Mark Reads ‘Wintersmith’: Chapter 5, Part I

In the first half of the fifth chapter of Wintersmith, Miss Treason has her funeral. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld. 

Trigger Warning: For extensive talk of death.

This is… a lot. 

The witches started arriving around four o’clock, and Tiffany went out into the clearing to do air traffic control. 

This joke is so good and I just wanna sit here for an hour staring at it, but there are MANY OTHER THINGS we must discuss. I’m not surprised that at no point does the Wintersmith seem to show up during Miss Treason’s funeral. And why would he? During an argument of witches? That’s just asking for trouble, and there was already enough as it was during this. As Granny Weatherwax had said she would do, Tiffany is suggested as the successor to Miss Treason’s cottage. Now, in trying to think about this like Granny Weatherwax would, I gotta say: I don’t think Granny ever expected Tiffany to be a serious contender. In fact, I bet she had another reason for doing this. One, it keeps Tiffany on her toes, but it also forces the other witches to make their case, too. They can’t just accept that Annagramma gets it because they’re older; they have to argue about it. Though I wonder if this was also because Granny wanted to give Tiffany a little boost to her self-esteem as a way to help her without directly helping her, you know? That feels like a very Granny Weatherwax thing to do. 

It’s interesting, though. I just wanted to pointed out what else this act exposes: Annagramma. Because at no point does she congratulate Tiffany, not even in that fake, conciliatory way where you do it just to seem polite. Annagramma doesn’t care about politeness at all, and so all she does is badger Tiffany about whether she wants the cottage and tell her that it’s “completely unacceptable” that she was even nominated. When… well, it’s not, is it? And that’s what I mean by a “boost.” Tiffany knows she’s done much more powerful and important witching than Annagramma has or probably ever will do, at least as long as Annagramma still learns under Mrs. Earwig. Maybe this is an unintended side effect, but I kinda liked the idea that it was 

It also brings up a point that Tiffany will make almost immediately afterward to Miss Tick, and it’s one I talked about in the last review. How do you fill the shoes of someone like Miss Treason? I wrote of it in regards to Tiffany, and more specifically for Petulia, but now that I know that Annagramma IS getting the cottage… oh lord. HOW? How is she going to manage this? Mrs. Earwig has taught Annagramma to avoid all the things that witches generally do and which Miss Treason’s steading has come to depend on her for. Sure, there’s something to be said for this dependent relationship and the expectations that are being placed on Annagramma, who is very young. Like, there’s lots that the people of the surrounding villages could probably do for themselves instead of relying on Miss Treason? 

But that’s not really what’s at stake here, nor is it the main issue. After the funeral ends, this book goes to a very sad and touching place, and I love the tonal change. The funeral was Miss Treason and her fellow witches putting on a show, and what a show it was. THERE WAS SO MUCH THEFT. Like, I can’t believe that’s an expected reality of this culture and everyone just accepts it? No wonder Miss Treason had Tiffany get so many sausages! Once everyone has gone, all the extra items around the cottage have been given to their respective witches, and the last of the food (that isn’t Tiffany’s) is taken, the mask comes off, and a new ceremony begins. Pratchett imbues the text with an unnerving energy as Tiffany does what needs to be done around the cottage to prepare for Miss Treason’s death. Even typing that… it’s hard to wrap my mind around it. Miss Treason knows pretty much exactly when she is going to die, and she treats it (mostly) like it’s just an appointment she needs to keep. Which… is not inaccurate, now that I think about it. She’s got an appointment with Death! But even normal things—like the stopping of the loom—are given a new meaning here. There is the dread of the unspoken and the unseen here. Is Miss Treason really going to die? That’s what Tiffany is wondering, along with a ton of other things. Is she just not going to talk about it? But Miss Treason says nothing, so Tiffany goes about her business. (Which includes, I should note, writing down information for Annagramma about her new steading, which is both kind and practical and 100% something Annagramma would never do if the situation were reversed. 

And then… lord. I’m sad just reading this over again, and I haven’t even finished the chapter! Surely the second half of this will destroy me even more! But there’s a starkness to the way Miss Treason speaks to Tiffany, admitting that she never really talked with her student, that she didn’t teach her enough, that she didn’t get a chance to explore love and romance. Fuck, that last one is gut-wrenching:

“I was always too busy to pay attention to young men,” said Miss Treason. “They were always for later and then later was too late.”

I… I was not ready to read that. I admittedly have a deep fear of my own mortality, which means I generally hate waiting for things? (Which is strange because I’m also a deeply patient person.) Why wait when there might not be any time later? At the end of her 113 years, Miss Treason admits that she chose to focus on one aspect of her life to the detriment of another. (Assuming, of course, that she at one time was interested in pursuing romance or sex; if not, then that doesn’t really make this sad, you know?) But of everything she says, it’s the summary of her steading that hit me the hardest: 

“Oh, my silly people. Anything they don’t understand is magic. They think I can see into their hears, but no witch can do that. Not without surgery, at least. No magic is needed to read their little minds, though. I’ve known them since they were babes. I remember when their grandparents were babes! They think they’re so grown-up! But they’re still no better than babies in the sandpit, squabbling over mud pies. I see their lies and excuses and fears. They never grow up, not really. They never look up and open their eyes. They stay children their whole lives.”

“I’m sure they’ll miss you,” said Tiffany.

“Ha! I’m the wicked ol’ witch, girl. They feared me, and did what they were told! They feared joke skulls and silly stories. I chose fear. I knew they’d never love me for telling ‘em the truth, so I made certain of their fear.”

Earlier in the book, Tiffany asked Miss Treason why she would want to seem so awful, and she just said that she had her reasons. Well, I believe those reasons were just spelled out. It was the only way Miss Treason thought she could help them: to feed into that fear, to guarantee it stayed, and to ride it out until the very end. So why tell Tiffany this? Why the honesty? Well, why not? Why not tell the truth to someone you respect, who has done you right as a student and maybe even a friend?

Here’s what I now can’t get out of my head, though. What if that’s the point of having Annagramma take over? What if someone who hasn’t grown up herself suddenly has to watch over people who, in their own way, also haven’t grown up? That sounds like… a disaster? But maybe something good will come of it. Maybe they’ll grow together???

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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