In the first part of Maskerade, YES. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Not gonna lie: it was extremely comforting to come off of Interesting Times and be immediately sent into a part of the Discworld that was familiar and full of characters I really like. HELLO, RAMTOPS AND LANCRE AND ANKH-MORPORK. And the Witches! AND AGNES.
Two is an Argument
I adore that just twenty pages into this book, I’ve already got a sense for the story. Yes, there are mysteries, and yes, Pratchett is doing that thing he does where he teases us with something before pulling away from it. But it’s very easy to put that aside and see the start of something potentially very cool.
Actually, TWO awesome stories. When we revisit Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax, it’s clear that Magrat has devoted herself to life as the Queen. She’s not returning to life as a witch, even if she can still be both when she needs to. What are the ramifications of Lords and Ladies? Well, to start with, there’s no coven anymore because a coven can’t really be two witches, can it?
When you had three, you had one to run around getting people to make up when there’d been a row. Magrat had been good for that. Without Magrat, Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax got on one another’s nerves. With her, all three had been able to get on the nerves of absolutely everyone else in the whole world, which had been a lot more fun.
AMEN TO THAT. So while Magrat is off being a Queen for the time being, what are these two supposed to do? While I do hope that Magrat herself appears in Maskerade, I admit that the very idea of a quest to find someone to “replace” her in the coven EXCITES ME TO NO END. I love that Magrat got her own story, and I still think it’s bold of Pratchett to move her on beyond the witches. It’s a challenge, sure, because Magrat left some very big (and unique) shoes to fill. How can the next person possibly fill them?
I’ll get to that potential witch in the next section. Aside from Magrat’s absence, the events of the previous book (and likely from all of the combined experiences since the start of this series) have left Granny Weatherwax in a weird state. In the early part of this section, Nanny remarks:
The point was… well, the point was that Nanny Ogg was worried. Very worried. She wasn’t sure that her friend wasn’t… well… going… well, sort of… in a manner of speaking… well… black…
Here, Nanny observes that Granny is more susceptible to boredom than ever before, and her friend often Borrows animals for far longer than any witch can or should. What if she doesn’t come back? What if her boredom gets the best of her? Indeed, when we finally get a glimpse of Granny’s life in the final scene of this section, Granny is still doing what she’s always done in this village. However, the difference is that her brand of witchcraft – lots of headology, of course – thrills her in a new way. While she’s always enjoyed feeling better and smarter than anyone, we’ve never seen her express anything like this:
But what had she done? She’d just tricked a rather dim old man.
She’d faced wizards, monsters and elves… and now she was feeling pleased with herself because she’d fooled Jarge Weaver, a man who’d twice failed the become Village Idiot through being over-qualified.
It was the slippery slope. Next thing it’d be cackling and gibbering and luring children into the oven. And it wasn’t as if she even liked children.
Pratchett ties this to Granny’s recent adventures, and I thought it was a satisfying idea. Especially after the events of Lords and Ladies, it became increasingly hard for Granny to not be tempted by the quiet pull to leave Lancre and find adventure elsewhere. But since she hasn’t, she instead allows herself to simmer and stew with these feelings, and they’re slowly developing into an hostile distaste for decency. It pleases her to fool someone who is easily fooled, so I think it’s fair of her to ask, “Well, what’s next?”
Was she in Lords and Ladies? I swear, I remember her name before, but I can’t remember the context. Oh well, let’s just all celebrate because I’M REALLY SUPER INTO THIS CHARACTER. First of all, my heart started racing during the audition sequence because I’d forgotten how stressful those were. I remember auditioning for The Music Man my senior year and thinking I sang too loud. The theater we were in was fairly new, one of the only improvements my largely-poor school got while I was there, and there were only four people in the audience. It made that space terrifying. I’m a very loud dude and can project well, but I’d only used my voice for public speaking, not acting or singing. Oh gods, there’s a line during the audition that hit way too close to home:
The big brilliant emptiness just sucked at it and made her voice hesitant and shrill.
WHEW, DO I KNOW THAT FEELING. My recollection of my audition was singing part of “76 Trombones,” and my voice is generally much lower than I’d like it to be. I’ve always struggled with notes on a higher register, and out of pure nervousness, I sang the first line in the wrong key. I stopped, asked to start again, and while I ended up doing well enough to get the part, I remember how badly my voice wavered the first time around. And it was only amplified by the space, and I am sitting here, nearly fourteen years later, and I’m still mortified.
Agnes is sincere. That’s what jumped out at me. She really very badly wants to audition and do a good job, she’s aware she can sing fairly well, even without training, and she also understands when someone might be pulling her leg. Part of that most likely comes from her experience as a big woman. I felt like Pratchett was trying to convey her fear that all the whispering was about her, and not in a positive way. How often to people say rude things to her or about her under her breath? How often is her weight the source of her discomfort and anxiety? And then, she’s on stage, auditioning for something rather important, and people are literally crowding the wings to whisper, and I get why her initial reaction is what it is.
BUT SHE’S AN AMAZING SINGER. Did she get the part? I WANT TO KNOW.
The original text contains use of the word “mad,” “insane,” and “idiot.”
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