In the second half of the thirteenth and final chapter of Wintersmith, Roland and Tiffany do something very human. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of abuse (particularly child abuse), trauma
We really have had a great run recently with the Discworld books, haven’t we? Like, I’d love to have more to criticize, necessarily, because it can be a rewarding thing to do. But Pratchett keeps knocking it out of the park, y’all, and I’m so satisfied with where these two plots ended up, especially since Roland’s came as such a huge surprise. LET’S DISCUSS.
I don’t think it’s exactly a surprise that Roland’s story has resonated with me so strongly. Roland was mistreated horribly by his aunts, and he developed coping mechanisms to deal with that treatment. So yeah, I absolutely love that one of those mechanisms—Roland’s fantasy of sword fighting that he acted out in a mirror—becomes the very thing that he uses to fight back against the bogles. Because while this stuff might be a fantasy, it’s also a real weapon. Roland survived his aunts, straight up. That’s what he did! He found ingenious and increasingly creative methods of shutting them out of his life, and so it is the perfect metaphor that Wintersmith ends like this. Roland faces a seemingly endless wave of creatures who suck the life out of you, one memory at a time. And the people around him—in this case, the Feegles, and at home, literally EVERYONE ELSE in the court—tell him that it’s best to run away, to ignore these creatures for now and deal with them another time.
He turned to the not-Tiffany and said: “Don’t be afraid.” Then he held out his left hand and whispered, under his breath: “I remember… a sword….”
Roland transforms. Belief is everything in the Discworld series, and he manages to find a means to believe that he held in his hands the same sword that he’d used and “killed a thousand enemies with… in the mirror.” He closes his eyes, he believes, and he swings. And swings. And swings. He believes in saving the Summer Lady, he believes in saving Tiffany, he believes in saving those trapped in the Underworld, and goddamn it, Roland believes in saving himself. It’s truly one of the most cathartic passages I’ve read in the Discworld books, and I’m so happy that this got to be a part of Wintersmith.
“I’ll tell ye whut,” said Rob Anybody soothingly. “If ye are guid boy an’ rescue the lady, we’ll bring ye doon here another time, wi’ some sandwiches so’s we can make a day o’ it.”
Bless. I LOVE IT SO MUCH.
How do you defeat the Wintersmith on his own turf?
Well, Tiffany does it by bringing him back to hers.
He constructed the “perfect” world for her, though it was, of course, based on a flawed perception of what humans found perfect. It was “perfect” to the Wintersmith because it was “correct.” Everything was in the perfect place, was the perfect shape, was the perfect size. Yet over the course of this book, we’ve seen how far everyone falls from perfection. Humans cannot be perfect because it’s not a value that really exists for us on a personal level because of subjectivity. I think Levain’s chocolate chip cookies are perfect, but I have a close friend who despises them because they believe that cookies should be crisp and flat, not gooey and thick. (They’re wrong, but that’s a separate essay.)
So that’s what Tiffany challenges. The Wintersmith tried to become a perfect man, a perfect human, and he followed all the directions as literally as possible, meaning that he’s perfect, right? Except that there were three ingredients he couldn’t ever find:
“The last three lines are: ‘Strength enough to build a home, Time enough to hold a child, Love enough to break a heart.’”
The world goes from frost to fire, and balance is restored. And my reading of this was that Tiffany didn’t just literally melt the world: she used a human element that the Wintersmith could not grasp against him. She kisses the Wintersmith, and I think she broke his heart. Well, inasmuch as she could do that. But as sad as she might be about how hard the Wintersmith tried to be a human, balance had to be restored. And she found that balance by denying the Wintersmith, by tricking him into admitting that he is Winter, that he can’t really be anything else, and then it all comes crashing down.
Water is often used to represent a cleanse, and so I love the imagery of Tiffany laying on a slab of ice while the melting ice and snow rushes by her, summer returning to the world. it’s a moment of beautiful calm before Tiffany and the Summer Lady have their face-to-face. And what a scene THAT is, y’all! The two surprise one another, too! Tiffany is shocked that the Summer Lady found her entertaining; the Summer Lady is shocked that Tiffany doesn’t want anything from a goddess. This was about Tiffany making this right, and that means, as Granny stated, that she had to see this through to the end. And I love that this is about her mistake—joining in on the Dance—and rectifying it even when she didn’t want to. In the end, she accepted that this was her fault, and she fixed it.
She fixed it, y’all.
The second half of the chapter closes up all the loose ends left behind, and it left me with an immense feeling of satisfaction. I was glad that Tiffany visited Nanny, and that Nanny laughed at what Tiffany had done. (Since she basically used Nanny’s advice to kiss him and leave him!) Then, Tiffany visits Annagramma, who has become her own witch, and it’s absolutely the most remarkable transformation in the whole book. Annagramma! Running her own steading! And doing so well that Tiffany actually finds someone who loves what Annagramma does!
But I found myself most surprised by Tiffany’s frank talk with Granny about what Granny had “planned” during this book. I expected to reach the end of that paragraph and get to a line that was like, “And Tiffany said none of this, and instead said…” But nope! She confronts her directly and gets… nothing. Which isn’t surprising at all. However, I think this moment ties in really well with another one in this chapter. Tiffany wonders about who she would have been without this experience, and while it’s a brief moment, I find it integral to understanding Wintersmith. Without that mistake, Tiffany would not have gotten this look at Granny’s methodology; she wouldn’t have learned about sex and romance from Nanny; she would not have repaired her relationship with Annagramma and helped Annagramma become a good witch; and she wouldn’t have gotten closer with Roland either. Even at the end, there’s a scene where Granny and Tiffany talk about how to take away pain, and I don’t think Granny would have told her the truth if she didn’t think Tiffany was ready. Tiffany’s actions in this book proved that she was ready.
She’s no longer the Fool. She gets to play her own part in this unfolding story.
Onwards, friends, we go into Making Money, which starts on Monday!
Mark Links Stuff
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