In the fifth chapter of The Wee Free Men, Tiffany journeys across her homeland with the Feegles and has another frightening encounter. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For a brief discussion of grief.
So, I wrote about transitional states already, but the opening of this chapter is such a great example of why stories about this period in a person’s life are so interesting. Tiffany sees her home from a new perspective, even if she’s just inches off the ground. The titular “green sea” is the deep, swaying grasses of the Chalk, and as she rushes over them, she reflects on the importance of where she’s grown up. It’s a remarkably introspective moment, almost oddly placed at the beginning of her journey. Like, as I was reading it, I enjoyed it, but I kept wondering why was it happening. It wasn’t until the chapter’s flashback to Granny that I began to understand this as an attempt to examine history. It makes sense that Tiffany is concerned about her role in the Chalk when her Granny’s life was so integral to how the Chalk functioned. The land itself is where she resides now, so why wouldn’t Tiffany think about it as she went on to face the Queen? This line in particular seemed important to me:
There were signs of people everywhere. The Chalk had been important.
Where does Tiffany see herself in such a grand lineage? She’s young; she’s inexperienced; she’s so new to all of this. The flashback to Granny’s death (AND THE SOUL-CRUSHING REVEAL THAT HER SHEEP DOGS WAITED UNTIL HER COTTAGE BURNED DOWN AND THEN LEFT THE CHALK, NEVER TO RETURN) places Granny within this massive mythology, and now, Tiffany is being referred to as the “spawn” of the hag. What does that actually mean? The Chalk might be a magic place, both literally and metaphorically, but can you imagine the pressure that Tiffany is under to feel like she belongs? It’s so immense, y’all, and that is why I think this chapter opens as it does. Pratchett grounds us in this history, and in doing so, we can appreciate where Tiffany’s head is at. It seems like she’s the only person who can save the world! Couple that with her emotional response to being so close to Granny Aching, and this chapter is deeply powerful. Y’all, that scene where she teared up while smelling the Jolly Sailor wrapper??? HELP ME, I GET IT SO MUCH. Seriously, just a few days ago, I had to walk out of a friend’s apartment because Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s cover of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” destroys me every time I hear it. (If you’ve not seen me talk about it, it was the song that played at my father’s funeral, and it is so wholly associated with that memory that it triggers an intense sadness in me. And so I can see how that moment would make Tiffany feel isolated, you know?
Well, she’s not truly alone, and as I said before, she’s learning not to be shy about asking for assistance. But the Feegles warn her not to just rush into the Queens’s world, at least not without a plan! Do I know what that plan is? Oh, of course not. I don’t have the faintest idea! I also don’t understand much of how that world works, though the final confrontation in chapter five gives me some sense of the logic. Like much of the Discworld, belief plays a huge part in the physicality of these creatures. The grimhounds are only effective within their own universe, where all dreams (and nightmares) are real and true. Thus, Tiffany figures out that if she somehow tricks them into her universe, then they “die.” It’s so brilliant! So, can she just believe herself back into her own world? How does that work?
And finally: HOW THE HELL ARE THE NAC MAC FEEGLE DEAD???
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