Mark Reads ‘The Wee Free Men’: Chapter 13

In the thirteenth chapter of The Wee Free Men, Tiffany realizes what she needs to defeat the Queen. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld. 

Oh, Tiffany. You really weren’t alone.

This is such a heavy, metaphorical choice for a resolution, but I love that Pratchett may have gotten kids to think about the history of where they live and who has been in their lives. Throughout The Wee Free Men, we’ve gotten a sense for how isolated Tiffany has felt, and that plays directly into this climactic scene. She isn’t like other kids; she cannot connect with her younger brother; she feels like she was left out of the legacy that Granny Aching left behind. She’s a wanderer at the start of this book, aimless and confused and desperate for some sort of guidance. (And she certainly wanted that from Granny Aching, who mostly remained silent.) When she discovers that she is supposed to become a witch—and I used the phrase “supposed to” loosely—there’s a bit of resentment on her part. Why isn’t she a part of this? Why wasn’t she mentored to become a witch? What is her place within this world?

“Land Under Wave” answers that question in both the immediate sense and in a much more grandiose manner. Pratchett brings Tiffany to the lowest point of her life. She’s back in her own world, locked out of the Queen’s realm because the door was destroyed, and she left both her brother and the Feegle behind. She failed. And that’s what the Queen focuses on: all of Tiffany’s failures. And it’s not just the obvious, either! This particular passage was a LOT:

“I expect it’s not your fault you’re so cold and heartless,” said the Queen. “It’s probably all to do with your parents. They probably never gave you enough time. And having Wentworth was a very cruel thing to do—they really should have been more careful. And they let you read too many books. It can’t be good for a young brain, knowing words like paradigm and eschatological. It leads to behavior such as using your own brother as monster bait.” The Queen sighed. “Sadly, that kind of thing happens all the time. I think you should be proud of not being worse than just deeply introverted and socially maladjusted.”

It’s kind of astonishing just how many things the Queen manages to insult and prod in just one paragraph, but THERE YOU GO. She hits on Tiffany’s complicated feelings towards her brother; the resentment she feels because he gets more attention; the awareness she has that she’s different; the fact that she’ll never be like anyone else. Tiffany’s response, though, is of empowerment. Those very things that the Queen tries to insult her for are what make her unique, what makes her human, what makes her important. And in a stunning sequence, Tiffany becomes intimately aware of her place within a world that has existed long before she did. Now I get why this is set in the Chalk; in a purely physical sense, Tiffany walks among history every day. What do you think all that chalk is made of? As she sinks beneath the land into the dream-like world of the past, she’s given the confidence to realize her part in it all. Was it all just a dream? Who cares? The meaning isn’t negated if it all happened in a dream world. She still saw Granny Aching, she was still reminded of the importance of being unequivocally herself, Thunder and Lightning still chased the Storm away, and: 

Tiffany didn’t know if what had just happened was a dream or had happened somewhere that wasn’t quite here or had happened only in her head. It didn’t matter. It had happened. 

YES. I LOVE THIS. And while I was amused by the whole lawyers bit—especially finally getting the backstory of the toad!—I did feel like it interrupted Tiffany’s very important transformation. Like… she just stops talking (and isn’t even mentioned) once the lawyers show up. It’s a little strange, but not enough to like… ruin this for me? It’s just an odd pacing choice. NO MATTER, BECAUSE HOW GREAT IS THE BEST EPIPHANY OF THE WHOLE BOOK????

She swung a hand. The Queen tried to stop her, but she might as well have tried to stop a wheel of years. Tiffany’s hand caught her face and knocked her off her feet. 

“Now I know why I never cried for Granny,” she said. “She has never left me.”

She leaned down, and centuries bent with her.

“The secret is not to dream,” she whispered. “The secret is to wake up. Waking up is harder. I have woken up and I am real. I know where I come from and I know where I’m going. You cannot fool me anymore. Or touch me. Or anything that is mine.”

DID YOU HEAR THAT, IT’S THE SOUND OF THE BADASS ROCK N’ ROLL BACKING MUSIC THAT KICKS IN RIGHT AS TIFFANY FINISHES THIS. My instant reaction to this was pride. I was so proud of Tiffany and her journey, both because she’s so young (I WAS A MESS AT THIS AGE) and because it felt so profound. She knows she is a part of this grand history, but she also knows that she is important now. Her time on the Disc is vital now. And Tiffany rejects the Queen’s power by filtering the world through herself and her own importance. I love that she’s like, “THIS IS ALL MINE, BACK THE FUCK OFF.” As Tiffany said, the Queen only knows control and nothing else. So Tiffany just refuses to let her control what is hers! 

I was also touched that despite everything that has happened, despite how much misery the Queen caused, Tiffany still offered her pity. Normally, I wouldn’t say that that’s a flattering thing, but it’s kind. It’s kind in this case that Tiffany feels sorry for the Queen. Why? Well, here’s my theory: Tiffany knows what it feels like to be isolated and alone, even when you’re surrounded by others. She just chose a different path. 



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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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