Mark Reads ‘Witches Abroad’: Part 15

In the fifteenth and penultimate part of Witches Abroad, Granny discovers an end to the story. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.

I’m so satisfied, y’all, and this book isn’t even over!!!

Good vs. Evil

I mentioned in the last review that there’s an inherent moral ambiguity to this tale, and I’m so pleased that Pratchett continues to build off that during the big confrontation here. As the three witches sit in a cell beneath the palace, Granny dispenses her cynical wisdom about the nature of good, evil, and humanity. It’s both depressing and uplifting somehow, since in the same breath that she condemns humanity’s sense of justice, she believes that in the end, we still need to choose to be good instead of forcing others to be. That’s where evil is, and it’s why both Lilith and Mrs. Gogol are two sides to the same coin.

That doesn’t mean that Mrs. Gogol is useless or that she’s necessarily the most evil character here. I think Pratchett reserves most of his ire for Lilith, but he’s willing to elaborate on the reasons why Mrs. Gogol and Baron Saturday don’t have the best answer for Genua, either.


Belief plays a large part in the Discworld’s magic and mysticism, and I think this is one of the more literal manifestations of that. The powers that gave Greebo human life also give him the ferocity of his cat self, too, and that’s integral in the witches’ escape from their prison cell. Baron Saturday is the swamp, a god of Mrs. Gogol’s doing and the invisible ones’ shared belief. It’s why he’s such an intimidating force in the palace. He’s a physical reminder of what Lilith did in order to control the stories, and it’s easy for him to scare the daylights out of everyone – Lilith included – when he appears in the place he used to live, long before he was murdered. Well, there’s also Mrs. Gogol’s brilliance. Lilith can’t stop an idea. Baron Saturday is many ideas in one, and she can’t control that.

So she runs away.

Mrs. Gogol vs Embers

And then there’s a choice, the most important choice that Genua will ever have to make. Do they want a kingdom run by Mrs. Gogol and her voodoo powers, or do they want the inexperienced Ella running things? In order to understand why this was even an option – who would choose a master of voodoo??? – I had to have Baron Saturday’s perspective on all of this. Amidst this is a tale of revenge, since the Baron was promised that his murder would be avenged. I don’t even think this was a choice so much as Mrs. Gogol just making herself the ruler of Genua. Since she’s the other side of the same coin Lilith was on, it was inevitable that she’d create a world just as fucked up as the “godmother.” How could the witches create a sense of balance?

That’s why Ella is so necessary to Genua. Yes, she’s not qualified. But Granny fights for her to be the rule because it’s Ella’s right to be the princess, even if that means she messes up:

“She might be quite good at ruling. She might be mad at it. But she’s got to find out herself. With no interference from anyone.”

Honestly, that’s the only way Genua could get out of the mess that Lilith created. They can’t replace one oppressive system for another, but Mrs. Gogol doesn’t see it that way, at least not initially. She won Genua, as far as she’s concerned, and that means she gets to do with it as she pleases. I love that Granny sticks up for a place that isn’t her home and that doesn’t have any emotional meaning to her. She defends Genua’s right to be free, even if through that freedom they make horrible decisions. That choice is so much more important than a lack of one, you know?

Of course, I’m leaving out the fact that Granny fights for this through the most impressive display of headology thus far. The entire sequence where Mrs. Gogol uses the voodoo doll on Granny is incredibly suspenseful, especially because there’s a sadness to it. Mrs. Gogol truly enjoys Granny and doesn’t want to hurt her, yet she fully believes that she’s right. It’s a contradictory portrait of a person, and it’s supposed to be. It was heart-wrenching! However, now that I’m reading this section again for the review, I realize that Granny stuck her finger in her ear. OH SHIT, I DID NOT NOTICE THAT THE FIRST TIME AROUND. I should have know that she had something planned!!! That “something”? Exploiting Mrs. Gogol’s sense of belief to destroy the voodoo doll. Like everyone else in the book, I honestly believed that Granny had burned her own hand as a sacrifice.

Good ol’ headology.

Death, Revenge, Power

Two out of three really isn’t that bad.

While we’ve still got Lilith’s story to end, Pratchett closes the book on Baron Saturday, Mrs. Gogol, and Ella in this section. I thought it was a fantastic bit of closure for these three characters, since each of them make the decision to move on with their lives in productive ways. (Well, Baron Saturday moves on to his real death, but you get what I mean.) Mrs. Gogol reasons that it’s time for her to return to the swamp, while Ella makes her first decree, which is decidedly tame and adorable. Ella’s story might now be beginning, but Mrs. Gogol’s closure comes in her acceptance that her role in this story has now ended. The power in that lies in the fact that, in the end, she chose it.

The original text contains use of the word “mad.”

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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