In the fourteenth part of Lords and Ladies, Magrat transforms. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
I am in awe of this section of the book. I know I’ve commented before that Pratchett is not particularly violent, especially if you compare him to the fantasy books he references or the rest of the genre as a whole. Fantasy can be fairly violent, and indeed, a lot of people want it to be that way. So I don’t want this to come off as me saying that Pratchett can’t use violence or that it doesn’t belong here. Indeed, I’d argue that this sequence needs to be violent, especially if Pratchett is going to tell the story I think is unfolding here.
Allow me to explain! In some sense, I think you could say that the reader is much like Shawn Ogg. We know what Magrat is usually like, and what ends up transpiring here is a direct contradiction to that. So Shawn treats Magrat at the start of this section with the hesitance of someone dealing with a delicate soul. I wouldn’t say that he’s condescending, but he expects Magrat to behave in a certain way. And when she emerges from the armory, there’s no indication of the transformation she’s gone through. But in an instant, everyone realizes that Magrat is not who we thought she was. Shawn is shocked by her prowess and her physical form; the elves are shocked that they could not take out this woman; and the reader realizes that SHE HAS BECOME QUEEN YNCI IN WAYS WE DID NOT ANTICIPATE.
She stabs an elf with an iron blade. She kicks an elf with iron boots. And then she repeatedly threatens the elf that was being mangled by Greebo. Look, it’s just SO FUCKING SCARY to read because… THIS IS MAGRAT GARLICK WE ARE TALKING ABOUT. And yes, there’s an element to this that’s entertaining because watching Magrat becoming a badass is so unexpected. But at what cost? What does this do to her? She’s cold and calculating as she dispenses with the elves, killing two of them and locking the third in the dungeon while they most likely die slowly, and it’s disturbing. Even Shawn knows something is wrong:
Shawn suddenly felt frightened. He’d been scared before, but it had been immediate and physical. But Magrat, like this, frightened him more than the elves. It was like being charged by a sheep.
Which happened to me as a kid and IT’S REALLY NOT A FUN THING TO EXPERIENCE. I think it’s an apt description of Magrat, though, because she was always so unassuming. Shawn thought she was adorable and harmless, and that’s about the worst description of her in this current state. No matter what he says, he can’t stop Magrat. Indeed, it’s almost like she’s a machine, as if she’s programmed this way. Obviously, it’s the influence of Ynci’s armor and hat that has affected Magrat this way, but I appreciate that Pratchett doesn’t just change Magrat and then ignore the affects of this change.
There’s a neat moment when she charges out of Lancre castle on the back of an elves’ horse that showed us her real self poking through the haze of Ynci’s warrior instincts. I think that by showing us this, Pratchett lets us know that Magrat always had the capacity to behave as she did. So why the dramatic change? And who is she when she’s not wearing the armor and the hat? I don’t know that there’s an easy answer to this question, but I’m okay with that. The lines between her identity and Ynci’s are deliberately blurred here. We get a glimpse of Magrat’s hesitation when she worries that she merely had good luck when fighting the elves, but we also see a very familiar flash of anger when she discovers where the Entertainment was held.
If anything, I feel like Ynci’s clothing just sets Magrat into hyperdrive. She’s still herself, but she’s given certainty and confidence. If she were a different person, would she have been able to nurse Shawn’s injuries? Or recognize when people were keeping secrets from her again? It’s just that her mind is in a different place, a new place, than where she usually is. I think that her frustration with Verence, the letter (WHAT IS IT), and the logistics of being a queen might have pushed her to this place anyway. The armor just got her there quicker.
Seriously, HOW IS THIS BOOK REAL.
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