In the eighth part of Maskerade, Nanny and Granny’s night at the opera turns into a murder mystery. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For anti-Romani slurs.
So, just as a heads up for the videos that will be made from this point on: I am going to avoid saying the word g***y. Please do not take my word as gospel here, and I encourage you to read up on why the Romani community considers this word a slur. I’d rather not say it in videos, so if you’re confused as to what the word is that I keep skipping over, it’s that one. I’m not Romani, so I don’t feel it’s my place to say it. (Same reason why I, as a dude, don’t feel I should be saying b***h in videos either.) This specific stereotype / archetype is immensely common in fiction and in theater, too, so I imagine we’ll be seeing the word frequently from here on out.
Anyway, LET’S TALK ABOUT MURDER MYSTERY AT THE OPERA. I’m now wondering if the rest of this book will take place on this one night. IT IS ENTIRELY POSSIBLE, ISN’T IT??? Pratchett doesn’t cover more than half of the performance here, and this is just the beginning of the witches getting involved in the mystery of the Ghost. Well, I’m selling them short. They don’t just “get involved” in a murder mystery; they also DISCOVER THE OPERA. Now, I know that opera and theater aren’t the same thing, yet there’s still so much crossover between the two of them that this section gave me flashbacks to my time in theater in high school. Most of that came from the behind-the-scenes sequences, but Pratchett also provides commentary on theater etiquette, too!
WHICH ISN’T TAUGHT TO PEOPLE WHEN YOU GO TO THE THEATER AND I DIDN’T KNOW UNTIL I MESSED UP. One of my first live theater experiences was getting to see Into the Woods in high school, and OH BOY, did I get yelled at when I:
- started eating my snack an hour into the musical (WHY DID THEY SELL THEM IF YOU CANNOT CONSUME THEM WITHOUT MAKING A SINGLE SOUND)
- laughed too loud
- had hair (I was scolded by some old dude for not combing my hair down flatter, and I cannot fucking make this up, y’all. It wasn’t even styled up!!!)
So I learned the hard way how brutal it can be in the audience. Granted, I understand that it’s a different culture. Plus, theaters are not movie theaters; any sound in the audience is most likely going to be amplified terribly and then you’ll be embarrassed and trust me. Trust me, friends, you do not want to be the one in the room where it happens who gets stared at by half the audience. YOU DON’T WANT IT.
Granny and Nanny don’t really care. Well… okay, even that’s not entirely true. Granny not only removes her hat when asked, but says:
“I do beg your pardon,” she said. “I can see I was inadvertently bad-mannered. Pray excuse me.”
DID HELL FREEZE OVER. DID I JUST READ THIS. I did, y’all, and the fact that it made Nanny AND ME start is a sign of how unlikely it is that Granny would apologize for anything. Well, the man might die, so maybe her apology is a parting gift? (How did she know he was about to die? Is that an after-effect of her scene with Death?)
Anyway, Granny and Nanny are in the theater for a very short period of time before things start to unravel. They appear to be the only people who notice that Christine is not singing “Departure.” What’s even more alarming to them, though, is Box Eight. I LOVE THE MYSTERY SURROUNDING THIS, first of all, and I really want to know why the same man who has done so many nice things is now murdering people. But my favorite part of this whole section of Maskerade is Pratchett’s narration of Granny using her magic to “ascend” into the universe of the theater. It was evocative and spooky, and I found it to be a rare chance to see into the other powers we don’t often read about.
She discovers that fear is an undercurrent in the theater, and given recent events, I understand why that’s the case. But this???
“They beat him to death!”
“What’s that, Esme?”
“And they throw him into the river!”
I DON’T GET THIS AT ALL. Even weirder? She uses the present tense, doesn’t she? Why? Is that significant? AM I READING TOO MUCH INTO EVERYTHING BECAUSE I HAVE SO LITTLE? But I don’t think I’m reading too much into this. At the very least, there’s more than just murder occurring in the theater. The palpable terror that these people feel is based on something real and nasty. The Ghost used to be a source of good luck, even pride, so something must have changed him into the monster that he is. When Granny tries to get inside Box Eight, Mrs. Plinge isn’t frightened in a general sense; she’s terrified to upset the thing on the other side of that door, especially after Mr. Pounder died. What if angering the Ghost makes more people die?
I suspect that’s not what’s actually happening here. It seems too simplistic. Plus, from what we see of Nanny’s time in Mrs. Plinge’s job, Mrs. Plinge has been dedicated to pleasing others at the theater for a long time. So that can’t be the reason that the Ghost changed, right? Right? I’m curious if Pratchett will give us a POV bit with Granny as she walks Mrs. Plinge home, since I assume she knows a lot about the theater that could be of use to Granny.
For now, though, we get scenes where Nanny comforts others. There’s her scene with Mrs. Plinge, of course, but I also found Nanny to be really adorable with Walter, too. She cares because it’s right to care about others. I get the sense that Granny cares not so much because of a general moral sensibility, but because it can help her. I wouldn’t go so far to say that Granny is careless, but there’s a reason Nanny is better at comforting people than Granny is, you know?
Bah, I still don’t get what’s going on!
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