In the fourth part of Maskerade, I don’t understand what this all has to do with the story as a whole, but HOLY SHIT, this was entertaining.
Trigger Warning: For brief discussion of slavery and anti-blackness.
You know, it’s entirely possible that these are more like unconnected vignettes as opposed to like… foreshadowing? Future story threads? I can’t tell! Pratchett appears to have taken a sharp right turn into a set of stories that are bewildering and amusing, and you know what? It’s absolutely a whole lot of fun to just let myself go, to surround myself with this tale, and to enjoy it for what it is.
I seriously hate the joke that opens Greebo’s story, but I’m thankful that for the remainder of this plot, any crudeness comes off as truly humorous rather than cruel. I’m sure many of us who have been cat owners and lovers have met a cat like Greebo, the kind who believe that they deserve to not only be the center of attention, but actually run the entire universe. However, I would never dream of describing those kind of cats like this:
With a cat’s unerring instinct for people who dislike cats he’d leapt heavily into their laps and given them the “young masser back on de ole plantation” treatment.
Am I going to take this apart for all of you? Of course I am. There’s the obvious, which is the fact that Pratchett deems it totally fine to invoke slavery in talking about a cat. He’s done this once before, though with a different deplorable thing, but… what a reach, y’all. Does he think slavery is just this? That young masters just walked around and intimidated people the whole time? What a goddamn awful, terrible, shitty bit of writing. It’s written badly because Pratchett has clearly never heard African American Vernacular English (AAVE) in his life, because none of this is how it works. I’m not even a remote expert on this shit, so I’m not going to ask you to accept me as an authority on this issue, but BLACK PEOPLE DON’T TALK LIKE THIS. It would be “massa,” not “masser.” What the hell is this “back on de ole plantation” business? Who talks like that? How can it be a “young” master back on an “old” plantation? Did he leave? Where did he go? Was it passed on to him or something? What are you communicating to the reader?
If you’re going to try to talk about uncomfortable fear, perhaps you should do a better job of it without invoking SLAVERY.
Anyway, let’s talk about Greebo’s transformation. I suspect that if there’s anything here that will appear later, it’s this bit:
But magic is never as simple as people thin. It has to obey certain universal laws. And one is that, no matter how hard a thing is to do, once it has been done it’ll become a whole lot easier and will therefor be done a lot.
Specifically with Greebo, he now has a new ability when in fight or flight mode: he can turn into a human. The sequence where he does is comical, if a bit disturbing, and based on Nanny’s reaction, it’s clear that this has happened MORE THAN ONCE since the first time the witches made it happen. So… foreshadowing? Maybe?
(Anyone have flashes to Quark while reading this section?)
I confess that I often love the dynamic that Pratchett re-creates here in the scene between Bucket and Salzella. A lot of great satire includes the exaggeration and then the “normal” character who comments on the absurdity around them. It’s why Jim on The Office provided so much amusement in those early seasons. Or think of Michael Bluth on Arrested Development. Mr. Bucket speaks logically and reasonably about running a business, and Salzella comically believes that his way is entirely normal.
“Believes” is the operative word there, though, and I’m really stoked to see Pratchett use a common theme of his in a new way. The people of the Opera House believe in the superstitions that fuel the place, so much so that they have a literal power over everything. I still suspect that the Ghost is an actual person, especially if Pratchett is satirizing The Phantom of the Opera, but everything else? The Eighth Box is real, and the curse is real because people believe in it. The same goes for every other little example that Salzella gives, like the color green, or real mirrors being on stage, or “peeking at the audience through the main curtains.” (We had a guy dropped from all future performances back in high school after he did that on opening night. THEATER SUPERSTITIONS ARE SERIOUS BUSINESS, OKAY.)
If everyone believes that the Ghost has turned on them, though, what does that actually mean? Has the cast and crew changed reality with their belief, or was it the other way around?
I keep wondering if that bit earlier where Granny asked Nanny about “thinking properly” is the explanation for the extended sequence with Death. Granny’s continual slide into a transformation is unnerving, that’s for sure. She’s developing an arrogance that’s out of character even for her. She uses a house fire as a way of testing Nanny, so I wonder if that’s the reasoning for the latter scene: is Granny reacting to someone else’s “test”? Without any hesitation at all, Granny accepts the small child that’s comatose and dying from the local villagers, and she locks herself in a cowshed, awaiting Death. LITERALLY.
Why? Why did she bargain her own life in order to save this child? She didn’t know the family, and she’s never had much affection for children. So why now? Her game with Death is electrifying and surprising, and it’s definitely one of my favorite scenes EVER, but it’s also really confusing. I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all! I know I only have part of the story in front of me, so I’m interesting in seeing how it might tie into something larger. Even if it doesn’t, it’s still a snapshot: this is what a witch does. This is how a witch can work their magic and how they can help others. No money is exchanged, either. It’s part of the Granny’s duty as a witch.
And I’m transfixed.
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