Mark Reads ‘Wintersmith’: Chapter 2, Part II

In the second half of the second chapter of Wintersmith, Miss Treason takes Tiffany dancing. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld. 

HEY, WHAT’S HAPPENING, I DON’T GET IT. Y’all, seriously, I have one huge question that I need answered: Why did Miss Treason take Tiffany to this dance? Actually, I’m not even sure why the dance needed to happen at all, so there’s that, too. The Morris dance—which I swear is based on a real Roundworld custom???—usually happens to invite in summer. (I assume the Summer Lady?) So why was this dance happening so early? Why is Miss Treason so determined to witness it? Because I’m now realizing that she didn’t partake in the dance at all. And if this is a dance traditionally for seven people, why wasn’t she the seventh person? 

Initially, I didn’t think there was going to be something so creepy at the end of this trip into the forest. Pratchett invokes a very common trope you see both in fantasy and in Roundworld discussions of witchcraft: witches dancing naked in the forest. (Indeed, if you’ve seen the film The VVitch, that’s a very, very literal interpretation of this trope/stereotype.) So, I expected a complete subversion of this, that the “dance” that Miss Treason was going to witness was probably innocent or at least toyed with what folks perceived of witches. But then Miss Treason gave these orders, and I started wondering what the hell she was doing here: 

“And listen carefully. There are rules. One, you will not talk; two, you will look only at the dancers; three, you will not move until the dance is finished. I will not tell you twice!”

That seemed really, really serious. So why bring her? Why expose her to this mysterious dance with virtually no preparation? Was Miss Treason worried about leaving Tiffany behind at her home, or did she need Tiffany’s help to get there? 

“It’s very cold up here.”

“And will get colder.”

Okay, so Miss Treason knew that she’d be invoking the Wintersmith with this dance, right??? I think that’s obvious because there’s a sense here that this dance needed to happen, that unless Miss Treason and the others did this, something bad would happen. Yet when the dance started, Pratchett did this THING where he made everything just feel awful and foreboding and creepy and I DON’T LIKE IT. It’s a masterful thing, too, and reading back on it, it’s so impressive how you’re able to get this feeling that it’s all wrong, that Tiffany was tempted by something truly terrible here. Of course, it doesn’t help that the seventh dancer is called the Fool, and I’m certain at some point this name will come up again. Was Tiffany a fool for joining in this dance when told not to? Maybe, and perhaps that’s the point. She messed with something she should not have. But was Miss Treason so intent on watching the dancers that she didn’t even notice Tiffany joining in? Why didn’t she do anything to stop her?

See, the book cuts from the Wintersmith speaking—and asking, “Who Are You?”—to Miss Tick’s “drowning” by the people of Dogbend. Which is a GREAT sequence, by the way, and darkly, darkly funny. Seriously, what a way to avoid being killed for being a witch! And I loved this chance to get a bit into Miss Tick’s head, as well as her job as a witch finder. She risks her life to find young girls who need the guidance of a witch: 

Witch finding was always dangerous. You had to do it, though. A witch growing up all alone was a sad and dangerous child…

Okay, I would definitely read a book about the eight-year-old witch trapped in Dogbend. Seriously, there’s so much potential in just a few paragraphs about this young girl! But the other reason why we’re given this scene is so that we can properly appreciate how dire this situation is. Miles and miles from Tiffany, Miss Tick senses that something is wrong. Her shamble doesn’t just explode; it goes completely haywire. IT’S A BAD SIGN. 

And then the chapter cuts back to Tiffany and Miss Treason, though it’s from Miss Treason’s POV while Tiffany sleeps. What exactly happened at the dance after everyone collided into one another? Has Tiffany been asleep since then? I don’t actually know! Oh, gods, I know Pratchett loves withholding information from ME SPECIFICALLY, so I should be used to this. I have a feeling that the end of this chapter is the sign that I’m about to get a lot of information. I was amused by Miss Treason surprising the Feegles and then basically intimidating them out of information, but it’s clear that they’re all on the same page here. They want to protect Tiffany, and both parties are VERY aware that something is wrong. And I was glad that Miss Treason is now privy to Tiffany’s relationship to the Feegles due to her being kelda for a short while in The Wee Free Men. BUT WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN?

“Our kelda is havin’ dreams. Dreams o’ the future. Dreams o’ the hills all froze an’ everyone deid an’ the big wee hag wearin’ a crown o’ ice!”

“My goodness!”

“Aye, an’ there wuz more!” said Billy, throwing out his arms. “She saw a green tree growin’ in a land o’ ice! She saw a ring o’ iron! She saw a man with a nail in his heart! She saw a plague o’ chickens an’ a cheese that walks like a man!”

Well… okay, what? Sure, “good occult symbolism,” but what does this all mean? I assume the Wintersmith wants to take over the Chalk somehow? Or perhaps they do something vengeful? I don’t know! And Tiffany is really good at making cheese so maybe… that… happens? A cheese man? 

Goddamn it, I don’t know. But Tiffany wakes up at the end of this chapter, and she’s not one to go into situations unquestioning, so I HOPE I LEARN MORE THINGS SOON.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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