Wyrd Sisters feel like the most complete book in the series thusfar. I needed some of that closure for Tomjon, especially since I felt increasingly worried about what role he’d be playing here. It was clear from the opening scene of this section that he truly did not want to be king, and that wasn’t exactly surprising given what little we heard from him in part 17. But none of these characters ever considered that Tomjon wouldn’t want to be king, which called back to Magrat’s claim that witches normally did not care for others. Well, here’s a perfect example of that. As Granny convinces the people of Lancre that Tomjon is their rightful king, she isn’t ready for Tomjon to reject her.

I felt sad more than anything else about this predicament because, like the Fool or like Hwel, Tomjon was being cast into something he didn’t have a choice in. And isn’t a lot of Wyrd Sisters inherently about creating one’s destiny as opposed to letting destiny create you? Hwel even realizes this when Tomjon is desperately asking for his help.

“Funny thing, all this taking after people,” said the dwarf vaguely. “I mean, if I took after my dad, I’d be a hundred feet underground digging rocks, whereas –” His voice died away. He stared at the nib of his pen as though it held an incredible fascination.

Despite that Hwel then goes on to encourage Tomjon to be a king (because he can do whatever he wants), I don’t know that he actually believes that. In his heart, he knew that the play he was writing was wrong, and I think that in his heart, he knows that Tomjon being king is wrong, too. Doesn’t Hwel now know what it feels like to be treated as a pawn? That’s what the duke did to him, and it’s what the witches and the people of Lancre are doing to Tomjon:

No one wanted him to be king, not precisely him. He just happened to be convenient.

Which is… really, really sad. And I was so worried that Tomjon would give up his dream and his talent in order to make someone else – well, a lot of other people – happy. How could he not be king? As Hwel later pointed out, he truly was the heir to the throne, so even if he perfectly expressed his rejection, it’s not like there was a whole lot of precedence for this. What do you do when you are destined to be the king, but you don’t want it?

“You can’t leave me here! There’s nothing but forests!”

Tomjon felt the suffocating cold sensation again, and the slow buzzing in his ears. For a moment he thought he saw, faint as a mist, a tall sad man in front of him, stretching out a hand in supplication.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I really am.”

I was so ready to tell y’all to bury me in the pages of this book. THIS WAS PERHAPS THE SADDEST THING I’D EVER READ IN A DISCWORLD BOOK AND I WASN’T OKAY AND WHAT THE HELL. Like… this teenager never even met his father, and he already knows that he’s disappointing him, and I wasn’t ready for the wave of feelings I’d be hit with. Plus, Tomjon already had a father: Vitoller! There’s that moment where he actually considers becoming king just to help Vitoller pay for the Dysk, and it’s so crushing to see how much he cares.

The True King

Oh, I was SO CONFUSED when Pratchett cut away after Magrat dragged the Fool to the throne, cycling through a couple of scenes – the arrested “witches,” stuck in the dungeon, the “long engagement” pun – before revealing that the coronation already happened. And VERENCE II – THE FOOL! – WAS MADE KING. AND THEN THEY’RE TALKING ABOUT THE CEREMONY AND STEALING A CORONATION MUG AND MAGRAT WASN’T INVITED AND SHE’S HEARTBROKEN AND CRYING AND WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED IN THIS BOOK. I get now that this is meant to be genuinely confusing, and hiding the truth in the final scene gives it a lot more impact. It seemed like there was no closure whatsoever for Magrat or the Fool, and I didn’t understand why on earth anyone would accept that the Fool was the king. (I realize I totally missed the meaning of a certain scene earlier in this section. There’s that moment where Tomjon realized that Magrat was staring at him and then would look to the fool and back again. She was realizing that they looked similar.)

But I was so pleased by Tomjon’s end. He got to escape his destiny by making his own, and in this case, that meant he was going to take after the only father he’d ever known, Vitoller. He’d save money, he’d do what he was passionate about, and he’d care about the people around him who are also doing what they love. The true king was in his right place, and Tomjon was in his as well.

I’m intrigued by the last scene that featured Verence II. Initially, I misread it and thought Magrat was at home, but I think it’s much more obvious that she was meeting with Granny and Nanny at the same time that Verence II visits her home. I adored the conversation that he and his sergeant had, and I thought it was really cool that it was nothing but dialogue. But I found everything after that to be haunting. He entered Magrat’s home, set the flat bouquet of flowers and wine on the table, and then he falls asleep at her table while thinking of what he’s done.

He wasn’t, he felt, a good king, but he’d had a lifetime of working hard at being something he wasn’t cut out to be, and he was persevering. As far as he could see, none of his predecessors had tried at all.

That is both uplifting and utterly crushing to read. But he’s trying, y’all. That matters, right?

No, being a king was no laughing matter. He brightened up at the thought. There was that to be said about it.

I know it’s a pun, but that’s the most emotionally destructive pun I’ve ever read. Fuck.

Revenge

I know I’m being a broken record, but while I’m not comfortable with some aspects of the duchess’s characterization, I do think it’s fascinating that she’s an unapologetic antagonist right to the end. Even after she’s unequivocally lost, she still thinks poorly of everyone around her. She’s still convinced that she can just manipulate someone else to do her bidding, return to Lancre, and get what she believes is rightfully hers. But there was a character I’d forgotten to consider in the mess of chaos in the climactic end to this novel: the kingdom itself. Because good god, it is definitely a character on its own. Just like it reacted poorly to Duke Felmet earlier, it reacts violently towards the duchess once the kingdom realizes she is escaping through its forest.

So it eats her. Well, okay, the animals themselves do, but they’re part of this big, breathing thing, and the kingdom finally got their revenge.

Droit de seigneur

I, like Magrat, should have used a dictionary, because oh my god. I GET IT. I GET IT AND THE DOG JOKES AND HOLY FUCK I MISSED THIS. IT WENT RIGHT OVER MY HEAD. Of course, that’s child’s play compared to what Nanny and Granny reveal to Magrat. Yes, Verence II and Tomjon really are brothers.

AND THE PREVIOUS FOOL IS THEIR FATHER, NOT VERENCE I.

It’s the opposite. Verence wasn’t out “exercising” his dog, THE QUEEN WAS SLEEPING WITH THE FOOL. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OH MY GOD I WAS NOT PREPARED OH MY GOD.

“It was that droit of his,” said Nanny. “Always out and about with it, he was. Hardy ever home o’nights.”

I can’t even believe how tricked I feel. I fell for it, and it’s all my fault. But y’all. Y’ALL. This book’s satirization of Macbeth really comes full circle in the end, because the witches of this story are not the fates, nor are they the true wyrd sisters. No, Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and Magrat Garlick do not believe destiny is the answer:

“But I’m surprised at the two of you, I really am,” she said. “You’re witches. That means you have to care about things like truth and tradition and destiny, don’t you?”

“That’s where you’ve been getting it all wrong,” said Granny. “Destiny is important, see, but people go wrong when they think it controls them. It’s the other way around.”

“Bugger destiny,” agreed Nanny.

And that’s a huge motif of this novel, though we don’t see the true manifestation of it until the end. The Fool controlled his destiny and gave up being a Fool, and Tomjon got to be an actor and support his family. And as for these three witches, they don’t have to behave a certain way because they’re witches. Even when it comes to covens and meeting again (oh, the Macbeth references are everywhere!), they don’t have to set a specific date for their next meeting. It can happen whenever they want it to be.

I’m so pleased by the way this was wrapped up. I want a thousand books about the Witches, and I want them now. But up next is a book about pyramids??? I DON’T KNOW, I’M IN UNCHARTED TERRITORY.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since ’09.

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