In the second half of the fourth chapter of A Hat Full of Sky, the Feegles chase after Tiffany in a very interesting way; Tiffany meets another student witch. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
I expected that this would be ridiculous, but I assumed that the reaction to the Feegles pretending to be a human would basically be everyone running away in horror. (Eventually, that is technically what happened.) Thus, they’d never be able to get on that cart, and they’d have to come up with something else. However, I left out a crucial detail: the Feegles are sitting upon a veritable mountain of gold, all of which holds no real meaning to them beyond… well, let’s put it in their words:
In the mound, they mostly used the old coins and plates to reflect candlelight and give the place a nice glow. It was no hardship to give some away.
And give it away they do, and the power of money to wash over people’s suspicions, problems, and horrors is undeniable here. I felt like there were multiple layers of jokes at work in this long sequence. First of all, there’s that joke that sometimes a person is actually x number of y creature inside a trenchcoat, and holy shit, that is almost exactly what this is. It’s not a person! It’s actually two hundred Nac Mac Feegle inside a smelly, ferret home otherwise known as a stolen coat. On top of that, Pratchett stretches the commentary on money further and further, first to see if the carter will actually deny the Feegles passage; then, it’s whether or not the carter will care if the Feegles threw a package of eggs off the cart; then, it’s if the carter will deny going faster. By the time they make the switch to the coach that’ll take them up into the mountains, Pratchett has piled one absurdity on top of another, each of them solved with one more giant gold coin. I did like that even though they didn’t realize it, they were actually paying these drivers incredibly well? At least they’re being given a great wage???
Finally, I am totally interested in talking about this with y’all, but in the final scenes in the coach to the mountains, I felt like Pratchett was making reference to something that’s familiar to many of us: the image of a person on public transportation who hasn’t showered and is talking to themselves. As someone who has been homeless, I didn’t feel like this bothered, and perhaps it is because there didn’t seem to be a cruelty to this experience. Now, I could be wrong about the intent of it, but it felt so specific to the experience, you know? I’m curious if others felt the same way and if it deserves further thinking beyond the obvious.
I never really considered that Miss Level would be teaching other young girls at the same time, but it makes a lot of sense, right? It’s not like there is only one girl born in an entire generation who has the potential to be a witch. This isn’t Buffy. At the same time, there’s a discomfort that Tiffany experiences in this chapter that I’m having a hard time placing. Initially—and I said this in the video—maybe it’s that Petulia isn’t the same kind of witch that Miss Level is or that she’s teaching Tiffany to be. When I read that section where Petulia tried to fly the broom, it seemed to me that maybe Petulia did not have the natural power to be a witch. If the broom only jerked and Petulia had to turn it by hand (after three years of studying), was it destined that she be a witch?
Petulia also calls it “crafting,” a colloquial term for witchcraft, something that Miss Level notes is “getting popular again.”
I have a theory. Based on Petulia’s flying ability (or lack of it, I should say), based on how long Miss Level’s been teaching her, based on the Sabbat meeting, and based on Tiffany’s discomfort, I think that this is just a superficial form of witchcraft. It’s all about image, isn’t it? That’s why Petulia seemed so disappointed that Tiffany wasn’t wearing black or had no jewelry. She thinks there’s a very specific way to be a witch, and Tiffany does not fit that. Wouldn’t anyone feel uncomfortable with a situation like this? I could be completely off-base here, but I’m very interested to see what this Sabbat will be like.
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