In the second half of the third chapter of A Hat Full of Sky, Tiffany learns more about Miss Level’s home; we learn what hivers are (NO THANKS); Jeannie and Rob Anybody make an important decision. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Oh no, OH NO.
The rest of this chapter is fascinating because it jumps between plots so as best to nudge the reader toward the inevitability of certain things happening, particularly when it comes to the hiver and Rob Anybody. But I also love that we get a glimpse at what life is like for Miss Level all the way out in… well, I don’t actually know. She doesn’t live in a town or a village, and I’d argue that she’s so isolated from other people that even Twoshirts is a “bigger” place than hers. I wonder if that sense of isolation is going to play a part in the story, especially since it’s not like Tiffany can just easily go home once things start to ramp up.
But for now, Tiffany is settling into life with Miss Level rather well, partially because she’s one of the fastest learners I’ve ever seen. She manages to figure out the goats real quick, which is important because goats are terrifyingly smart. I had not spent any significant time around a goat until about 14 or 15 years ago, when I visited a friend in Michigan who had quite a few of them. I enjoyed them a lot, but man, those things are cunning. So, that’s why Tiffany has to stay one step ahead of them at all times, which comes incredibly naturally to her. Seriously, even as Miss Level is teaching her about the ritual of “telling the bees,” her mind is already thinking of the ramifications:
“And who do the bees tell?” asked Tiffany.
Both of Miss Level smiled at her.
“Other bees, I suppose,” she said.
“So… if you knew how to listen to the bees, you’d know everything that was going on, yes?” Tiffany persisted.
How… how does her mind work, y’all??? I would never have gotten to that point so quickly! But that’s Tiffany for you, and it’s an important moment to further build on the point that Rob Anybody will make toward the end of the chapter. She’s special in a million different ways, even if she doesn’t think she is. But I’d argue that in her own way, Miss Level is, too. This is my first experience with a research witch in the Discworld series, and I love that we get to see what that means. She’s all about trying to discover knew things about the world that can make life better for all people, and that includes her research into herbs and plants. Which tell Miss Level, quite literally, what they are to be used for:
“Everyone thinks it’s another toothache cure, but just look at the cut root by stored moonlight, using my blue magnifying glass…”
Tiffany tried it, and read: “GoOD F4r Colds May cors drowsniss Do nOt oprate heavE mashinry.”
L I T E R A L L Y. I can’t believe I walked right into this joke, except I do it every time.
So, we’ve got absolute confirmation of what hivers are. Actually, maybe “absolute” is too strong of a word. They’re a type of demon, according to One Hundred and One Things a Wizard Can Do, and the further information we get from Professor Bustle’s research on the subject gives a greater idea how these ancient forces work. And they are ancient, at least by the means they were studied and theorized by Discworld academics, and they lack most of what we understand to belong to “living” creatures”
They are not alive but they have, as it were, the shape of life. They have no body, brain, or thoughts of their own, and a naked hiver is a sliggish thing indeed, tumbling gently through the endless night between the worlds.
That is, right up until they sense a powerful mind or body, explaining why this specific hiver has been tracking Tiffany and trying to inhabit her. Because oh my god, y’all, that’s what they do, and I certainly did not expect to discover this through a first-person account of someone who WILLINGLY LET A HIVER INTO THEIR MIND! It’s one of the eeriest things that Pratchett’s ever written because you can see how the hiver slowly changes Professor’s Bustle’s mind over the course of the excerpt of his book. That’s a masterful thing to pull off, a talent of craft and tension and detail, and Y’ALL, IT ATE HIS MIND AND ALL THAT WAS LEFT OF HIS BODY FIT INTO A JAR.
What the FUCK.
Oh, I have a lot of feelings about Rob’s dedication to Tiffany, even though he didn’t have to stick up to her. I know that he recognizes her connection to the land of the Chalk, but I’d like to think that his guilt and existential dread is in part because he knows that Tiffany is special to him. She stood up against the Queen, y’all, MULTIPLE TIMES. At nine years old! She did something most full-grown adults wouldn’t dream of doing. So yes, she’s important to the Chalk, but she’s important to Rob, too.
At the same time, Pratchett does a fine job of giving us a reason why Jeannie is opposed to Rob going to help. They haven’t been together very long, and she knows that hivers can’t be killed. Going after one to protect Tiffany is going to be a horribly risky proposition, and in the end, she doesn’t want to lose her husband. That’s a valid reaction, y’all, and this really isn’t about her being spiteful or jealous of Tiffany. She just wants her husband to be alive to see his children. OH, RIGHT, SHE’S GOING TO HAVE EIGHT CHILDREN, SEVEN SONS AND ONE DAUGHTER. A;ldkfja;ldjfalkds oh my god HELP.
Yet even knowing that, as the kelda, she still orders Rob to go protect Tiffany. She knows her duty, she knows Tiffany’s importance, and she makes a sacrifice here, too, one that should be admired.
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