In the second half of the sixth chapter of I Shall Wear Midnight, Tiffany ventures into Ankh- Morpork for the first time in her life. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Yo, this honestly feels like two characters in a long-running series finally meeting for the first time. Except one of those characters… is an entire city? I associate Tiffany so firmly with The Chalk that it does feel strange to read about her being in this place. She’s not a city person at all, and as someone who lives in one of the biggest cities in the world, there really is a vibe and a temperament here that I only find in other large cities.
But I was more surprised by the reaction that Tiffany got than anything else. Let’s start with this:
…but here it seemed there were so many people that it was a waste of time even to look at them at all, and possibly dangerous in any case.
Seriously, here in NYC, you really have to be doing something out of the ordinary to grab the attention of the average New Yorker. Of course, that all depends on where you are, and I thought I knew what was happening once Tiffany starting making her way through the neighborhoods of Ankh-Morpork. I thought folks were staring at her because she was out-of-place, easily recognizable as an outsider. The people with pointy hats in Ankh-Morpork were wizards, not witches, so what was this witch doing in town? It’s not that there was anything wrong with witches, per se. And how could that be the case with Boffo’s Joke Emporium in the middle of the city?
Now, Tiffany being in Boffo’s for the first time had its own magic. That catalogue and the company’s products played such a huge part in past books, and SHE GOT TO SEE IT ALL IN PERSON. Not only that, but she met the person who creates everything, Mrs. Proust, who is a witch herself. (Y’all, this gives Boffo’s a whole new level of meaning to know that a witch created it all. No wonder it’s so popular.) Pratchett clearly had so much fun writing these scenes where Tiffany is flabbergasted by the shop, by the strangeness of Mrs. Proust, and by the realization that all the witch masks are actually Mrs. Proust’s face. Also: they use a trapdoor to go down to the basement. THESE DETAILS ARE ALL SO LOVELY. Boffo felt alive, whimsical, and layered, and I’m so glad that Pratchett got to dig into it.
But I’m leading up to one thing: this line.
“No one will take any notice now. Sorry, but witches are a little bit unpopular at the moment.”
Not always, not historically, but “at the moment.” And because this is a living, breathing, beast of a city, these things happen for a reason. I don’t believe it’s just a random occurrence. So why? Why would a city full of dwarfs and trolls and orcs (I MISS YOU ALREADY, MR. NUTT) and wizards suddenly take issue with witches? Was there a single incident that inspired it, or did this develop slowly and quietly in the background?
We then get a very real demonstration of this when a couple boys try to vandalize Boffo’s. Mrs. Proust deals with said attack with humor and creativity—honestly did not expect the glass window to GROW A HAND and throw the rock back—but it’s also left unsaid that she does this casually. To me, that speaks of what sort of routine she’s fallen in to. How often has she had to defend her shop against bullies and vandals who don’t like witches? And given her gorgeously written monologue about city witches, I wonder why there historically haven’t been more. Is that the wizards fault? I mean, the last witch I can think of who lived in Ankh-Morpork was Eskarina in Equal Rites. Granny and Nanny visited there. I guess Agnes Nitt also counts? Even then, I got a sense of how proud Mrs. Proust was to be practicing witchcraft in the city, to have a steading of her own that was so unique and complicated.
So what happened?
I don’t know. I expect that this is actually very important and subsequent chapters will address it. My theory at this point is that whatever the Cunning Man is will intersect with this journey to Ankh-Morpork. Why this place? Why did he focus on Tiffany? He also seemed to hate witches, so what’s the connection here? THIS FEELS PAINFULLY OBVIOUS AND YET I KNOW I’M MISSING PIECES. Because now that Tiffany’s broom is fixed, the only thing keeping her in the city is Roland. Where is he? How devastated will he be when he learns the truth? Ah, there are so many moving parts already, and I don’t know what the entire puzzle looks like yet!
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