In the fourteenth and final chapter of The Wee Free Men, Tiffany returns home to discover how much her world has changed and how much it hasn’t. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
I loved this. I LOVED IT SO MUCH. And if this counts as Pratchett’s first foray into YA for Discworld, then HOLY SHIT, I really hope there’s more. (Don’t tell me if there is, I want to be surprised.) More than ever before, I’m thinking about the role of young adult fiction in the lives of actual kids. I mean, I have to. I’ve been thrust into that world myself, and after doing two school visits this year, I’m aware of how words can change someone’s life. Change their outlook. Change their perception.
In that context, I can see such an immense value in the story of Tiffany Aching. She’s a bit of a loner. Everyone thinks she is strange. As I mentioned in the last review, the theme of isolation is all over this book. Tiffany felt abandoned by Granny Aching, and she lived apart from her own family, who didn’t seem all that interested now that Wentworth was in the picture.
It doesn’t matter that this is magical and fantastical because this is so real. And y’all have already seen how much I’ve related to this or projected my own experiences into the narrative. Granted, that’s what I do. Truly, one of my favorite things in the world is talking honestly about how to relate to works of fiction. I’ve been doing this for 9 years this summer (HOW THE FUCK), and I don’t tire of it. So, it’s easy for me to find power in the imagery that Pratchett gives us at the end of this book. Tiffany won, first of all, but not in a way that denies the reality of dreams, of fear, and of the difficulty that it takes to do what’s right. I deeply respect that because I feel like it’s honest. It’s not always easy to do the right thing; often, the right thing is the hardest choice to make!
Now, Tiffany didn’t make the choices she did with a reward in mind; no, she fought against the Queen and defeated her because she had to. And there are some setbacks that we see later in the story because of what she did! But I adored that after everyone is rescued, Tiffany receives a visit from Miss Tick, Nanny Ogg, and Granny Weatherwax. I honestly didn’t expect it at all, especially not once we got into the story. I wanted it because I knew how instrumental it would be if Tiffany got to meet those specific witches. But I figured that Tiffany would just return to her life in the Chalk and have to adjust to seeing the world differently.
However, I have to acknowledge how important Granny and Nanny Ogg are in this moment. Look, I know it’s sometimes positioned as cool and edgy to not care about validation or what your peers think. I get that philosophy, but it feels a lot different when you’ve not received much of it before. When you’re isolated and lonely, validation is a way to quench an unbearable, secretive thirst. So when Granny Weatherwax sizes up Tiffany, reviews what she did, and then removes her hat to bow to her, I cannot imagine a more meaningful gesture on her part. First of all: SHE HAS NEVER DONE SOMETHING LIKE THIS TO ANYONE IN THE WHOLE SERIES. On that point alone, this was incredible. But let’s assume that for someone else, this is their first novel in the Discworld series. This act conveys a monumental amount of respect for Tiffany, and I think anyone can see that. She is validated. Her skills and her talent is honored.
And that means everything when you don’t think you’ve been validated before.
Of course, this comes on the heels of the silent blessing from Granny Aching, and I don’t want to ignore that. But once Tiffany is back home, it’s clear that this isn’t the norm. Most people will react as the people of the Chalk do: by letting Roland take all the credit for rescuing Tiffany. There’s an obvious parallel to the misogynist phenomenon of crediting men for the work of women in this. It’s easier for everyone—especially Roland’s father, the Baron—to accept this reality than the truth. There’s a more general theme in this, too, one that relates to the notion of reality and perception. It’s integral to understanding how witches work in the Discworld, so it’s the perfect note for this story to end on. See, Roland knows the truth. He knows he didn’t save anyone, that Tiffany literally did all the work. And even if he’s able to acknowledge that to Tiffany, he’s still deeply uncomfortable with her, as if her saving him isn’t enough for him to just accept her and respect her.
Instead, Tiffany has to do “magic” in order for Roland to get how important she is to this town and its safety. The legacy of the last witch who lived here weighs heavily on Tiffany, so I LOVED THAT SHE BASICALLY TERRIFIED ROLAND INTO RESPECTING HER. What else could she do? If Roland was going to become the Baron some day, she needed him to know that he was not to fuck with her just because she’s weird and different.
Tiffany is now part of that legacy, the very one she thought she was excluded from. She’s part of it, and y’all, I HOPE I GET MORE STORIES FROM HER PERSPECTIVE. This was amazing. And I don’t think this is a terribly controversial opinion to have at this point, but wow, the Discworld books really do get better and better. I can’t wait for Monstrous Regiment!!!
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