In the eleventh chapter of The Wee Free Men, TIFFANY IS SUCH A BADASS. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
I AM JUST ENDLESSLY PLEASED WITH TIFFANY ACHING’S GROWTH AS A WITCH. Sometimes, that growth is subtle, slow, and quiet. And here, sometimes it comes with yelling. BOTH OF THESE THINGS ARE GREAT.
And yes, chapter eleven is probably the shortest chapter so far, but wow, does Pratchett pack in a LOT of information and action into these pages. The “awakening” referenced in the chapter title could refer to a few things, too, and it’s fun to interpret it in as such. Because you could easily say that Tiffany’s realization of where the Feegle were “hiding” was an awakening of sorts, and you could also argue that the Feegle spilling out of the last dream is an awakening, too.
But of everything here, I think Tiffany’s epiphanies regarding the Queen’s powers is the most important element of the story. Tiffany comes to understand that despite her seeming omnipotence, the Queen only controls dreams, and she’s used to getting what she wants. That means she’s never had to be clever. Which seems so obvious in hindsight! If you can just get what, when do you ever have to trick people? Manipulate them? And in that, Tiffany is perfectly suited. This is what being a witch is about. This is what she’s been learning the whole book!!!! BEING CRAFTY AND UNDERHANDED BUT DOING SO IN ORDER TO HELP OTHER PEOPLE.
So what unfolds here is incredibly satisfying to experience. Tiffany figures out how to bring the Feegle into this dream/reality, yes, but it’s what she does after this that’s the real test of her skills. The Queen disappears because surprise! She’s a coward! Well, that and she can’t deal with surprises because they never happen. Instead, she retreats into her realm and does the only things he knows: she tries to torment everyone with nightmares. It’s literally her only weapon, but it’s also worked every time prior to this. And that’s Tiffany’s advantage: she is the exception to the rule. She is unique. (And what a cool fucking message that is, y’all!)
BUT THEN THE NIGHTMARES COME AND HI, I HATE EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM!!! If you don’t have the illustrated edition, you are missing out, and that’s okay! Because that one single page is the worst, most terror-inducing illustration in the whole book! (Look, I have two tattoos of Stephen Gammell’s work for Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark on my body. I KNOW WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT.) So, these horrible THINGS are heading straight for Tiffany, and Tiffany makes a choice:
They aren’t going to fight them.
It’s such a bold decision, y’all, and I didn’t initially understand why. The Feegle can hold their own, and I figured that they’d be able to take out the nightmares. But in hindsight, that’s nothing but an endless cycle, right? They’d fight the nightmares, the Queen would send more, and how the hell were they supposed to escape that? Did any of this weaken the Queen at all? Instead, Tiffany reasons that they need to “wake up” to escape the Queen, and I’m guessing that lone drome she spies is how she’ll try to get them out. It’s easier to face a weakened dream sequence rather than a billion nightmares, right?
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