In the fifteenth and final chapter of A Hat Full of Sky, Tiffany returns home and makes her own hat. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
What an ending, y’all.
“It had been an interesting winter.”
Perhaps the biggest understatement in all the Discworld books. But not wrong! Tiffany’s experience across A Hat Full of Sky was about discovery—not just of her own world, but herself, too. It’s important that so much of the first page of this chapter repeats a motif: She learned. That’s what so much of this experience has been, hasn’t it? Tiffany was sent out into the world to be taught by Miss Level, and once there, she was thrust into something she didn’t expect and, for a moment, didn’t believe that she could conquer. But that’s not just a reference to the hiver, despite that the hiver was a vital part of this story. No, Tiffany also didn’t want to do the things that Miss Level did as a witch. She didn’t want to help others; she didn’t want to be around people like Mr. Weavall. She didn’t want to tell stories, to play off the expectations of others, to do every day magic.
But that all changes, and Pratchett concludes A Hat Full of Sky not by making Tiffany an exact copy of Miss Tick, Miss Level, or Granny Weatherwax. No, Tiffany always had to be her own witch. Always. And in her land, in the land of the Chalk, Tiffany became the witch that her people needed. That’s why she returns for the Sheepbellies, “when the shepherds’ year began.” It’s why she helps the future happen. Because a witch is not a copy of another, and because a witch adapts to the environment they are in. Isn’t that exactly what we’ve seen across these thirty-some books? Witches adapt. And for Tiffany, the land of the Chalk demands things differently than the lands of the mountains or the land of the Ramtops or Lancre.
Tiffany, without a complaint and without hesitation, brought life into the world, and she saved the ewes, too:
And she’d walked back home proudly in the morning, bloody to the elbows, but it had been the blood of life.
This is immediately given a parallel in Jeannie, who Tiffany visits and gives an important gift: soapwort shampoo and clean torn-up handkerchiefs, something she’ll need for the eight children she had with Rob Anybody. AND I WAS DESTROYED BY THIS:
…Tiffany had been allowed to hold all eight of what she kept thinking of as the Roblets, born at the same time as the lambs. Seven of them were bawling and fighting one another. The eighth lay quietly, biding her time. The future happened.
And Jeannie brought that future to life. Two women, separated by age and experience and species and location, still brought the future to life.
But there’s another element to this that’s powerful, and Pratchett reaches back to seeds planted both at the beginning of this book, within The Wee Free Men, within the Discworld series as a whole, to show us the importance of storytelling. The very idea of a witch, even on the Disc, carries preconceived notions with it. Which I do find interesting; we’ve not seen that many examples of bad witches, the kind that let power go to their heads, the kind that people should find terrifying. Yet the specter of this hangs over many of these cultures. As noted in the text:
The people of the Chalk didn’t like witches. They had always come from outside. They had always come as strangers.
So, I didn’t read this as a condemnation of witches in a traditional sense. It’s just that witches are outsiders. The world of the Chalk is so, so different than anywhere else on the Disc! But I am fascinated about how there’s a parallel to witchery on the Roundworld, particularly since these women are misunderstood and feared. How far does that parallel go? The Author’s Note refers to… uh… our Witch Trials, but I’m curious if there’s ever been anything that severe in the Discworld. I feel like witches, as feared and intimidating as they’ve been, are still an integral part of a lot of these rural communities, so punishing/prosecuting them wouldn’t really work? How could these communities functions without these women of duty? I expect that there’s also a HUGE amount of commentary to be had about why witches are in rural places, and wizards populate in larger cities. Witches are born to hostile or non-witch-friendly places, and that’s got to be why Miss Tick is such an important witch, right?
Anyway, just a bit of a stray thought about that. The point I’m leading to is how important the story of Tiffany eventually becomes to the Chalk. They don’t think of her as an outsider; rather, they draw parallels to Granny Aching, and it allows them to accept her as one of them:
So if witch (Granny Aching) be, then she’s our witch. She knows about sheep, she does. Hah, and I heard they had a big sort of trial for witches up in them mountains and our Tiffany showed ‘em what a girl from the Chalk can do. It’s modern times, right? We got a witch now, and she’s better’n anyone else’s! No one’s throwing Granny Aching’s granddaughter in a pond!
She becomes a point of pride for the Chalk, and Tiffany allows that. She becomes their story, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If anything, Tiffany learned what that story means for others, how to use it to be a better witch and to serve her community. And she would not have known any of this if she hadn’t gone along with Miss Tick, met Miss Level, and learned from those two and Granny Weatherwax. Which is why this passage hit me so hard:
Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.
It really summarizes what Tiffany went through in A Hat Full of Sky. Tiffany sees the world of the Chalk through new eyes; the people there see her through new eyes, too. And that new understanding has increased her appreciation for what Granny Aching did, what the Land did for her and continues to do for her, and what the witches taught her. Open your eyes, and then open them again. That’s what this whole book gave her, wasn’t it? A new way to open her eyes, to see the world, to pay attention to it, to appreciate its complexities and hardships and its joys.
And it really had to end with Tiffany’s hat. I’m reminded of the fact that Miss Tick had a hat that you couldn’t see most of the time, and there’s an echo of that idea in Tiffany’s hat full of sky. Tiffany’s hat didn’t need to be a physical thing. In fact, the beauty of the open sky, both during the day and at night, was enough to fill Tiffany with an everyday magic. What better way to remind yourself of the power of being a witch?
Whew, THIS BOOK WAS SO STELLAR!!! I loved it a great deal, and I look forward to the next Tiffany Aching book. In the meantime: we will be moving on to The Science of Discworld II until September 24th. At that point, as reviews for The Book of Night With Moon come to an end, we will alternate a Science book with a regular Discworld book! So, Going Postal will alternate at that point, and then we’ll just keep alternating through The Science of Discworld III. IT’S ALL DISCWORLD ALL THE TIME, FRIENDS.
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