In the ninth part of Witches Abroad, the witches try to get along, and then Magrat decides to take matters into her own hands. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
I think this section is more set up than anything else. I really didn’t expect that we’d get to Genua halfway through Witches Abroad, either, so even though Pratchett slows the plot down a bit, this isn’t boring. If we’re already to Lilith’s kingdom at this point, what horrible thing is Pratchett going to pull out of his sleeve now?
Genua is a haunting place, largely because Pratchett knows that he can build dread through the unknown. We know some of what is within the walls of the city, at least in terms of how Lilith runs things. I think there’s also some value in the juxtaposition created between the outward beauty of Genua and its inner ugliness. It may seem efficient and gorgeous, but how is that maintained? Who is exploited to create such a facade? While we have a basis for understanding that, Pratchett is still refusing to let us look entirely behind the curtain, and that’s where part of the tension comes from.
Of course, I can’t ignore the big fight between Granny and Magrat, which also heavily influences what happens here. Magrat and Nanny try to move things beyond the earlier awkwardness, sometimes succeeding, but usually failing. The mistaken trip to the mossy pond doesn’t help, and neither does the reaction of the Genua guards when they see three damp and muddy witches. At what point is Esme Weatherwax going to straight-up murder someone? Because I thought it was the exact moment when the captain of the guard called the witches “cleaning staff.” Yes, it was the perfect cover, but Granny doesn’t think in those terms. She hears it as a slight to her power and her mind immediately interprets this as an act of deep disrespect, you know?
So Nanny and Magrat have to do their best to… well, keep Granny contained. That’s the best description I have for what happens here. When they discover that Genua is crowded – almost perfectly so – Granny only seems to get worse. She spats with the owner of an inn who literally has no room at all to take the three of them, and it goes disastrously. What would Granny have done had Nanny and Magrat not intervened? LET’S NOT IMAGINE THAT. (Actually… let’s. To the fanfiction drawing board we go!) It’s through these ongoing arguments and conversations that Pratchett does that thing he does where he lulls us into humorous dialogue and entertaining scenarios, only to PUNCH US IN THE FACE.
“That’s ‘cos you’re a wet hen, Magrat Garlick,” said Granny.
There was a short, hot silence, ringing with the words that shouldn’t have escaped and a few grunts of pained surprise from the direction of the bar.
I know she’s always thought that, Magrat told herself within the glowing walls of her embarrassment. I just never thought she’d ever say it. And she’ll never say sorry, because that’s not the kind of thing she does. She just expects people to forget things like. I was just trying to be friends again. If she ever really has any friends.
Well, I’m sad again. It’s not a fun thing to experience, to want even a sliver of acceptance and validation, only to be rejected so wholeheartedly. And maybe Granny doesn’t mean this in a cruel way! Maybe she means well and wants to mend bridges with Magrat. This is absolutely not the way to get such a task done, and truthfully, I don’t see Granny as the type of person to actively admit that maybe she messed up and did anything wrong at all. Like, ever.
So I think that’s the primary motivation for Magrat’s decision at the end of the section. She knows that she’ll never earn respect without taking any action independent of the other witches. Even if Magrat would never openly admit to wanting validation from Granny, I think she actually does. But let’s say I’m wrong, which is so highly possible that it’s laughable. (Being professionally wrong about everything is a hard task, y’all!) I think there are a number of ways to read Magrat’s characterization here. I like that it could also be a rejection of a parental figure, since Magrat’s actions could easily be seen as a rebellion against both Nanny and Granny. I also wonder if this will further explore Magrat’s sense of naïveté. Will this backfire? Will Nanny and Granny have to help her out?
ALSO: WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THIS BOOK. A running house???
Mark Links Stuff
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