Mark Reads ‘A Hat Full of Sky’: Chapter 9

In the ninth chapter of A Hat Full of Sky, a visitor to Miss Level’s cottage helps both Miss Level and Tiffany adjust to recent events. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld. 

Trigger Warning: For discussion of consent

There was a discussion about the notion of consciousness and identity last week, and I’m pleased to see that there’s a need for that in response to the text. Exactly what makes Tiffany who she is? Is it just consciousness? If the Hiver was inside of Tiffany, but part of her mind/personality was, too, does that still make Tiffany responsible for what happened? 

I feel like the text pretty soundly debunks that notion, but I wanted to add one thing to this that is only referenced by other characters, namely the Feegles. In the end, I don’t believe Tiffany killed Miss Level, or turned anyone into a frog, or hurt anyone because she couldn’t consent to any of that. It’s very clear that she didn’t want to do these things, even though she thought them. (Another bit of support for the idea that the Hiver is a lot like how intrusive thoughts work!) And if she cannot control even the slightest bit of her body in response to these thoughts, then how can she be responsible for what happened? The Hiver made all these choices for her, even if it did use her mind. 

I do understand, though, why Tiffany feels such an immense guilt. She knows how horrible this was, but that’s why Granny Weatherwax is here. In hindsight, I can now see how she tries to constantly piss off Tiffany. Right from the beginning, she slaps Tiffany, then yells at her over and over again. I still maintain that she puts Tiffany through routines that are familiar to her in order to bring Tiffany’s true self to the surface of the sea of Hiver ghosts. Why ask her to milk goats? To make cheese? Because those are things Tiffany is good at; none of the vestiges of life within her are capable of that. (Though I totally want to read the story of the desert queen who killed twelve of her husbands with scorpion sandwiches. WHERE IS HER TALE.) 

So, once Tiffany is rooted in herself (I loved that “Land Under Wave” was the final test of that), the real difficult work started. And I mean that for both characters. Before Granny Weatherwax began to help Tiffany find her anger, she had to help Miss Level deal with the loss of half of her self. As I remarked on video, it felt intentional to me that Pratchett made reference to a real phenomenon known as Phantom Limb Pain. Indeed, Miss Level’s second self was her body in every sense! She could experience all five sense through that body; it communicated with her brain; anything that happened to it was part of her memory and experience. Losing that body has been a visceral, disorienting experience for her. And yet, her mind already has found a way to compensate for this loss: magic. Her magic operates in a way that accepts that her second body is there, even if it physically isn’t. It’s fascinating and surprising, and I appreciate that Granny is here to coach Miss Level through the experience. Especially once Miss Level’s eyes send the message to her brain that there isn’t a second body. Maybe not, but if her magic can replicate the experience, then isn’t it fair for her to use this? 

Amidst this, Tiffany learns an important lesson about what constitutes witchcraft, something that had escaped her prior to this:

It’s in the voice! Sharp and soft by turns, and you use little words of command and encouragement and you keep talking, making the words fill the creature’s world, so that the sheepdogs obey you and the nervous sheep are calmed…

Within the Discworld (and indeed, it’s also a parallel to the Roundworld), witches occupy this specific role in terms of the labor they provide and what is expected of them. How much of what they do is accomplished only by them? And all of it counts as a form of magic, too, but it’s one that isn’t flashy or necessarily pretty, and it’s certainly thankless a lot of the time. It’s here that Granny Weatherwax makes this point to Tiffany by explaining why she and Miss Tick sent her to Miss Level, despite that Miss Level doesn’t have the same amount of respect as most witches. Why? Because she doesn’t care about appearing like a witch. Rather, she does the work. I loved the long monologue she gave about the magic that Miss Level does on a daily basis, and I was so thrilled to see her admit that Miss Level is better at it than her. That means SO MUCH coming from Granny Weatherwax, you know? It’s the soul and center of witchcraft, and Miss Level lives it. Thus, she was always the best witch to send Tiffany to. Tiffany could learn pure witchcraft, the very soul and center of it, from her. 

There’s one last lesson for Tiffany, though, and it’s one many of you probably figured that I would like. I was a little bewildered by how quickly Granny escalated her argument with Tiffany. I figured she was trying to keep Tiffany as herself, like she’d done with the goat milking and the cheese making. But the argument kept getting more and more specific as it got more intense. Why would Granny purposely want Tiffany to be more angry? Why bait her into that anger over and over again?

Because if she’s angry at the Hiver and what it did to her, she isn’t afraid of it:

“You hold that anger,” Mistress Weatherwax said, as if reading all of her mind. “Cup it in your heart, remember where it came from, remember the shape of it, save it until you need it. But now the wolf is out there somewhere in the woods, and you need to see to the flock.”

I LOVE THIS NOW AND FOREVER. And obviously, given that I just published a book about anger and respectability politics and the ways in which we devalue anger, this resonated a lot with me. I love that Granny is teaching Tiffany that is good to be angry at being mistreated and experiencing injustice. She then tells Tiffany that channeling that anger into action is the constructive next step, and that’s an important part of this. With her anger in mind, she can face the Hiver without it freezing her up in fear. That is something the Hiver can’t thrive off of.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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