In the seventeenth part of Lords and Ladies, Magrat and Granny face off with the Queen. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For consent, abuse.
WELL, THIS WAS SIGNIFICANTLY MORE DISTURBING THAN I ANTICIPATED.
I know there are two more sections left here, so I went into this thinking that part 18 would probably have the big climactic battle between Lancre and the Queen of the elves, BUT NOPE. Again, it’s important to note that Magrat is still risking her own life to take down the Queen, and I think this section definitively proves that at the core of her identity, Magrat is a brave, courageous person.
I’ll get there. Let’s start with the unsettling conversation that Granny and the Queen have over the course of these pages. I can’t imagine two more powerful minds battling it out, and I think this one line demonstrates why this was so upsetting:
“I could kill her from here.”
“Yes,” said Granny, but that wouldn’t be much fun, would it? Humiliation is the key.”
The Queen nodded.
“You know, you think very much like an elf.”
The line actually made me stop reading for a moment because it was so striking. Throughout Granny’s time in the Discworld series, I think you could view her actions with this lens and discover a lot about her. It’s not just the humiliation thing; it’s the fact that Granny often exists within these pages as a superior figure. She certainly has treated Magrat that way, hasn’t she? She pushes her fellow witch into uncomfortable directions through a kind of manipulation, and there’s a part of me that wonders if she did this on purpose here in Lords and Ladies. Granny didn’t exactly try to stop Magrat from becoming queen; hell, I’d argue that she purposely pushed Magrat in that direction.
But is that the role that she thinks she’s supposed to play? Is she always supposed to be the old crone, the cantankerous character who pushes everyone to be better people, all while she’s unliked and unloved and alone? Well, I wouldn’t say that she’s entirely alone; Nanny Ogg has always stood by her side as her best friend. But why the hell does the Queen say this?
“Would you like me to show you what you might have been?”
“I could do it easily. There are other times than this. I could show you grnadmother Weatherwax.”
“It must be terrible, knowing that you have no friends. That no one will care when you die. That you never touched a heart.”
Is that necessarily true? Perhaps not. I think that the Queen is teasing Granny with her other timelines, many of which took Granny to a much, much different place than where she is here. And if we take note of what elves do to humans, I think this is an exaggeration more than anything else. She just wants to dominate Granny with the sheer brutality of hopelessness. But she can’t do it, can she?
I don’t understand the bee thing, but I understand what this fight entailed. When Magrat finally arrives to battle the Queen, it became clear to me that any battle with the Queen of the Elves was always going to be a mental and emotional fight more than anything else. Yes, iron was important, and I think that lengthy section from “inside” an elf’s mind was brilliant. It helped me to understood why an elf never felt lost or alone ever.
That’s important because Granny’s words and Magrat’s fight showed me why elves were, ultimately, deeply flawed creatures:
“But this is a real world, madam. That’s what I had to learn. And real people in it. You got no right to ’em. People’ve got enough to cope with just being people. They don’t need you swanking around with your shiny hair and shiny eyes and shiny gold, going sideways through life, always young, always singing, never learning.”
You know what I took from this? I saw this as an impassioned defense of imperfection. The elves are “perfect” in every sense: they’re powerful, beautiful, fast… you get the idea. There are so many other adjectives I could add to this, and it would all apply. But when you’re at the top of the social and literal food chain, where can you go? You can’t get better if you’re the best. But humanity – especially the humanity in Lancre – has an opportunity the elves do not.
They can learn. They can change. They can adapt. And this doesn’t refer to glamouring, which is just a cheat, a trick of the mind to make it seem like someone has changed. Humans can become better. What’s the best example of that? Why, look no further than Magrat Garlick, who breaks free of the assault on her identity and her confidence and her self-worth, and it exposes the “core” of her soul. What’s in that core? What did the events of this book reveal?
That Magrat Garlick is not the coward she thought she was. That she is worthy of living, that she is an important person, and that when the deck is stacked against her, she can still find it within herself to punch someone in the face.
People can change. Elves can’t, and that’s their greatest weakness.
Mark Links Stuff
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