In the twelfth chapter of A Hat Full of Sky, Tiffany finds the egress… sort of. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Let me just start out by acknowledge how very Tiffany this passage is:
“You are Death, aren’t you? I know this might sound like a silly question.”
YOU ARE NOT AFRAID?
I LOVE YOU, TIFFANY ACHING. I feel like there’s so much depth to this moment, too. She’s witnessed death in the Chalk; you can’t raise sheep without it. Her time in Fairyland certainly helped her… grow up? What I mean by that is that at nine years old, she “knew” things that other nine year olds were still blissfully unaware of. But it didn’t turn Tiffany into a dark person. Pragmatic, sure, but she’s not jaded. She just knows that death is a part of life, one that everyone has to deal with. So why would she be afraid of it yet?
Still, Pratchett allows Tiffany to be scared once the reality of her choice hits her: she came into Death’s dessert to guide the hiver to the next life, and now, she has to walk across the desert, too. That’s it. Those are the rules. And I have a theory: Granny knew this, and that’s why she didn’t immediately save her. Why? Because Tiffany needed to learn another important less on about what witches must do, what sort of role they serve. There’s a stunning moment where she worries that she was too selfish in all this:
“I should have thought of other people,” she said aloud.
“Aye, weel, ye did,” said Rob, sitting down by her foot. “Yon Arthur went off happy, and ye saved other folk fra’ being killed. Ye did what ye had to do.”
I’m glad Rob pointed this out, because I also interpret it this way. Even if there was a selfish reason buried within this, Tiffany still did this to save other people from the hiver AND to understand the hiver before guiding Arthur to their death. Look at her reaction to Rob and Jeannie, too. She wanted Rob to go back without her. She wanted him to tell his wife that she appreciated that she ultimately told Rob he had to keep her safe. SHE EVEN SAID SHE WISHED SHE HAD GOTTEN TO KNOW HER UNDER BETTER CIRCUMSTANCES. Tiffany might have dark thoughts that the hiver exaggerated and acted out, but she’s a good person, and I don’t want her to forget that.
That’s why I’m so thrilled by the conversation that Tiffany has with the other young witches after Granny opens a door back to the world for her. Tiffany did not understand it until she’d experienced it, but guiding a person to their death is an inevitability for a witch. And sometimes, that means that they’ll have to defy Death’s rules to get back from it, but it’s part of the job, so to speak. There’s something so noble in that idea, too, and it made perfect sense to me that out of all the younger witches, Petulia understood it, too.
But before I get to Petulia, I did want to talk about the parallels here to The Wee Free Men. What’s so frustrating for Tiffany is that this feels so similar to the experience. Something incredible just happened, one that changed her worldview, and no one believes her. She can’t talk about it! But that’s so absurd because of all people, other witches should believe her! BUT OF COURSE, ANNAGRAMMA DOES NOT. Oh my god, she is so ridiculous. She undermines practically everything that Tiffany says. She is argumentative. She does the same shit she did when we first met her in spite of everything that’s happened.
However, that facade has started to crack. It cracked when the hiver, in Tiffany’s body, tormented her. It cracked when Tiffany poked fun at that in this chapter, and then, the other girls began to ignore her, which is such a huge step. And even when Annagramma counters every single thing that Tiffany says, you can see how the other girls aren’t quite as ready to agree with her. They fall in line a little bit, but it’s not nearly as extreme as we saw earlier in the book.
Which is why Petulia’s role at the end of the chapter is so relieving. Petulia recognizes that witches will all have to do what Tiffany has already done, and she opens up because of that. She stops saying “um,” and she speaks with such a beautiful and poetic voice. And she’s right! If there ever was a time for them all to talk about this specific thing, this is it.
And then Petulia stands up for herself, and it is so fulfilling. I LOVE IT. Yes, it’s because of how terrible Annagramma has treated everyone in the past, but look at what Annagramma interrupts: Petulia talking about the “last thing you can do for someone.” That plays a part in it, too.
I’m so proud of Petulia!!!
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