In the eighth part of Witches Abroad, Nanny tries to stop a fight (and fails) as the world around the witches gets weirder and weirder. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Holy shit, WHAT HAS THIS BOOK BECOME???
I admit to only sort of understanding headology when it was first introduced into the Discworld series. It felt so nebulous of an idea, one that more or less amounted to Granny tricking people into perceiving she had power and influence. I think that’s still the general gist of it, but I gotta say: Witches Abroad has helped me understand headology (and these three witches, for that matter) better than past uses of them. I feel like everything is a lot more clear to me, though I know that’s because I got headology demonstrated to me through Granny’s “conversation” with the woodcutter. I’m more and more certain that Granny cast not a single spell on this man, instead exploiting his stereotypical view of witches in a way that would get him to believe that she had cast a spell.
Truthfully, I adore it here. I love that, like her card game with Mister Frank, she’s able to pretend to be innocent and all-knowing at the same time, and it’s a beautiful spectacle to watch unfold. On top of that, the entire scene plays out exactly as Nanny said it would because Granny uses nastiness in order to do something that is undeniably good. No one seems to care about the poor old ladies who are sacrificed in all these stories, so Granny makes extra sure that EVERYONE cares about this one.
It’s Lilith, right? Lilith practiced her stories on the villages and towns outside Genua, right? I mean, DON’T ACTUALLY TELL ME, but I feel like that’s what we’re meant to glean from this. One of the joys of reading this particular section is how incredible it was to suddenly have a great deal of fairy tell references come piling into the narrative. Not just the three little pigs, but the yellow brick road. WHAT WON’T SHOW UP HERE? It’s neat that Pratchett isn’t doing this just for the sake of it, either. All of this is a sign of what they’re about to come across, you know? As they get closer to Genua, more stories appear and more stories unravel around them.
Well, something else unravels, too.
I commented on this while reading this section live, but the massive row that Granny and Magrat have here was a long time coming. The root of this was planted back when they were first introduced, so this scene felt monumental and inevitable, you know? What’s also fascinating to me is how I both agree AND disagree with each of these characters. Pratchett designed this so that we’d most likely understand each person’s side… to a point.
For example: It was easy for me to relate to Magrat’s anger over Granny being so deliberately and openly withholding. It’s infuriating to experience something like that, especially when it often ends up making the other person feel unworthy or incompetent. How can someone not take that kind of treatment personally? Magrat, as emotional and sensitive as she is, was bound to do just that. (And more. Which I completely identify with, since I’m incredibly sensitive.) Then, when Granny began to get cruel, insinuating heavily that Magrat was not a witch at all and dripping every sentence in condescension, it was even easier to feel like Magrat had the upper hand.
That is, right up to this bit:
“You like people who need help, because when they need help they’re weak, and helping them makes you feel strong! What harm would a bit of magic do?”
“Because it’d never stop at just a bit, you stupid girl!”
Now, I generally try to be a nice and kind person, and cruelty really isn’t my thing, even when it comes to shit like brutal honesty. But part of Magrat’s characterization in these books is both naïveté and optimism. She’s got a deadly combination of the two within her, which means she believes the best in people and hopes for positivity. It’s just who she is. I wouldn’t be comfortable saying she’s entirely naïve, as her fight with Granny demonstrates just how aware she is of Granny’s cynicism, but she does believe that magic can be used quietly and in moderation by others. She yearns to do so herself, certain that if she could do everyday magic, she could help with the small things.
Let’s say she could, though. I think Magrat, of all people in this universe, might actually be able to resist the pull of power. But look where they are! Look at the journey they’re on! Lilith is exactly the kind of magic-bearer that Granny is trying to prevent by not using magic herself. She’s a character who so wholly relies on magic that she’s convinced herself that it’s the only way to get anything done. AND LOOK AT WHAT SHE’S DONE. Of course Granny is biased against magic. Like, I don’t believe for a second that she doesn’t know exactly what’s going here with Lilith, so I get why she’s so averse to magic, but to judge everyone with the same brush? To insult Magrat as a witch? Both of them lose me at a point, and that means this fight is EPICALLY AWFUL.
Bless Nanny Ogg for trying to stop it so damn hard. Someone give her a medal, please.
Headology, Part 2
And then a farmhouse falls on Nanny’s head, thereby breaking my own.
Because holy shit, what the fuck is happening in this book. Y’all, I had SO MUCH FUN reading the farmhouse/dwarf scene aloud, and Pratchett does an absolutely stellar job with both the humor and the unnerving, creeping sensation that this is all about to get a billion times worse than it already is. First of all:
“Wha’ happened?” she said. “Wha’ happened?”
“A farmhouse dropped on your head,” said Magrat.
“Oh. One o’ them things,” said Nanny vaguely.
WHAT THE HELL.
Then there’s the ongoing joke about Mr. Vernissage’s hats. Then both Magrat and Granny using Nanny as their sole form of passive-aggressive communication. THEN THE DWARFS SHOW UP AND I CAN’T HANDLE ANYTHING HAPPENING IN THIS STORY. Of course, I think the most beautiful realization I had in this section was figuring out that Pratchett had set up a long con of a punchline with the red boots thing. GODDAMN IT, I FELL FOR IT SO HARD.
This is perhaps one of the funniest parts of the Discworld books I’ve read so far, which means that it’s not very long until everything gets UNBEARABLY UNCOMFORTABLE. I mean, I did think it was very interesting to watch Granny use headology to break the spell Lilith had over the dwarfs. Which is why it was so upsetting to read that final point of view bit with Lilith that made no sense to me and was full of nightmare fuel. The cage? The mice? THE SISTERS WHO CAN’T SPEAK? WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS, Y’ALL??? Is this a Guillermo del Toro film? (Fuck, does he like Discworld? Can we convince him to do some film adaptations of this series? Get on this, fandom.)
I thought I had a grasp on this story, but Lilith’s plans confuse and frighten me.
The original text contains use of the words “mad” and “stupid.”
Mark Links Stuff
– I am now on Patreon!!! MANY SURPRISES ARE IN STORE FOR YOU IF YOU SUPPORT ME.
– The Mark Does Stuff Tour 2015 is now live and includes dates across the U.S. this summer and fall Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be the remainder of The Legend of Korra, series 8 of Doctor Who, and Kings. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
– Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!