Mark Reads ‘A Hat Full of Sky’: Chapter 11

In the eleventh chapter of A Hat Full of Sky, Tiffany unlocks the secret of the hiver. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read A Hatful of Sky. 

Trigger Warning: For discussion of consent, anxiety

Holy shit, THIS IS AMAZING. 

Sometimes, We Get What We Don’t Deserve

Hi, look at the neat clue to one aspect of the hiver: it grants things that it perceives a person wants regardless of whether they deserve it. There’s no moral framework here for the hiver, and why would there be? Many of the creatures it consumed prior to to getting to Tiffany had no sense of right and wrong, deserving or undeserving. It was just desire, nothing more. They were “killing machines, the most powerful creatures in their world—once.” Now I understand why Pratchett seeded in some of the more darker, spiteful thoughts in Tiffany, some of which we saw in The Wee Free Men. He needed to have a character who struggled with her own desires, who demonstrated the very, very human conflict of juggling what one wants and what one should do. 

And it’s also not lost on me that the hiver doesn’t consider another option until it takes over Tiffany and finally understands what it means to be human. Sebastian Bustle did not have that same affect, and that’s in part because of his personality. He was egotistical, self-centered, and concerned with power. It was a young girl who got the hiver to think differently! It was Tiffany who finally accepted that everyone thought of the hiver in the wrong way, too. She’s the first to suggest that it was frightened, not that it was some evil, malevolent thing. Well, Sebastian observed that, but he never asked why. He just accepted that it was afraid, and that was the end of his curiosity. 

“Well, memory fades,” said Mistress Weatherwax.

OH MY GOD, THAT’S ANOTHER CLUE, ISN’T IT? I suspect Granny figured out some of this, too, or perhaps this is just Pratchett slyly dropping another hint as to the hiver’s true nature. It’s memory faded. After eons and eons of existing, of being aware and terrified the whole time, how could the hiver ever remember another time when it might have been a single consciousness instead of a collection of everything it took?

Anyway, before I get into that, I did want to state that I’m hoping we do get to see more of the Trials because I still want to know what they’re like. At the same time, I completely understand why Pratchett didn’t include details beyond the people present. The atmosphere is what we needed. If that shark metaphor was going to work, Tiffany needed to be singled out amidst a crowd of powerful, powerful people. And what better example of that than a gigantic crowd of witches who have gathered for a competition? Granny was intentional about that, too, and she tells Tiffany as much:

“Look around, eh? Down here you can’t move for amulets and wands and whatnot! It’ll be bound to keep away, eh?”

Of course, that isn’t true, and I think I know why. The hiver stayed away when Granny was the only witch around, and that was because it contained part of Tiffany. Tiffany was afraid of Granny. 

But was she afraid of witches in general?

Yeah, so I highly suspect that part of Granny’s plan was to deliberately draw out the hiver at the trials, using Tiffany as both bait and the solution. That solution is hinted at again when the hiver begins to hunt down Tiffany and she starts trying to determine the meaning of the Third Wish thought. Look what she thinks when she runs into Annagramma: 

“If you like, but that wasn’t me and I’m better now,” said Tiffany, knowing she was lying. It had been her, and that was important. She had to remember that.” 

And what had the hiver done what it had been her? 

It had given her what it had always wanted.

It had granted her deepest, darkest wishes. 

It’s here that Pratchett delves into a reality for all of us: we are constantly, constantly fighting our urges to take, to hurt, to harm, to do exactly what we want and damn the consequences! Obviously, some people are better at this than others, but in this case, the hiver literally knows nothing else. It isn’t trying to viciously control people out of spite, and it isn’t trying to spread evil. It’s just doing the only thing it thinks humans want. 

Tiffany feels so perfectly suited for this, so, again, I feel like that’s what Granny wanted. She wanted Tiffany to be right there, right then, because she knew she wasn’t going to lose. No, she knew that Tiffany would not lose: 

“Now, then… do you have it in you to be a witch by noonlight, far away from your hills?”

“Yes!” There was no other answer, not to Granny Weatherwax.

Granny Weatherwax bowed low and then took a few steps back. 

“In your own time, then, madam,” she said.

And that’s exactly what Tiffany does. In her own time, and in her own space (LITERALLY), Tiffany does what no one else had done:

She just talks to the hiver. 

Well, she finally figures out why the hiver had never been working for her, what was missing, and why stories are so important to the world. I really don’t tire of seeing this theme crop up again and again, as it’s one of my favorite things to talk about. (And a version of this appears in my next book, too, though the context is much, much different.) Plus, Pratchett calls back to the importance of the Tiffany’s home, the Chalk, in multiple ways, from Tiffany rising the Horse from the hillside to the make-up of the chalk itself, which Tiffany uses to help the hiver understand time, evolution, and the cyclical notion of death.

And really, that’s my favorite part of this whole chapter. More than anything else, the hiver wants death. Since it came into being, it explains to Tiffany, it has been aware of everything: 

We have done it for an eternity. No sleep, no rest, just endless… endless experience, endless awareness.

I said this on video, but this particular aspect of the hiver reminded me of how my anxiety works. Honestly, it’s eerily similar: I cannot turn off how “aware” I am of the world. My mind buzzes with activity and awareness until it physically causes me pain. I actually had a moment the other day, in the midst of an anxiety spiral that I knew was absurd (yet I couldn’t stop my brain from thinking about it), where I wondered what life must be like for people who can just turn this stuff off. What does that feel like? How do people go through life without it? I’ve developed so many coping mechanisms to try and make life livable, and there are people who just… don’t do this???

So, maybe I’m biased here, but… this chapter made me feel sympathy for the hiver, for a being that had no idea what it was doing until it met Tiffany, the young girl who was so quintessentially human that it made the hiver rethink everything. It wanted silence. It wanted death.

Tiffany granted the hiver that.

She conjures a door to death’s realm with the power of stories. (I LOVE THIS SEQUENCE A LOT.) She takes the hiver to the long desert, the one we’ve seen so many times before. (Well, not the one; it conjures differently for each person, of course.) She gives the hiver a name, a sense that it is a single being, AND THEN SHE TEACHES ARTHUR HOW TO DIE. It’s just!!! So much!!!

What the hell is Death going to say to her??? WHAT COULD DEATH SAY? Oh, I’m so excited for the next chapter, y’all.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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