Mark Reads ‘A Hat Full of Sky’: Chapter 5

In the fifth chapter of A Hat Full of Sky, Tiffany meets some other witches her age, and to say it doesn’t go well is a goddamn understatement. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld. 

Trigger Warning: For discussion of abuse, bullying

Oh my god, OH MY GOD THIS CHAPTER WAS A LOT????? I don’t even know where to start because I want to YELL about the twist at the end of it, but I should go through this chronologically because… holy shit, this was all set up deliberately so that Tiffany would get to that point, and I want to track that. She’s believably raw and vulnerable by the chapter’s end. Why is that? Well, because Tiffany Aching just experienced Annagramma Hawkin.

What the hell do I even say about this character? To any of us who have ever been abused and bullied, Annagramma is terrifyingly real, so real that I immediately thought of like five names (first and last, motherfuckers, because you better believe I committed the names of my bullies to memory) of people who, in some way or another, behaved just like her. (For what it’s worth, four of them are dudes. I mostly got bullied by other men.) Right from the start, I could tell I was going to have a hard time liking her, but that’s not exactly a groundbreaking interpretation. She’s SO BAD. So, so, so bad!!! She is condescending:

“Well, we all had to start somewhere.”

She is insulting:

“Dimity Hubbub, that is literally the most stupid thing anyone has ever done anywhere in the whole world, ever.”

She’s arrogant:

“I intend to leave next year,” said Annagramma. “Apparently, I’m doing extremely well.”

She is cruel (and wrong because IT WAS A GREAT PUN, I HAD NOT HEARD IT YET):

“Anyone can do that pun, Lucy Warbeck,” said Annagramma, without looking around. “It’s not funny, and it’s not clever.”

And she is one of the worst teachers/leaders imaginable. She doesn’t lead by example because she spends too much time insulting everyone and putting them down to even show them the right thing to do. (And nevermind about any of this being right; I highly suspect Annagramma can’t actually do anything? I noticed that she does not ever seem to exhibit any real powers, and I wonder if all the rudeness is a cover for the fact that she has no skills.) She doesn’t explain anything; she just assumes everyone should already know what she knows. And even if she did tell these girls stuff a literal million times, I am not surprised that they can’t remember what Annagramma said. How can you when a person is so mean and vicious that every word out of their mouth makes you feel both nervous and unworthy? Desperate for their approval and unable to perform? Annagramma thrives off this, and it’s the only time we have ever seen Tiffany so completely speechless and frightened like this. She wasn’t even this shocked by THE QUEEN OF THE FAIRIES, who had ACTUAL TERRIFYING POWERS THAT COULD HAVE KILLED TIFFANY.

So why this? Why is this the thing that turns Tiffany inside out? Up until this point, I don’t think Tiffany has ever interacted with someone who is this kind of cruel. (I mean, that’s not exactly a startling thought. On page 105, she literally says she isn’t “used to people like Annagramma.”) Oh, the Queen was cruel, certainly, but she was older and a fantastical being. I feel like it’s easier to believe in evil coming from someone like that. But Annagramma is just another young girl, like Tiffany, who possesses a mean streak that seems almost impossible because she is that dedicated to. I thought it was important that Tiffany did not demonstrate the clear magic she can do to Annagramma. Wouldn’t splitting herself have definitively shut Annagramma up? That’s real magic in any way you slice it, and yet, Tiffany never once even thinks of doing it. I have two possible reasons why I think that happened. One: it’s a very private thing that Tiffany does, and perhaps she would never consider it in the company of others. That’s pretty damn believable. But I also wonder if what’s happening is that Tiffany begins to believe the terrible things that Annagramma says about her.

I suggest that because from experience, this is exactly how I responded to both my bullies and my abusers. (Who often were both those things. FUNNY HOW THEY GO SO OFTEN HAND-IN-HAND.) Now, I can’t claim that Tiffany is dealing with this as I would, but I also know that this is a common reaction. I used to get flustered—like Tiffany does, when she mistakenly says that the magic she is good at is “Soft Nellies,” WHICH I CONSIDER MAGIC ANYWAY BECAUSE HAVE YOU HAD CHEESE—when I was being bullied. Truthfully, I do have trouble processing information or speaking once my anxiety is triggered, and I go into this weird overload mode where I sputter and can’t seem to form words, and I wish I knew what that was? Or if there was a word for it? It feels like it’s some form of overstimulation because words and sounds suddenly seem impossible and indecipherable while it’s happening. Anyway, after becoming flustered, Tiffany then becomes “sullen and upset” as she watches Annagramma berate the others and order them around. Then there’s that whole section where she grossly criticizes Petulia for saying “um,” and LORD, IT’S A LOT TO HANDLE. From there Annagramma projects. A lot. It’s perhaps one of the clearest examples of projection that I’ve seen in a book, as literally everything Annagramma says about Mistress Weatherwax is actually what she does:

“That’s because they’re all frightened of her! She’s such a bully! That’s all she does, bully people and mess up their heads!”

Yeah, that’s you, Annagramma. 100% you. And it is one of many reasons why this young girl gets under Tiffany’s skin. That’s what I mean about Tiffany believing what Annagramma says. Yes, Tiffany is bright and a quick learner, and her Second and Third thoughts keep her on her toes. But this isn’t about how smart someone is. Here is someone Tiffany’s age who has crafted a near cult of personality around herself, and who uses emotional manipulation and abusive language to keep everyone’s self esteem so low that they cling to her in order to fight for validation. When Tiffany finally gets home after all this, she’s haunted by the laughter of the group, and I was reminded of how much I cared about peer pressure when I was Tiffany’s age. Eleven and twelve were AWFUL years for me for a ton of reasons I won’t detail here, but that is absolutely when it became clear to me that if I didn’t belong to the right group, I was a loser. I believed it so wholly and fully, and it tormented me for years. And I was a “gifted” kid! I was a straight A student who had near perfect results on almost everything I did. Yet it still got to me. So, I empathize with Tiffany, with the doubt she feels about whether or not the hat that Mistress Weatherwax gave her was still on her head. I was actually convinced that she had been so humiliated that it would no longer be there, that she’d lost the ability to believe in it in the first place. 

Yeah. That’s not what happens.

She gets sad. Really sad. She feels left out. She deeply and truly misses home, which broke my heart. She doubts everything that Miss Level is teaching her, and it looked to me that she really was buying the notion that there was real magic and that Miss Level wasn’t doing it. And then, she decides to make one final go of it, to split from herself to see if that is still there, and oh lord. 

And there she was, and so was the hat, as clear as it had ever been.

And the image of Tiffany below, a young girl in a green dress, opened its eyes and smiled at her and said:

“We see you. Now we are you.”

Just like that, all that foreshadowing for the hiver comes true. And even though I was trying, I still missed that Tiffany’s splitting ability was a clue, the means by which the hiver could enter her body. Oh my god, that time she did it when she first met Miss Level??? IT TRIED TO STEAL HER BODY THEN.

But… what the fuck does this mean? How can Tiffany’s consciousness exist outside of her body? Will her body deteriorate as Professor Bustle’s did, or was that only because there were two consciousnesses in one body? WHY DID Y’ALL DO THIS TO ME.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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