Mark Reads ‘Witches Abroad’: Part 11

In the eleventh part of Witches Abroad, the group gets closer to Lilith and everything gets a million times more disturbing. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.


There are now zombies in the Discworld. I can barely fathom how fun this book is because Pratchett has demonstrated so far that he can borrow from literally everything. Anything remotely fantastical has a place within this narrative, and even better? It makes sense. I don’t even know if I should treat Saturday as a character worthy of a subplot, but I sense that this following bit is a hint of something greater:

She was vaguely aware that there were things you had to do to a dead person to turn them into a zombie, although it was a branch of magic she’d never wanted to investigate. Yet you needed more than just a lot of weird fish innards and foreign roots – the person had to want to come back. They had to have some terrible dream or desire or purpose that would enable them to overcome the grave itself…

Saturday’s eyes burned.


So is Granny’s acceptance of Saturday part of something, too? Does she see a purpose for him that’ll serve her and her needs? I SEE YOU,

This used to be a great ole city

Look, I have my reservations with Mrs. Gogol, and part of it is the use of the voodoo culture within this novel in what feel like stereotypical ways. I think I made clear how strange the invocation of race is within this book and the series as a whole, and I think this is just an extension of that. I’m beginning to realize that while Pratchett is referencing a very specific set of cultural mainstays for the south (particularly New Orleans and the surrounding areas of Louisiana), he is using them without a greater context for their meaning. At this point, I don’t even think that Mrs. Gogol is black. I just assumed she was, but Nanny doesn’t seem all that taken aback by her appearance like she was with Mrs. Pleasant. I also made that assumption because of Pratchett’s use of Papa Legba, who is from Haitian Vodou, and that’s such a specific reference that he had to know where it came from. Why use all of this and divorce it from the vast majority of people who practice it?

I’m conflicted, too, because there’s a part of me that is entertained by this character and is also enamored with the setting. I actually go to visit a shack out on the bayous outside of New Orleans years ago, and it’s one of my favorite experiences of my life. (New Orleans is also my favorite city in the States, so that plays a factor in this, too.) So I love that so much of the exposition happens here, in Mrs. Gogol’s shack, all while Greebo faces off with Legba in a nearby swamp. So I get it, to an extent, and another part of brain simply can’t un-see the cultural appropriation that’s happening. These things aren’t mutually exclusive, of course, and you can be entertained by things that have severe issues with them. But acknowledging this shit and analyzing it is what I do, and I’m at a part of life where I do it almost unconsciously. I can’t uncritically read or watch things, you know?

This is also a very important part of the story, as I feel like the bulk of the final pieces of his puzzle are finally in place. I understand why Ella’s marriage must happen and who it must happen with; I understand how far-reaching Lilith’s influence is. And I finally get why Mrs. Gogol matters to the story as much as she does. Aside from providing exposition, she’s acted as a witness. She’s watched the city of Genua turn into a nightmare. She’s watched the Baron gain power and protection. And then, she reveals that last bit of information that explains away a great deal of tiny references and moments:

Lilith is Esme Weatherwax’s sister.

Godmother Lilith

It’s so frightening to me that Ella is at a point where she still views Lilith as her godmother. And in a positive sense, too!!! But she’s been brainwashed, and that’s apparent in the ways she expresses herself. Look how easily she reverts to her “fairy tale” thinking. She justifies her servitude; she doesn’t question weird occurrences; she believes that she doesn’t deserve to be independent.

And when Granny finally opens up about her sister, it’s quite clear why Granny hates magic as much as she does. Gods, it’s such a great bit of character building! Granny makes a million times more sense than she used to. I know I’ve said something to that effect before, but it’s more true now than it ever has been. Lilith used magic to manipulate and overpower others from a young age, meaning that Granny developed her aversion to magical dependence around the same time.

So how the hell are these witches going to stop her? Ella reveals to Magrat that she’s tried escaping Genua, only to be captured every time. (My guess is that Ella doesn’t know about Lilith’s use of mirrors and reflective surfaces.) Even worse?

“They say that people disappear. If they upset the Duc. Something happens to them. Everyone’s very polite in Genua,” said Ella sourly. “And no one steals and no one raises their voice and everyone stays indoors for the night, except when it’s Fat Tuesday.”

So where do the people go? Are they sent to some horrible place? Does Lilith kill them??? Probably??? I mean, given that Pratchett also reveals that the speechless sisters are SNAKES!!!!!!!!!! NO WHAT THE HELL. HOW IS THAT SCENE EVEN REMOTELY ALLOWED IN ANYTHING OR ANYWHERE????

Lilith’s endgame is terror. It is fear. These scenes don’t just happen for the sake of it, though I’m sure Pratchett had a blast writing NON-SPEAKING SISTERS WHO ARE ACTUALLY SNAKES whhyyyyyy. Lilith uses fear to put herself at the center of all these stories, all so she can be the ringleader. She wants to be in control. She wants to be the puppetmaster.

And good lord, that’s so terrifying.

Mark Links Stuff

– 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!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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